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Napa County announces health emergency as coronavirus cases mount in U.S.
Public Health

Napa County announces health emergency as coronavirus cases mount in U.S.

From the Complete coronavirus coverage from the Napa Valley Register, St. Helena Star, and The Weekly Calistogan series

Napa County declared a local health emergency on Thursday afternoon urging a stop to public gatherings of more than 250 people, amid widening disruptions to daily life nationwide caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“As we shift from a strategy of containment of COVID-19 to one of community mitigation, these measures are necessary to protect public health and slow the spread” of the virus, Dr. Karen Relucio, the county public health officer, said in the announcement.

The declaration followed a statewide call by Gov. Gavin Newsom to cancel larger gatherings and practice social distancing to slow the spread of the pathogen, which has killed 38 Americans and infected more than 1,300 others.

Napa County’s emergency declaration, which follows similar alerts from 33 other California counties, takes immediate effect for seven days and is scheduled for ratification on Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors. It is not connected to any local cases of coronavirus infection, Relucio said.

There have been no confirmed cases of Napa County residents contracting COVID-19 through person-to-person contact.

Relucio urged Napa County residents to follow Newsom’s directive late Wednesday night not only to curtail non-essential larger events, but also to hold gatherings of fewer than 250 only if organizers can keep people at least 6 feet apart. Events bringing together older adults and those with pre-existing health problems should be limited to 10 people, the county statement said.

In addition, the county Public Health Division is restricting visits to all local skilled nursing and long-term care centers—a step intended to safeguard elderly and infirm residents who are considered especially vulnerable to acute disease or death from the coronavirus.

“Changing our actions for a short period of time will save the life of one or more people you know,” Newsom said earlier in a press release. “That’s the choice before us. Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease. Not holding that concert or community event can have cascading effects — saving dozens of lives and preserving critical health care resources that your family may need a month from now.

“The people in our lives who are most at risk – seniors and those with underlying health conditions – are depending on all of us to make the right choice.”

Relucio did not recommend shutting down schools or colleges, but did ask school districts and community groups to cancel or postpone sporting events, non-essential travel, fairs and other gatherings.

Shortly before Napa County issued its emergency declaration, the Napa Valley Unified School District said that classes would continue, but that sports, performances, field trips and employee travel will be shelved for the rest of the month. Games and practices are on hold through at least April 1, with other student activities shelved through April 12.

The alerts were announced during and after a domino chain of disruptions that began Wednesday, from President Trump’s decision to block travel between the U.S. and continental Europe for 30 days to the suspensions of the college and professional baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer seasons and tournaments across North America.

Local high schools had begun announcing the first cancellations of varsity sports events even before the county and state health directives, with Vintage, Napa and St. Helena high schools all announcing that games were called off. Justin-Siena High School, the private Catholic academy in north Napa, also abandoned a girls lacrosse game against Marin Catholic scheduled for Tuesday. The St. Helena and Calistoga school districts also announced game cancellations.

NVUSD on Wednesday announced a cancellation of all school-sponsored field trips and employee travel. Among the events to be blocked by the policy was a scheduled trip by Napa High School students to Germany and the Czech Republic.

“We will be monitoring the situation daily and will provide frequent updates to our community, including the status of planned activities and travel occurring after spring break,” Superintendent Rosanna Mucetti said in an online statement to school parents. NVUSD’s spring vacation is April 6-10.

Mucetti said she and other school district superintendents in Napa County will meet Friday with the county’s Office of Education and Health and Human Services agency to decide on other protective steps.

Napa Valley College announced its own response to the coronavirus crisis, which included postponing a production of “The Addams Family” scheduled to open Friday and continue through March 22. The college is seeking to reschedule the musical for April, according to spokesperson Holly Dawson.

NVC also has postponed or canceled events with more than 250 people, as well as smaller gatherings that do not allow at least 6-foot spacing between visitors 'indefinitely." All events for outside users are canceled or delayed effective Monday, and the schedules for school’s baseball and golf teams have been canceled, she said.

Several major California cities already had blocked mass gatherings, forcing widespread cancellation or postponement of sporting events across the state. An earlier ban in San Francisco on large assemblies had led the Golden State Warriors to put home games at the Chase Center on hold, even before the NBA suspended its entire schedule until further notice on Wednesday night.

A growing number of entertainment events began falling off the Napa Valley calendar in the hours after the state’s call to hold off on large gatherings. However, the three-day BottleRock music festival, which drew an estimated 120,000 people to the Napa Valley Expo last year, remains slated to go on May 22-24, producer Latitude 38 Entertainment said in a statement Wednesday.

On Monday, the annual Taste of Yountville food and wine festival became the first local casualty of the coronavirus outbreak. Organizers canceled the event, which attracted about 1,400 guests last year and would have taken place March 21 in downtown Yountville.

Yountville Live, a companion event planned for about a dozen smaller locations on March 19-22, was shelved Thursday afternoon, according to Whitney Diver McEvoy, president and chief executive of the town’s chamber of commerce.

Organizers of the Napa Valley Women’s Half Marathon and 5K, scheduled for March 22, announced its cancellation Thursday. The inaugural running of the race in 2019 drew an estimated 5,000 participants, race directors said at the time.

“We have people coming from Seattle; we have people coming from all 50 states and other countries,” said the race’s owner-operator Nick Lynch. “When you think of the impact it could bring, it’s not worth the risk.”

Organizers discussed with Napa city and county officials a postponement of the half marathon into the fall, but decided against it due to conflicts with higher local traffic during the wine grape harvest, he said.

Lucky Penny Productions suspended all theater operations in Napa through the end of March, postponing a production of “Sweeney Todd” that would have premiered March 20. That show will be moved to May or June, co-founders Taylor Bartolucci and Barry Martin said in a statement.

The annual Battle of the Valley charity basketball game scheduled for March 26 was called off and may be held at a later date, according to Napa County spokesperson Noel Brinkerhoff. Also canceled is the Orchid Show planned for the Napa Senior Activity Center on March 21.

100 Years of Vintage Fashion, a fashion show devoted to historic clothing scheduled for Sunday afternoon at the Napa Elks lodge, has been postponed to a date to be determined, according to Mary Herzog of the Napa Valley Genealogical Society. The program is a fundraiser benefiting the Genealogical Society and Goodwill of the Greater East Bay.

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 napavalleyregister.com/members/join/.

You can reach Howard Yune at 707-256-2214 or hyune@napanews.com

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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