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Fresno mayor-elect tests positive for coronavirus

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer hugs Antonio Villaraigosa after a 2018 news conference
Police Chief Jerry Dyer hugs Antonio Villaraigosa after a news conference at the Fresno Police Department in 2018. Dyer will take over as the mayor of Fresno in January 2021.
(Tomas Ovalle / For The Times )

Fresno Mayor-elect Jerry Dyer announced Tuesday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Dyer said he was exposed to the virus while attending a “small dinner gathering” on election night with Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau, according to a report by the Fresno Bee.

Brandau tested positive for the virus last week.

Dyer said that a previous rapid PCR test came back negative for COVID-19, but that he developed a “very light cough” Monday morning.

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“Out of an abundance of caution, I took a second test yesterday afternoon,” he said in a statement to the Bee. “Last night I had a headache, body aches and chills. I also had a mild fever.”

Dyer received his positive result just before noon Tuesday.

Acting Mayor Lee Brand was also reportedly in attendance at the election night gathering, but said in a news release that he remains in good health.

“After hearing concerns about possible COVID-19 exposure, I was tested over the weekend and the results came back negative,” Brand said in a news release Tuesday. “I continue to work from home, as I have done with limited exceptions since the start of the pandemic.”

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But Brandau, who has downplayed the seriousness of the virus in the past, could be heard coughing and clearing his throat several times during a Board of Supervisors meeting held the same day as the dinner. Neither he nor any of the other supervisors were wearing a mask during the meeting, video shows.

In May, Brandau was a vocal opponent of language drafted by Fresno County health officer Dr. Rais Vohra that would have mandated face coverings in the county. He was instrumental in getting the language changed to make masks voluntary instead.

“In times of crisis, like what we’re facing, the government has a way of reaching into our personal liberties,” Brandau said in a Facebook video about his opposition to a mask mandate. “By the time you’ve gone through a couple of these crises, you’ve lost your personal liberties, and you have no way of getting them back.”

Fresno is in the “red” tier of California’s color-coded reopening system, which indicates substantial risk of infection. As of Tuesday, the county had reported 32,755 cases of COVID-19 and 454 deaths, according to state data. Stricter face mask guidelines were put in place in July.

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Dyer’s approach to the coronavirus remains largely untested. He was voted into the office in March, just as Fresno issued its stay-at-home orders, but does not take office until January.

He previously spent 18 years as Fresno’s police chief. Attempts to contact him Tuesday were unsuccessful.

In his statement, Dyer said he will remain in quarantine as directed by the Fresno County health department, and noted that he was already starting to feel better.

“I would equate my symptoms, at least at this point, to a severe cold or mild flu,” he said. “I consider myself very fortunate as I know others experience severe sickness and, unfortunately, death.”

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Times staff writer Faith Pinho contributed to this report.


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