COVID-19 Hits South Valley
SENIORS MOST AT RISK
Last updated 5/9/2020 at 7:05pm
As of April 19, Tulare County has 411 cases of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. The virus has killed 17 people in the county.
Kings County has had 18 cases so far, with one death.
In addition to the health of local residents, the virus has impacted the area in other ways.
More than 100 of the COVID-19 cases in Tulare County are residents of the Redwood Springs Healthcare Facility in Visalia, and an additional 50 employees are infected. State and county health officials have stepped in to ensure new protocols are put in place.
Members of Kaweah Delta's nursing team have signed up to provide care alongside the Redwood Springs team. Sierra View Medical Center and Adventist Health Tulare have also sent staff members to help.
As of April 15, Lindsay Gardens Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility had 11 residents test positive for COVID-19. Its administration reached out to Tulare County Public Health (TCPH) as soon as they observed symptomatic residents and those residents were able to be tested.
TCPH staff has been working actively with Lindsay Gardens and the California Department of Public Health Associated Infection Program.
Starting on April 1, a block of Floral Street on either side of Main Street in Visalia has been closed to allow Kaweah Delta to provide appointment-only, drive-up COVID-19 testing.
Individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, which can include fever and cough or difficulty breathing, should contact their physician first to inquire about testing. Individuals may also call 211 or Kaweah Delta's free COVID-19 screening hotline at (559) 624-4110.
Family HealthCare Network
On March 16, Family HealthCare Network (FHCN) announced its new visitor policy, which includes only one visitor being allowed to accompany a patient at all FHCN's sites, and all patients and visitors being screened before entering the facility.
"We do not want this viewed as a barrier or to in any way deter patients from receiving their routine care, but we strongly feel this change is in the best interest of the health of all of our patients, team members and communities during this time," said Kerry Hydash, FHCN president and CEO.
A COVID-19 Virtual Assistant and Symptom Checker is now available at http://www.AdventistHealth.org/Central-Valley. An orange chat icon will appear when users toggle over the bottom right corner of the homepage. By clicking on the icon, patients may check symptoms and learn the latest about COVID-19.
More information and resources about coronavirus may be found by visiting http://www.AdventistHealth.org/coronavirus-preparedness.
Tulare Senior Center
The center closed on March 19, but started its Grab & Go Program the next day.
"Seniors drive up and we give them a meal, check them off on our lunch reservation list, take donation ($3) and they exit," said Lorraine Zorn, senior services administrator. "We serve meals Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to noon."
The center delivers lunch to the homes of seniors who used bus or dial-a-ride transportation, and frozen meals to its regular Meals on Wheels clients. For program updates, call (559) 685-2330.
Reports of Price Gouging
In the first weeks of the pandemic, the Tulare County District Attorney's Office Bureau of Investigations received over 50 calls from residents reporting price gouging. Price gouging is when a seller tries to take an unfair advantage of consumers during an emergency or disaster by greatly increasing prices for essential consumer goods or services.
Violations of California's price gouging statute are subject to criminal prosecution that can result in one-year imprisonment in county jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. To report possible price gouging, call (559) 636-5410.
Emergency Bail Schedule
The California Judicial Council adopted emergency rules on April 6 including eliminating bail for all misdemeanor and felony offenses. Exemptions to the new schedule include violent crimes such as murder, rape, and child molestation, but eliminate bail for a variety of crimes including elder abuse.
"This approach is reckless and is a disservice to victims of crime, business owners, and the community as a whole," said Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward. "Under this emergency rule, victims are placed in the dangerous and vulnerable position of having their abuser return quickly and continue such abuse."
"There is no reason for the early release of prisoners as we currently have an effective quarantine plan within the jails if needed," said Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux. "We also have 24-hour medical care. Our jails are not overcrowded nor do we have any reports of staff or inmates infected with COVID-19, which raises the question of scope and intent of this order."
In anticipation of Tulare County courts ordering the emergency bail schedule, prosecutors worked around the clock and filed motions opposing early release for inmates who would otherwise be eligible for immediate release with no bail required.
Porterville Developmental Center
On April 8, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers began construction on six buildings at the Porterville Developmental Center to provide a total of 246 beds to treat coronavirus patients. Construction should already be complete as you read this.
Protective Mask Shortage
Desperately short of crucial protective masks to protect its medical workers, Sierra View Medical Center (SVMC) in Porterville is calling on community members to help.
Those interested in producing masks (using the custom pattern, guidelines and instructions at http://www.sierra-view.com/covid-19-resources/facemasks) and donating them to SVMC, should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Robin Cunha, volunteer coordinator, at (559) 788-6076.
United Way of Tulare County
To donate to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund to support Tulare County families, text COVIDTC to 41444.
Visalia Public Cemetery
The city's cemetery district is considered an essential service, reports Cindy Summers, Visalia Public Cemetery District manager. "The Healing Heart Walks will continue," she said. "We make sure we use social distancing, the same thing we do for services. We are in a holding pattern for Avenue of Flags on Memorial Day. It just depends on what the health officials are advising at that time. At this point, it is subject to cancellation."
"We are still offering services in our chapel but asking that it be limited to family only and to please respect the CDC recommended social distance," said Steve Dillard, owner of Salser & Dillard Funeral Chapel in Visalia.
"As you know when a death occurs, a family comes together and often commute in the same vehicle, so the exposure to one another has already occurred," he continued. "We have been live webcasting services for those extended family members and friends that live out of the area or simply want to avoid social contact. I would say it's business as normal with a modified schedule."
All Visalia Transit fixed-route fares are free until further notice. Dial-a-Ride will also be free at this time, but limited to ADA and senior passengers only.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Visalia Transit has made a number of operations adjustments: All passengers will board from the back of the bus. The front doors of the buses will remain locked. The first few rows of seats in the buses will be blocked off to distance drivers and riders. No more than nine riders will be allowed on board at one time.
Passengers are encouraged to distance from each other while riding. The ticket counter at the Transit Center will remain closed. The Transit Center doors will be locked, and the lobby will be closed.
For more information, call 1-877-404-6473.
Senior Shopping Hours
Several stores – including Grocery Outlet, Costco, Save Mart and Smart & Final – created senior shopping hours to allow those most vulnerable to the virus to shop before the general public. Some drew large crowds, which initially forced seniors to stand outside in a long line in the cold and rain.
Cancellations & Postponements
The 2020 Senior Day in the Park has been indefinitely postponed.
The Visalia Fox Theatre has cancelled all shows until further notice.
The Sierra View Foundation postponed its annual golf tournament at River Island County Club to October 2.
"The most important thing is for people to stay home, unless they must go out to get groceries or medication," Tulare County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Haught told The Good Life. "People should not have direct contact with others, such as at any type of gathering (family included), or when family members or friends bring them supplies; instead, keep social distancing rules.
"Wash hands and surfaces often, especially after bringing in new supplies or even mail. If one must go out to get groceries or medications, ensure that a mask is worn, sanitize all supplies, and wash hands afterwards. If gloves are worn, discard them and then wash hands.
"Last, monitor your health daily. If you have questions or concerns, please contact your primary care physician right away. If you have the symptoms of fever, cough, trouble breathing, or a loss of taste or smell, please call your primary care physician, 2-1-1, or call your area hospital to ask if you may need to be tested for COVID-19."
For current COVID-19 information in Kings County, visit http://www.kingscovidinfo.com.
For current COVID-19 information in Tulare County, including updated statistics and a map of cases in the county, visit http://www.tchhsa.org.
Kaweah Delta shares COVID-19 updates with the community at http://www.kaweahdelta.org/COVID19.