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"Brewtus loves swimming, rolling in the mud, treats, footballs, baseballs and anything fuzzy to chew on," says Tracy O'Rourke of Pope Valley. "He has the most amazing personality and loves everyone!"

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Napa County housing sales bounce back in June, but still historically low: sold price also on the rise

After Napa home sales fell in May, June brought better news. The number of homes sold in Napa County month-over-month rose 53%.

However, the number of homes sold compared to a year ago in June was still down 22%, according to Bay Area Real Estate Information Services, Inc. (BAREIS).

A total of 204 Napa County homes were listed for sale this June, compared to 159 in May, reported BAREIS.

Of those Napa County homes listed this June, 124 were sold, compared to the 81 homes sold in May.

The median sold price of a local home also rose in June. It cost an estimated $725,000 to buy a home in Napa County this June, compared to $705,750 one year ago, according to the California Association of Realtors or CAR.

“There is still so much pent up demand and too little inventory,” said Ted Stumpf, a realtor with Windermere Real Estate and current chair of the Napa Valley chapter of the North Bay Association of Realtors. Napa Valley homes listed at “a halfway decent price and shape,” don’t sit long, he said.

“We’re working harder than we ever have,” said realtor Andrew Paulson with ReMax Gold.

“Home sales bounced back solidly in June… as lockdown restrictions loosened and pent up demand driven by record-low interest rates roared back,” said 2020 CAR President Jeanne Radsick, a second-generation realtor from Bakersfield.

Realtor Marcia Hadeler has a Napa listing that’s in contract for $735,000, almost the same price as the current Napa County median. The home, located at 2333 2nd St., was originally listed at $750,000.

“The house is adorable,” Hadeler said. However, “It’s three doors away from the roundabout; that is it’s drawback.” She believes the buyers is from San Francisco and works from home.

Hadeler said earlier this summer realtors kept hearing about buyers migrating to Napa Valley due to the coronavirus pandemic, “and then all of a sudden in the middle of June, we got hit,” with out of area buyers, “Lots of them.”

The realtor is seeing more offers above asking price, some much higher than asking price.

“Napa buyers are hesitant about making offers way over asking price,” but it’s the norm in the Bay Area, Hadeler said. But, “It is starting to happen here.”

Mark Fowler with Gates Estates Sotheby’s International Realty said the June market in Napa County real estate “was amazing.”

“I’m a fairly new realtor and June was the best month I ever had,” said Fowler.

“I think people were just kind of pent up. They just wanted to get into a new home and honestly the inventory is not that great, so the houses that are available, we have multiple offers for houses that are on the market.”

Fowler has a home that is very close to the current median price that is in contract right now. Located at 3816 Villa Court, it was originally listed about six months ago for $775,000. It sold for $735,000 to a local buyer, he said.

He’s expecting the market to slow down a bit in the coming months.

“I will have some business the rest of the year, but it’s not like my phone is ringing off the hook,” said Fowler. “People are on vacation (or) hunkering down.”

Realtor Paulson has new duplex homes for sale at 2596 First St. (across the street from Andie’s Café on Freeway Drive) for $699,900.

However, as of late July, “We’ve only sold one,” he said.

“I think it’s the lack of outdoor space,” he said. “Everyone that calls wants either space, privacy or a pool: those are the requests.”

Most of those calls are second home inquiries from outside Napa Valley, Paulson said. Such buyers “were thinking about relocating before COVID-19 but now they’re saying ‘We’re moving.’”

Reflecting the uncertainty in market conditions, a monthly Google poll conducted by CAR in early July found that 44 percent of consumers said it is a good time to sell, up from 40 percent a month ago, but down from 49 percent a year ago.

Meanwhile, low interest rates continue to fuel the optimism for homebuying; 31 percent of the consumers who responded to the poll believed that now is a good time to buy a home, sharply higher than last year, when 23 percent said it was a good time to buy a home.

“While the momentum is expected to be sustained as we kick off the third quarter, the resurgence in coronavirus cases remains a concern and may hinder the market recovery in the second half of the year,” Radsick said.

Watch now: take a tour of the temporary museum at Napa’s Horrell House

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The COVID-19 Victory Garden at Hagafen Cellars

Although the grape harvest has not yet begun in Napa Valley, vintner Ernie Weir is already bringing crops at his Hagafen Cellars in Napa, and he is delivering them to the Napa Food Bank: bushels and pounds of vegetables.

“It’s spinning ashes into something positive,” Weir said as he walked between rows of corn, squash and tomatoes at the Silverado Trail winery.

He means ashes literally. During the Atlas Peak Fire of 2017, the metal winery didn’t burn, but flames burned grapevines on both the northern and southern vineyards, as well as a house on the property. Drip irrigation hoses “acted like candle wicks,” moving swiftly down the rows of vines. Weir said. In all, he estimates they lost about 2,400 vines.

They have replanted the 1,500 vines lost in northern vineyard, but “you can’t do it all at once,” he said. Turning to the southern vineyard, where they lost about 20 percent of the vines. They began removing the dead vines; some that were scorched still remain and produce grapes, although Weir noted the berries are smaller than usual and some of the canes are stunted. He plans to remove these and replant the vineyard by 2022.

Meanwhile, Weir said, “We ended up with a field that was open and empty.” As the COVID-19 pandemic began taking a toll on the valley earlier this year, Weir decided put the land to good use. “We decided to grow more vegetables than we normally do each year for our employees and friends,” he said. The land where vines once stood is now filled with towering rows of corn, alongside tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers, squashes and watermelons.

The crops thrived. “We have an abundance — shall I say — a veritable bountiful harvest,” Weir said. “We have enough for ourselves and we are happy to offer our produce to any and all who are in need.” He began delivering produce to Community Action of Napa Valley Food Bank, which distributes free food at sites throughout the valley on a rotating weekly basis. So far, he said, they have donated about 200 pounds of vegetables.

It’s welcome help, said Shirley King, director of the CANV Food Bank. In March, when COVID-19 shutdowns began, King said the Food Bank went from serving 30 to 40 clients a day to more than 300. Since then the need has not abated. “We are moving 100,000 pounds of food a week, feeding 1,500 families,” she said. This week they had 385 clients in Calistoga and 319 in American Canyon.

“We are gearing up for the coming weeks,” King added. As the supplemental unemployment insurance payments and the moratorium on rental evictions expire at the end of July, she said, “this is going to cause a lot of stress. We are sure we will see an uptick in need.”

Because of COVID-19 precautions, they have had to put a hold on donations of shelf-stable items, canned and other packaged foods that transmit the virus and put recipients at risk. They have also had to cancel annual food drives, like the postal workers spring collection.

“We have had to find other sources of food,” King said. They can, however, accept and distribute produce.

“Some people plant a row for the Food Bank in their gardens each year,” she said.

This year, she added, the Food Bank was able to distribute seeds and seedlings to people to plant at their homes. “Planting gardens is one good thing that has come out of this difficult time,” she said.

Weir said as the summer bounty increases, their next step at Hagafen will be to open a farm stand. “As visitors return to taste wine, we hope they will support our endeavor,” Weir said. “It’s simple. You buy fresh vegetables to support the donation of fresh vegetables to those in need during the pandemic.”

Hagafen Cellars is open for outdoor tastings, in spaces separated by wicker screens where visitors can sit among flower gardens and fig and olive trees to taste Hagafen wines. Hagafen, which Weir founded in 1979, makes kosher wines that have been served at the White House.

Doing what they can to help the less fortunate members of the community, is “part of who are are, what we try to do,” Weir said. “We call it repairing the world.”

Hagafen Cellars is at 4160 Silverado Trail, Napa. Call 1-888-HAGAFEN (424-2336) or email for more information.

Watch now: A look at a south Napa homeless camp

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Napa Climate Action Committee searching for its identity

Napa County and city and town leaders are trying to strike a balance between being too informal and too bureaucratic in their still-evolving greenhouse gas-cutting partnership.

Form one super climate action authority that could impose its will on the community? Not interested.

“I don’t think we should be ordering the cities to do things or the county to do things,” Calistoga City Councilmember Gary Kraus said.

But they also want their eight-month-old county Climate Action Committee to be more than a discussion group. Last week, the committee pondered just what type of structure it should have.

County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza, the group’s chair, called the moment a “critical check-in point.”

Kraus talked of a group that can seek grants, explore best practices and help cities with climate action plans. Yountville Mayor John Dunbar talked of one that can help the cities and town with resources and sharpen their efforts.

“I prefer the more informal approach, at least for now,” American City Councilmember Mark Joseph said. “I would rather focus on accomplishment than structure.”

Pedroza expressed concern that too informal an approach might not yield bold and meaningful accomplishments. He wanted more information on what an informal structure can expect to achieve.

Napa City Councilmember Liz Alessio and others talked about each jurisdiction contributing some amount of money to the county climate action group.

“Maybe it’s a hybrid between the formal and the informal,” Alessio said. “We need to have some structure. And yet, we don’t want to be slowed down.”

At the end of the day, the tilt was toward the informal with the ability to secure grants.

Members looked to Marin County as one example of what could be. There, the counties, cities, towns and agencies such as Marin Municipal Water District are part of the Marin Climate and Energy Partnership.

Founded in 2007, the partnership does such things annually tally countywide greenhouse gas emissions for the cities and towns. It develops greenhouse gas-cutting best practices and guidelines for things such as building codes.

Christine O’Rourke, a consultant for Marin Climate and Energy Partnership, called it a “loose” and “staff-driven” organization. Staff from the jurisdictions convene monthly in meetings closed to the public.

“I think what we’re doing works really well for us because our cities and towns do like to have a lot of local control,” O’Rourke told the Napa County Climate Action Committee.

Marin County’s greenhouse gas emissions have dropped 25% since 2005, she said.

The committee also heard from Suzanne Smith, executive director of the Sonoma County Regional Climate Protection Authority. The agency’s structure mirrors that of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority, which Smith also heads.

Smith called the group a coalition that tries to inject a climate change lens into various issues, such as economic development, tourism and housing. It gives local elected officials the tools to have that lens.

Formed in 2009, the authority’s board has elected representatives from the cities, towns and county. The meetings are public.

“We can help foster things and develop things, but we can’t really implement them on the ground,” Smith said.

For example, the authority has mapped where EV charging stations can go and can help secure funding. But it won’t hire a contractor to install them on city land.

The Napa County Climate Action Committee may have more to say in coming months about what structure it will pursue. In the meantime, members quickly agreed on one thing: the group should seek $50,000 from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to help with its work.

Members of Napa Climate NOW! offered their expertise to a county greenhouse gas emission-cutting effort. They wanted to see action.

“It is a great idea to take what we have and get busy on results and keep the informal structure we need while we try to determine how we want to structure ourselves when we’re all grown up,” Jim Wilson told the committee.

Watch: How do heat waves form?

Fauci hopeful of vaccine

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci said Friday that he remains confident that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by early next year, telling lawmakers that a quarter-million Americans already have volunteered to take part in clinical trials.

But if the future looks encouraging, public health alarms are still going off in the present. Officials testifying with Fauci at a contentious House hearing acknowledged that the U.S. remains unable to deliver all COVID-19 test results within two or three days, and they jointly pleaded with Americans to comply with basic precautions such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and washing their hands frequently.

Those simple steps can deliver “the same bang for the buck as if we just shut the entire economy down,” said a frustrated Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adding that he has studies to back that up.

Meanwhile, Pharma giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur announced they will supply 100 million doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine to the United States as governments buy up supplies in hopes of securing a candidate that works.

The United States will pay up to $2.1 billion “for development including clinical trials, manufacturing, scale-up and delivery” of the vaccine, the two companies based in Europe said in a statement. Sanofi will get the bulk of the funds.

Looking ahead, Fauci said he’s “cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021. I don’t think it’s dreaming … I believe it’s a reality (and) will be shown to be reality.” As the government’s top infectious disease expert, Fauci heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Under White House orders, federal health agencies and the Defense Department are carrying out a plan dubbed Operation Warp Speed to deliver 300 million vaccine doses on a compressed timeline. That will happen only after the Food and Drug Administration determines that one or more vaccines are safe and effective. Several candidates are being tested.

Don’t look for a mass nationwide vaccination right away, Fauci told lawmakers. There will be a priority list based on recommendations from scientific advisers. Topping the list could be critical workers, such as as medical personnel, or vulnerable groups of people such as older adults with other underlying health problems.

“But ultimately, within a reasonable period of time, the plans now allow for any American who needs a vaccine to get it within the year 2021,” Fauci said.

Fauci, Redfield, and Department of Health and Human Services “testing czar” Admiral Brett Giroir testified at a moment when early progress against the coronavirus seems to have been frittered away. High numbers of new cases cloud the nation’s path. The three officials appeared before a special House panel investigating the government’s pandemic response, itself sharply divided along party lines.

Almost 4.5 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19, and more than 150,000 have died. In recent weeks the virus has rebounded in the South and West, and now upticks are being seen in the Midwest. Testing bottlenecks remain a major issue.

Asked if it’s possible to deliver coronavirus test results to patients within 48 to 72 hours, Giroir acknowledged “it is not a possible benchmark we can achieve today given the demand and supply.”

But rapid, widespread testing is critical to containing the pandemic. It makes it easier for public health workers to trace the contacts of an infected person. Delayed test results only allow more people to get infected.

Giroir said a two- to three-day turnaround “is absolutely a benchmark we can achieve moving forward.”

The bitter politics surrounding the U.S. response to the coronavirus was evident at the hearing by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

As the health officials testified, President Donald Trump in a tweet repeated a false claim that high numbers of U.S. cases are due to extensive testing. Committee Chairman James Clyburn, D-S.C., tried to enlist Fauci to rebut the president.

During the hearing Clyburn displayed a chart showing rising cases in the U.S. juxtaposed with lower levels across Europe. That caught the president’s eye.

Trump tweeted: “Somebody please tell Congressman Clyburn, who doesn’t have a clue, that the chart he put up indicating more CASES for the U.S. than Europe, is because we do MUCH MORE testing than any other country in the World.”

Clyburn turned to Fauci for a real-time fact check.

“Now Dr. Fauci,” the chairman intoned, “do you agree with the president’s statement, or do you stand by your previous answer that the difference is caused by multiple factors including the fact that some states did not do a good job of reopening?”

Fauci answered directly.

“I stand by my previous statement that the increase in cases was due to a number of factors,” he said. One was “that in the attempt to reopen, that in some situations, states did not abide strictly by the guidelines that the task force and the White House had put out.”