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Public Health Emphasizes Safe Holidays and Travel

Public health officers from the counties of Marin, Alameda, Contra Costa, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma, and the city of Berkeley have issued joint recommendations for staying safe during the holidays. The recommendations cover gatherings and travel, with recommended steps to reduce risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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, Health Officer for the County of Santa Clara and Director of the Public Health Department. “When people who live in different houses or apartments are together at the same time in the same space, risk of COVID-19 spreading goes up, even when the people are relatives or friends. Please celebrate safely this year and protect yourself and your family by including masks, keeping a distance, and staying outdoors.”

The joint recommendations for travel and gatherings advise that in-person gatherings be small, short, stable (no more than three households over an extended period), and outdoors. Also, nonessential travel, including holiday travel, is not recommended. Travel outside the Bay Area will increase chances of infection and potentially spread the virus. For those who are traveling, there are tips to help avoid catching COVID-19 or spreading it to fellow travelers. Those travelling outside the Bay Area are strongly recommended to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return if activities while travelling created higher risk of getting COVID-19.

Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis said family and friends who plan to travel to a holiday gathering should consider being tested for COVID-19 before and after the gatherings. He said it’s more important than ever to practice the usual precautions, such as a wearing a face covering, washing hands frequently, avoidance of touching surfaces and other people, using hand sanitizer often, and maintaining a minimum of six feet from others.

“Marin residents considering travel should know that COVID-19 rates are high in many regions across the country, and not everyone around you will always be taking the right precautions,” Willis said. “Keep doing the things you’re doing to protect yourself and others, even if the people are around you are not.”

Marin has seen relatively low COVID-19 rates recently despite increases around the state and across the country, he said. On October 27, Marin was moved up on the State of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy scale from Tier 2 (substantial risk) to Tier 3 (moderate risk) because of its public health successes in suppressing the novel coronavirus.

“We’ve worked hard to achieve our gains, but we’re seeing increases in cases regionally and could easily backslide if we import the virus back into our homes,” Willis said.

The safest way to celebrate this holiday season is virtually or with members of your household. Gathering with people outside your household – even extended family – increases the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. There are many ways to enjoy the holidays with loved ones without gathering:

  •  Enjoy holiday traditions at home with your household
  •  Decorate your home and/or yard
  •  Share a virtual meal with family and friends
  •  Host online parties and/or contestsPrepare meals using traditional recipes and deliver to family and neighbors
  •  Attend holiday movie nights at drive-in venues
  •  Visit holiday-themed outdoor art installations
  • Participate in drive-by events where everyone stays in their vehicles

Marin County Public Health’s guidance for holiday travel and gatherings, in addition a list of safe alternatives for holiday celebrations, can be found at Coronavirus.MarinHHS.org/Celebrate-Safely