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As omicron variant spreads, CA issues new travel advisory

Travelers arriving in or returning to California should get tested for COVID-19 within three to five days of their arrival, according to new guidance released this week by the California Department of Public Health.

The new recommendation comes as the state begins to deal with the omicron variant of COVID-19, which state officials believe is spread more easily than other variants of the virus.

“While the percentage of Californians fully vaccinated and boosted continues to increase, we continue to have areas of the state where vaccine coverage is low, putting individuals and communities at greater risk for COVID-19,” the department said in a statement. “While we have made great progress, many states and countries are experiencing increasing levels of transmission and increasing travel from other states and countries is expected during this winter season.”

The department on Monday also announced that a statewide mandatory indoor masking order is going into effect beginning Wednesday and extending through Jan. 15. In addition, anyone attending an event where there are more than 1,000 people must show proof of vaccination status or proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the last 24 hours.

“We know people are tired and hungry for normalcy. Frankly, I am too,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said in a Monday press conference. “That said, this is a critical time where we have a tool that we know has worked. We are proactively putting this tool of universal indoor masking in public settings in place to ensure we get through a time of joy and hope without a darker cloud of concern and despair.”

In addition to state guidelines, the department also urges travelers to observe federal travel guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes a requirement that face masks be worn by all people using public transportation, such as airplanes, trains or buses.

Those people who test positive, or develop symptoms, for COVID-19 should isolate and follow public health recommendations, such as staying home except when getting medical care, separating from other people, monitoring symptoms, wearing a mask and washing hands often.

This story was originally published December 15, 2021 5:00 AM.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.