Health officers in the nine Bay Area counties will be meeting Thursday to discuss possibly instituting a 14-day quarantine rule for all those traveling here from parts of the country that are experiencing surges in COVID-19 cases — similar to one instituted in New York State.
San Francisco's COVID command center issued a statement Wednesday saying, "The Bay Area health directors have been communicating and working together since the onset of the pandemic, including coordination of the shelter in place announcement. During the course of these discussions, many policies and protocols are discussed, including upcoming travel during the holiday season."
Marin County Public Health Officer Matt Willis tells SFGate that while no decision has been made, a discussion is ongoing about a possible quarantine recommendation. And Willis said it would likely be just that — a "strong recommendation" and not an order.
Case counts are surging in many states across the country just as we approach a holiday season in which everyone is feeling fatigued with all the rules and guidelines — and in which a much higher number of people will likely be getting on airplanes than have been throughout the bulk of this year.
While case counts have ticked up in several counties around the Bay in recent weeks, there has been no dramatic jump thus far — and California's Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly gave a press conference Wednesday in which he said that California's case growth has been "steady" and does not appear to be a "surge."
Being home to the two largest cities in the region, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties have remained the most conservative in their reopening timelines, with San Francisco pulling back last week on a previously announced plan to expand indoor dining capacity to 50 percent. No date has been set for that expansion in either county, and SF remains the only county in the Bay Area to reach the least restrictive "Yellow" tier in the state's monitoring framework.
SF currently has a test positivity rate of 0.8%.
"We are now lower incident than many other areas," Willis said in a statement to SFGate. "We're seeing dramatic increases outside the state. We have made a lot of progress regionally. As hard as it is to reduce incidents, it's hard to maintain those gains, especially as you're seeing surges in other states."
Since the beginning of the pandemic — and going back to the AIDS era — health officers around the greater Bay Area have come together for weekly meetings to coordinate their efforts around public health. The coalition, called the Association of Bay Area Health Officials, was formed in 1985 and includes 13 health officers — one from each Bay Area county, plus Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties, and the City of Berkeley, which has its own public health department.
As we learned in the spring, it was from these meetings, with Santa Clara County's Dr. Sara Cody leading the charge, that the Bay Area decided to issue the initial shelter-in-place orders in March in a coordinated effort.
"We spent a couple years as a region thinking about pandemic planning, and that really helped us come a long way thinking about these policies for COVID-19," said former Alameda County health officer Dr. Erica Pan.