The Clovis City Council received a brief update on how the city is handling the COVID-19 crisis during its weekly meeting on Monday.
City Manager Luke Serpa told the council members that, “Clovis is doing well considering we are the second largest city in the county.” He presented to the council a series of graphs that showed Clovis’ total case amount is on par with other cities, despite it having a larger population.
While total case numbers from Clovis are continuing to rise steadily, the city is still well behind the likes of Fresno and is even outperforming smaller cities in the Valley. Hospitalizations and deaths remain low in Clovis.
The Fresno County Department of Health is continuing to provide useful data on a frequent basis to the city, Serpa told the council. That data has helped individual cities get a better idea of how their citizens are fairing. In recent weeks, officials from Fresno County have been in closer contact with individual cities, even going so far as to release data down to particular zip codes within the county.
Knowing that the virus can be extremely dangerous to the elderly, senior care centers have long been an area of focus for officials. Outbreaks in facilities in other parts of the Central Valley have contributed to high case counts and, in particular, high death totals.
Clovis, however, has been able to avoid major outbreaks in its numerous senior care facilities. The Clovis Fire Department worked with these facilities in the early stages of COVID-19 to supply PPE and training to employees who routinely come in close contact with at-risk individuals.
That kind of outreach and preparation has helped these kinds of facilities prevent an outbreak, Serpa described to the council in response to a question by Councilmember Vong Mouanoutoua, who asked what preparations the city was taking to ensure the safety and security of its nursing and senior homes.
Some nursing homes in Fresno County have been severely impacted by COVID-19, but others have been left almost entirely untouched. The Dycora Transitional Health and Living in Fresno has reported 116 cases, while its sister location in Clovis has not yet reported a single case, according to data available through the state.
From an economic and business perspective, Serpa applauded the work of Andy Haussler, the Clovis Economic Development Director. In recent weeks, Haussler and his team have acted as a liaison between businesses and the city.
Specifically, they helped many businesses interpret and implement the guidelines sent down from the state. Putting these guidelines into practice is a critical step businesses need to take before they can be allowed to reopen.
“Andy [Haussler] and his staff have done a great job of getting the information back out to our businesses,” Serpa said.
Overall, the message presented on Monday was simple: the city was in a good position, but not yet out of the woods.
Hospitalization rates are rising, but at a slower rate than total case numbers. There was, however, no indication that hospitals in Clovis were struggling with case loads. While in some cases more testing could be the source of increased numbers, officials are still concerned about the percentage of tests coming back as positive.
As of Monday night, 8.5% of tests were coming back positive in Fresno County, roughly 3% higher than the statewide positive test rate, which sits at just above 5%.
The California Department of Public Health listed Fresno County as one of a number of counties that was concerning to them. State officials cited nursing homes and the outbreak at the Avenal State Prison as primary concerns. While the Avenal State Prison is in Kings County, many who work at the prison commute from their homes in Fresno.
“Fresno County is experiencing elevated disease transmission. A driver of this are outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities and the impact of the Avenal State Prison outbreak on staff who live in surrounding counties, such as Fresno,” the Department of Public Health’s website read.
Councilmember Lynne Ashbeck pointed out that Clovis being a healthy city with low poverty rates and low unemployment rates before COVID-19 may have provided the city with a strong starting defense against the virus.
Those factors could be a reason why the city has so far escaped serious impact, Ashbeck described.
Areas with more dense populations like Fresno or larger cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco have been hit harder partly due to the difficulty for many to adequately socially distance themselves in urban areas.
Clovis, on the other hand, with its population more spread out in suburban and rural areas, has so far been able to rise to meet health officials’ guidance.