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What lockdown orders mean when it’s not your hometown

Airports are open, for now. You should really just get home — and stay there.


(Washington Post illustration; iStock)

On Tuesday, President Trump dismissed the idea of a national order to stay home during a Fox News town hall broadcast; however, multiple states have implemented the instruction in hopes of stopping the coronavirus.

Last week, both California and Illinois issued stay-at-home orders for state residents to restrict the movement of people and slow the spread of the disease that causes covid-19. More than a dozen states and local governments have followed suit.

While the message is clear for residents, what should you do if you are visiting a city for essential reasons — like work or to care for family — when orders go into place? Here’s what you should know.

Travelers should follow local orders.

At this time, people should be traveling only if it’s essential. You’d be defying orders if you were hanging around for tourism purposes. If you can’t get home right away, follow the guidelines for residents.

“Travelers in California should abide by the governor’s ‘stay at home’ directive by remaining in their accommodations until they can safely return home,” Visit California President & CEO Caroline Beteta said in an email to The Washington Post.

If you’re a traveler in a state or city that’s under a stay-at-home order, there’s not much for you to do out of the house at this time, anyway. Most nonessential businesses have been shut down, including dine-in restaurants, bars and nightclubs, entertainment venues, gyms and fitness studios, public events and gatherings, convention centers, and hair and nail salons.

What’s left is grocery shopping, health-care appointments and outdoor exercise, but only when practicing proper social distancing.

Airports are still open — for now.

For those who traveled to a locked down city by plane, you may have limited options to get home as airlines continue to cut routes and cancel flights. But closed domestic airports aren’t the issue in most cases.

“Airports remain open, and most public transportation remains operational to ensure people can travel home if necessary,” said Beteta.

However, the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic are unpredictable. For example, earlier in March, the air-traffic control tower at Chicago’s Midway International Airport was temporarily closed. The situation may change depending on your location, so keep an eye on updates from your departure airport and airline.

Natural attractions may be open, but visiting is not encouraged.

The public has been getting mixed messages about going outside during stay-at-home orders.

On the one hand, people have been encouraged to get outside of their homes for some fresh air or exercise as long as they practice social distancing. The White House also waived entrance fees to national parks last week.

However, not everyone agrees that national parks and public outdoor spaces are the best places to go now.

“Many of our communities ask that visitors and Californians alike avoid flocking to trails, beaches and parks to minimize the spread of coronavirus, as well as adding burdens to health-care resources,” Beteta said.

Going outside becomes an issue when people don’t practice social distancing.

“It is irresponsible to urge people to visit national park sites when gathering at other public spaces is no longer considered safe,” the chairman of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, Phil Francis, told The Post.

Save the parks for later after stay-at-home orders have been lifted.

Don’t plan new trips to stay-at-home areas.

If you haven’t canceled an upcoming trip, and the destination is now under stay-at-home orders, don’t go.

“To ensure the utmost safety for visitors and residents alike, travelers who are dreaming of a getaway in the Golden State should postpone plans until the situation improves,” said Beteta.

With covid-19 present in all of the 50 states, it’s in travelers’ best interest to stay home and follow CDC guidelines to protect themselves and others from coronavirus’s spread.

Read more:

The completely correct guide to vacationing at home

12 historic sites you can virtually tour from the couch during the coronavirus outbreak

Just went on a cruise? Stay home for two weeks, CDC says.

Inside California’s great lockdown, glimpse America’s stay-at-home future