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After first being spared, rural California now being ravaged by the coronavirus

Alex Wigglesworth and Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

"Now is the time to accelerate the fundamental preventive measures ... masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds," Fauci said.

While California's second surge of coronavirus this summer is showing signs of stabilization, the levels of circulating virus in places like the Central Valley are a source of deep worry among physicians because of how much higher they are now.

"Although L.A. may be looking a bit better, there's significant movement of virus from Bakersfield all the way up the Central Valley into Stockton," Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, said in a recording of a conference call obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

Of the 10 California counties with the highest infection rates per capita over the past two weeks, eight were in the Central Valley as of Thursday, according to the Los Angeles Times' California coronavirus tracker. Besides Kern County, they were Merced County (656 cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks); Kings (568); Colusa (545); Tulare (538); Fresno (497); Stanislaus (440); and Madera (437).

Imperial County also made the top 10 list, with a rate of 415 cases per 100,000 residents; as did San Bernardino County, with a rate of 397 cases per 100,000 residents.

Other rural areas are also seeing a rise in cases, such as the Salinas Valley in Monterey County and fields in Ventura County, Rutherford said.

 

California's 11th hardest hit county by this measure is Mono County, home to Mammoth Mountain, a popular tourist destination, with a rate of 395 cases per 100,000 residents in the last two weeks. It's likely the disease followed Southern Californians traveling to the Eastern Sierra for the Fourth of July weekend, Rutherford said.

Los Angeles County is the 18th hardest hit California county by this measure, reporting 327 cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has identified the Central Valley as a region in great need of resources to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Five of the eight medical teams staffed by U.S. Department of Defense personnel and assigned to California have now been sent to the Central Valley, Newsom said; he also asked state lawmakers to approve $52 million to improve testing, tracing and isolation protocols in an eight-county region of the Central Valley known as the San Joaquin Valley.

The region needs it. Kern County reported its highest COVID-19 hospitalization numbers on record on Sunday, when 321 people with confirmed coronavirus infections were in its hospitals.

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