The County of Fresno plans to strengthen its cooperation with individual cities in the coming days, Clovis City Manager Luke Serpa told the city council members on Monday, May 18. This includes a liaison between the county and the city and plans for a more frequent exchange of specific data between the various governments in the county.
“I had a very good discussion with the [Fresno] County Health Department last week on sharing all of this data and working together and sharing a message,” Serpa said.
As of last Thursday, 56 people in Clovis had tested positive, nine of them were hospitalized and no Clovis resident had died as a result of COVID-19. Since then, two more individuals have tested positive, bringing Clovis’ case total to 58.
Fresno County was unable to provide data specific to Clovis for the number of people in ICU. In order to determine if someone is a Clovis resident, the county is relying on the person’s home address.
The Fresno County Department of Public Health is also looking at establishing liaisons between each of the towns and cities within Fresno County, but progress on that has been slightly slowed as the county prepares to appeal to state authorities for permission to reopen quicker than the state.
Initially, the criteria for counties to reopen quicker than the rest of the state were set much higher than most counties had anticipated, with most only rural Northern California counties being able to reach the criteria.
In response, Fresno County and a number of other counties in the Central Valley sent letters to Gov. Gavin Newsom requesting that the criteria be loosened. Newsom obliged by significantly lowering the criteria counties needed to meet.
Newsom estimated that over 53 of California’s 58 counties would meet the new criteria and get permission to reopen quicker than the state. It was not immediately clear if Fresno would be able to meet the new criteria.
The new criteria from the state puts an emphasis on hospitalization rates as well as the rate of positive tests. As testing increases, the raw number of cases will rise with it. This has led most officials to shy away from using raw numbers in favor of the rate of positive tests as they believe it paints a more accurate picture of how widespread the virus is.
“That’s the rate we are tracking more and more closely,” Gov. Newsom said of the rate of positive tests on Monday.
“As the testing rate significantly increases, the positivity rate becomes more and more important than the total number of positives in many respects,” Gov. Newsom added.
Indicators like the rate of positive tests, number of hospitalizations and amount of people in ICU are also being relied upon by the Clovis City Council.
Councilmember Bob Whalen expressed his wish for the council to keep those stats in mind going forward. Whalen indicated he would not be opposed to reversing the city’s decision to leave enforcement of business closures to county and state officials if the situation changes.
For now, though, the council’s decision two weeks ago is still in place. The council also agreed they would be supportive of whatever steps the county takes in the coming days and weeks and gave Serpa permission to send a letter to the relevant authorities expressing the city’s support for Fresno County.
Councilmember Lynne Ashbeck expressed her wish for the county to be more consistent with the guidelines it puts out, saying individual cities’ rules made things confusing for residents.
“I would encourage the county to try to get the cities to agree with each other because part of the confusion is you have to wear a mask in Fresno but not in Clovis … If the county could provide any kind of leadership across the county I think it would be really helpful,” Ashbeck said.
That sentiment is in line with Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig, who last week on the Wake Up Clovis webinar with the Clovis Chamber of Commerce said he wished for individual cities to do no more than what the state is requiring of them.
One piece of positive news that came from the workshop was that in the first day of the city’s Meals on Wheels delivery program, 152 meals were delivered to seniors or other vulnerable members of the community.
The program was approved last week and Serpa expects more people to apply and more meals to be delivered in the coming weeks.