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L.A. health officials to travelers: Your vacation is not essential

National Park Service poster
The National Park Service has produced a series of posters suited to stay-at-home orders.
(National Park Service)

As scattered states, national parks and a few Northern California counties begin to reopen and summer draws near, the temptation to travel grows. Before you act, the L.A. County Public Health Department would like you to remember two things.

First, a vacation, whether it’s a road trip or a camping excursion, is not an essential activity amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Second, with lives potentially at stake, the governor and Los Angeles County have ordered us to take only essential trips. If you’re planning to drive or fly to a newly reopened beach, park or hotel, in California or elsewhere, be aware that it’s a violation of county and state orders. And it’s another violation to come back, potentially bringing contagion with you.

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So far, enforcement of these orders has been minimal. But as your loved ones, friends, teachers, clergy or parole officer may have mentioned in years gone by, just because you might get away with it doesn’t make it right. Especially if it might kill somebody.

Here’s a series of questions we asked director Dr. Barbara Ferrer and the L.A. County Health Department last week. Answers were submitted by email.

If L.A. County keeps its restaurants and public spaces closed longer than other California counties do, what advice would you give to county residents considering nonessential travel to counties with looser restrictions?

Nonessential travel is not recommended, as it increases an individual’s risk for contracting COVID-19 or, if the traveler is asymptomatic, it increases the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others.

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Is nonessential travel to another county a violation of the L.A. County order?

Persons are to remain in their homes or places of residence, but may engage in “essential activities.” If the essential activity, like providing care for the elderly or obtaining medication, requires a person travel to another county, then it is not a violation of the order.

If Las Vegas or Grand Canyon National Park open while L.A. County is still discouraging nonessential internal travel, what would you advise travelers who are thinking about trips to Nevada or Arizona?

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Nonessential travel is not recommended, as it increases an individual’s risk for contracting COVID-19 or, if asymptomatic, it increases the risk of spreading it to others.

Is it a violation of the county order to make a nonessential trip to those places?

If the purpose of the trip was not for a circumstance permitted, then it would be a violation.

If somebody took one of those trips to a neighboring state, would a quarantine period be required or advised upon return?

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Quarantine is used based on the likelihood of an exposure that puts the person at risk for developing an infectious disease. It is used to prevent the spread of the disease to others. It is not used to punish or penalize people.


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