By Dr. Henning Ansorg, M.D., FACP,  Health OfficerCounty of Santa Barbara, Department of Public Health

The holidays are usually a time when families and friends travel to celebrate together.  Unfortunately, travelling significantly increases the risk of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.  Staying home and avoiding travel is the best way to protect yourself and others.  

The rate of new coronavirus infections in the State has risen sharply over the past two weeks and most of California, Santa Barbara County included, now again has widespread community spread of the virus.

Traveling Comes with More Risk this Holiday Season

The California Department of Public Health and Governor’s Office have issued a travel advisory on November 13, 2020 advising against all non-essential travel at this time.

 If you have to travel this year, please be aware of the potential risks involved. Consider the following before travel: 

Know Your Risk for Infection

  • Anyone can get very ill from the virus that causes COVID-19, but older adults and people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness if they become infected with SARS-CoV2.

Find out about Infection Rates at Your Destination

  • The more cases at your destination, the more likely you are to be infected during travel and spread the virus to others when you return.
  • The following websites from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) can help you to assess the risk of travel both locally and internationally: 

Check if Your Destination has Requirements Before or After You Arrive

  • Some destinations have requirements, such as requiring people to test prior to travel or to quarantine upon arrival. Check state, territorial, tribal and local public health websites for information before you travel. If you are traveling internationally, check the destination’s Office of Foreign Affairs or Ministry of Health or the US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Country Information page for details about entry requirements and restrictions for arriving travelers. 

Consider How California’s Travel Advisory May Impact Your Return Home 

  • The California Travel Advisory from November 13, 2020 states that travelers should quarantine for 14 days when returning to Santa Barbara County after travel. State guidance on travel can be found here.  Check with your worksite to understand how this advisory may affect your return to work. 

For more information about risks associated with travel visit the CDC’s Know Your Risk website. 

Stay Safe during the Holidays 

However you and your loved ones choose to celebrate the holidays, it is important to keep the following in mind:

  1. Be advised that no gatherings are currently allowed in Santa Barbara County, except with members of your own household or the very limited instances outlined in the local Health Officer Order. 
  1. Cover your nose and mouth completely when wearing a cloth face covering to prevent disease spread when outside your home and around others that are not part of your household.  
  1. Avoid confined spaces – Actively stay away from indoor spaces that do not allow for easy distancing of at least 6ft between you and others.
  1. Avoid close contact – Stay at least 6 feet away from all other people who are not part of your own household, especially while talking, eating and drinking.
  1. Remain outdoors as much as possible when encountering people not in your household. 
  1. Wash or sanitize your hands often.
  1. Clean frequently touched items regularly. 
  1. If you are sick or you have been in contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19 or has symptoms of COVID-19 get tested ,stay home, and away from others. 

Know Where to Get Reliable Information

Beware of scams, false news, and hoaxes surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Accurate information, including current guidance in Santa Barbara County, will always be distributed by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and will be available  at For additional information in Santa Barbara County, please call 2-1-1, available 24 hours a day. 

Stay safe Santa Barbara County!

Dr. Henning Ansorg, M.D., FACP is  a graduate of Justus-Liebig-University Medical School Giessen, Germany. He completed Residency training in Munich, Germany and Tucson, AZ and is board certified in Family Practice (Germany) and Internal Medicine (USA). Dr. Ansorg is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and is on the Medical Staff at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara. He has many years of experience in different clinical settings including 10 years of Private Practice and Urgent Care in Munich, Germany as well as 11 years of Internal Medicine/Geriatrics in Arizona as well as 4 years at the Santa Barbara County Health Care Center. Dr. Ansorg has served as Public Health Officer for Santa Barbara County since April 2019.