Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Death and Denial in California's Central Valley

This is an interesting piece, sympathetic to both sides, although definitely a leftist New Yorker take. 

Here, "As the Vaccine Arrives, Death and Denial Rage in a California Coronavirus Epicenter: In the San Joaquin Valley, medical professionals fear that many in the public still fail to grasp the dangers of COVID-19":

The San Joaquin Valley is an emerald gash shaped like a fist in the middle of the state. It abuts the Sierra Nevada mountains and drinks in the rivers that zag from the foothills. Looked upon from an airplane cabin window at thirty thousand feet, the valley appears as a medley of pixels in every shade of green; irrigated fields collide at improbable angles. On the ground, viewed from a speeding car on Highway 99, it’s a blur of corduroy—rows of garlic, tomatoes, and fruit trees sprouting from the rich, dark loam. The San Joaquin Valley is California’s bread basket, the source of the state’s bounty, the source of much of the country’s bounty. Even the names of towns that dot this verdant blanket sound fecund: Chowchilla, Planada, Ripon.

These townships orbit midsize cities with populations exceeding three hundred thousand—Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton—but the region is mostly rural and agricultural. Its demographics reflect that. Of the more than four million people in the valley, many are migrant workers. A hundred and twelve thousand are believed to be undocumented. At the same time, the region skews further right politically than most of California. In the 2020 Presidential election, half of the valley’s eight counties voted for Donald Trump; in the four counties that went for Joe Biden, the Democrat won by margins far narrower than that by which he won the state as a whole.

The coronavirus exacerbates the valley’s long existing divisions and pain points, says Nancy Burke, a public-health professor at the University of California, Merced. “The health indicators rival the poorest parts of Appalachia,” she told me. The counties in San Joaquin Valley “rank among the lowest in California in terms of health outcomes, as well as determinants of health, [such as] social and economic factors.” Forty-one per cent of rural residents in the region are covered by Medi-Cal, the state health insurance that is available to Californians living below the federal poverty line. So, although the region produces much of the nation’s food supply, Burke explained, the people here suffer some of the highest rates of food insecurity in the state...