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San Francisco Health Network

FAQs for Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Orders

Please see the pdf for the complete and up-to-date information, current through December 21, 2020.

Please check the SFDPH main coronavirus page to find a summary of what businesses and activities are currently allowed.

Below are Frequently Asked Questions about the December 16, 2020 Travel Order, which requires quarantine after returning from travel outside of the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

TRAVEL ORDER EXPLAINED

What does the new travel order do?

It requires anyone traveling, moving, or returning to San Francisco from outside the 10-county Bay Area to quarantine for 10 days to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Some limited exemptions apply. It also strongly discourages any non-essential travel within that Bay Area region.

When does San Francisco's new travel order take effect?

It takes effect on Friday, December 18 at 12:01 a.m.

When does the order end?

The travel quarantine will remain in effect until 12:01 a.m. on January 4, 2021 and may be extended as necessary if the surge continues.

Who is required to quarantine under the new travel order?

Anyone who in the 10 days before arriving in San Francisco spent any time outside of the 10 Bay Area counties, including returning residents, people moving to the City, and visitors, unless specifically exempted by the health order. (Corrected 12/21/2020)

There are exemptions for medical professionals, first responders, official government purposes, essential infrastructure work, and others, including any travel required by a court order, like transferring custody of children.

Those who began their travel before the travel order was issued are not required to quarantine upon returning to San Francisco, but they are strongly urged to do so.

People transiting through San Francisco International Airport on connecting flights and not staying overnight in San Francisco are not required to quarantine.

What are the 10 Bay Area counties that someone could travel through and not be required to quarantine upon arriving in San Francisco?

San Francisco

San Mateo

Santa Clara

Alameda

Contra Costa

Solano

Sonoma

Napa

Marin

Santa Cruz

Why is San Francisco doing this?

COVID-19 cases are surging in San Francisco and across the country. Our hospitals are close to being overwhelmed. The Bay Area region is now subject to the state's regional stay at home order because our intensive care units are filling up. We need to take steps now to control the spread of the virus and save lives. The virus is most easily transmitted when people are in close proximity to each other. Isolating people who have been traveling and in contact with others is one way to help manage the spread of the virus.

Are quarantines effective?

Yes. Studies have consistently concluded that quarantine can play a role in controlling the spread of this coronavirus. Early implementation of quarantine and its combination with other public health measures helps to ensure effectiveness so that we can bend the curve on virus transmission, restore our hospital capacity, and then ease restrictions.

How long must someone quarantine for?

10 days upon arrival (240 hours), consistent with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that were updated in December 2020.

Where can someone quarantine?

Any living space where they can be isolated from others who had not been traveling with them. That includes in their home, in a hotel, or in a short-term rental where the space is not shared with any other people.

What does quarantine mean? Can I go out and get groceries for example?

Quarantine means to remain inside without physical interaction with others except as needed in emergency or health care situations. Food, groceries or other essentials should be delivered, either through a service, a neighbor or a friend. Deliveries should be left outside the door and then picked up once the deliverer is at least six feet away. Here is information on food assistance and other services, as well as tips for isolation and quarantine.

How will this be enforced?

Violation of or failure to comply with this order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both. Most people have done a good job looking out for their neighbors and following the health orders, and we expect businesses and residents will continue to do that with this order. San Francisco will continue its approach of first educating people about what is required under the health orders, but the City will take additional enforcement steps if the situation demands.

Are other Bay Area counties implementing these requirements as well?

Santa Clara County has a pre-existing order that is similar but is based on 150-mile radius rather than the boundaries of 10 Bay Area counties. It's up to other counties if they want to implement similar requirements.

What if I was traveling without other members of my household. Can I quarantine at home?

You should isolate yourself from other members of your household that you were not traveling with. If you cannot do this at home, you should consider other options, such as a staying at a hotel during the quarantine period.

I work at an acute care hospital. If I travel into San Francisco from outside the ten Bay Area counties, do I have to quarantine upon arrival?

No, but if you are able to do so it is strongly recommended. People working at acute care hospitals are exempt from the quarantine requirement in large part because there is a critical need to ensure robust and increased staffing to address COVID-19 hospitalizations.

I am a licensed health care provider. If I travel into San Francisco from outside the ten Bay Area counties, do I have to quarantine upon arrival?

Licensed healthcare providers (as defined by the California Department of Consumer Affairs) are exempt from the quarantine requirement if their travel into our out of San Francisco was solely for the purpose of providing health care.

I'm a government worker, and the government entity I work for has deemed my work to be an essential governmental function. If I travel into San Francisco from outside the ten Bay Area counties, do I have to quarantine upon arrival?

No quarantine is required for essential government or essential infrastructure workers commuting to work from out of the region. Essential governmental functions may include, but are not limited to, law enforcement, fire, health care, and in-person educational instruction.

But if these workers traveled for any other purpose, including for leisure or for anything other than an essential work-related purpose, they do need to quarantine for 10 days unless their employer provides them with written notice that they must return to work due to staffing shortages.

I traveled into or returned to San Francisco from outside the 10 Bay Area counties to obtain services from a health care facility. Do I have to quarantine upon arrival?

No, as long as your travel was solely for the purpose of obtaining needed health care, like chemotherapy or heart surgery (not elective plastic surgery, for example). For clarity, if a minor child or other dependent person is traveing to obtain services from a health care facility, that person's guardian may also accompany the minor child or other dependent person.

I traveled into San Francisco from outside the 10 Bay Area counties. I am subject to a court order or have a court appearance that requires me to leave my home or place of quarantine during my quarantine period. Am I allowed to do so?

Yes. You may leave your home or place of quarantine in order to comply with the court order or make a court appearance, but you must remain in your home or place of quarantine at all other times during your quarantine period.

I'm an Essential Infrastructure worker as defined by San Francisco's Stay-Safer-At-Home Order. If I travel or return to San Francisco from outside the Bay Area, do I have to quarantine upon arrival?

Essential Infrastructure workers and workers carrying out Essential Government Functions are exempt from quarantine for any travel that was solely for the purpose of performing their jobs. If an Essential Infrastructure worker travelled outside the Bay Area for personal reasons, they must quarantine unless their employer notifies them that it would not have sufficient staffing to carry out its essential functions without you working in person.

Do I need to get tested for COVID-19 after traveling? If I test negative, can I shorten my quarantine period?

There is no requirement to get tested for COVID-19 after you travel into San Francisco, but the Department of Public Health recommends that you get tested ideally sometime between 3 and 5 days after you arrive. Testing negative does not shorten the mandatory quarantine period. You may leave your home or place of quarantine to get tested. (Corrected 12/21/2020)

My home is outside of the 10 Bay Area counties. I traveled to San Francisco for a short trip. Am I allowed to return to my home, or do I have to stay here for a full 10 days to quarantine?

The quarantine requirement does not prohibit you from returning to your home. But when you arrive in San Francisco, you cannot leave the place you are staying in San Francisco during your short trip. Instead, you must stay at that location and quarantine for the duration of your time in San Francisco, or for 10 days, whichever is shorter.

As an employer, should I prohibit employees from traveling outside neighboring counties? Is it my responsibility to do so? Do I have to ask my employees how they are spending their vacation?

The order does not require employers to prohibit employees from travelling, nor does it require employers to ask where employees are going on vacation. But an employer who is aware that their employee is required to quarantine under the order must not allow the employee to return to the workplace during that time. The order also does not require any employer to approve personal time off, leave, or vacation outside the business's normal policies.

As an employer am I obligated to ask returning employees where they went and enforce quarantine?

Employers must allow employees to quarantine if required by the order. Employers cannot force or knowingly allow employees to violate the quarantine requirements. But the order does not require any employer to approve personal time off, leave, or vacation outside the business's normal policies. Additionally, some employees of essential businesses and government entities may be required to return to work without quarantining upon written notice from their employer that there would otherwise be a staffing shortage.

If a business has staffing shortages, can it grant quarantine exemptions for workers who returned from travel not related to work?

Yes. If an essential business, government entity, or other business currently permitted to operate under the Stay-Safe-At-Home Order notifies an employee that it has staffing shortages, the employee is exempt from the quarantine requirement, even if the employee's travel was not work related.

I'm not a health care worker or first responder, but my place of business is allowed to operate during the surge. Do I still need to quarantine if I commute from outside the Bay Area for my job?

While most people must quarantine when entering San Francisco from outside the Bay Area, if your place of business is currently allowed to operate during the surge, you may be permitted to travel to San Francisco to perform your work. If an employer in certain allowed industries – such as retail, grocery, and food preparation – provides you a written statement that you are needed due to insufficient staffing, then you can travel to the City for work without quarantining.

If my employee who traveled returned and quarantines, do I have to grant them paid time off/vacation time for that quarantine period?

The order also does not require any employer to approve personal time off, leave, or vacation outside the business's normal policies.

What if employees want to use sick leave for their 10 days of quarantine? (Is this a way to convert sick time into "free" 10-day vacation?)

The order also does not require any employer to approve personal time off, leave, or vacation outside the business's normal policies.