Doctor Grant Colfax, Director of the Department of Public Health speaks during a press conference with Maylor London Breed at the Emergency Operations Center at the Moscone Center on March 19, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Chris Victorio | Special to S.F. Media Co).

SF orders 10-day quarantine for travelers entering San Francisco

Ahead of the holiday season, San Francisco announced Thursday a new health order requiring a mandatory 10-day quarantine for anyone who travels into The City from outside of the Bay Area.

The order is meant to discourage non-essential travel, but anyone who does must quarantine at home without physical interaction with others outside their household.

The City is hoping to avoid another surge of COVID-19 cases that health officials said came with travel around the Thanksgiving holiday, when cases were already on the rise. The entire state is seeing historic highs of daily cases and hospitals beds are on the verge of becoming overwhelmed.

“COVID-19 cases are surging in San Francisco and across the country. Hospitals in the Bay Area are close to being overwhelmed,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “We must do whatever we can to contain the virus and stop its circulation in our community. Now is not the time to travel and risk being exposed or exposing others.”

The travel order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 18, and remains into effect until at least Jan. 4.

The order comes after the Bay Area’s regional intensive care unit capacity at hospitals dropped below 15 percent for the first time on Wednesday and is now at 13.1 percent capacity. San Francisco and four other Bay Area counties voluntarily imposed the state’s regional stay-at-home order on Dec. 4, which the state requires in regions when ICU bed capacity drops below 15 percent. All regions in the state are now below that threshold, except Northern California.

San Francisco’s own ICU bed capacity is faring better than the region as a whole. The City has a total of 286 ICU beds with 207 filled, of which 42 are patients with COVID-19.

But Dr. Grant Colfax, head of the Department of Public Health, said Thursday there are models that show the ICU beds filling up within weeks if the surge is not brought under control.

“Quarantining people who have traveled and been in contact with others is one way to help manage the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

Colfax said during a virtual press conference that a downturn in cases has not been seen yet, despite The City voluntarily imposing the state’s regional stay-at-home order, but he said that “the rate of increase of this virus has slowed just a bit.”

“This indicates that we still have time to turn this dire situation around and as a result save hundreds of lives,” he said.

There are currently on average 242 new cases per day, the most ever seen since the pandemic began in March.

Colfax said that “these next couple of weeks are so vital.”

“We cannot afford a further increase in cases especially including an increase like we saw during Thanksgiving,” Colfax said. “We must avoid a Christmas and New Year’s increase.”

The numbers of cases and deaths throughout the state are hitting historic highs.

California reported more than 50,000 new cases on both Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday, there were 379 COVID-19 deaths.

As the surge of cases continues, vaccinations offered hope in the fight against the pandemic. San Francisco officials celebrated the first COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday.

Colfax said that five healthcare workers were vaccinated at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital Tuesday and 90 on Wednesday. He said he expected 190 additional persons “working in acute care settings” would receive the vaccine Thursday at San Francisco General.

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