COVID-19 Impact: CA health officers push strict holiday celebration recommendations

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Health Officers in at least 11 Northern California areas are pushing heavy recommendations for holiday travel and get-togethers over Thanksgiving and Christmas.

COVID-19 numbers have risen both statewide and nationwide. Now doctors are urging caution if you plan to see family or friends in the coming weeks.

"We are seeing this increase spikes of cases," says Dr. Curtis Chan referring to novel coronavirus cases. Dr. Chan is San Mateo County's Deputy Health Officer who is one of hundreds of doctors recommending that events last no more than two hours with a maximum of three households.

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"Just gonna keep it small," says Paul Vaughns as he left the Safeway store in Albany, California Monday night.

Tiffany Custer said, "It's a weird year and nobody is having a great year so I don't think that this is going to be the best time for get-togethers."

Some say they are against any recommendation limiting travel or contact with their family members because they don't trust the numbers.

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"To me, to hear that there's a spike when literally everywhere I go everyone is following procedures to me it's just hard for me to believe. Where is the spike coming from? What is the source of the spread?" says Danielle Schaefer who plans to get-together with around 20 of her family members despite the recommendations.

The county health officers are also recommending that get-togethers be held outside, COVID-19 tests before and after in some cases, and a 14-day quarantine after the get-together for those who leave the area.

"I have a coworker that went to a family gathering and then they all ended up with COVID, so no not safe," said one Safeway employee we talked with.

Dr. Chan says it appears as though a new vaccine might be here very soon and he's hopeful that will help people from giving into a temptation

"Got just a few more months left until we get that vaccine so if we could just get past this holiday we will be looking at the light at the end of the tunnel."

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Here is the press release that went out from San Mateo County:

Nov. 9, 2020

Health Officers from the Counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma, and the city of Berkeley today issued joint recommendations for staying safe during the holidays. The recommendations cover gatherings and travel, with recommended steps to reduce risk.

"The holiday season is a great time to provide joy and emotional support for dear friends and extended family members," said Curtis Chan, MD, San Mateo County's deputy health officer. "But we must be very careful because much of the transmission of COVID-19 occurs from people without symptoms. Let's do everything we can to prevent infections to families and friends, and especially grandparents. I've appreciated creative ideas by communities and businesses to support each other with old and new technology. The holiday traditions of writing letters, making cards, and sending gifts is very meaningful, particularly to those becoming more socially isolated. Video gatherings and greetings, streaming videos, and other activities can spark joy and spread love during these difficult times."

The joint recommendations advise the public that if you gather in person, keep it small, short, stable, and outdoors. Also, nonessential travel, including holiday travel, is not recommended. Travel outside the Bay Area will increase your chance of getting infected and spreading the virus to others after your return. For those who are traveling, there are tips to help avoid catching COVID-19 or spreading it to fellow travelers. If you travel outside the Bay Area, it is strongly recommended that you self-quarantine for 14 days after your return if your activities while travelling put you at higher risk of getting COVID-19.

The recommendations are consistent with the state's directives on private gatherings.

Celebrate without gathering:



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 contests

  • Prepare 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


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