San Francisco announces stricter lockdown; Can you transit airports under quarantine?
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
San Francisco joined Santa Clara County, and now requires anyone coming from outside the Bay Area to quarantine. That includes two of the busiest airports in California – San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC).
Meanwhile in L.A., travelers are required to submit to tracing and to acknowledge the state’s “requested” two-week quarantine.”
So do you have to quarantine if you travel through those airports on the way to somewhere else or have a long layover?
Read on for some answers.
Related: California’s COVID-19 crackdown
Navigating Northern California’s strict quarantines
Most of California’s Intensive Care Units (ICUs) are full or close to full. That led several areas of California to issue “stay at home” orders including the Bay Area that will remain in effect until at least Jan. 7, 2021. Two counties have gone even further.
As of Friday Dec. 18, visitors to San Francisco County arriving from anywhere outside of the Bay Area are required to quarantine for 10 days. That means you’ll need to quarantine, unless you’re coming from any of the following counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Solano, or Sonoma.
For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
South of San Francisco, in Santa Clara County which includes the city of San Jose, anyone coming from more than 150 miles away needs to stay home or in their hotel for 10 days. Santa Clara County’s previous mandate had included a 14-day quarantine. That has since been reduced to 10 days.
Hotels are barred from allowing visitors from out-of-state unless they can check-in for their entire 10-day quarantine. Hotels and other lodging businesses are being told to advise all guests of the new rules.
According the San Francisco Department of Health, “You must stay put, in your home or hotel room. Do not leave, except to get healthcare. Get food or groceries delivered.”
There are exemptions for several categories of workers including essential workers and those coming to care for someone or to “play sports on an approved team.”
Transiting in California’s Airports
There is good news for people who are transiting area airports. You do not have to quarantine when transiting, even if you have an overnight layover.
San Francisco’s quarantine requirements exempt travelers from quarantine if:
- They board a connecting flight at SFO
- They go through SFO and [are] not staying overnight
At San Francisco, if you have an overnight layover, you are exempted from quarantine as long as you stay at a hotel near the airport. This is possible because, technically, the airport is in San Mateo County. If you travel into San Francisco County, however, you will need to follow quarantine rules.
Los Angeles County is also now requiring all arriving passengers via train or plane to fill out paperwork acknowledging a “recommended” two-week quarantine. Travelers will be required to sign a form that they are aware of the quarantine guidelines. They are also asked to provide contact information for future tracing. Failure to do so may result in a fine of up to $500. Transit passengers are exempt. The form is now available at travel.lacity.org or by scanning the QR code posted at airports or train stations.
Enforcement in California
Enforcement of quarantines, however, is another matter. There is little evidence so far of any enforcement in Santa Clara County. In fact, people arriving at SJU are not being traced or asked to fill out any forms. Arrivals at SFO have been surprised at the news.
The San Francisco Police Department said punishments would be a “last resort.”
“San Francisco will continue its approach of first educating people about what is required under the health orders, but the City will take additional enforcement steps if the situation demands. Violation of or failure to comply with this order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both. The order allows for enforcement for non-compliance, but it is a last resort.”
Violators could be subject to $1,000 fines, but so far it doesn’t appear anyone has been cited.
Other U.S. and international airports
We’ve heard of very few instances where transit has been an issue for domestic itineraries. Hawaii, however, is an exception and has been a bit of a mess when it comes to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Regulations here have been continuously changing, so check the latest information before you go. You’ll be able to transit through Hawaii’s airports, but be sure to pay careful attention to the travel forms you’ll be asked to fill out.
Most international airports are allowing transit passengers too, though, some have been stricter than others, or not enforcing rules consistently, during the pandemic. Be sure to have your paperwork and have any required test results in hand to avoid problems. Check with your airline often as country entry requirements and transit rules have been changing often.
The bottom line
Even as coronavirus cases continue to surge, many are traveling for the holidays. If you are transiting an area under new quarantine rules, you are not likely to have issues.
And while enforcement of the new local quarantine orders has been fairly lax, the new measures are designed to get people to rethink travel to areas of the country where health infrastructure is strained. Our best advice? Avoid areas under quarantine to help local health care systems absorb the latest surge.
Featured image by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees