Californians shouldn't travel more than 120 miles from home, state says

Luke Money, Rong-Gong Lin II
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 31: New Year's Eve travelers inside Terminal 4 at LAX on Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020 in Los Angeles, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Travelers walk inside Terminal 4 at Los Angeles International Airport on Dec. 31. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Californians are being urged to stay close to home — and residents of other states to stay out — under a new travel advisory issued in hopes of curtailing the raging spread of the coronavirus.

Under the updated guidance from the California Department of Public Health, issued Wednesday, Californians are told to eschew traveling anywhere in the state that’s more than 120 miles from their residences, unless doing so is essential.

Travelers from other states or countries are also “strongly discouraged” from coming to California, except for essential purposes.

The state defines such essential trips as any “associated with the operation, maintenance, or usage of critical infrastructure or otherwise required or expressly authorized by law … including work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care and safety and security.”

Nonessential travel, on the other hand, would be for recreational or tourism purposes.

“Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19,” the advisory states.

The latest recommendations supersede those issued in mid-November and are aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus, which remains rampant nationwide — and especially in California.

Cumulative coronavirus infections in California reached 2.5 million Wednesday, and the number of new cases has skyrocketed by more than 1 million in less than a month.

Anyone coming into California from another state or country, officials warn, runs the risk of bringing the virus, or even new variants of it, with them.

State officials emphasize that all those visiting or returning to California from out of state should self-quarantine for 10 days after arriving, except “as necessary to meet urgent critical healthcare staffing needs or to otherwise engage in emergency response,” or if they “routinely cross state or country borders for essential travel,” according to the advisory.

Some California counties, including Los Angeles, have also imposed their own mandatory quarantines on long-distance travelers in an effort to slow the spread.

Health officials are already waiting to determine the full fallout of holiday travel and gatherings — activities they’ve long feared could trigger yet another coronavirus surge at a time when California is still adding tens of thousands of new cases every day and hospitals statewide are contending with record levels of COVID-19 patients.

All residents “should keep in mind that community transmission rates are so high that you run the risk of an exposure whenever you leave your home,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

“It’s better to be lonely than to be sick,” she said this week. “It’s better to care for others by following all the rules than to end up passing along the virus to someone who gets hospitalized or even dies.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.