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Questions about COVID-19 in Carlsbad

Last updated 1/6/21, 10:40 a.m.

The following are answers to frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 public health emergency.

San Diego County frequently asked questions
State of California frequently asked questions
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention frequently asked questions

Carlsbad-specific questions are answered below. If you have a question not covered here, please email us at communications@carlsbadca.gov.

What is open in Carlsbad?
The list of what is currently open with modifications and what is closed is changing often. The latest information can be found here.

What city services are available?
Although city offices remain closed to the public, city services continue to be available. Find out how to access city services and the status of what's open at the city.

What case information is available specific to Carlsbad?
The county prepares a weekly dashboard with information about cases in specific cities. The county also provides daily updates on cases by ZIP code and testing by ZIP code.

The county also created a “North Coastal” dashboard with COVID-19 rate by sex, ethnicity and age, hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths. Otherwise, here’s all the updated charts and graphs from San Diego County.

What's the status of COVID-19 vaccines?
The state has an effort called Vaccinate all 58 (for the 58 counties in the state of California) to accelerate the pace of vaccine administration. Learn more about the distribution plan and phases on the vaccine update page

What are the updated quarantine guidelines?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed its guidelines for how long someone should be in quarantine following exposure to COVID-19. The recommended time remains 14 days, but the CDC says reducing this timeframe will increase compliance.

Quarantines are recommended when:

  • You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more
  • You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19
  • You had direct physical contact with the person (hugged or kissed them)
  • You shared eating or drinking utensils
  • They sneezed, coughed or somehow got respiratory droplets on you

CDC now says people without symptoms can end their quarantine:

  • On day 10 without testing
  • On day 7 after receiving a negative test result (the negative test must be conducted within 48 hours of planned quarantine discontinuation)

The CDC notes that local public health authorities make the final decisions about how long quarantine should last in the communities they serve, based on local conditions and needs.

Is the state’s tier system still in place?
Since nearly all counties in the state are in the most restrictive purple tier, state officials introduced additional restrictions to address the surge of COVID-19 cases statewide and rising hospitalization and ICU numbers.

Otherwise, the tier framework lays out the measures that each county must meet, based on indicators that capture disease burden, testing and health equity. The California Department of Public Health website has a good explanation of the new four tiered system and how it’s implemented.

What is the state’s Regional Stay Home Order?
On Dec. 3, state officials introduced a regional stay home order which is meant to stop the surge of COVID-19 transmission and preserve the health care system.

If a region falls below 15% ICU capacity, which includes San Diego County as of Dec. 7, it’ll enter this stay home order for at least three weeks which includes no gatherings with those outside your household.

The regional stay home order also includes the closure of:

  • Indoor/outdoor playgrounds
  • Indoor recreational facilities
  • Hair salons and barbershops
  • Personal care services
  • Museums, zoos, and aquariums
  • Movie theaters
  • Wineries, bars, breweries, and distilleries
  • Family entertainment centers
  • Cardrooms and satellite wagering
  • Live audience sports
  • Amusement parks


  • Retail at 20% capacity
  • Restaurants for take-out and delivery
  • Hotels and lodging for critical infrastructure support
  • Places of worship and political expression outdoor services
  • Offices for critical infrastructure

How does San Diego get out of the stay home order and the purple tier?
On Dec. 7, San Diego County, which is included in the Southern California region, entered into the regional stay home order because the region has less than 15% ICU capacity remaining.

The order will end when the region’s ICU capacity projected out four weeks (from day 22 after the Regional Stay Home order started) is above or equal to 15%.

San Diego County can move up to the red tier when case rates are 7.0 or lower per 100,000 population for two consecutive weeks.

What counties are included in the Southern California region?
The state’s Southern California region includes the following counties: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura.

How do I find out what the hospital/ICU capacity is in my region?
The state will post ICU capacity by region on a daily basis.

When will more things reopen?
The state’s four-tier system provides a guideline for when certain health restrictions can be eased.  Read more about how the state will determine what reopens when on the state's COVID-19 website. Detailed guidance for various industries is also available on the state's COVID-19 website.

What is “equity adjustment” in the tier system?
The state applies an “equity adjustment” formula to county case numbers based on how the number of tests conducted compare to the state median number of tests. This way, counties with higher case numbers aren’t penalized if they also have a higher amount of testing. Likewise, counties without as much testing may have lower case numbers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the prevalence of COVID-19 is lower.

Why do the public health orders allow some things and not others even when the risk seems comparable?
Many people have asked why some things are allowed and not others, especially when it seems like the risks are comparable. What sometimes seems comparable is different from an enforcement perspective or even just operationally in terms of what it would take to reopen.

State and county health officials are trying their best to keep us safe while recognizing the unintended consequences of the restrictions in place. Most decisions are made by public health experts at the county and state based on current health data and their best judgement. As conditions change, rules evolve with the goal of maintaining public health and safety.

Why are some things open in another city and not in Carlsbad?
Cities can be more restrictive than county and state public health orders, but not less. In some cases, the City of Carlsbad has decided to relax restrictions more slowly than what is allowed, or we might just need a little more time to put all the safety precautions in place. 

What is the guidance on school reopening?
Schools already opened while in the red tier are not required to close. However, if a school or district had not already reopened for in-person instruction while in red tier and is then moved to purple, it may not reopen those schools until the county moves back to the red tier and remains in that red tier for 14 days.

In the case that schools are eligible to reopen, it is up to the discretion of school districts to decide whether or not to do so and must follow the guidance for schools and school-based programs that the state has developed to create a safer environment for students, families and staff. This guidance applies to in-person learning and distance learning. The California Department of Public Health has also composed frequently asked questions about guidance for schools.

When should schools close in the case of COVID-19 exposure?
Some schools may have reopened based on the COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Learning Framework for K-12 Schools. These schools should follow the guidance on school closure provided in that framework when determining whether to close due to COVID-19 spread.

What does a “community outbreak” mean?
A community setting outbreak is when three or more people are confirmed for COVID-19 at one location who are from different households. Community outbreaks are one of the 13 triggers the county is closely monitoring to determine whether additional measures are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.

Why can’t you let the public know where the community outbreaks have occurred?
The county does not report the names of businesses or facilities associated with outbreaks unless they determine a public health need to do so. During the course of their investigation and contact tracing, if they are able to identity and notify all close contacts, and the business is in compliance with all of the follow-up, then there is no risk to the public to go to that business. If there were additional steps needed to protect the public at a particular business, then the county would take them, including notifying the public.

How is the city enforcing the health orders?
Enforcement in Carlsbad is the responsibility of the Police Department. The Police Department is taking an education first approach, meaning people will be first informed about the rules and given an opportunity to comply. If needed, police can issue citations for non-compliance. The city also has monitors at parks and beaches to help inform people about the rules and is distributing free face coverings at these public locations to increase compliance.

What should I do if I see someone not complying?
Take care of your own health and safety first. If you observe someone not complying, keep in mind the following:

  • People with illnesses and mental health conditions that prevent them from wearing facial coverings are exempt
  • People who live together do not need to stay 6-feet apart

It’s not always possible to discern these things. However, if you have a significant concern, you can call 760-931-2197 and the Police Department will assess the situation and take the appropriate actions. 

The county has said that community members can call the county's complaint line at 858-694-2900 to report violations of the public health order. Individuals can also email safereopeningcomplianceteam@sdcounty.ca.gov.

Where can I get tested?
Contact your health care provider or call 2-1-1 for a referral to a testing site. The county also has testing sites that require no referral. Appointments can be made online or by calling 888-634-1123.

How does contact tracing work?
When a person or “case” is confirmed, a case investigator from the county talks to the person who tested positive to find out about close contacts during the time the person was considered infectious. This infectious time frame is considered to be two days before symptoms appeared until the person was isolated at home. The people identified through this case investigation are known as the “contacts.”

The contact tracers focus on “close contacts.” That means having 15 minutes or more of close contact (within 6 feet) with someone known to have COVID-19. This may include:

  • Household members
  • Intimate partners
  • People who had unprotected (without a face cover) direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case, for instance, someone who was coughed or sneezed on.
  • People who have been in a small, enclosed environment (such as a home, classroom, meeting room, restaurant, hospital waiting room, etc.) with the infected person.
  • Healthcare workers and others providing care to individuals with COVID-19 may be considered contacts as well if they were not using the recommended personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, or goggles or following proper cleaning recommendations for handwashing and disinfection of objects and surfaces

Once contacts are identified, a contact tracer will reach out to contacts to notify them of their potential exposure to a COVID-19 case. The contact tracer will ask the contacts about COVID-19 related symptoms they may be experiencing and if they have any underlying medical conditions. You can read more about contact tracing here.

How can businesses apply for a permit for temporary use of public sidewalk or private parking lot for outdoor dining or expanded retail space?
The Community Development Department has made it quick and easy to apply for a permit. Here is the dedicated city webpage with background information and permit applications specific to each use.

Who is making decisions? 
Here’s a quick overview of how public health decisions are made:

  • Cities take their lead from counties because counties have responsibility for public health.
  • Counties are technically branches of the state government, so they take their lead from the state.
  • The federal government has put out “guidance” for reopening, but made it clear that states will make the ultimate decisions.
  • Most cities in San Diego County, like the City of Carlsbad, have a council-manager form of government, where policy decisions require a majority vote of the City Council. The Carlsbad municipal code designates the City Manager as the director of emergency services. This means that the City Manager has the authority to take immediate steps to protect health and safety, and then the City Council subsequently votes on those actions.

What does this mean for Carlsbad?

  • We must follow all federal, state and county health orders and other laws.
  • We are not experts in public health; that is the role of the county.
  • Where discretion exists on policies, the Carlsbad City Council will make those decisions or ratify emergency decision that may be taken by the City Manager.

If you want to know more, you can review the California Government Code and the Carlsbad Municipal Code.

How do I get timely information about COVID-19 in the City of Carlsbad?
The city provides a COVID-19 email update twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can sign up for the City Enews/City Manager Updates regarding COVID-19 email list here. You can also follow us on social media and visit the city's special COVID-19 webpage for the latest information.


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