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COVID-19 cases surge in Napa County; health officer urges continued caution
Public Health

COVID-19 cases surge in Napa County; health officer urges continued caution

Coronavirus update COVID

Coronavirus cases have spiked in Napa County over the past two weeks, with totals three and four times higher than the previous 10-week average.

Last week’s total of 42 cases, with four hospitalizations, included a peak day, Saturday, when 15 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed.

“We’re definitely seeing more cases and hospitalizations,” Dr. Karen Relucio, the county’s public health officer, said in an interview Monday. “With opening up the economy, we do expect to see more cases. It’s not anything surprising.”

What’s important, said Relucio, is that Napa County residents continue to practice social distancing and wear protective covering even as restaurants, wineries and hotels reopen.

And businesses have to do their part to protect their customers and workers so that the rise in cases stays within the capacities of local hospitals, Relucio said.

Even with the surge in new cases, the percentage of Napa County tests that are positive remains well below the state average, Relucio said. In Napa, 1.6% of cases have been positive recently, with the state flagging counties that exceed 8% for possible tightening of restrictions.

The county is planning to allow a new group of business reopenings on Friday — gyms, fitness centers and movie theaters — but a final decision awaits the results from community testing this week, Relucio said.

“This is really contingent on how we do this week with our cases. If we see a large spike or more cases than hospitals can handle, we may have to rethink,” she said.

The 42 cases last week and the 31 cases the week before that represent a spectrum of sources, Relucio said.

Some were part of a large family cluster in Calistoga, while others were from smaller family clusters in Napa, she said.

“One of the families attended a 40-person graduation party. We are getting secondary transmissions from that,” she said. “There was also a 30-person gathering of family and friends. We’re investigating that.”

This week started with the county reporting seven new cases Monday afternoon, bringing the county’s total to 190 cases, with three deaths. The number of people hospitalized jumped from three on Saturday to five on Monday.

“They are all different,” Relucio said of recent cases. “They’re not associated with particular clusters. They’re all independent cases. That’s why it’s important to maintain physical distance and wear covering.”

If people go into reopened businesses that are not maintaining six-feet of separation whenever possible or whose employees are not wearing face coverings, they should complain to management and “vote with their feet,” Relucio said.

Relucio said the county relies on code enforcement by local jurisdictions when violations occur. “Is there code enforcement? I think that’s a good question for your cities. They’re the ones that give the business license,” she said.

Relucio credited the county’s policy of “surveillance testing” in nursing homes and other group care facilities with identifying two early outbreaks. In the first one, the county found several workers at Piner’s Nursing Home who tested positive.

One worker and one resident at a second care facility also tested positive recently, with the facility imposing strict measures to prevent further spread, she said.

It is county policy not to identify care facilities where positive cases are discovered, Relucio said. Piner’s was identified in an earlier Register news story.

The reopening of schools this summer will be a major event as everyone tries to work out the best protocols for restoring community life while protecting the public’s health, Relucio said.

“I know that schools are working really hard to see the safest way to reopen,” said Relucio, noting that schooling is a “really important activity” that is also crucial for parents who have to work.

Relucio noted that March’s shelter-in-home order is still in effect even as the economy reopens. People need to maintain social distance, with households encouraged to stay within a “bubble” of limited contacts.

“I know it’s hard,” she said, but COVID-19 is still on the loose and there isn’t a vaccine.

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

You can reach City Editor Kevin Courtney at or at 707-256-2217.

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City Editor

Kevin has been city editor since September 2010. He joined the Register in 1973 as a reporter. He covered Napa City Hall and assorted other beats over the years. Kevin has been writing his Napa Journal column on Sundays since 1989.

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