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Napa County still waiting for COVID-19 turnaround
Public health

Napa County still waiting for COVID-19 turnaround

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Napa County still awaits signs of a COVID-19 turnaround that would allow it to reopen indoor fitness centers, hair salons and various other activities that for now are limited to outdoors.

The signs didn’t come during Tuesday’s COVID-19 update at the county Board of Supervisors meeting. Dr. Karen Relucio, public health officer, delivered mixed news at best.

As long as the county remains among 36 counties on a state monitoring list, it cannot reopen indoor fitness centers, barber shops, worship services, hair salons, personal care services such as nail salons and offices for non-essential sectors. All of these activities can be done only outdoors, if possible.

In addition, schools cannot reopen for in-person instruction until Napa County has been off the monitoring list for 14 days, though elementary schools can seek a waiver.

A key to getting off the monitoring list is lowering the 14-day COVID-19 case rate to below 100 cases per 100,000 people. Latest figures show the rate at 166.5, up from 134.5 a week ago.

Some counties in the region are faring worse, with Solano County’s rate at 242.4 and Yolo County’s at 214.5. Others are faring better, with Sonoma County’s rate at 149.5 and Lake County’s rate at 90.1.

Napa County is trying to avoid a more severe, job-sapping economic shutdown that hurts people's ability to house and feed themselves, while still trying to control the spread of the disease, Board of Supervisors Chair Diane Dillon said when questioned after the presentation.

"That's the balance we're trying to strike," she said.

Relucio offered what has become a mantra as the way to knock back the pandemic – wear masks, watch your distance and wash your hands. Yet stressing the three W’s has yet to remove the county from state monitoring list status that resulted in various indoor businesses and activities shutting on July 13.

Perhaps, Dillon said, people feel too comfortable socializing amid the warm weather and are relaxing their COVID-19 precautions while with friends and family. She also noted that convincing people to buy into past safety messages such as wearing seatbelts took time.

“This is a big behavior change,” she said.

Yet another issue is reopening indoor operations of restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, card rooms and museums and either indoor or outdoor operations of bars. California has closed these operations statewide, for counties both on and off the monitoring list.

Relucio had no news to deliver on COVID-19 test result waits that in some cases take 10 to 14 days. The previous week, she said the county was addressing the issue in such ways as possibly contracting with other testing labs and encouraging local labs to pool test results, that is, test several samples at once and then test individually if one is positive.

On Tuesday, Relucio said long waits for test-result make contact tracing more difficult. Contact tracers are health officials who interview infected people to find out whom they have exposed to the disease, so those exposed can be quarantined and spread of the disease checked.

By the time Napa County receives some positive test results, the infected persons have passed their isolation period, Relucio said. That hinders the ability to do isolation and quarantine on a timely basis.

Also, some infected people aren’t cooperating with contract tracers. She called this “an anti-contract tracing narrative.”

“There will be anything from, ‘I don’t want to give the names (of contacts)’ to sometimes frank hostility to some of the workers,” she said.

The pandemic continues to hit the local Hispanic/Latinx community disproportionately hard. The community makes up 32% of the population, yet 53% of the cases, 44% of hospitalizations, 53% of intensive care unit cases and 50% of the deaths.

Napa County is trying to address the disparity in several ways, Relucio said. Among them is helping farmworkers by providing isolation and quarantine facilities and working with local nonprofit groups on cash aid and case management services for eligible COVID-19-positive residents.

Dillon, looking for positives in the day’s COVID-19 news, noted that it is taking longer for Napa County to double its number of cases. The doubling time over the past week increased from 21 days to 24 days.

Relucio said that 37% of hospital beds, 50% of ICU beds and 10% of ventilators are in use. All three categories are in the green on the county's COVID-19 Resilience Roadmap feature.

Supervisors will learn next week if the county can build on the positive notes.

You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or beberling@napanews.com.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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