California on Friday issued a travel advisory that urges a two-week quarantine for those arriving from other states or countries after the state passed 1 million coronavirus cases and now sees the steepest rise in confirmed case numbers.
Visitors and returning residents should practice self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving in California, limiting their interactions to people only in their immediate households to curb the spread of the virus, officials said.
“It isn’t a ban, it isn’t a restriction. This is an advisory,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. “We chose to go with an advisory because for many, many months we’ve recognized that this partnership with all Californians to choose to do things that we know reduce spread is an important one.”
The advisory applies to people crossing borders for non-essential travel, according to the California Department of Public Health advisory. That’s defined as tourism or recreational trips.
It does not apply to those traveling for work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care and safety and security, according to the health department.
“This is not a new concept,” Ghaly said in a Friday briefing. “This is something we asked people to do very early on with our partnership with our local health jurisdictions — you’ve seen this across other states, across the country. And we believe that this is exactly how we can add to our toolkit to reduce spread in California.”
The health secretary said it would be too difficult to enforce the recommendation in a state of 40 million, but officials hope Californians will “do the right thing.” And if there are signs that the advisory needs to be strengthened, officials will consider that in the weeks to come, Ghaly said.
The advisory comes as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches while the state sees a sharp uptick in coronavirus infections recorded each day.
“California just surpassed a sobering threshold – one million COVID-19 cases – with no signs of the virus slowing down,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “Increased cases are adding pressure on our hospital systems and threatening the lives of seniors, essential workers and vulnerable Californians.”
Californians were encouraged to stay home or in their region. “Avoiding travel can reduce the risk of virus transmission and bringing the virus back to California,” health officials said.
The governors of Oregon and Washington also joined California in issuing travel advisories Friday.
The pandemic has already impacted travel and the Auto Club predicts this holiday will see the largest one-year decline in travel by Southern Californians since the 2008 recession.
But even with fewer people traveling this year, 6.26 million Californians were expected to go on trips this holiday, according to AAA.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Thursday also recommended a 14-day quarantine for everyone that travels during the holiday, but urged that residents avoid travel altogether as the county experiences another troubling coronavirus surge.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that she will miss out on seeing her grandchildren during the holiday but it’s worth not risking contributing to the spread of the virus in the county where 330,450 people have already tested positive and 7,221 have died of COVID-19.
“Like all of you, I wish things were really different, but they’re not,” Ferrer said. “And my feeling is, I don’t want to be one of the people that’s contributing to not only increasing cases that restrict our ability to continue with our recovery journey, but increasing cases that could result in other people getting sick, and even dying.”
For college students, Ferrer said the preference is that they do not fly home for the holidays. But those who do choose to go see their families should consider completing the rest of the semester remotely so as to not expose others to the virus upon returning to campus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also discourages holiday travel amid the pandemic, but for those who still go on trips, the agency urges wearing masks in all public settings, keeping at least 6 feet away from others, regular hand-washing and staying away from those who are sick.
Health experts consider travel by air, bus or rail particularly risky.
Of the Southern Californians who do plan to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, 92% are expected to go on road trips, compared to the 86% who drove last year, according to AAA.