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COVID Surge: San Francisco Case Numbers Still Spiking; City Orders Mandatory Quarantine For Travelers

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- San Francisco Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax on Thursday provided a grim outlook to the city's rising COVID-19 case rates as well as announcing a mandatory 10-day quarantine for anyone traveling from outside of the city.

Dr. Colfax said San Francisco's current coronavirus cases and ICU capacity were at the highest levels since the start of the pandemic.

UPDATE: Travelers Arriving At SFO Learn About San Francisco's Mandatory COVID Quarantine Order

"We, unfortunately, have yet to see a downturn. We are averaging an extremely high case rate [with] 242 cases per day. That is the highest average we've had since the outset of the pandemic," said Colfax.

Cases have increased by 50% since the Thanksgiving holiday and 27% in just the past week, though Colfax noted that the rate of increase has slowed slightly.

"This indicates that we still have time to turn this dire situation around and, as a result, save hundreds of lives," Colfax said.

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California hit another record high for COVID deaths with 379 confirmed in the past 24 hours. Additionally, more than 52,000 new cases were reported Thursday. The state's positivity rate now stands at 11.5%.

Despite adopting the state's stay-at-home order early, San Francisco's numbers have continued to climb.

"San Francisco, along with five other Bay Area counties, adopted the stay-at-home order proactively on December 4th in the hopes of adequately slowing the spread of COVID-19 and preventing an ICU bed shortage. Unfortunately, despite our efforts, this has not happened." said Colfax.

Colfax noted that San Francisco could be at "a key inflection point" and warned that an increase over the coming holiday period could "put the city over the edge to a truly catastrophic situation."

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Colfax said the city could not afford another increase in cases like the one seen from Thanksgiving.

"An alternative is the leveling off of the current rate of increase, and this could be followed by a decrease. While hospitalizations would continue to increase over the next few weeks, the worst of this third wave would be avoided," said Colfax. "For this to be reality, we must avoid a Christmas and New Year's increase. And we need your help in doing that."

Colfax said that the Bay Area hospital region as of Thursday had only 13.1% of its remaining ICU capacity, a number that was slightly higher than the state's COVID-19 website reported Wednesday.

Napa, Solano and San Mateo counties are set to join the rest of the Bay Area under a regional stay-home order starting at midnight Thursday as coronavirus cases continue to surge and fill up Bay Area hospital beds.

In total, California's remaining ICU capacity stood at just 3%, with the Southern California region already at zero, the San Joaquin Valley region at .7% and the Greater Sacramento region at 11.3%.

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Neighboring San Mateo and Santa Clara counties currently have no ICU beds available, according to Colfax. San Francisco had a total of 286 ICU beds or 31% available as of Thursday.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Dr. Colfax on Thursday announced a new public health order placing a mandatory 10-day quarantine on anyone traveling, moving or returning to San Francisco from anywhere outside the Bay Area.

The announcement stated that there would be limited exceptions for people who traveled for certain critical activities. The new order also strongly discouraged any non-essential travel within the 10-county Bay Area region.

"COVID-19 cases are surging in San Francisco and across the country. Hospitals in the Bay Area are close to being overwhelmed," said Mayor Breed in a news release. "We must do whatever we can to contain the virus and stop its circulation in our community. Now is not the time to travel and risk being exposed or exposing others. We need to do the right thing to protect ourselves, our neighbors and our loved ones and make sure that we can celebrate together when this is over."

The travel order will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, December 18. It is currently scheduled to end at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, January 4, 2020.

Additional details on the mandatory travel quarantine are available on the city's COVID-19 website.

Colfax reminded San Francisco residents that asymptomatic COVID patients continue to be a major force in spreading the virus.

He went on to acknowledge all that San Franciscans had already given up over the course of the pandemic, but reminded everyone of the possible loss of life if resident did not comply with health orders.

"I know that this is hard and I know that this is yet another sacrifice almost 10 months into this pandemic. But we are at a stage that was unfathomable a year ago," said Colfax. "Remember, we have lost more people in this country due to COVID-19 than Americans who died in World War II. We are losing more people from COVID-19 every day in this country than we lost on 9/11. But we know how to beat back this virus. Precautions and containment will beat back this virus and slow the spread."

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