December 3, 2021


Just Do Travel

Calif.’s top health official asks residents to ‘restrict that travel, cancel plans’

4 min read

Update: California Gov. Gavin Newsom clarified Monday, Dec. 7, that hotels in regions falling under the order can only accept essential workers as guests. They can also accommodate residents who need to quarantine due to COVID.19. Tourists from within the state and outside the state aren’t allowed.

Specifically, the state order says: “When the Regional Stay Home Order is in effect in a region, hotels and lodging can only offer accommodation for COVID-19 mitigation and containment measures, treatment measures, accommodation for essential workers, or providing housing solutions, including measures to protect homeless populations.

Additionally, the travel advisory remains in effect for the entire state.


The message to Californians was clear in a sobering press briefing Thursday led by Gov. Gavin Newsom: Avoid travel.

Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, the state issued an advisory on Nov. 13 urging against nonessential travel and recommending quarantines for those who do travel between states and internationally.

With the new “regional stay-at-home order” announced Thursday and likely going into effect for all regions this month, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Services, said the recommendation will become a requirement.

“We have had a travel advisory since really a little bit before the Thanksgiving holiday leading up to these important weeks when people expect to move around and travel either by air by car,” Ghaly said. “We’re asking people then to consider canceling their travel plans now, as part of the regional stay-at-home order. When a region does cross the threshold and the order is in place, we’re actually asking you to restrict that travel, cancel plans, make sure that you stay at home. That’s what we’re asking you to do. We’re asking people to be at home and not mix and move.”

Ghaly admitted that enforcing the order will be challenging, but said he hopes people will step and recognize the dire situation.

“I know people will say, ‘Well, how can you enforce that? Your ground troops are spread thin.’ That’s indeed true, but we believe that really emphasizing that this is what we hope our citizens will do because their communities are at particular high risk, their hospitals are having difficulty keeping available ICU beds open, that people will restrict their travel statewide.”

Newsom introduced a new regional framework Thursday for combating the coronavirus that divides the state into five regions.

The geographical groupings of counties are based on hospital networks, and if a region drops below 15% intensive care unit capacity, it must comply with a new stay-at-home order.

When the new shutdown rules go into effect, residents of that region cannot gather and certain businesses sectors must close, such as move theaters, hair salons and indoor and outdoor dining (see a full list here).

In regions that fall under the order, travel is also impacted. The state said in a statement, “Except as otherwise required by law, no hotel or lodging entity in California shall 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.”

Airlines are monitoring the situation and are ready to adjust their schedules based on demand. In a statement to SFGATE, United said, “We will continue to monitor customer demand in real time and will make adjustments to our schedule accordingly.” This means travelers holding reservations, and still planning to fly for essential reasons, will have to remain flexible and prepared for last minute schedule changes.

Airlines have recently rolled back most fees for travelers wishing to cancel or postpone trips, easing the financial burden of last minute changes.

While the state is calling on residents to cancel travel plans as coronavirus cases surge and hospital beds fill up, the governor encouraged residents to get outdoors and boost their mental health. Parks and beaches will remain open, and Newsom encouraged people to take their dogs on walks and go hiking, biking, running, fishing, practicing yoga, meditating, skiing and snowboarding.

None of the regions fall under the order now, but state projections show all counties are on track to move into a shutdown in December.

“The five regions that we have highlighted, most of these four out of the five, we anticipate as early as the next day or two, as early or rather as late as the next week or so, that the Greater Sacramento, Northern California regions, as well as San Joaquin Valley and Southern California regions, will have reached that 15% or less ICU capacity,” Newsom said. “The Bay Area may have a few extra days. Our current projections suggest mid-, maybe late December, but all within just the next few weeks.”