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Public Health

Napa County's hospitals prepared for projected mid-August coronavirus surge

Queen of the Valley Medical Center surge

A Queen of the Valley Medical Center spokesperson said the hospital's 30-bed ICU unit is prepared to surge in the event of a substantive spike in coronavirus-related hospitalizations.

Just a week away from Napa County’s projected peak in hospitalizations of coronavirus patients, nearly two-thirds of the county’s surge hospital beds remain unoccupied, data reported Aug, 3 shows.

Napa County Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Relucio wrote in an email at the beginning of the month to the principals of private elementary schools that county projections showed Napa hitting its “maximum hospital surge capacity” in coronavirus patients in “mid-August”. The projected surge, Relucio wrote, was a contributing factor in the county’s decision earlier this month to delay potential in-person reopenings for private elementary schools.

“Surge capacity” denotes the number of staffed hospital beds that could be made available if there is a substantive increase in hospitalizations, Relucio said in an interview. She voiced confidence that the county’s hospitals, were they to experience a surge, would be adequately equipped to care for patients.

“We’re meeting with hospitals every week, and they are prepared to surge to the number (we have projected),” Relucio said. “They know exactly how to reconfigure their units so they can accept more patients.”

More than half of the county’s surge capacity Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds also remain unoccupied, Relucio said. Hospitalization metrics reflect both non-coronavirus and coronavirus-related hospitalizations.

Hospitals across the state have been hard hit by the pandemic, according to Relucio: many suffered under the state-wide freeze on elective and cosmetic surgeries earlier in the spring.

Asked about typical occupancy rates, a spokesperson for Adventist Health in St. Helena wrote that the hospital’s available bed count “changes daily” but was slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels.

“If we are counting our ability to surge, it may appear as though our availability is high,” the spokesperson wrote, adding that occupancy rates were highly prone to fluctuation. “However (with) standard operations, we are getting closer to being back to normal volumes.”

Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa had also weathered the financial turbulence of the pandemic, a spokesperson wrote in an email, noting that the hospital had not mandated furloughs or laid off any employees. The hospital’s 30-bed ICU unit “has the capacity to scale up” in the case of a surge, the spokesperson wrote.

As of Monday afternoon, the county had reported nine residents currently hospitalized with the virus. Numbers reported by the county are not necessarily “in real time,” Relucio cautioned, and could lag by up to a few days.

Watch Now: Napa County coronavirus testing site volunteers discuss their work

You can reach Sarah Klearman at (707) 256-2213 or

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Wine Industry Reporter

Wine industry reporter at the Napa Valley Register.

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