Bay Space would not implement COVID-19 quarantine like New York does
San Francisco and Santa Clara are the only two counties in California that have issued orders requiring travelers to be quarantined upon arrival in their territory. In contrast to New York State, however, it is unclear whether the authorities are doing much to publicize or enforce the order.
Kristen Green, a radiology technologist with Kaiser Permanente, said she didn’t notice any signs or leaflets when she exited Terminal 3 of San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday after arriving on a flight from Denver.
“It is possible there were signs,” she said. “I can’t say I paid a lot of attention.”
She had gone to Colorado to say goodbye to her father, who had died of cancer.
On Wednesday, the Transportation Security Administration recorded the highest single travel day in the country since the pandemic began. The TSA examined 1,191,123 people passing through airports. That’s more than the record set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when 1,176,091 travelers were screened.
It does so amid mounting concerns about the growing coronavirus, including a more transmissible form of the virus discovered in the UK.
In many parts of the world, nations are closing borders and introducing new travel restrictions. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that law enforcement officers were being deployed across the city to enforce the 14-day quarantine on anyone flying to New York City from the UK.
United Airlines spokeswoman Annabelle Cottee said that passengers boarding UK-origin flights must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test carried out at least 72 hours before departure.
There is a daily non-stop flight from London Heathrow to San Francisco. This flight will be suspended from January 1, a decision made by United Airlines before news of the variant form of the virus was reported.
United Airlines passengers are waiting in line to check-in at the COVID-19 rapid test site at San Francisco International Airport in October.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)
Last week, health officials in San Francisco and Santa Clara counties announced mandatory quarantine measures for travelers entering the area from outside the Bay Area – 10 days for San Francisco, 14 days for Santa Clara. The quarantine is legally enforceable in San Francisco. Failure to comply is an offense that can be punished with a fine or imprisonment.
However, Bryan Dahl, a spokesman for the San Francisco Health Department, said the city has not yet enforced the order.
“We don’t want to use a criminal law approach to a public health challenge,” he said. “The point here is to first inform the public so that compliance is guaranteed.”
No enforcement steps are specified in the Santa Clara Order.
On Wednesday afternoon, SFO appeared to be almost empty of vacationers.
Usually a visitor was a madhouse even outside the holiday weeks and could drive through the arrival and departure locations without having to stop because of congested traffic or occasional pedestrians.
“Compared to Denver, this is like a ghost town,” said Green, who was standing on the roadside in front of the airport on Wednesday afternoon. She said she was only aware of the quarantine because of her involvement in the healthcare industry.
According to the SFO spokesman Doug Yakel, 17,304 travelers passed through the SFO TSA checkpoints on Wednesday – about 20% of the passengers who traveled at the same time last year.
“For SFO, things could be different,” said Yakel, who said the numbers have been falling since Thanksgiving.
“During Thanksgiving, we saw some of the heaviest days of activity since the pandemic began, but even that was 75% lower than before the pandemic,” he said. “Traffic this week is 15% lower than during Thanksgiving.”
Yakel said paper planes informing arriving travelers of the quarantine would be issued at the exit of each hall. In addition, all terminals broadcast public announcements every 30 minutes and there are numerous digital and “static” signs in all terminals.
It’s slower at SFO than at LAX, which doesn’t currently have a travel order.
According to Daniel Velez, a TSA spokesman, travel volume in LAX was up 58.26% from Wednesday last week, but up 59.3% from the same period last year.
In San Francisco, volume increased 39.5% from last week but declined 75.5% from the same day last year.
“We are grateful for the public collaboration on this health crisis,” said Dahl. “Most people have done a good job looking out for their neighbors and following health instructions, and we expect businesses and local residents to continue to do so with this instruction.”