Plant sales increase as more people take on gardening

by: Kaile Hunt

FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) — Throughout the Central Valley nurseries are deemed essential because they sale fruits, vegetables, and outdoor plants.

With numerous businesses temporary closed to stay at home restrictions, more and more people are turning to gardening swamping local nurseries with their business.

Geoffrey Callow works at Evergreen Nursery. He said for the past few weeks they have constantly had customers at their nursery buying fruit and vegetable plants.

“We have been swamped. We have been very busy but still doing what we can to keep the distancing measures in place and sanitizing things as much as we can but we have been busy selling tons of veggies,” said Callow.

Callow said since the coronavirus pandemic they can barely keep summer fruits and veggies on their shelves which is getting tricky to keep up with the growing demand.

“We get a shipment of veggies at least two to three times a week and a lot of the times like the squash and cucumber will sell out by the end of the day,” said Callow.

Callow said he believes since people are having to stay home they want to pick up some outdoor hobbies they can do while self isolating. So, gardening is the perfect thing to do.

Plus, while people stroll down their nursery looking at the different flowers and succulents it’s easy to stay six feet apart.

But, local nurseries are not the only ones having a problem keeping up with the high demand.

Many hardware stores are getting slammed in their gardening sections.

Elaine Kuramoto works at Fresno Ag Hardware. She said within the past week she has noticed a big uptick in plant sales.

“The biggest increase has been with the live plants and the soils,” said Kuramoto.

Kuramoto said fruit and vegetable seeds have been flying off of their shelves along with fertilizer, soil, and other planting essentials.

“Fertilizer all of the fertilizer,” said Kuramoto. “As soon as we put an order up it’s gone by the next day. It is just amazing.”

However despite the growing demand of outdoor plants and seeds hardware stores and nurseries will continue doing the best they can and ensure people get their hands on this hot items.

Plant sales increase as more people take on gardening

Standing Tall Against the Surge-Sutter Health

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently unveiled a guide outlining when and how California may lift various coronavirus restrictions based on a set of six criteria, including hospitals’ ability to handle any potential COVID-19 patient surges. However, Newsom cautioned against moving too fast, saying “we can’t get ahead of ourselves.”

While social distancing guidelines and sheltering in place orders appear to be helping flatten the curve in California, we don’t know whether recently reported holiday gatherings for Passover or Easter that were outside these guidelines, may cause spikes in COVID-19 cases.

Integrated healthcare networks—like Sutter Health—have built-in support mechanisms that will help the network respond and take care of patients.

Sutter Surge Planning | Dr. Conrad Vial
Sutter Health’s integrated network of care is preparing for a potential increase in COVID-19 cases. Chief Clinical Officer Conrad Vial, M.D., describes planning measures which reflects our commitment to patients, employees and communities we serve.

“We chose healthcare because we want to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Conrad Vial, M.D., chief clinical officer for Sutter Health. “We have the privilege of doing this every day but it is even more apparent during this extraordinary time in our history. Everyone in our network is prepared to serve patients and our communities.”

Integrated networks like Sutter Health allow teams to shift quickly so hardest-hit areas can receive the necessary resources like personal protective equipment, ventilators and beds. Sutter’s surge planning efforts will allow the network to expand its critical care capacity by two to three times. This is thanks in part to having the access to the best-available statistical models and the benefit of lessons learned in areas experiencing high rates of COVID-19 including Italy, New York, Singapore and South Korea. For example, Sutter’s surge plan doubles its current ICU capacity through that the use of operating rooms, post-anesthesia care units and other spaces. While all 24 hospitals are capable of taking care of COVID-19 patients, it will also focus the first phase of critical care capacity at its six largest facilities: Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame as well Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento and Sutter Roseville Medical Center.

Sutter’s electronic intensive care unit (eICU) allows for monitoring a large number of critical care patients from a single location. The expansive telemonitoring program ensures intensive care unit patients in large cities and small towns have 24/7 access to a team of doctors and nurses specially trained in the care of ICU patients. From two central hubs, in Sacramento and San Francisco, these doctors and nurses help to monitor patients in intensive care units hundreds of miles away, using live interactive video, remote diagnostic tools and other specialized technologies to assess critical changes in a patient’s condition.

Supported by a comprehensive electronic health record, clinicians within the Sutter network can access vital information to care for 3 million patients. Similar to its ability during recent wildfires, Sutter can fill prescriptions, reschedule appointments and keep vital chemotherapy infusions on track, to ensure continuity of care for all our patients, even in the middle of a patient surge.

Additionally, to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 positive patients Sutter has:

• Postponed elective surgeries that can be safely postponed to free up supplies, staff and space;
• Increased supplies of PPE and essential equipment like ventilators;
• Set up surge tents to treat respiratory patients away from the general population;
• Created a COVID-19-specific advice line—1-866-961-2889— to triage patients before they’re seen in person;
• Increased video visit capacity to prevent sick patients from infecting other patients and staff;
• Established drive-through testing for patients who have a doctor’s order and meet criteria for testing;
• Utilized Sutter’s internal labor staffing pool, retraining employees and bringing in more advanced practice clinicians and travel nurses to support staffing needs; and
• Supported remote radiology so Sutter radiologists may interpret studies from home, increasing timeliness and access to imaging services. This can be especially helpful as critically ill patients may require chest CT scans.

“Our Sutter teams have devoted countless hours toward the rapidly changing environment this pandemic has created and we will continue to respond effectively and compassionately,” said Dr. Vial. “While we can’t predict the exact path of COVID-19, our commitment to staff and patients never changes.”

AMOR to break ground on $8M Mendota Health Center

AMOR is hosting a groundbreaking next week for its 20,000 square-foot, $8 million health clinic in Mendota. Image via AMOR.

Published On August 9, 2019 – 11:18 AM
Written By The Business Journal Staff

Fresno-based nonprofit AMOR (Alliance for Medical Outreach & Relief) is hosting a groundbreaking next week for a health clinic and neighborhood resource center in Mendota.

The two building, 20,000 square-foot clinic will provide youth, behavioral health and social services in addition to primary medical and dental care.

It will also include a day care, public food pantry, nutrition education, specialty care, violence prevention classes, substance abuse counseling and parenting education.

“Mendota, like many other rural communities across the county, has never had the medical, social and youth development services it needs to thrive,” said Davena Witcher, executive director of AMOR, in a statement. “The AMOR Wellness center is going to change this dynamic forever and thanks to our many partners, we are building a sustainable model for rural communities that will be duplicated across the country.”

AMOR’s new facility will house services provided by Marjaree Mason Center, Madera Community Hospital, Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, Learn 4 Life, West Hills Community College, Centro La Familia and Turning Point of Central California.

The $8 million dollar project will also feature a community space that includes a community garden, outdoor basketball court, developmental playground and green space.

Expected to be complete by July 2020, the AMOR Wellness Center will be open to the public on evenings and weekends, and is designed to accommodate the working hours of farmworkers and their families.

According to a news release from AMOR, Mendota residents currently must travel more than 40 miles to the nearest hospital or specialty care clinic.

The groundbreaking is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Aug. 16 at the corner of Belmont and Derrick avenues.

Fresno Hospital First in Central Valley to Use New Hybrid Operating Room


FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) – The healthcare industry is constantly evolving and improving and community regional medical center is the only facility in the valley with two hybrid operating rooms able to perform highly complex, advanced surgical procedures.  But, it’s the team inside the operating room that really makes the difference. We got a first-hand look at what it takes and what it means for patients.

Alfredo Gomez is an interventional radiology technologist who’s worked in the hybrid operating room since 2014.  The room is a combination of a traditional operating room and an image guided interventional suite– providing all the necessary capability and personnel in one space.

“So, the hybrid part is we’re not stuck to one modality.  So we can accommodate neurosurgery, vascular surgery and cardiac services also.  So we kind of do a little bit of almost everything. So, from head-to-toe if you have some kind of need, we can pretty much assist and take care of you,”  said Gomez.

These spaces allow for a smooth transition from a minimally invasive procedure to an open surgery procedure if needed.

“Every case is different, you know, nothing is ever straight up. We had what was supposed to be an easy routine diagnostic case that turned into a stroke for whatever reason and everybody in the room has to be you know, aware of what’s going on because you have to completely change the room over to be able to do an intervention versus a diagnostics,” Gomez said, “It’s beneficial for the patient because it saves them time in the hospital for one because now you’re not prepping for three procedures.  You prep them for surgery and then you can — it’s a one stop shop. So it shortens their length to be in the hospital, you can go home faster, faster recovery time.”

The flexible design and presence of multi-disciplinary resources allows staff to perform procedures safely and efficiently.  Gomez is one of only four hybrid IR techs at Community…highly-trained to work in the hybrid OR and neurosurgery supervisor, Joyce Interno at Community Regional says the role requires a special skill set.

“We gather all the skilled and finest hybrid IR tech.  They’re trained and they have these unique special skills that I believe they’re the only one who got it.  Because knowing the anatomy of different kind of service line, the techniques, the procedure itself, is already complex, but having all this packed in one, hybrid O-R tech is very specialized–it is a fulfillment for us, knowing that we can serve and provide this safe, patient care to all of our patients and to our family and family and friends here in the Valley.”

“Being able to work in this environment, I know they’re getting top notch treatment because I’ve seen it first hand, from getting a stroke out in seven minutes — you know that’s fast,” Gomez said.

Fresno Cancer Center Earns ‘Astro’ Accreditation

The Fresno Cancer Center has earned the American Society for Radiation Oncology’s Accreditation Program for Excellence designation. Image via Fresno Cancer Center Facebook

Published On January 14, 2020 – 10:45 AM
Written By The Business Journal Staff

The Fresno Cancer Center has received a prestigious accreditation given to less than 5% of such facilities in the U.S.

The American Society for Radiation Oncology’s (ASTRO) Accreditation Program for Excellence (APEx) can take up to a year to complete and focuses on five “pillars” of patient care. These include the process of care, the radiation oncology team, safety, quality management, and patient-centered care, according to a news release.

Fresno Cancer Center was one of three such facilities in the state to recently achieve APEx status, along with Rohnert Park Cancer Center and South Sacramento Cancer Center. The three centers comprise the practice of US Cancer Management Corp. (USCMC), which operates the facilities.

“By undergoing this comprehensive review, the facilities demonstrated a strong commitment to deliver safe, high-quality radiation oncology services to their patients,” said Theodore L. DeWeese, MD, FASTRO, chair of the ASTRO board of directors.

ASTRO bills itself as the “premier radiation oncology society in the world” whose members include 10,000 physicians, nurses, radiation therapists and more who specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies.

Jeremy Mann, chief operating officer of USCMC, said, “We are extremely pleased to be awarded APEx accreditation. We are proud of the efforts of all of our staff to provide the absolute pinnacle of care to our patients and are appreciative of the recognition we have received from ASTRO.”

Central California Blood Center starts experimental treatment to fight COVID-19

KSEE24 & CBS47 Partner with Central California Blood Center for Founder's Day of Caring

FRESNO, California (KSEE/KGPE) – The Central California Blood Center announced that they will be the first blood center in the United States to produce pathogen-reduced plasma from patients who have successfully recovered from the Coronavirus.

The Blood Center said people who recover from the Coronavirus infection have developed antibodies to the virus that remain in the plasma portion of their blood.

The experimental treatment is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used on an emergency basis.

Transfusing the plasma that contains the antibodies into a person still fighting the virus can provide a boost to the patient’s immune system and potentially help them recover.

“We look forward to being able to safely collect, process and pathogen-reduce these plasma donations, by following approved FDA guidance, OSHA safety standards and the very latest scientific evidence suggesting this could save lives, we’re looking to make rapid progress through approved research and specially FDA emergency-authorized use to fight against COVID-19.”


The Central California Blood Center said they are working closely with Cerus Corporation, the Fresno County Department of Health and local hospitals to identify people who have recovered from COVID-19 to be potential donors.

According to the Blood Bank, these potential donors will need to meet all standard FDA blood donation requirements, plus pass additional FDA criteria, including:

● COVID-19 convalescent plasma must only be collected from recovered individuals if they are eligible to donate blood.

● Required testing must be performed and the donation must be found suitable

● Prior diagnosis of COVID-19 documented by a laboratory test.

● Complete resolution of symptoms throughout at least 14 days prior to donation and having a negative test for the virus post recovery.

● As with all transfusions, the donor and the patient will need to have compatible blood types

● Physicians wanting this product as it becomes available can join an established investigational protocol, approved by FDA or apply directly to FDA for Emergency Use Authorization.

Local hospitals and medical professionals should connect with the Fresno County Department of Public Health with any referrals to safe donors.


Irma Olguin Jr. speaks to the press in June, with co-founder Jake Soberal appearing via teleconference from Bakersfield, on the announcement of their Kern County expansion. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz

Published On March 27, 2020 – 2:57 PM
Written By The Business Journal Staff

The CEO of Bitwise is putting out a call to hire more than 100 temporary data entry contractors who will work from home.

Irma L. Olguin Jr. said in a Facebook post Friday afternoon that the workers would support efforts of Bitwise Industries, its web development arm Shift3 Technologies and mobile restaurant ordering app Ordrslip in “building things to help feed the elderly, save restaurants from going out of business and to help folks who’ve lost jobs regain employment.”

“These are big, big tasks,” Olguin said. “Big tasks require lots of information.”

The temporary (“could be days or weeks”) positions would be 40 hours a week and pay $15 per hour. Employment would be on a contract basis. Applicants must have their own computer, reliable Internet access and be able to type at reasonable speed, Olguin said.

To apply, Olguin said to send an email to, include your name in the subject line “and your BEST PG-13 joke in the body.” An auto-response email will give further instructions.

State Economies Most Exposed to Coronavirus

Adam McCann, Financial Writer  •  Mar 31, 2020

Coronavirus isn’t just a danger to Americans’ health. It’s also a menace to our wallets. It’s led to the closing of scores of non-essential events and businesses, hurting the livelihood of many people. The U.S. stock market has lost over 20 percent of its value, and the U.S. government was forced to pass a $2 trillion stimulus package. Some of the main features of the plan include sending checks to Americans, giving loans to businesses and providing extra funding for hospitals. Hopefully, this aid will start to turn the economic downturn around in a time when the number of unemployment insurance claims being filed is rising sharply.

Some states are better positioned economically to deal with the coronavirus pandemic than others. To find out the states whose economies are most exposed to COVID-19, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 10 unique metrics. Our data set ranges from share of employment from small businesses to share of workers with access to paid sick leave and increase in unemployment insurance claims. Read on for the full ranking, additional insight from a panel of experts and a complete description of our methodology.

Click to read the full report:


Published On March 11, 2020 – 12:54 PM
Written By 

A start-up company with connections to Fresno State just received heavy investment to aid in its work of increasing access to fresh water at a lower cost.

Valley Ventures, an accelerator program of the Water, Energy, and Technology Center (WET Center) at Fresno State, helped raise $6 million in new funding for Membrion Inc., a Seattle company that creates membranes out of silica gel materials to allow for a higher-performing desalination process that can purify pharmaceuticals, wastewater and other types of liquids.

With the new funding, Membrion will be moving its headquarters to Interbay, Washington.

“With this funding, we’re thrilled to move from the lab commercial production, develop a new manufacturing facility and ramp up production for customers,” said Greg Newbloom, CEO of Membrion.

The investors providing the $6 million are from outside the area.

The company completed the Valley Ventures Accelerator program in late 2019 and since then, Membrion has streamlined efforts on focusing and perfecting the “electrodialysis reversal” desalination process.

Newbloom said the company’s membranes are lowering the costs of membrane filtration by 30 percent.

“We are grateful for the help we received while being in the Valley Ventures Accelerator program,” said Newbloom. “The information and assistance we gained throughout the program, as well as the support given by the WET Center even after, allowed us to not only streamline this technology, but grow our company as a whole.”


A 25-foot shuttle bus manufactured in Porterville will be made fully autonomous as part of a new business partnership. Photo via GreenPower

Published On March 2, 2020 – 2:31 PM
Written By 

Coming soon to a street (but probably not near you): an all-electric, autonomous bus.

GreenPower Motor Company Inc., the Canadian-based electric bus maker with an assembly plant in Porterville, is partnering with a Virginia-based technology firm to make it happen.

GreenPower and Perrone Robotics have teamed up to develop the first all-electric, fully-autonomous transit bus, with portions being built in both Porterville and the latter company’s Virginia headquarters.

The EV Star shuttle, a 25-foot-long bus made by GreenPower, could be completed within 90 days, said GreenPower President Brendan Riley.

He noted this will not be a test vehicle, as the company has a buyer lined up who plans to put the bus on the road providing transit services, possibly within six-12 months.

“It will have a safety driver, at least for now,” said Riley, who declined to identify the customer, how that business plans to use the autonomous bus or even in which state it will be used.

“It won’t be in California,” he said.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and other sources report the Golden State, along with 10 others and the District or Columbia, allows the use of all types of autonomous vehicles on roads.

Four of those — California among them — don’t require safety drivers in the vehicles under any circumstances.

Riley said an EV Star is being converted to become autonomous, with Perrone Robotics providing the self-driving technology.

On its website, Perrone Robotics describes itself as having been “behind the first general-purpose robotics software platform for autonomous vehicles and robots. We call this platform MAX. We make the analogy that MAX is to robots as Windows is to computers or as Android is to smartphones.”

In recent years, “we wanted to zero in on places where we could deploy autonomous vehicles sooner rather than later. This led us to focus on last-mile shuttles and then to specific transit routes that operated in well-known spaces,” the website continues, stating that the company created its TONY (TO Navigate You) general autonomy system to be included in existing vehicles and is being added to GreenPower’s EV Star.

Riley noted that this will be a level-5 autonomous vehicle, able to navigate traffic without the need for a safety driver — unless required by law or the owner requires one — and stopping to pick up and drop off passengers, though once the first one is finished, Perrone will initiate a series of tests to certify it operates as it should.

On its website, Perrone officials report they have spent months successfully testing the TONY system in Virginia on a different shuttle bus.

If all goes as planned, Riley said GreenPower is considering building all of its buses to be capable of autonomous driving, if customers choose to add on the programming and if it’s legal where those buses will run.