Stop traveling, the governor says.
With the “regional stay-at-home” order issued Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom is imploring Californians to stay home for the next three weeks and cinching already tight restrictions in areas where the COVID-19 pandemic has hospitals under the heaviest pressure.
Outlining the new restrictions, which include new capacity limits for retailers and other changes, state officials said hotels and other lodgings will be allowed “to open for critical infrastructure support only.” But in the immediate aftermath of the governor’s announcement Thursday afternoon, details of the new travel restrictions remained unclear.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Service, said the state is effectively telling, not asking, Californians to stop all nonessential travel. That includes canceling holiday travel plans, he added.
“The message of the day is, as much as you can, be at home,” Ghaly said.
However, he and Newsom also stressed that parks and beaches would remain open and that Californians could boost their mental health by hiking, running, fishing, practicing yoga, skiing, snowboarding and otherwise savoring outdoor activities.
The new regional stay-at-home order, which officials said goes into effect within 48 hours of the announcement, applies in California regions where ICU availability is less than 15%. Among other things, the new order “prohibits private gatherings of any size, closes sector operations except for critical infrastructure and retail, and requires 100% masking and physical distancing in all others.” It is to remain in effect for at least three weeks.
The order’s regional grouping categorizes Los Angeles County within an 11-county area that also includes Imperial, Inyo, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
The 11 Southern California counties and 12 counties in the Central Valley could be required to implement the new restrictions on Friday, based on current projections of the rising number of patients who have been admitted to intensive care units.
VisitCalifornia.com, the state’s tourism website, puts the new rules in blunt terms: The state, it says, has “banned non-essential travel in most of the state beginning Dec. 4.”
In a widely circulated letter to industry professionals, Visit California President and Chief Executive Caroline Beteta wrote that in the 23 counties immediately affected, “hotels can remain open, although the order announced today bans non-essential travel statewide.”
She also noted that ski resorts can stay open (but must close their food and beverage services) and that campgrounds must close, along with wineries, breweries, museums, zoos, family entertainment centers and aquariums.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area spokesman Tim LeRoy confirmed the information about ski operations. California State Parks did not respond to questions about how the governor’s order would affect its campgrounds. As of Wednesday, 83 state campgrounds were at least partly open.
Other details of the state’s plan for enforcing the tighter limits remained unclear Thursday afternoon.
In a web Q&A explaining the new travel guidelines, state officials said: “Stay in your county if you can. Don’t drive more than 2-3 hours.”