Health officials fear next COVID-19 surge as Bay Area travelers return from holiday trips

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KGO) -- Despite the pandemic and pleas from public health experts, millions of holiday travelers are returning from family get-togethers across the country and here in the Bay Area.

Michael Garrick from San Leandro just arrived back in the Bay Area wearing a mask and face shield, after a trip to LA to spend Christmas with family.

"It was different, we didn't see friends outside our bubble, still had a really good time," said Garrick.

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Less than a week before Christmas, it's normally a time when many families head out to spend time with friends and relatives. But this year is anything but normal and travel is discouraged by the state.



Michael says he plans to quarantine after his trip. That's what health officials are urging travelers arriving back in the Bay Area to do.

A recorded announcement repeatedly plays at SFO, telling travelers that San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties require a 10-day quarantine upon arrival.

"I'm definitely quarantining, it's almost selfish to travel but it's hard because sometimes family is all we have," said Savannah Ruzicka from Seattle.

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Despite warnings from health officials, the TSA says millions of people have been passing through airport security checkpoints nationwide - the most since the start of the pandemic.

Travel through the holiday season is expected to be down nearly 30% this year. 616,000 travelers were screened at airports on Christmas day. That's about a 75% drop from 2019.

But with Christmas in the rear view and New Years on the way, the numbers are expected to ramp back up. Health officials fear a coming surge on top of the surge we're already seeing.

"The expectation is we'll keep seeing these record days of cases, hospitalizations around the country will continue to hit record levels and unfortunately the numbers of deaths will drive us to really horrific milestones in the coming months," said epidemiologist Dr. John Brownstein.

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It's the dream on the horizon, a world without masks, where you glide through the airport or sit down to dinner wherever you want. The question now is, will you need a so-called "vaccine passport" to get there?



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