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Increase in vacant ICU beds delays any tightening of Napa County stay-at-home order

Increase in vacant ICU beds delays any tightening of Napa County stay-at-home order

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Napa County and the Bay Area backed away from the shutdown precipice Monday, as the percentage of vacant hospital intensive care beds increased both in Napa and throughout the region.

A tougher state stay-at-home order would be activated if the region’s ICU vacancy rate drops below 15%. It had dropped to 16.7% on Friday, but rebounded Monday to 17.8%, the state reported.

In Napa County, the ICU bed vacancy rate had been 17% on Friday, increasing to 30% on Monday, the county reported.

Janet Upton, the county’s public information officer, said staffing is a huge factor that determines whether an ICU bed is counted as vacant or not. Staffing levels, admissions as well as discharges all have an effect, she said.

Before this ICU vacancy turnaround, Dr. Karen Relucio, the county’s public health officer, said Friday that new restrictions on businesses and community life seemed “imminent.”

If the 15% measure is broken, the entire Bay Area would be under a stiffer stay-at-home order for at least three weeks. After that, the lifting of the order hinges on the region’s ICU capacity being at or exceeding 15%.

People would be told to stay at home as much as possible and avoid mixing with other households. Hair salons, movie theaters, breweries, bars and wineries are among the businesses that would have to close. Restaurants would be limited to take out and delivery.

Schools that are already open to in-person learning would be able to remain open.

Despite the positive ICU vacancy rate fluctuation, Napa County reported 234 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, nearly as high as the Monday record of 262 cases set the week before. Last week set a one-week record with 629 cases.

The county also reported a death Monday, a male over age 65 who died in the county, Upton said.

There have been seven deaths in the first half of December, including four last week. The county’s death total since March is 24.

Cases and deaths have accelerated since the Thanksgiving holiday more than two weeks ago.

There were 24 Napa County residents hospitalized on Monday, tying Friday’s record number.

The county is encouraging people to be tested for the virus although there are often delays in getting an appointment.

Go to to see a list of local testing sites that range from Napa Valley Expo to local health care providers to local pharmacies.

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

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

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