Good morning. Like many other U.S. states, California currently has no travel restrictions in place. That leaves a lot of travelers wondering about what precautions they should take after returning from a trip.
The question came to us from Abel Cruz, a reader in El Paso, who asked: “If I drive to California from Texas, will I have to quarantine once I get there?”
Mr. Cruz wants to visit family members in San Diego and the Victor Valley. “I have been thinking of driving out to California but am not sure whether I should plan to quarantine once I get there, before I see family,” he said.
[Track coronavirus cases by California county.]
While California does not have restrictions in place, Gov. Gavin Newsom urged people coming to the state to act responsibly. “The key is when you do come into the state, that you abide by all the rules and regulations that our health officers have put forth,” he said during a briefing on Monday.
The question of traveling across state lines during the pandemic can be tricky, since nearly half of the country currently has restrictions in place. Hawaii, for instance, requires visitors to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, or risk being fined $5,000 or up to a year in prison.
For some additional guidance, I talked to Dr. Jeanne A. Noble, an emergency medicine doctor and the director of the Covid-19 response at U.C.S.F. Medical Center’s emergency department, about how people can stay safe while traveling. Here are the takeaways from our conversation.
Arrange for testing ahead of time. Dr. Noble recommends getting a Covid-19 test a week before departing on a trip, to allow time for the results to come in. “Be extra vigilant with your social distancing and face mask use during your ‘pre-travel’ week so that you can remain confident that your negative test is meaningful,” she said.
“Since airline travel itself also puts you at risk for infection, you will need to quarantine and be retested once you have arrived at your destination,” Dr. Noble said. It’s best to wait at least four days after arriving in order to leave time for the virus, if present, to get to detectable levels.
If traveling by car, simply getting tested before you leave is probably adequate, but you should still quarantine if you have accidentally exposed yourself to potential risks.
When in doubt, quarantine. Although not required in California, it’s always safer to quarantine yourself if you can’t get tested. This is to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others. You can shorten your time in isolation, however, if you get a negative test.
And as always, if you begin to show flulike symptoms, “assume that you are infected and seek repeat testing while you continue to self-isolate,” Dr. Noble said.
Wipe down high-touch surfaces. Traveling by car is generally safer because your car can be easily wiped down and sterilized. Dr. Noble recommends that people sanitize their hands and wipe down their steering wheel with disinfectants every time they get into the car.
It’s best to travel with an ample supply of hand sanitizer and bleach or hydrogen peroxide wipes, Dr. Noble said.
If you have to stay overnight in a hotel, wipe down all high-touch surfaces, like doorknobs, faucets and phones, when you arrive.
Wear a mask and social distance. Face masks are one of the best protections we have against Covid-19, Dr. Noble said, so make sure you pack enough to last. Wear masks in public places, like hotel lobbies or food establishments. If you are in a setting where people are not wearing masks or practicing safe distancing, Dr. Noble recommends that you leave that place immediately.
Pay attention to local regulations. California residents visiting other states should check the specific restrictions at their destination before leaving. Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Connecticut require visitors from California to quarantine themselves for 14 days upon arrival.
Visitors to California should abide by California’s safe and responsible travel code and follow all public health rules, including a statewide mandate to wear a mask in public places.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 6, 2020
Why are bars linked to outbreaks?
- Think about a bar. Alcohol is flowing. It can be loud, but it’s definitely intimate, and you often need to lean in close to hear your friend. And strangers have way, way fewer reservations about coming up to people in a bar. That’s sort of the point of a bar. Feeling good and close to strangers. It’s no surprise, then, that bars have been linked to outbreaks in several states. Louisiana health officials have tied at least 100 coronavirus cases to bars in the Tigerland nightlife district in Baton Rouge. Minnesota has traced 328 recent cases to bars across the state. In Idaho, health officials shut down bars in Ada County after reporting clusters of infections among young adults who had visited several bars in downtown Boise. Governors in California, Texas and Arizona, where coronavirus cases are soaring, have ordered hundreds of newly reopened bars to shut down. Less than two weeks after Colorado’s bars reopened at limited capacity, Gov. Jared Polis ordered them to close.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
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They were fashioned from gauze and cheesecloth and became a symbol of the fight against an invisible enemy. Medical workers, police officers and everyday Americans wore them, but some resisted. This week, my colleague Christine Hauser wrote about how masks were politicized during the influenza pandemic of 1918. Four cities in California — San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento and Pasadena — became some of the first in the country to put in effect mandatory face mask laws. Violators were sent to mask court, where they were subject to fines or 10 days’ imprisonment.
“It is the most unpopular law ever placed on the Pasadena records,” W.S. McIntyre, the chief of police, told The Los Angeles Times. “We are cursed from all sides.”
Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.