This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientist was preparing patients’ samples for SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing, using the CDC serologic test. (James Gathany/CDC 2020)

The number of Napa County residents hospitalized for COVID-19 has risen sharply in January, going from less than 10 people last month to now more than 70, county public health officer Dr. Karen Relucio told the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Currently, there have been 18,904 cases of COVID-19 reported in Napa County since the onset of the pandemic, according to Relucio. In all, 701 people have been hospitalized and 112 people have died, she said.

Relucio told the supervisors that unvaccinated people are 72 percent more likely to test positive for COVID-19, 95 percent more likely to get hospitalized, and 97 percent more likely to die from the virus.

As an example, Relucio showed a chart of the most recent new case rates for unvaccinated people that were 10 times higher than those who were vaccinated in Napa County.

There have been at least 65 students and staff at schools in the county who tested positive, though Relucio suggested that number is most likely underreported.

As for vaccination rates, Relucio told the supervisors that 79 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, with 54 percent of those having received their booster shot as well.

The state has ordered that health care workers be boosted by Feb. 1, and a statewide indoor masking order has been extended through Feb. 15.

Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza asked Relucio when the public can “learn to live with this” long-term, and what would that look like?

The doctor replied that she doesn’t anticipate more shutdowns, and that COVID-19 will be approached much the same way that the flu is, with yearly vaccinations.

“We will see much milder disease, with a few at risk for complications or death,” she said. “It’s the choice of the individuals. If they choose not to get vaccinated, they put themselves at risk and others.”