Napa County is trying to move into the next phase of COVID-19 economic recovery so more businesses can reopen, such as sit-down restaurants.
“This is a balancing act, what we’re trying to do,” county Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht said. “We want to reopen our community and get things going as quickly as possible. But we also want to do that safely.”
Other supervisors agreed when they received a COVID-19 update at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
“I appreciate all the work that has gone into getting us to the point where we can have this hope of moving forward,” Supervisor Belia Ramos said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced four stages for dealing with COVID-19, with Stage 1 being the most restrictive. Counties can follow the state model or, as some Bay Area counties are doing, impose tougher rules.
Napa County is following the state model. On Friday, it began entering Stage 2 by allowing retail such as book stores, toy stores, shoe stores, jewelry stores, furniture stores, clothing stores, florists, music stores and sporting goods stores to reopen with outside pick-up.
Newsom is allowing counties to move deeper into Stage 2 ahead of the state as a whole by certifying that they meet certain criteria. Then such things as restaurant sit-down service, offices, shopping malls and outdoor museums can reopen, with social distancing restrictions.
Criteria include hospital surge capacity, the ability to detect and isolate COVID-19 cases, testing capacity and the ability to protect vulnerable populations. Qualifying counties can have no more than one COVID-19 case per 10,000 people over the past 14 days.
Dr. Karen Relucio, county public health officer, must certify the Stage 2 variance documents. The Board of Supervisors must support submitting the documents to the state for review. County officials said the Board of Supervisors could take up the variance any day.
“We need to explain to the state why we are ready and why we are responsible,” county Health and Human Services Agency Director Jennifer Yasumoto said.
The state recommends that counties wanting a variance also submit a COVID-19 containment plan. Napa County will do so to demonstrate it can handle more cases and keep the public safe.
“Because one of the things that will happen as we open up our economy, we will see an increase in cases,” Yasumoto said. “That is just a logical consequence of more people being out and about.”
Butte and El Dorado counties as of Tuesday afternoon were the only two counties to have variance documents posted on the state Department of Public Health website.
Napa County Board of Supervisors chairperson Diane Dillon wants the Board at a future meeting to discuss allowing sit-down restaurants and tastings room in the unincorporated county to serve people outside during the COVID-19 crisis, when allowed to reopen. That would increase seating capacity while maintaining social distancing.
“I want the health-safety piece in that evaluation,” Wagenknecht said.
Supervisor Belia Ramos asked about child care options for deeper Stage 2. That is important for parents who want to return to work, she said
“The reality that strikes us is there are still children who are not able to return to school,” she said.
Relucio said modifications are needed to make day care and child care safe. Bay Area health officials are looking at having smaller groups, such as 10 children and one adult. That way, if a COVID-19 case occurs, the people exposed can be easily traced.
“This is very preliminary and it’s not something the state has approved or we’re willing to move forward on yet,” she said.
Napa County will monitor its COVID-19 situation even as it relaxes some aspects of the stay-at-home order. The state wants counties to consider re-instituting previous restrictions if the situation deteriorates.
“We don’t want to go backwards,” Relucio told supervisors. “We still have time to mess this up.”
Counties cannot move into Stage 3 until the state does, Relucio said. Stage 3 allows “higher-risk” businesses and activities such as nail and hair salons, gyms and in-person religious services.
Stage 4 allows mass gatherings such as concerts and live-audience sports, once state and county shelter-at-home orders are lifted.
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 Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.