With coronavirus cases swiftly rising, officials from the greater Bay Area counties are urging people to approach the holidays with extra caution.
Keep in-person gatherings small, avoid traveling long distances and stay outside, health officers from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, and the city of Berkeley said in a joint statement on Monday.
The recommendations reflect the private gatherings guidance issued by California officials last month. The state plans to issue more specific recommendations for the holidays this week.
“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,” said Dr. Gail Newel, health officer for the county of Santa Cruz, in a statement.
California allows people from up to three households to meet up for less than two hours. Gatherings must be held outside, hosts must collect contact information for contact tracing in case of an outbreak, and everyone is required to wear face coverings and maintain social distance.
“Any activity outside of your household increases chances of exposure to the virus,” the county officials said in a statement. “Be selective and space out which public activities you choose. If gathering with your small, stable group is most important, consider forgoing or delaying other activities such as a haircut or indoor dining to reduce your overall exposures.”
The guidance adds that nonessential travel, including holiday travel, is not recommended.
The officials note that air travel outside of the Bay Area is likely to increase the chances of residents getting infected and spreading the virus to others after returning to the region.
San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management issued an alert on Monday that the city is experiencing a sharp uptick in positive cases and hospitalizations. “While you may want to gather with friends or loved ones, you should limit activities to only people you live with,” city officials said.
Newel offered a set of recommendations for alternative ways of celebrating the holidays, such as hosting online parties, attending holiday movie nights at drive-in venues, or sharing recipes.
“There are many ways to enjoy the holidays with loved ones without gathering,” she said.
Aidin Vaziri is a staff writer for The San Francisco Chronicle.