In addition to running a division with 17 programs spanning communicable disease control and prevention, chronic disease prevention, emergency preparedness, and initiatives to serve families and children, Dr. Karen Relucio became a household name in 2020 while leading Napa’s COVID-19 pandemic response. As Napa County Health Officer and Public Health Director, she and her department coordinate testing, perform case and outbreak investigations and contact tracing, analyze and publish COVID-19 data, provide supportive housing for cases and contacts in congregate settings, plan for medical surge and mass vaccinations, and field questions from various sectors as each figure out how to safely reopen. No wonder she has little downtime to partake in the local hikes she so enjoys. “The most rewarding aspect of this effort is working with a great team within the County through the Emergency Operations Center and my Public Health team as well as the support of my boss and County leadership, and collaborating with many healthcare partners, the schools, community partners, volunteers, business sectors and other local and state health officers as we face many challenges during this pandemic,” said the Tufts and Stanford trained physician. “The most frustrating or difficult aspect has been witnessing an all too common assault of public health leaders and colleagues across the state and country. These leaders possess a wealth of knowledge within their communities  and  statewide   that  is  hard to replicate. Public health officials are typically people who work diligently behind the  scenes who have been suddenly thrust into the spotlight due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many smart, dedicated, and hard-working people who truly want to protect the community.” Dr. Relucio said that it’s important to remember that the community, and the world, will get through this. She’s hopeful that a vaccine will soon be available, helping to change the pandemic’s trajectory. Until that time, she advocates the importance of com- passion for others and yourself. “And practice the three W’s to  stay  safe  –  Wash  your hands, Wear a mask, and Watch your distance. Your  actions affect the people around you.”


Article By: Fran Miller