Bay Area health officials release joint recommendations for holiday gatherings, travel

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Health officials from 10 Bay Area counties and the City of Berkeley have released detailed joint recommendations for reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission during the holidays, including family gatherings and travel.

The advisory, released Monday by health officers in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma counties, is not part of a mandatory order.

At the terminal that serves planes bound for China, people wear medical masks out of concern over the Coronavirus at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) out of concern over the Coronavirus on January 31, 2020 in New York City.
At the terminal that serves planes bound for China, people wear medical masks out of concern over the Coronavirus at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) out of concern over the Coronavirus on January 31, 2020 in New York City. Photo credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images

"With cases rising around the country, and beginning to increase here in Santa Clara County as well, we all must come together and keep up our efforts to reduce transmission," said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer and Director of the Public Health Department. "Please celebrate safely this year and protect yourself and your family by including masks, keeping a distance, and staying outdoors."

For holiday gatherings, health officials recommended doing so outside will help significantly reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, which is increased when indoors with poor ventilation. They’re advising no more than three households participate with a time limit of up to two hours per gathering.

Revelers are also advised not to participate in multiple gatherings with many different households.

A list of additional recommendations if Bay Area residents are gathering in small groups for the holidays, including singing, washing hands and sharing food.
A list of additional recommendations if Bay Area residents are gathering in small groups for the holidays, including singing, washing hands and sharing food. Photo credit Santa Clara County Health Department

"Nonessential travel, including holiday travel, is not recommended," the recommendations stated. "Traveling outside of the Bay Area will increase your chance of getting infected and spreading the virus to others after your return."

Health officials are strongly recommending anyone traveling outside of the Bay Area self-quarantine for 14 days after their return. The guidelines also specifically addressed air travel and car travel, which share some commonalities and differences as far as transmission risk goes.

As far as destinations, anyone traveling inside or outside the Bay Area is asked to consider COVID-19 case rates when going anywhere, and whether family and friends have been taking the appropriate precautions during the pandemic.

The recommendations come as cases skyrocket nationwide, reaching over 100,000 per day on a consistent basis for the last several days. The U.S. just surpassed 10 million total confirmed coronavirus cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

"That’s a trend that’s emerged just over the past three or four weeks as we’ve seen dramatic increases in cases in other parts of the United States while we’ve seen corresponding progress locally…the last thing we need is people traveling outside to higher prevalence areas and bringing the virus back," Marin County Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis told KCBS Radio last week.

Gov Gavin Newsom said Monday that some California counties will move backwards on the state's COVID-19 monitoring list as soon as Tuesday.