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Public Health

Napa County public health: COVID-19 restrictions on community life won't be lifted soon

Testing site

Two people wait to check in at the Carbon Health Mobile COVID-19 Testing Clinic in south Napa in April. Napa County reported Tuesday that some Napans are having to wait two weeks or more to learn their test results.

Napa County’s growing number of coronavirus cases has placed it on California’s watch list for the disease’s spread – and infection trends do not yet point toward the county leaving that list soon.

With its COVID-19 count exceeding 1,000 patients, the county is reporting 206 cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks, county Public Health Director Dr. Karen Relucio told the Napa City Council on Tuesday. Positive tests have doubled in 26 days and are poised to double again in nearly as short a time, she said.

“If we look ahead, we could be at almost 2,000 cases in a month,” said Relucio, who gave her report by speakerphone to council members meeting at City Hall. The number of cases since March hit 1,007 on Wednesday, having more than doubled during July.

The report by Relucio indicates that a host of restrictions on indoor business, educational and religious activities will stay in force for the time being in Napa, which along with eight other Bay Area counties remains under state monitoring due to a 14-day infection rate above 100 per 100,000 residents.

Individuals can do their part, according to the county, by practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings and reducing socializing outside household units.

School districts in the affected counties are barred from hosting in-person classes, and all of Napa County’s public school systems have announced plans to open the academic year this month with remote learning only.

Starting July 13, Napa County was required to shut down eat-in restaurant service as well as the indoor activities of hair salons, barbershops, fitness centers, houses of worship, and offices in non-essential sectors. Indoor wine tasting rooms also have shut down, as well as bars.

Napa County’s elevated rate of COVID-19 positive tests also rules out granting any exemptions to elementary schools – private as well as public – wishing to bring children back to campus, Relucio announced.

Guidelines released Monday by the state Department of Public Health recommend that counties not grant reopening waivers to schools teaching kindergarten through sixth grade until the local 14-day case count drops below 200 per 100,000 residents, an advisory Relucio said she would follow.

Late last week, Relucio advised principals of local private grade schools that the county had set a goal of conditionally approving waivers for in-person teaching after Labor Day, but only if the number of virus cases falls.

“We have … seen several exposures related to school workplaces and sports conditioning practices and schools are not even open yet,” she wrote in Saturday email obtained by the Napa Valley Register. Relucio, in her letter, also forecasted a peak in local virus activity in the middle of August, at about the time schools are scheduled to begin a new academic year. (Napa Valley Unified, the county’s largest school district with more than 16,000 students, will begin online classes Aug. 20.)

Relucio also acknowledged the increasing lag time for the results of coronavirus tests to return from laboratories amid swelling demand and a shortage of testing supplies, with some results taking as long as 2 ½ weeks to come back – longer than the typical self-quarantine period recommended for patients and their live-in relatives.

Despite Napa County opening COVID-19 testing to the general public in June, Relucio said the county is now prioritizing testing those showing possible systems or working in jobs with a high risk of viral exposure. She also discouraged businesses from basing clearances to work solely on negative tests for the virus.

Asked by Councilmember Liz Alessio whether less vulnerable Napans still should pursue COVID-19 testing, Relucio replied: “It’s a great question. The best thing to do is to prevent exposure in the first place”—by wearing masks in public places and maintaining social distancing.

Nearly 90% of Napans testing positive for the coronavirus are younger than 65, according to data from the county Health and Human Services agency. People between the ages of 30 and 49 comprise 33% of the cases, followed by those age 50 to 64 (22%), 18 to 29 (20%) and children 17 and younger (12%).

Forty-four percent of county residents contracting the virus are Latinx, 21% are white and another 21% are Black, Asian or belong to other races, according to Relucio. The race of the remaining 22% of COVID-positive Napans was unknown or not given to authorities.

Watch Now: Shopping and social distancing during COVID-19 at the Napa Premium Outlets

Shopping and social distancing during COVID-19 at the Napa Premium Outlets. 

You can reach Howard Yune at 530-763-2266 or

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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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