Bay Area health officers are considering issuing quarantine recommendations for those traveling to and from the region over the holidays, along with a host of other tactics to stem coronavirus’ spread, a county spokesperson said Wednesday.
With the holidays looming — along with the potential for family gatherings outside Northern California — health officers are discussing various ways to stop an impending spike in COVID-19 cases — including “strong” quarantine recommendations for those who plan to travel, Marin County Public Information Officer Laine Hendricks told this news organization.
Word of the quarantine discussions was first reported by The Los Angeles Times Tuesday. But whether health officials will move forward with it — and exactly what it would entail — remains up in the air, Hendricks said, adding that individual counties may go their own separate ways.
“The concept has come up in conversation, but at this point there’s zero consensus among the public health officers,” Hendricks said. “What they are discussing currently is a broader range of things that they could be rolling out this time of year — it could be guidance for family gatherings, precautions on how to handle someone that does come in, or suggestions around that, and yes, potentially a quarantine.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control notes that travel increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19 for up to 14 days after returning, and further details unique risk factors and recommendations depending on the type of transportation in its guidance. Those heading to places with higher levels of COVID-19 — or who attend social gatherings like weddings or parties — are encouraged to stay home as much as possible upon returning for two weeks and consider getting tested for COVID-19.
California’s test positivity rate has risen slightly in recent weeks to about 3.3%, but it still trails the U.S.’s rate of about 6.7%, according to Johns Hopkins’ coronavirus tracking tool. Traveling outside the region therefore poses a risk practically no matter the destination, Hendricks said.
Current discussions center around travel tips and recommendations to keep travel “small and local,” she added, and would not take the form of a health order or mandate of any kind.
In a health briefing Wednesday afternoon, California Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mark Ghaly noted that other states and regions have considered similar rules and that he looks forward to watching how the discussions could play out in the Bay Area. In new requirements issued last weekend, New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered that all travelers arriving from non-contiguous states must quarantine for 14 days, or receive two negative tests within a certain timeframe of traveling.
San Mateo officials declined to comment on the discussions Wednesday, while Santa Clara did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The Bay Area has certainly been a leader throughout this response,” Ghaly said. “Of course, I think it’s a very reasonable thing to consider the idea that different geographies and different communities have higher or lower rates of transmission.”