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Napa County's orange COVID-19 rating still precarious

Napa County's orange COVID-19 rating still precarious


Napa Bowl owner Dan Sousa is watching apprehensively as Napa County flirts with dropping from orange to red on the state’s COVID-19 scale.

This is color-coded chaos for his business. A return to red would mean he would have to close his bowling lanes after being able to reopen on Oct. 21.

“If they shut us down again, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to make it through,” Sousa said of his 73-year-old, three-generation family business on Soscol Avenue in Napa.

He had good news as of Tuesday. Dr. Karen Relucio, Napa County public health officer, said that the county should retain a state-assigned rating of orange for another week.

And what does she have to say to businesses such Sousa’s that face a potential roller-coaster ride of changing restrictions?

“I’m not sure what to say to businesses,” Relucio said. “What I can say to the community is our actions determine the fate of a business. They determine the fate of the employment of other people.”

She warned not to view fewer business restrictions as a return to normalcy. She wants residents to continue wearing masks in public, practicing social distancing, washing hands and staying in household bubbles.

California rates each of its 58 counties for COVID-19 spread using four colors. Purple has the most restrictions on businesses and activities, moving to red, orange and the least-restrictive yellow.

A Napa County shift from orange to red would still allow restaurants, houses of worship and movie theaters to operate indoors. But they would have to cut indoor capacity in half, to 25% or 100 people, whichever is fewer. Fitness centers would have to cut capacity from 25% to 10%.

Bowling alleys and indoor winery activities for the public would have to close.

Sousa said he doesn’t understand why fitness centers can remain open in red while bowling alleys cannot. Napa Bowl does such things as disinfects the equipment and closes every other lane to maintain distances.

He’s seen families coming to bowl since the Oct. 21 reopening. Children need alternatives to looking at computer screens and watching movies at home, Sousa said.

“It’s mental health for the kids, especially,” he said.

Sousa convinced his employees to come back to work when the county entered orange on Oct. 20. They don’t want to face the difficulties of applying for unemployment all over again after working for only a few weeks, he said.

Napa County needs to keep its new, daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents averaged over seven days below four to stay in orange. The state adjusts the figure for the number of test administered, with higher testing rates resulting in a downward adjustment.

“Unless we see our cases drift downward, our case rate will most likely put us in the red,” Relucio said. “But our testing rates are keeping us in the orange.”

The state last week reported Napa County had six new cases a day, with the test-adjusted figure at 4.3. It will release another round of data on Wednesday. Napa County’s data shows an uptick in cases, but the state operates on a lag time and isn’t necessarily using the same data.

Two consecutive weeks of red-qualifying figures wouldn’t automatically kick the county down a tier to red, though it would trigger a state review.

As of Tuesday, Napa County looked to remain in the orange for at least one more week even as it tottered on red. Napa Bowl is open for business. Stay tuned.

“I just hope to God they don’t shut us back down,” Sousa said.

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You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or

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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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