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California issues virus advisory urging residents to avoid non-essential travel

Staff and wire reports

The governors of California, Oregon and Washington issued travel advisories Friday urging people entering their states or returning from outside the states to self-quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom's office said. 

The advisories urge people to avoid non-essential out-of-state travel, ask people to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving from another state or country, and encourage residents to stay local, a statement said.

“California just surpassed a sobering threshold — one million COVID-19 cases — with no signs of the virus slowing down,” Newsom wrote. “Increased cases are adding pressure on our hospital systems and threatening the lives of seniors, essential workers and vulnerable Californians."

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Friday that officials were not yet considering at a statewide stay-at-home order.

However, Ghaly noted: "This is a quick and rapidly evolving situation, and we will do whatever it takes to make sure that we appropriately protect the public health of California."

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown took more stringent measures Friday, announcing a statewide two-week “freeze” which will limit restaurants and bars to take-out only and close gyms, indoor and outdoor recreational facilities during that period.

“If we do not act immediately, we will soon reach a breaking point," Brown said in a video posted on social media Thursday.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee sounded a similar warning.

“We have to rethink spending time with people from outside our households right now, including Thanksgiving and the December holidays,” he wrote on social media. “This is temporary. We will get back to normal. But right now, it is just too dangerous to gather.”

On Monday, San Francisco and 10 other health officers in the Bay Area issued a joint advisory, urging residents to self-quarantine for two weeks should they leave the region, especially if they’ve traveled on a plane or train where people did not wear masks at all times. Some counties also say the recommendation also applies to people traveling into the region from outside the area.

State's top official urges caution

California is "absolutely" in the middle of a surge, Ghaly said. 

The state's top health official said he typically tells his patients, "When I'm worried, I'll tell you so you can worry with me." On Friday, he warned Californians: "We're there."

The number of new COVID-19 cases has increased dramatically since the beginning of November. The state saw its fastest rate of rise since the pandemic began when new daily cases jumped 47% from Nov. 1 to Nov. 7, officials said.

California became the second state to surpass 1 million coronavirus cases this week, the second to do so after Texas. While its infection rate remains lower than the U.S. as a whole, health officials fear the trend will accelerate in the Golden State as relatives gather for the holidays and spend more time inside during winter months. 

Grim milestone:California exceeds 1 million coronavirus cases

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"Many of us have COVID fatigue," Ghaly said. "The safest gatherings remain those that happen at home with members of your own household. We encourage Californians to gather virtually whenever possible."

Ghaly asked residents who plan to gather for the holidays to do so outdoors as much as possible. He strongly urged residents at higher risk for contracting the virus, such as older adults and people with chronic medical conditions, not to attend. Older residents were advised to wear surgical masks.

He also encouraged those who decide to gather to keep windows open for air circulation and invite no more than two other households.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises holiday celebrations occur only between members of the same household.

Officials warn against holiday travel

As other countries experience second surges, officials across the globe agree that holiday travel should be avoided this year. New lockdowns in England and Wales mean international travel is only permitted for business or education. In England, people traveling home for the holidays could face fines. 

Travel restrictions are meant to lessen spread of the virus as cases have spiked in recent weeks in France, Spain, England, Germany and Italy, among other countries.

The U.S. keeps smashing its own records for COVID-19 cases as the fall surge runs rampant across the country. As cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise nationwide, several states are halting phased reopening plans or imposing new restrictions.  

Thirty-four states — plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico — now require people to wear face coverings in public, according to a list maintained by AARP. Utah joined the list in recent days, Maine strengthened its mandate, and Ohio's governor reissued an order this week with new sanctions.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said all restaurants, bars and gyms statewide needed to close at 10 p.m. starting Friday, a major retreat in a corner of the U.S. that had seemingly brought the virus largely under control months ago. He also barred private gatherings of more than 10 people.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham reimposed a stay-at-home order Friday, requiring gyms, salons, golf courses and other nonessential businesses to close for two weeks amid the surge. And Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday a stay-at-home advisory set to go into effect Monday morning.

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Lockdowns could be coming:A list of restrictions in your state

Want to gather with family for Thanksgiving? You should start quarantining now

Between the cold weather, lax behaviors and the holidays, December and January will be the worst months the U.S. has seen so far in the COVID-19 pandemic, public health experts have said. 

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, signaled some hope Thursday: The pandemic won't be around "a lot longer," he said, but public health officials might need to "maintain control chronically" over COVID-19.

Desert Sun staff Kristin Scharkey and Nicole Hayden, Associated Press and USA Today contributed to this report.