Napa residents, business owners angered by county plans to quarantine homeless downtown

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ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Napa residents angered by county plans for shelter in city center
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Napa residents and business owners are angered by county plans to quarantine homeless downtown in St. John the Baptist church.

NAPA, Calif. (KGO) -- County officials are making plans to isolate and quarantine people from COVID-19 in a church in Napa's city center.

"Did anyone talk to you?" we asked Patrick Merkley, who owns a kitchen supply store.

"No, we never heard from anyone in the county. We hear outdoor showers, outdoor toilets, what is going on?"

"Well, it sounds like they are trying to sneak it in quietly," suggested Matt Miersch, who owns Pasta Prego Trattoria one block away.

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Both businessmen expressed outrage when they learned of the county's outline to utilize St. John the Baptist, across the street from them. They say it's not what they need, especially if some of those people are homeless.

On Tuesday, Napa County reported 14 new cases of COVID-19, making the total 1,650 confirmed cases and 13 confirmed deaths.

The county's due diligence to prevent the pandemic from spreading has angered some downtown residents.

"This part of town has been hit pretty hard," Patrick Merkley said. "Our business is down two-thirds from what it once was."

He and others blame the Napa County Board of Supervisors for making a deal with the church before consulting with them. Even the city of Napa has expressed frustration.

"They're feeling hijacked and left in the dark," Vice-Mayor Doris Gentry said.

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"I don't think this is the worst option but there are better options," City Manager Steve Potter added.

The county has been isolating possible COVID-19 victims in hotels since March. Supervisors worry about a spike in cases this fall, so they're identifying more places to put people.

"The safety of our community is paramount and we want to isolate this pandemic," Janet Upton, county spokesperson, said. "We have five facilities. We hope to not use any of them."

As the county sees it, this is mostly an economic move. It will pay $16,000 a month to lease the church. Motels cost 10 times that much. The county is giving the city veto power about who stays. No sexual predators. No arsonists. No one convicted of a violent crime.

Not that locals heard about any of that.

"So much of COVID has been about leadership and information and this is just one more example of how we're not getting the information we need," said Markley.

"Had they communicated better, we might not be having this conversation today," said City Manager Potter.

So much for a case of best intentions with the worst of interpretations.

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