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Public Health

Napa County drops to purple tier; new COVID-19 restrictions will be imposed

From the Complete coronavirus coverage from the Napa Valley Register, St. Helena Star, and The Weekly Calistogan: Fall/Winter 2020 edition series
Coronavirus update COVID

The feared tightened restrictions on Napa County occurred Monday, with California announcing that the county has fallen from the COVID-19 orange tier all the way to the bottom purple tier that has the most restrictions on businesses and activities.

Restaurants, places of worship, winery tasting rooms and fitness centers will be able to serve the public only outdoors. Retail stores will be limited to 25% capacity.

Schools that are open to in-person learning can continue that way. But no additional schools can open to having students in classrooms. Barbershops and hair salons can still operate indoors, with modifications.

“It’s not a complete lockdown like it was in March,” Dr. Karen Relucio, county public health officer, said Monday morning.

Still, Napa County residents will notice a difference. Life will be more like it was for much of the summer, when the county was on a state monitoring list under a previous state rating system. The caveat — weather will be less favorable for outdoor activities.

The restrictions will be effective on Tuesday, Nov. 17, according to a state press release.

California places each of its 58 counties into one of four color-coded tiers to try to control COVID-19 spread. Purple has the most restrictions, going to red, orange and yellow, which has the least restrictions.

Napa County’s fall from orange to purple came suddenly. The county had 58 new COVID-19 cases for the week of Oct. 10 through 16. Last week, the county had 251 new cases, its worst week since the pandemic began early this year.

California as a whole has seen a recent spike in new cases. During a Monday press conference, Gov. Gavin Newsom said new, daily cases statewide rose 54% during the first week of November.

“This is simply the fastest increase California has seen since the beginning of this pandemic,” Newsom said.

Last week, California had 13 purple counties, 22 red counties, 17 orange counties and six yellow counties. On Monday, that became 41 purple counties, 11 red, four orange and two yellow. More than 94% of the state’s population lives in a purple area.

Relucio couldn’t point to any one reason for Napa County’s spike. She mentioned people leaving their household bubbles to meet with friends and family, more travel to other counties and states and “COVID fatigue.”

She again urged residents to wear masks in public, keep a social distance, wash hands often and avoid gatherings.

“Just because you’re sick of these measures doesn’t mean COVID is going to go away,” Relucio said.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, on Monday, urged people to stay home for Thanksgiving amid the coronavirus surge.

“I know that is not what any of us want to hear, particularly just days before the Thanksgiving holiday,” Thompson said in a press release. “We are all tired of the pandemic, sick of staying home and missing the family and friends we haven’t seen in months.”

But now is not the time for people to let their guard down, Thompson said. He added he and his wife Janet made the “difficult choice” to celebrate the holiday without extended family this year.

“I am very sad I won’t see our kids or our granddaughters, but I know it’s worth it to keep us all safe and make sure we aren’t contributing to the spread of the virus,” Thompson said.

Newsom during his Monday press conference also mentioned an event he has taken heat for — attending a friend’s 50th birthday party in Napa County at The French Laundry restaurant.

Napa County was in orange status at the time — “relatively loose compared to some other counties,” Newsom said. The dinner was outdoors and there were just a few more people than the spirit of what he promotes would allow, he said.

Still, he said, “As soon as I sat down at the larger table, I realized it was a little larger group than I anticipated. I made a bad mistake. Instead of sitting down, I should have stood up and walked back and got in my car and drove back to my house.”

He apologized for contradicting the spirit of what he preaches, said everyone falls short sometimes and vowed it will not happen again.

Editor’s note: Because of the health implications of the COVID-19 virus, this article is being made available free to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. If you’d like to join us in supporting the mission of local journalism, please visit

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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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