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San Francisco issues COVID-19 travel order requiring Bay Area visitors to quarantine

Vehicles wait outside San Francisco International Airport in 2017.
Vehicles wait outside San Francisco International Airport in 2017.
(Associated Press)

San Francisco issued a travel order effective Friday requiring anyone visiting the city from outside the Bay Area to quarantine for 10 days.

The order, announced during a virtual news conference by Dr. Grant Colfax, the city’s public health director, takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Violating the order is a misdemeanor. Medical workers, first responders and essential workers are exempt.

Colfax described the rise in coronavirus cases in the Bay Area as “staggering,” but added that catastrophe could still be avoided if residents remain with their households during the holidays and refrain from traveling.

“While cases remain far too high, the rate of increase of this virus has slowed just a bit, and this indicates we still have time to turn this dire situation around, and as a result, save hundreds of lives,” Colfax said.

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San Francisco’s travel order follows one issued by Santa Clara County in late November, requiring people to quarantine for 14 days after returning from travel of more than 150 miles.

Hoping to preserve hospital bed availability, San Francisco and four other Bay Area counties on Dec. 4 adopted an early stay-at-home order. Despite that effort, intensive care availability at Bay Area hospitals has now fallen below 13%. San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties have run out of intensive care beds, Colfax said.

San Francisco health officials urge residents to stay home, calling it “probably the most important message” since the pandemic began.

If gatherings at Christmas and New Year’s bring more cases, the region will be in “a truly catastrophic situation,” he said. Coronavirus cases have risen by 50% in San Francisco since Thanksgiving.

“Imagine not having a hospital bed for your mom or dad, your grandmother or even your child … and imagine them getting suboptimal care,” Colfax said.“Would you want that?”

San Francisco has a total of 286 intensive care beds, and 207 were filled on Thursday, he said.

As the city scrambles to stem infections, healthcare workers are beginning to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Colfax said 95 medical workers were vaccinated against the virus on Wednesday, and another 180 were expected to receive the injections on Thursday. A second dose will be required weeks later.


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