California sets travel, gathering advisories as COVID-19 cases rise

Just ahead of what are typically the busiest travel days of the year, California, Oregon, and Washington issue virus travel advisories.

California announced it recently reached a sobering milestone: one million coronavirus[1] cases and counting. California Governor Gavin Newsom, along with Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee have issued travel restrictions in response. 

“Travel increases the risk of spreading COVID-19, and we must all collectively increase our efforts at this time to keep the virus at bay and save lives,” Gov. Newsom said in a press release[2].  

The travel advisory is not an all out ban on traveling. However, California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said he hopes people take it as seriously as any guidance the state releases.

“Putting out an advisory, a strong-urge guidance on what to do when traveling, but first and foremost to avoid it as much as possible, that is going to be an approach and a commitment to Californians to do what we believe is the right thing,” Ghaly said in a press conference[3].

All three West Coast states are urging visitors traveling from another state or country to self-quarantine for 14 days. Additionally, the travel guidance advises against non-essential out-of-state travel. For people returning home to California from other areas for the holidays, it is strongly recommended in the travel advisories to stick to your immediate household even after a two week quarantine.

In response to a question about working people perhaps having to miss two weeks of work upon return to the state from their Thanksgiving travel, Dr. Ghaly said that the state is asking people to first consider whether that non-essential travel “is the right thing to do now.”

Ghaly said in the press conference that the state has also discussed putting out an enforceable ban or restrictions on travel should cases rise to a certain, dangerous rate. 

“If there’s any indication that the travel advisory needs to be strengthened, we will consider that in the days and weeks to come,” Ghaly said.

Essential travel is defined[4] as “travel for work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care and safety and security.”

All three West Coast states have seen a recent rise in coronavirus cases in the last few weeks, following a trend of the rest of the country. In Washington state alone, COVID-19 cases have doubled in the last two weeks[5]. California’s own one million case threshold is a distressing reminder that the coronavirus still runs rampant. A recent surge in cases was the fastest rate of rise the state has seen so far, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan.

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