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Napa County orders strict shutdown

Joining its San Francisco Bay Area neighbors, Napa County fell under the state’s strictest regional stay-at-home order.

The order, which runs for at least three weeks through the holidays, was implemented Dec. 16 because the capacity for hospital ICU beds fell below the 15% threshold, county officials said. The 11-county Bay Area region dropped to 12.9%, reflecting a shocking surge in COVID-19 cases felt up and down the state.

“We’ve been watching this closely. No, we’re frankly not surprised,” Napa County spokeswoman Janet Upton told the Business Journal.

There’s a reason for such a spike in active cases that numbered about 2,500 by the evening it was ordered in this one county. The tally of deaths was 24 as of mid-December, the county reported.

“We are seeing the effects of Thanksgiving holiday gatherings and travel,” Napa County Health Officer Dr. Karen Relucio said in the Dec. 16 statement. “The actions we take now will dictate where we stand in two weeks.”

A region known around the globe for its food and wine has only be allowed to operate via curbside and delivery at its restaurants.

The method of operation may be sufficient for pizza and Chinese food, but fine French meals present a whole other set of challenges.

“We started takeout today. Honestly, we were expecting we would be in lockdown,” said Ken Frank, owner of La Toque restaurant in Napa.

Frank developed two new meal models — a three-course, family-style meal kit and a five-course tasting menu.

“People can get adventurous with this,” he said.

Pairing innovation with survival

Wineries have been shut down, relying on order pickups and online purchases. When the county was under Blueprint for a Safer Economy guidelines that placed it in the purple “widespread” tier, wineries were able to operate outside.

These rules applied before the most recent winter holiday surge.

“This will have a significant impact on our business,” V Sattui Winery General Manager Tom Davies said.

Davies upped the ante by declaring the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day as one of the better weeks “for the entire wine industry.”

Ironically, Davies — who also serves on the Visit Napa Valley Board of Directors — had planned to address the county with a coalition of concerned vintners to request the local government relax some of its rules.

Still, the wine executive understands the reason why restrictions need boosting until cases subside.

“If this is what we have to do to break the vicious COVID cycle, then this is what we will do,” he said, adding his expectation that recovery will be a long haul.

Under the restrictions, people will be told to remain at home “as much as possible and to stop mixing between households that can lead to the spread of COVID-19,” the county ordered.

Napa, Sonoma, Marin and Solano counties are categorized in the Bay Area sector, which the state divided into five regions. Lake and Mendocino are classified as Northern California’s.

Sonoma County’s health department had already ordered residents to stay at home and avoid all activities deemed non-essential when considering venturing out.

Forging the path

Earlier this month, Marin County teamed up with Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties to preemptively shut down and enact Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest set of restrictions.

This state order supersedes the four-tier system — defined as widespread, substantial, moderate and minimum coronavirus exposure. As outlined with the state’s fourth order since March, the following activities are ordered to abide by new guidelines:

–Hair salons, personal care services – closed

–Retail including shopping malls (with closed food courts) – at 20% capacity

–Museums, zoos – closed

–Restaurants – takeout or delivery only

–Bars - closed

–Wineries – closed

–Sports with live audiences – closed

–Family entertainment centers – closed

The first Pfizer vaccines were implemented this month at Kaiser Permanente’s San Rafael Medical Center on Montecillo Road to health care workers.

“This couldn’t come soon enough,” Marin’s Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis said in a statement. “Vaccinating our front-line health care workers will protect them as they manage surges in cases.”

U.S. government officials through assistance by the state have placed these essential workers in the front of the line with nursing home residents in the first round of vaccinations.

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