As coronavirus hospitalizations rise across California, businesses and individuals are adapting to a new round of social distancing measures. There are new California travel restrictions to know about before traveling around the Golden State.
California Travel Advisory For Non-Essential Travel
Despite the stricter regional restrictions, California has a statewide travel advisory effective November 13, 2020. This order applies to visitors and returning California residents.
The order strongly recommends a 14-day self-quarantine after arriving in California for non-essential travel reasons, including tourism and recreation. People who self-quarantine can only interact with their immediate household.
Also, Californians are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible. When travel is necessary, Californians should remain within their region to limit the potential spread.
In highly impacted regions, hotels will only offer stays for non-essential travel that exceed the 14-day quarantine period.
Those traveling for essential reasons, even across state lines, do not have to self-quarantine.
Whether traveling for essential or nonessential reasons, there is a statewide mask mandate. Any person above the age of 2 years must wear a mask in public settings.
Regional Stay Home Order
The newest travel restriction is the Regional Stay Home Order that first went into effect on December 3, 2020. Instead of statewide restrictions like in the spring, the newest order applies to specific regions of California.
Regions with less than 15% ICU bed capacity have stricter restrictions under the new guidelines. Counties going below the 15% threshold must observe the Regional Stay Home Order guidelines for at least 3 weeks. After the initial 3 weeks, the region will assess the situation weekly. The restriction will lift when the capacity projects to meet or exceed the 15% threshold.
When the order is in effect, private gatherings of any size are prohibited, except for critical infrastructure and retail. Masking and physical distancing require 100% compliance at all times.
Non-essential travel is impermissible in regions with a regional stay home order. If exercising outside, one can only participate with those in the same household.
California’s Governor Gavin Newsom describes that regional approach as “pulling the emergency brake” to halt coronavirus spread.
Stay Home Order Business Restrictions
Critical infrastructure including schools and non-urgent medical and dental care remain open. Remote contact is encouraged whenever possible. For businesses that cannot offer remote access, additional restrictions are in place besides the 100% masking and social distancing rules.
Below are some of the select sectors that can operate during a regional stay home order.
- Retail: Operation at 20% indoor capability (35% for standalone grocery stores)
- Shopping centers: Up to 20% capacity
- Restaurants: Delivery and takeout only
- Outdoor recreational facilities: Outdoor operation only and exclusively for personal health and wellness through exercise. Also, no sale of food, drink or alcohol.
- Entertainment production: No live audiences
Hotels and lodging are open to out-of-state visitors. However, those traveling for non-essential reasons must have an itinerary for the entire 14-day self-quarantine period to book a stay. Once at the hotel, non-essential travelers must self-quarantine before going into public.
Non-Essential Business Closures
While restaurants, shops and outdoor recreational facilities can operate under a regional stay home order, select locations must close their doors until the regional shutdown ends.
- Indoor and outdoor playgrounds
- Wineries, bars, breweries and distilleries
- Museums, zoos and aquariums
- Movie theaters (except drive-in)
- Family entertainment centers
- Cardrooms and satellite wagering
- Limited services
- Live audience sports
- Amusement parks
Certain operations within these business types may still be in operation if they provide a “critical infrastructure.”
Each California county falls into one of five regions. One can also browse restrictions by county to quickly see the current county risk level and business closures.
Each county has one of several risk levels: widespread, substantial, moderate and minimal. Regions that implement a Regional Stay Home Order have a “widespread” risk rating that closes most non-essential indoor business operations.
- Del Norte
- Contra Costa
- San Francisco
- San Mateo
- Santa Clara
- Santa Cruz
- El Dorado
San Joaquin Valley
- San Bonito
- San Joaquin
*The San Joaquin Valley is under a region stay home order (as of December 7, 2020)
- Los Angeles
- San Bernadino
- San Diego
- San Luis Obispo
- Santa Barbara
As of December 7, 2020, two of the five regions have active regional stay at home orders. Those regions are San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. Twenty-three counties are in these two regions with 27.9 million people.
The Bay Area, Greater Sacramento and Northern California regions only have the statewide non-essential travel advisory and county-specific restrictions.
Limited Stay Home Orders
Counties with a “widespread” risk rating also have an evening curfew from 10 pm to 5 am, where one can only be out for essential work and medical reasons. This policy went into effect on November 21, 2020 and applies to counties across any California region. Nearly every county has a “widespread” risk rating at the moment.
A county with a widespread risk rating has more than 7 new daily cases per 100,000 over a 7-day average. Or, the county can have a positivity rate greater than 8% over a 7-day average.
CA Notify App
Californians and out-of-state visitors may soon be using the CA Notify contact tracing app to receive exposure notifications. This app becomes available statewide on December 10, 2020, and works with Android and Apple devices.
No personal information is shared and this app is optional at this time. California is continuing to use its contact tracing program where healthcare workers check in with those who test positive or came into close contact with affected people.
While the California travel restrictions are not the strictest in the United States, they are some of the most extensive for the West Coast. It’s best to only visit California for essential reasons due to the 14-day travel quarantine that went into effect on November 13, 2020. The regional stay home orders also limit activities for those not in self-quarantine.
Can Out-Of-State Visitors Come To California?
Out-of-state visitors can come to California by car, plane or train. However, nonessential travel is currently discouraged across the state. Upon arriving in California, a 14-day self-quarantine is highly recommended.
Hotels in counties under a regional stay home order may require non-essential travelers to book a stay of at least 14 days for the quarantine period or may only offer rooms to those traveling for essential reasons. These visitors will need to self-quarantine at the hotel for that entire period. Essential travelers can waive the quarantine period.
Counties under a regional stay home order have most non-essential businesses and outdoor locations closed. It’s best to check the county travel restrictions before visiting to decide if it’s worth traveling to California.
Does California Require Quarantine?
A quarantine isn’t mandatory for incoming visitors or returning residents but is strongly recommended. Since November 21, 2020, the expanded California travel restrictions strongly encourage a 14-day self-quarantine for all out-of-state visitors and returning residents.
Those traveling for essential reasons don’t need to quarantine but are expected to practice masking and social distancing at all times.
Californians traveling within the state are expected to remain within their region and avoid non-essential travel whenever possible. A quarantine isn’t necessary when traveling between state regions.
Are California Hotels Open?
Most California hotels are open but have operating restrictions. The widest-reaching active restriction are the Regional Stay Home Orders.
According to the California State Government website , hotels and lodging in affected counties “cannot accept or honor out-of-state reservations for non-essential travel, unless the reservation is for at least the minimum time period required for quarantine and the persons identified in the reservation will quarantine in the hotel or lodging entity until after that time period has expired.”
Hotels under a regional travel advisory may only offer lodging for essential workers, COVID-19 mitigation and providing housing solutions including to the homeless population.
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