Mayor London Breed and Director of Public Health Dr. Grant Colfax speak at the Oceanview covid-19 testing site on September 18, 2020. Photo by Juan Carlos Lara.

All people outside of the Bay Area traveling or moving to San Francisco must immediately quarantine for 10 days to curb viral transmission, the mayor and Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax announced Thursday. 

Residents from San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Sonoma, Napa, Marin, and Santa Cruz counties are exempt, though the order strongly discourages non-essential travel between those counties and San Francisco as well. The order begins Dec. 18 at midnight and ends Jan. 4, 2021, with the possibility of an extension if hospital capacity continues to plummet. 

The order comes just ahead of the holiday season, and one day after the Bay Area’s total ICU capacity fell below 15 percent availability and triggered a statewide state-at-home order. 

Today, 13.1 percent of beds are open in the region and San Francisco has 31 percent ICU capacity left, Colfax said, adding that he expects it to drop much more. On Dec. 15, 108 San Franciscans were hospitalized with Covid-19, and 42 were in the ICU Thursday, Colfax said.

“This is truly not the time to travel,” Colfax said. “The consequences are severe. And we just ask that people understand that and comply with the health order because it’s the right thing to do.”

Medical experts fear that the holidays, a traditional time for meeting with friends and family, will drive people to interact with people outside of their immediate households. 

Despite a plea from officials to not travel during Thanksgiving, covid cases surged immediately afterward. A preliminary UCSF study found that positivity rates increased from 6 percent a few days before Turkey Day to 10 percent afterward. 

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Again, Colfax urged people to spend the holidays with just their immediate household.

“I know this is hard, and I know this is yet another sacrifice almost 10 months into this pandemic,” Colfax said.  “But remember, we have lost more people in this country due to Covid-19 than Americans who died in World War II.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco is reporting the most daily new cases — 242 a day — “since the onset” of the pandemic, Colfax said. He said that hospitalizations lag behind diagnoses, and at the current rate he expects “beyond two hundred hospitalizations in the next couple weeks.”

And he said it could “get higher than that if we continue to see the numbers, and much higher than that if we have the increase that we saw over Thanksgiving,” the doctor continued. 

He justified the travel order, saying that without addressing the surge the city could be in a “catastrophic situation.”

As of Dec. 14, there have been 19,603 cases and 172 deaths in San Francisco total. 

In a statement, Mayor London Breed agreed and said, “We need to do the right thing to protect ourselves, our neighbors, and our loved ones. We must do whatever we can to contain the virus.”

What about people moving to San Francisco or native residents who are coming home from a trip? The shelter-in-place applies to them, too. 

Under the rule, people quarantining are not allowed to venture outside their home, including for work or school, for 10 days, except for emergencies. 

While officials hope people’s goodwill will be enough to adhere to the order, it is possible enforcement will occur for violations, which is a misdemeanor, Colfax said. It is unclear how this will be monitored, however. 

There are certain exceptions, including travel for medical professionals, first responders, official government business, to receive medical care or travel by court order, like transferring custody of a child. Hotels will remain open for people who need to quarantine. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Earlier this week, San Francisco joined the rest of the nation and received and administered its first batch of covid vaccines. Ninety-five healthcare workers have been vaccinated in the city so far, with another 180 slated to get the first dose today, Colfax said. 

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Annika Hom

Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused...

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3 Comments

  1. Me and my husband going to San Francisco on monday can we enter,were living here in Redding ca.were are both senior,we just want to spend Christmas with my only daughter and family there

    1. Yes, they aren’t going to do anything to anyone here. It is a hollow threat and they aren’t keeping track of anyone driving around the city.

    2. Yes. Do what you want just don’t be stupid about it. If your daughter is self quarantining herself and you both are too then it’s safe. If she’s not then don’t take a chance.

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