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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

New and aggressive variants driving COVID summer surge in Valley

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — As the US sees more COVID cases driven by new and aggressive variants of the virus, we’re tracking the impacts here in Central California.

In Fresno County, Valley families are mourning loved ones as the state reports four more deaths due to complications from the virus since this past Tuesday.

In that same time, the county has seen just over 1,500 new cases.

Fresno County’s COVID positivity rate has trended upward for two months.

It’s at least 17.5% at this point. We haven’t seen it that high since February.

Doctors note the case rate is actually much higher because so many people test at home and those results aren’t reported.

The vaccination line at the UCSF health center in northeast Fresno has been small but activity in the test and treatment line was steady.

“Positivity rate locally is over 20%, unfortunately so we have a large testing line. We’re testing people and, if necessary and if they qualify, we’re getting them into treatment,” says Dr. Kenny Banh with UCSF Fresno.

Some people can get anti-viral pills like Paxlovid at the site.

Fresno County Medical Consultant Dr. John Zweifler says COVID subvariants BA.4 and especially BA.5. have proven to be highly transmissible.

“Unfortunately the newer variants are infecting those who have been vaccinated or who have gotten COVID before so you’re not invincible,” says Zweifler.

Companies are working on more effective vaccines tailored to the newer variants – they could be ready by fall – but Dr. Kenny Banh of UCSF Fresno urges you to stay on your shot schedule.

“If you qualify, get your booster. Don’t hesitate on that because you’re trying to prevent the COVID that’s happening now.”

Dr. Zweifler understands many people have COVID fatigue and are tired of testing but says you should continue to wear a mask in crowded, indoor places because of high infection rates around the state.

“It’s projected this particular wave could peak sometime at the end of July,” says Dr. Zweifler.

The infection rate is high, but Dr. Banh says the rate of significant illness is down.

“The good and the bad about that is of course the lowering of the total number of hospitalizations, but the bad is that you have a large number of people who have mild symptoms and don’t bother to test but they’re spreading it.”

People showing little or no symptoms can easily infect older family members who may be immunocompromised.

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