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Health Includes ‘Being Able to Pay Your Rent,’ Says Napa Official. But Tighter COVID Restriction

On Saturday, Sonoma County, with just 18% of its ICU beds available, will become the latest jurisdiction in the state-designated greater Bay Area region to adopt California’s strict state stay-at-home order.

But in neighboring Napa County, ICU beds are at approximately 55% availability, and the county is holding off on imposing the tighter restrictions.

Still, county Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Relucio says the day is coming when the entire region will be subject to the order. ICU capacity for the Bay Area region has fallen below 18 percent, and the regional stay at home order will kick in when it drops below 15%.

“I have not felt compelled to do an earlier stay-at-home order, mainly because we know that as the other regions throughout the state of California are all seeing, we are going to get there,” she said.

“It’s just a matter of time. And it didn’t take that much time.”

Relucio said she’s trying to balance limiting disease transmission with the negative consequences of shutting down.

“Because health is not just the absence of COVID-19, health is also driven by employment and being able to put food on the table and to pay your rent,” she said.

She said the data shows that the virus is not necessarily spreading  in Napa County due to the opening of businesses.

“It’s not the most predominant spread, at least locally, that we’re seeing here.”

Right now she is worried about rising cases in congregate care facilities like nursing homes.

“On one day it’s 10 and the other day 16, which is not what we saw before,” Relucio said.

ICU capacity has improved, Relucio says, because Adventist Health in St. Helena reopened this week after being closed by the Glass Fire in September.

While ICU availability is not yet approaching the shortage in other counties, “It’s important to note that it’s not just about beds, but it’s about staffing so that people can be taken care of by licensed personnel,” she said.

Relucio  said Napa’s Queen of the Valley Medical Center has been trying to hire more travel nurses.

—Polly Stryker and Jon Brooks

Copyright 2020 KQED