Some sigh with relief as California health officers lift some travel restrictions
SAN FRANCISCO - The California Department of Public Health Thursday lifted its previous recommendation limiting travel to 120 miles from home. The announcement also came with a warning to avoid non-essential travel in and out of California to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and new strains of the virus from other parts of the world.
The update comes as COVID vaccinations, warm weather, spring break, and the Easter holiday are prompting more people to travel.
"There's just a feeling of hope now. It's really special to see," said Terry Haney, managing director of San Francisco's Presidio Lodging which oversees the Inn at the Presidio.
The historic inn reopened Thursday with the hope that travelers are ready to return.
"You can feel the energy from tier orange. As soon as orange tier was announced people started booking," said Haney.
Like many hotels, the Inn at the Presidio has made changes by adding new pandemic protocols. Rooms are sanitized and sealed before each guest arrives.
"Our first night open we're at about 65% occupancy," said Haney, "I think it has to do with spring break the next couple weeks. Today we're seeing a tremendous number of families."
At one scenic stop in San Francisco, Chloe Karp, a Chicago college student said she had come to see relatives during her spring break.
"My dad and I are one shot into the vaccine and we're getting more comfortable with the idea of traveling and it was worth it to us to see family," said Karp.
Others say they prefer to wait.
"We're not traveling for a while. We're not vaccinated so we're still into the social distancing," said Katie Coughlin of San Francisco, "We're just headed to Sonoma for a week to get out of the city, out of the condo."
California health officials discourage non-essential, recreational travel in and out of the state and said Thursday Californians should comply with CDC guidelines.
"The CDC still recommends against people traveling to help slow the spread of COVID-19," said Sergio Avila, a AAA Northern California and Nevada spokesman.
Avila says there are signs more people are on the move.
"Compared to March of 2020, AAA booking data shows we're up about 86% compared to last year," said Avila.
AT SFO, passenger traffic remains 70% down from pre-pandemic times.
Nationwide, the TSA says more than 1 million travelers have passed through U.S. airports since March 11th, representing a rebound from just several hundred thousand last year.
Airlines are responding.
This week, Delta announced it will no longer leave middle seats empty and begin fully booking flights starting May 1st. It was the last U.S. airline to keep the extra spacing.
United Airlines says it will hire 300 pilots, citing increasing travel demand.
CDC guidelines say travelers should get a COVID-19 test 1-3 days before any trip and 3-5 days after returning, with quarantines as a precaution.
Avila says it's important to check the pandemic conditions at your destination and make sure to read through the policies for rescheduling or refunds if COVID conditions change. AAA has a Triptik website that lists travel restrictions.
Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.