With California staring down the barrel of another significant coronavirus surge, health officials are recommending residents avoid unnecessary travel — including for Thanksgiving — and urging those who do head out of state to self-quarantine for 14 days when they return.
The move comes amid ominous new signs that California is in the midst of a major new outbreak. Weekly coronavirus cases have doubled in just the last month, from nearly 23,000 cases a week a month ago to almost 48,000 in the seven-day period that ended Thursday, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.
Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties have seen their combined weekly cases shoot up from about 13,000 to 26,000 over the last month. San Diego County saw its weekly cases rise from about 2,000 to 3,700 over the same time period. The county set a record this week with its highest single-day number of confirmed cases reported: 661.
Officials fear the situation could get much worse if people let down their guard during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“And whatever the hell you’re doing, don’t do Black Friday,” said Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist and infectious diseases expert at UC San Francisco, saying crowds crawling for deals could easily become super-spreader events.
Though they were quick to point out that the state travel advisory issued Friday is just that — “it isn’t a ban; it isn’t a restriction,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said — officials nonetheless hope that residents take the guidance to heart.
“We’re encouraging Californians to stay close to home, to avoid nonessential travel to other states, other countries and, frankly, across the state if that’s avoidable,” Ghaly said.
The advisory, which Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in conjunction with his counterparts in Oregon and Washington, also asks those who arrive in California from another state or country to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Essential travel, as defined by the advisory, is “for work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care and safety and security,” according to Newsom’s office.
“Increased cases are adding pressure on our hospital systems and threatening the lives of seniors, essential workers and vulnerable Californians,” Newsom said in a statement. “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.”
Ghaly emphasized that residents can reinforce the battle against COVID-19 by taking steps to protect themselves and their loves ones: Wearing masks in public, regular hand washing, staying home when ill, maintaining physical distance and, of particular importance with the holidays just around the corner, avoiding gathering with those outside your household.
California has generally banned large gatherings, but says shorter, smaller ones of no more than three households may be held, provided they take place outdoors in the hardest-hit counties, and that attendees physically distance and wear face coverings.
The worry, though, is that guidance may fall on the deaf