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PUBLIC HEALTH

City of Napa to transition back to virtual public meetings in response to COVID surge

Napa City Hall sign

Outside Napa City Hall.

The city of Napa is switching back to virtual public meetings in response to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, predominately caused by the more-infectious omicron variant of the virus.

City manager Steve Potter said in an interview that Napa City Council, city Planning Commission and redistricting meetings — all of which can attract a sizable crowd — will be held virtually at least through Feb. 8. The next scheduled City Council meeting is on Jan. 18. 

“The logic behind it is community, council, and staff health and safety because omicron is showing to be a very transmissible virus,” Potter said.

Commissions other than the Planning Commission have the option of holding meetings virtually — some never returned to in-person meetings — but may still hold in-person meetings if desired, according to Potter.

“They might meet in person because there’s typically only a small group of people to accommodate in council chambers,” Potter said.

The change is on top of a few other internal changes the city’s made in response to the recent COVID-19 surge. Internal staff meetings are being held virtually, Potter said, and city staff members, if possible and appropriate, are working from home.

The city is also working to have Providence Queen of the Valley come in to provide booster shots for city employees, Potter said. City facilities and public services remain open for business.

The city’s safety response is also connected to a high number of staff vacancies and the impact COVID-19 exposures among city staff and resulting quarantine periods could have on city operations.

“We’re still down quite a few employees,” Potter said. “We haven’t been able to hire back everybody that we would like to or fill all the positions that we would like.”

The city transitioned to in-person public meetings, after switching to virtual meetings early in the pandemic, with the July 20, 2021 City Council meeting. In-person public services were reopened around that time as well.

But that was during a period of time when California had essentially opened back up. COVID-19 cases were falling and vaccination rates were rising.

The city of Napa considered possible safety adjustments in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases caused predominately by the delta variant of the virus in August. But the city ultimately didn’t take action to, for instance, return to virtual meetings or mandate COVID-19 vaccinations among employees.

California’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have risen nearly 500% in the past two weeks and hospitalizations have doubled since Christmas, according to previous Register reporting.

Case rates have been increasing rapidly in Napa County as well. The county reported 880 new cases from Dec. 31 2021 to Jan. 6, a 113% rise over the 413 cases reported the previous week.

Omicron Patients Becoming , 'Really Sick in a Different Way'. Omicron Patients Becoming , 'Really Sick in a Different Way'. Yahoo! News reports a leading ER doctor says coronavirus infections associated with the Omicron variant are "making people really sick in a different way.". There's just SO much of it and it's impacting patients in different ways, Dr. Craig Spencer, associate professor in Emergency Medicine at Columbia University Medical, via Yahoo! News. Experts note that fewer Omicron patients required oxygen compared to those infected by previous variants. Health officials say coronavirus infections compounded by patients' preexisting conditions often trigger other life-threatening illnesses. It remains unclear if Omicron causes symptoms that differ from previous variants. Officials say the patients experiencing the worst symptoms are often unvaccinated. ...Hardly saw anyone who had gotten a booster because if they caught COVID-19 they're likely at home doing fine or having regular cold/flu-like symptoms. , Mucio Kit Delgado, assistant professor in Emergency Medicine at Penn Presbyterian Medical, via Yahoo! News. As of Jan. 3, 5,495 people in New York City had been hospitalized with COVID-19. As of Jan. 3, 5,495 people in New York City had been hospitalized with COVID-19. Hospitalizations in the city have increased fourfold in a matter of two weeks. Hospitalizations in the city have increased fourfold in a matter of two weeks. According to Yahoo! News, more New Yorkers are currently in the hospital with COVID-19 infections than at any point in May 2020. According to Yahoo! News, more New Yorkers are currently in the hospital with COVID-19 infections than at any point in May 2020

Edward Booth's most memorable Napa Valley Register stories of 2021

Here are five of my favorite stories I reported this year, from the fallout of an injury at Westwood Hills park to lingering earthquake damage in downtown Napa.

You can reach Edward Booth at (707) 256-2213.

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