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Napa County readies for June 15 'full' pandemic reopening
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Public Health

Napa County readies for June 15 'full' pandemic reopening

From the June 11 recap: Napa Valley news you may have missed today series
Justin-Siena High School Class of 2021 (copy)

Graduates receiving their diplomas at Justin-Siena High School's commencement earlier this month wore face masks. Starting June 15, the rules for mask wearing in California and Napa County will change.

Tuesday is the day California and Napa County are to "fully reopen" from the COVID-19 shutdown but don’t expect a complete return to pre-pandemic days.

Though Gov. Gavin Newsom has used the phrase "full reopening," the new normal likely won’t quite be the old normal. Still, it should at least be an approximation.

Businesses from stores to movie theaters to wineries can once again run at full capacity. People won’t be required to keep at least six feet away from each other.

“Basically, physical distancing goes out the window,” Dr. Karen Relucio, county public health officer, said of life starting June 15.

Masks, which have become a symbol of the COVID-19 era, won’t be completely gone. The state and Napa County will follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

People who are fully vaccinated won’t have to wear masks in many settings. But the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike are to still wear them in such places as buses and other mass transit, health care facilities, and K-12 schools, though the school guidance could change, according the CDC.

Businesses have three options when it comes to masks:

  • Allow vaccinated customers to go without masks and require unvaccinated customers to wear masks using the honor system.
  • Allow customers to go without masks after verifying they’ve been vaccinated.
  • Require all customers to wear masks.

“I think there’s a high likelihood a lot of businesses will still want to have people wear masks,” Relucio said.

Leslie Parker, owner of Napa Running Company in downtown Napa, on Thursday still hadn’t decided what to do about masks come June 15.

“I don’t know if I trust the honor system … I think I will probably take a walk around downtown and take a pulse of what other business owners are doing,” she said.

The store might start with one policy on June 15 and change it if things aren’t working. Ultimately, the store will do what makes customers feel comfortable, she said.

As of Thursday, Copperfield’s Books in downtown Napa also hadn’t decided on a course.

“We are still talking about it,” store manager Mikayla Norwick said. “It’s hard to tell who’s vaccinated.”

Employees will probably continue wearing masks, but it’s hard to say, she said. The store is waiting for updates from the state.

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Whether employees have to wear masks is up to the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health and it has set and rescinded policies in recent days. Both Parker and Norwick said the news on masks seems to change by the minute.

Even in advance of that full state and Napa County reopening on June 15, both stores reported they have seen a bounce-back in business.

“It’s been great lately, the last couple of months especially,” Norwick said. “I think with the nice weather people are feeling good.”

Vaccinated residents will have their own decisions to make about whether and when to wear a mask. Vaccinations aren’t a fool-proof COVID-19-repelling force field. Relucio said no vaccine is perfect.

She has an entire mask wardrobe and she isn’t throwing her masks away yet, Relucio said.

“Even if you’re vaccinated, if you’re going to a crowded situation that has known and unknown vaccination status, it’s better to be safe and wear a face covering,” she said.

Relucio also cited state data showing the odds of vaccinated people contracting COVID-19 are low. Out of 17 million fully vaccinated Californians, 5,305 were known to have caught COVID-19 for a rate of .03%.

Napa County recently had a vaccinated person in a skilled nursing facility die from COVID-19. That happened after an unvaccinated worker from a temp agency came to work with mild symptoms, Relucio said.

“Some people go to work because they don’t get paid time off,” Relucio said. “If the symptoms are really mild, they might think it’s allergies.”

Unvaccinated people will also have decisions to make as restrictions are eased. Relucio said they are still vulnerable to COVID-19 and recommended they continue to practice the three W’s — wear a face covering, watch your distance and wash hands often.

“At this point, the best way to protect yourself and others is to get a vaccination,” she said.

As of June 15, the state will no longer impose restrictions on counties based on a purple-red-orange-yellow color code. That doesn’t mean Napa County has reached that sought-after green zone of herd immunity and COVID-19 is for the history books.

Relucio said the county isn’t out of the woods yet. Variants still pose a risk.

“I think the jury will be out there once we’re open,” Relucio said. “We’ll see what impact there will be on transmission once physical distancing goes away.”

Cal Fire is basing a former Army Chinook water-dropping helicopter at Napa County Airport to help knock down wildfires this fire season.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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