Seyfarth Synopsis. On December 18, 2020, San Francisco imposed a 10-day mandatory quarantine on most people traveling or returning to the city for more than 24 hours. The order does not apply to travel within the larger Bay Area, or to certain visitors, including those not staying more than 24 hours, those seeking medical treatment, and those coming to the city to perform essential services. While the order does not require employers to monitor their employees’ personal travel, the order requires employers to prohibit employees from returning to the workplace if they become aware of the travel. Any time off of work due to this travel quarantine is controlled by the employers’ existing time off policies. The order is effective through at least January 4, 2021. Fortunately the order likely won’t affect one famous traveler on December 24, unless his sleigh breaks down and he must stay in the city for more than 24 hours.

In response to COVID-19-related holiday travel concerns, San Francisco issued a mandatory quarantine order for many people traveling to or from the city. The order runs from December 18, 2020 through January 4, 2021, and requires most individuals traveling to the city for more than 24 hours, or returning home after travel to quarantine for 10 days. While impacted individuals may leave their homes to get tested for COVID-19, a negative test does not shorten the 10-day quarantine period.


The order makes exceptions for some travelers. For example, it does not apply to:

  • Individuals who started their travel prior to December 18;
  • Individuals moving through San Francisco, but not staying for more than 24 hours; and
  • Other Bay Area residents (defined as individuals from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma Counties).

The order, however, does encourage Bay Area residents and individuals who commenced travel before the order’s enactment to comply with the quarantine directive.

For parents and children concerned about the order’s impact on Santa, the 24 hour exception likely covers his work on December 24.

The order also excepts a number of essential workers, and others coming to the city for certain tasks, including:

  • Licensed healthcare professionals
  • Anyone coming to San Francisco to perform work at an acute care hospital
  • Individuals performing Essential Government Functions or working on Essential Infrastructure
  • Individuals providing care to minors, the elderly or persons with disabilities
  • Individuals obtaining healthcare
  • Individuals required by their employer to enter the city to work for an Essential Business in San Francisco due to a lack of staffing
  • Individuals traveling for law enforcement or a court order
  • Individuals who are members of professional or collegiate sports teams, traveling for a game
  • Individuals who are part of a film production, provided they meet certain requirements

Effect on Employers.

The city’s FAQs make clear that employers may have some responsibilities under the order. Businesses have no obligation to restrict their employees’ personal travel (and they cannot under existing California law), nor must businesses inquire where their employees have traveled to. However, if an employer learns that an employee has traveled outside of the Bay Area, then the employer must prohibit the employee from returning to the workplace during the quarantine period.

The order does not require businesses to approve paid time off for employee quarantines. Instead, it defers to an employer’s normal policies. If the employee is entitled to time off under those policies, then they should be given it. However, if the employee’s conduct or time off violates the employer’s normal policies, then the employee can be disciplined.


The only businesses required to give notice of the order are transit facilities. They must provide notice to arriving travelers, either by giving travelers a copy of the notice attached to the order, or by posting the notice and making regular announcements.

Although hopefully a brief restriction, employers should brush up on San Francisco’s travel order, and be prepared should they learn of employees traveling outside of the Bay Area around the holidays.

Seyfarth’s Workplace Solutions is here to help with these and other COVID-19 related questions.