Recreational Travel Against California Travel Restrictions
March 16, 2021 4:58 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the Bay Area, and I know lots of people in my work and social circles who are traveling for recreation - the classic case is traveling up to Tahoe to ski or play in the snow or just hang out in a cabin & enjoy being someplace else. Californians are under a travel restriction to not travel more than 120 miles from your home. I think traveling given the public health restriction is a wrong and selfish thing to do, but maybe I'm being too harsh?

Beyond the classic "up to Tahoe for a snow weekend", there's also travel down to SoCal, and some people are traveling out of state (car and plane). Some people are traveling to see (vaccinated) family. Varying degrees of safety in terms of mask-wearing, avoiding local populations, etc., but I'm not sure if that's that relevant to this question, which is more about the morality of violating the state public health travel restrictions, independent of how much risk one might think they're creating for themselves or others. Most of these people are, as you might guess, white and/or privileged (e.g. upper middle class techies)

In case it matters, the exact text on the California website is:
"To prevent further spread of COVID-19 and help contain any new sources of infection, Californians should stay within 120 miles from their home or other place of residence, unless they are traveling for essential purposes. Essential travel includes: work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care, and safety and security." It is not explicitly a law, nor are there any teeth to the restriction if you break it (e.g. fines).

As I said above, I think this travel is morally wrong, and am considering withdrawing from relationships with people who are traveling against the public health orders, because to me that's about as clear of a case of "privileged people acting on selfish entitlement" as you can get. But maybe it's not all that bad and I'm just grumpy from a year in lockdown & from trying to gently let my young kids down when they talk about wanting to visit the snow like their friends are? What would you be saying if a friend or acquaintance or work colleague was talking about their weekend plans in Tahoe or traveling down to SoCal to see their elderly vaccinated parents? How would you be using that information in thinking about your relationship with them?
posted by Jaclyn to Human Relations (46 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think there's a huge difference between a recreational getaway and seeing family. I would have no problem judging someone's recreational getaway but I have a harder time with seeing your parents especially if you're going out of your way to be as safe as possible all around. But potentially carrying your germs to a small community who does not necessarily have the hospital capacity like Tahoe, just for funsies, is I think a step too far. That's someone who's not making good choices & knowingly endangering other people. I can't align myself with that.
posted by bleep at 5:12 PM on March 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

I would be thinking: I wish they weren’t doing that, and also man, I wish I were doing that. Also I would remember that they’re not who put us in this position in the first place, and that you never know what individual people are dealing with. Then I would feel self-righteous for a bit and then focus on something else.

If they were constantly thoughtless jerks, I’d rethink the friendship, but a lot gets a pandemic pass in my book these days.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:15 PM on March 16, 2021 [11 favorites]

I think there's a difference between following rules for rules sake (The government told me to do this, so I'm doing it), following rules because you think it's the Right Thing To Do (The government says I shouldn't care about air filtration, but based on the information I've read, I bought several air filters for my house), and following rules against your better interest (Metafilter says I should take caution exercising outdoors, so I'm going to avoid that, even though exercise might help me mentally, and physically against covid, and the risk outside is infinitesimal).

You don't know what's happening in their lives. If they aren't contacting others, there's almost no reason to not visit vaccinated people in private spaces. Distance to home isn't going to matter, neither is a quick fill up at a gas station outdoors. A ski trip sounds incredibly safe - outdoor activities, boosting their mental and physical health, with few interactions.

In the scheme of the types of rule-following, I would say the 150 miles limit is arbitrary. I'm sure the MAIN thing california wants to prevent is indoor gatherings of people not living together, including large events, and other family gatherings.

I would personally never ask anyone do not do something that's safe, for some arbitrary government rule.
posted by bbqturtle at 5:18 PM on March 16, 2021 [23 favorites]

It's been a really long year, and the truth is that at this point, especially if people are vaccinated, it's possible to travel safely. I don't see the point in judging anyone for this. You either know these people well enough to care about them, or don't know them well enough to have an accurate idea of what they've been dealing with psychologically or logistically over the past year.

There's no harm in cutting somebody a break.
posted by something something at 5:22 PM on March 16, 2021 [15 favorites]

I am not staying, and will not in the future make friends with, people who acted like this.

It's a fundamental difference in values to mine, particularly in the value placed on other people's lives. Because normalizing travel, expecting unvaccinated people to serve me and all the other people who have decided (many of them also unvaccinated) to go ahead and do it because "everybody else is", all this appalling "got mine" shit is gross and not a character trait I want to find out too late I shouldn't have trusted.

You do not have to be friends with people if you don't like the way they act.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:29 PM on March 16, 2021 [16 favorites]

Eh, IDK. On the one hand I don't want to encourage people to ignore government guidelines but on the other hand it's pretty definitively safer to recreate outdoors in Tahoe than to eat indoors at a restaurant in SF or have a couple other households over for dinner (both of which I believe are currently allowed?). I would judge friends much more harshly for eating indoors at a restaurant than I would for traveling 125 miles and going to a ski resort, even though one is officially allowed and the other discouraged.

(Full disclosure: I do regularly travel back and forth to a neighboring state to ski. I comply with the regulations of both states, which means I get tested on both ends of the trip.)
posted by mskyle at 5:30 PM on March 16, 2021 [10 favorites]

Between Covid, politics, and religion, 2020 definitely changed the way I feel about an awful lot of people. Many of the fractures were there, but tolerable, due to politics and religion prior to 2020... but by the end of last year, I was just done.

I still am. The selfishness, entitlement, and just pure stupidity reached levels I simply don't want to deal with... and it really clarified for me the things that really matter. And spending time with people, or even listening to them or seeing their posts on social media, when it's utter nonsense, whether they're relatives, long-time friends, or whatever, simply consumes too much time and energy. It's not worth the time it takes away from those I'm closest to and WANT to prioritize.

Granted, I was already in the process of making some of these changes, removing toxic people and situations from my life, but 2020 sped the process up and made it an urgent necessity. I'm not bothering with causing drama, either - I've simply ghosted those people who directly message me, or more commonly, not reached out, since I tended to be the one that carried the relationship anyway. If they're on social media, well, I just make sure I can't see their posts. They never notice the difference. If someone just can't stop themselves by directing things AT me, well, then I remove or block and move on. Life's too short to put up with it.
posted by stormyteal at 5:42 PM on March 16, 2021 [16 favorites]

Right now the guidance is completely f*cked and reveals the utter folly of opening restaurants and not shutting travel the f*ck down in the first place or at any time since then. They can't say that vaccinated people can do anything extra, because they're left too much room already.

The official guidance is that if you're vaccinated, you can begrudgingly visit other vaccinated people, and that's pretty much it. Vaccinated people -officially- shouldn't eat in restaurants or travel! Even though those things are open! So here I am, vaccinated and sitting at home, while other cov-idiots are out flying around and laughing it up at the bar.

It all makes no sense, because it started from a place that made no sense (under that last guy) and never did get to a place that made sense, such that they could loosen it in a way that made sense for, say, vaccinated people.

I just have a big, big set of blinders on right now with regards to other people, because as I've already ranted, the messaging has been completely fucked since day 1, and no one can make sense of it because there's really no sense to make, and I'm not going to judge people for not making sense of it even thought it might SEEM clear. And you don't know who's vaccinated or why they're traveling, so it's generally hard to judge anyway. Don't ask, don't tell, just pray you make it to summer.

I'm glad I'm vaccinated because it means I won't die. I'll think about restaurants and traveling later. Right now I am too much of a misanthrope anyway, if you know what I mean. /rant.
posted by Dashy at 5:42 PM on March 16, 2021 [11 favorites]

Disclosure: I am not familiar with what COVID is currently like in California right now. Main reasons for having public health restrictions like that are 1. Injury incurred during those activities that puts additional strain on (smaller capacity health care ) resources such as 1. Car accidents 2. A broken leg during skiing or 3. Having to deploy search and rescue for hikers.

That being said I big indicator to me right now is how much people are footing. If you’re showing off your skiing vacation and bragging, I’m not too interested in having much of a relationship with you moving forward. If you feel like a trip to the outdoors would really help your mental health but realize that by prioritizing yourself you’ve put others at risk, I can probably find a way to move forward in friendship.

If a colleague was talking about a recreational trip I would probably try to say something like “that sounds like fun. Honestly, I’ve had to cut out any trips like that this past year and hearing about it is kind of hard for me. Insert question about other conversation topic such as the weather.”
posted by raccoon409 at 5:42 PM on March 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure where moral relativism stands these days, but I live in a state where people are turning up their noses at vaccine appointments despite widespread availability, refusing to wear masks indoors, and having street festivals. I would be hard for me to get angry at someone who's exceeded an arbitrary number of miles of travel.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:52 PM on March 16, 2021 [21 favorites]

Getting all judgmental over "letter of the law" situation violations isn't conducive to good mental well being in general, IMO. There is reckless behavior. Travel isn't one of those behaviors. Human contact is. Regardless the state rule. One can absolutely understand the reason for the rule, and if you haven't traveled because of the rule, good for you, I guess. It is totally possible to travel and have minimal to no contact with others, and I'm sure you can figure out how it can be done. Reckless behavior is reckless whether you're traveling in another State, or walking down the block. It's all in the specifics.

You're free to deal with people (or not) any way you wish. If bending the rules, compounded by privilege, make you upset, then that's the way it is. However, it's important to realize that it's entirely possible to not follow this particular rule and be a responsible person, and not be a risk or at risk. Privileged or not.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:53 PM on March 16, 2021 [12 favorites]

Much of the Bay Area is about to enter the Orange tier, so at this point, your complaints are going to fall on deaf ears. Especially for the more arbitrary stuff (if their 2nd home was in Scotts Valley rather than Tahoe, are they magically safer because they only traveled 60ish miles?).

That said, you can have whatever rules for friendship that you want.
posted by sideshow at 6:20 PM on March 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hi. I’m the person who you find discomfort with, who goes to Tahoe and has no problem with my decision. I’m wearing a mask, and not spending time indoors with other households. Meanwhile I have friends who spend time indoors with others in the very city that they live in. I don’t think distance really is the issue, at least from what I’ve heard and read about this virus from the CDC.

I think one way I’ve changed in the past year is that I’ve become more empathetic. In the beginning I was angry at people who spent time with their parents, or who vacationed. Now I feel empathy because they clearly have some need that they decided to override for safety. I’ve become a lot happier as a result. And I really think there’s been so many grey areas of things that weren’t socially acceptable in the beginning that have changed, you know? And it doesn’t seem to always map with the actual number of cases. It’s quite fascinating, really.

I don’t know if this is useful, can definitely judge people or measure who is moral or not based on your standards and how you think rules are or should be. But I suspect your daily existence may be overall a little less stressful if you reorient that energy that you expend on others and instead spend it on yourself and your family — and decide what YOU’RE okay with. And I’m okay with whatever you’re okay with.
posted by pando11 at 6:37 PM on March 16, 2021 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Here are the reasons for why the state of California is restricting travel outside your local community:
"Why travel is risky
When you travel, you spend more time outside your home and come into contact with people outside your household. You are near new people in airports, train stations, gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, short-term rentals, sightseeing attractions, and retail stores. These new people may be exposing you to COVID-19, or you may be unknowingly exposing them. People arriving in California from other states or Californians returning from other states or countries could also introduce new sources of infection (potentially including new strains of the coronavirus) to California. This contributes to community spread of the disease, which leads to more illness and death.

Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19."

I'll admit that I'm surprised so many people here think that the standard of following the public health rules (at minimum) during an ongoing pandemic is too high of a standard to expect people to follow. Good insight for me to think about.
posted by Jaclyn at 6:43 PM on March 16, 2021 [13 favorites]

This situation is causing enormous moral distress on those of us who highly value ethics in our decision making. It's stressful to watch, disturbing, at times enraging, to see in our loved ones flaunt these travel restrictions. I have also gotten upset at people about this in my heart and mind, and occasionally in incredulous voice. I resent friends who have chosen to travel and I find it really challenging to continue to address my (health worker!) coworkers who wear their masks under their noses.

Having said this: we're in a situation that is enormously challenging for most humans: We have an ever-changing and ambiguous set of standards that vary from county to county (how can one place have indoor dining?? While across the Bay we can't. Furthermore, some restrictions are utterly free of logic or reason: playgrounds should NEVER have closed, for one example. The research reveals new guidance and also the experts take a while to catch up. The rules don't make sense, and they're inconsistent, and they're applied almost arbitrarily. Authority has completely eroded, and also, we've been asked to do this for an entire year!

I'm not saying you're wrong. You're in fact, right. But.... and I don't know if this helps, but the many health workers I work with, including the ones whose judgement and work I most value, are not really especially hung up on this. Personally my rage is directed mostly toward decades of starving our public health departments and the complete shit-show that is for-profit, patchwork healthcare system. I want to drown Gavin Newsom in a lake for his stupid French Laundry bullshit and all that symbolizes about privilege and white supremacy and wealth. But... individual actors are truly not the problem.

This is how I think about it: I'm against factory farming. It is unequivocally worsening global warming and torturous to animals and poisonous to our water supply. I'm a vegetarian as a result. But I still love and respect my meat eating friends. The system of factory farming has to change upstream of individual action. So while I disagree with recreational travel, I don't focus on it. I focus on trying to fix our shitty healthcare system. My suggestion? Channel that resentment into action.
posted by latkes at 6:49 PM on March 16, 2021 [23 favorites]

Here are the reasons for why the state of California is restricting travel outside your local community:
"Why travel is risky
When you travel, you spend more time outside your home and come into contact with people outside your household. You are near new people in airports, train stations, gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, short-term rentals, sightseeing attractions, and retail stores.

The problem with this policy is pretty similar to closing playgrounds. I have travelled hundreds of miles without coming into contact with any new people. From my car, to a self-serve gas station (with nobody around) to a no-touch airbnb on the beach. Or to vaccinated family.

It's not the distance that makes things bad. It's how you travel. I would recommend you focus on encouraging healthy behaviors (skiing outside is so healthy and safe!) and discourage unhealthy behaviors (eating indoors within 10 miles is WAY worse than anything outdoors!). Don't let the government override common sense for what's permissable.
posted by bbqturtle at 7:03 PM on March 16, 2021 [20 favorites]

My understanding as a Californian is that there is no public health restriction against travel the way there are actual rules against, say, indoor dining or congregating with other households (depending on your tier). The recommendation is that you don't travel. If you do travel, you must follow your county requirements (for example in my county you must quarantine for 10 days after you return) as well as any other restrictions in each county.

There is no travel ban in California, or to California. Airports are open. Maybe there should be a travel ban, but there is not one.
posted by muddgirl at 7:05 PM on March 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

Something I'll just quickly add - because it seems relevant, and I don't think it's come up in the thread. I live in California, tend to be pretty well-informed about things, and have never heard of this restriction.
posted by kickingtheground at 7:06 PM on March 16, 2021 [20 favorites]

What would you be saying if a friend or acquaintance or work colleague was talking about their weekend plans in Tahoe or traveling down to SoCal to see their elderly vaccinated parents? How would you be using that information in thinking about your relationship with them?

I wouldn't be thinking of those two things as the same AT ALL. Honestly, if someone at this point is looking at taking a visit to elderly vaccinated parents vs the risk of never seeing their parents again? I would be asking if they needed me to water their plants while they're gone.

If someone was talking about their weekend plans in Tahoe I might think to myself really? You couldn't wait? The park isn't good enough for your ass? But you know what, I don't know their life. I might kind of always think of them as being a bit...I dunno, a bit of a wuss?

But I have been doing things that have been inconsistently allowed or upon which Metafilter in general frowns: bubbling with another household, for example. Probably some of my friends will never speak to me again once they find this out; frankly, I don't care. We bubbled as carefully as we could following the guidance we had and it's pretty much the only thing that kept any of us alive. There's no indication that we put anyone at more risk traveling the 3 block radius between our homes than we did by going for (totally allowed) outdoor walks or for (again, allowed) occasional grocery trips, but if someone wants to think we're monsters I won't hold it against them.

Basically, unless you were marching bare-faced into Target 4x a week and eating indoors with 11 people in December, I'm not holdin' nothin' against nobody in a big-time, lasting way.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:08 PM on March 16, 2021 [10 favorites]

My housemate is a nurse who works in a COVID ward and she goes to Tahoe every weekend to ski. I had to go to Nevada for a job last week and am not in a position to turn it down because of some arbitrary mileage limit.

You're fine.

There seems to be way, way, way more moral distress about stuff like this here on Metafilter than in real life. The guidelines are a combination of ambiguous, stupid, and ever changing - hard for me to see this as some kind of black-and-white ethical dilemma that I must judge every acquaintance by. I do not know a single IRL person who would curtail, say, a camping trip because of CA's current guidelines. If you have people in your life who will cut off all contact and judge you harshly for this..... don't tell them?
posted by bradbane at 7:20 PM on March 16, 2021 [18 favorites]

I would be (and am) having the same thoughts you are. Recreational travel seems unconscionable to me right now in the U.S. Family travel for most reasons short of a serious medical emergency likewise, but I also don't think anyone owes it to me to explain that their parent is about to die or whatever the situation is, so I'm doing my best to assume that people who are doing family visits right now have made the best assessment they could in a terrible time. (This is easier when they're driving an hour straight to a vaccinated parent's house, harder when they're flying, interacting with hotel staff, etc., but I'm trying to assume good faith and harm reduction are at play.)

I'm still working through how much this is going to affect some of my friendships in a post vaccination world, honestly. No one's getting dramatically cut off, but there are some friendships that I will not be rushing to resume because of what pandemic behavior had shown me about our respective values. If those friendships fade away, so be it.

I'm mostly just changing the subject with work colleagues. I keep a pretty firm work life boundary up anyway so it's not terribly weird that I'm not getting excited to talk about vacation plans.
posted by Stacey at 7:33 PM on March 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

It is possible to do some travel and be pretty safe. It is possible to stay local and be very unsafe. I'd suggest that it's more important to be concerned with how people are conducting themselves than where.
posted by Candleman at 7:34 PM on March 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

I get why they want people to stick close to home as much as possible, but the reality is that the distance you travel is not very strongly connected to your risk of getting or spreading COVID. Traveling to a ski area 150 miles away and spending the whole day outside except to visit the bathroom a couple of times is against the rules. Spending time browsing at half a dozen different stores within 30 miles of your house every day of the week isn't, even though it's actually riskier. If you're going to judge people on their behavior, don't do it based on whether they're complying with a fairly arbitrary rule, do it based on how much additional risk they're actually introducing.

I suppose you could make the case that breaking laws or going against official guidelines is always inherently morally wrong even when you believe no harm is being done, but I don't personally believe that. And even if it is immoral, I don't know that you really ought to be thinking about cutting people out of your life for that level of immorality. Would you stop being friends with someone who often drove 10 mph over the speed limit?
posted by Redstart at 7:43 PM on March 16, 2021 [8 favorites]

For what it's worth, travel restrictions (quarantining for two weeks on arrival to a province or territory, more local restrictions as case loads and indications of community spread warrant - all based from the start last spring on recommendations of actual experts in public health and epidemiology) seem to have been exceptionally effective at stemming the initial pandemic and preventing/containing new waves of outbreaks since last spring in Canada's Atlantic provinces and far north. Yes, it does indeed suck that I haven't seen my family in over a year. On the plus side, life is closer to "normal" here and the other restrictions on what folks can safely do (in terms of both rules/policy and actual public health best practices) are minimal. And we haven't had nearly the number of deaths as anywhere in the US. Like, I know US media can be really US-centric, but I can't emphasize enough how comparatively bad the pandemic response appears from an outsider's perspective to have been (and still is, though the US is doing a relatively better job with the one detail of vaccination efforts since late January) in the US, even in the supposedly better states.

When you have a pandemic that is transmitted by casual contact, keeping it under control requires reducing pathways for potential transmission, which means (a) making the network of connections far less interconnected/making the number of other people each individual comes in contact with much smaller, and (b) putting as many physical barriers to transmission as possible in place for the contacts that do occur. You need both pieces - staying close to home or only interacting with from five to ten other people regularly is not enough (especially with the new, more transmissible strains) on its own, and mask wearing is not enough on its own. So yeah, it sounds like the rules in California are quite a kludge, poorly communicated, and too permissible in many respects. That doesn't invalidate the science behind the pieces that they do get right. It is the distance, in part, that makes things bad, because it increases the graph connectivity between regions and communities.

And while politicians in the US have mostly been quite bad at communicating about the pandemic, it's not like reliable scientific public health advice from actual epidemiologists hasn't been available for people who have access to internet and sufficient level of education.(*) In my opinion, it is not unreasonable to expect people with such resources to actively search out and follow scientifically accurate advice, and I definitely view not doing so when one has the resources and opportunity as unethical behavior. "Bars are open and that is worse so I should be able to do nonessential travel" is similar reasoning to, eg., "someone else already set a forest fire here, so me dumping a big load of all of my household waste is okay", neither of which are a valid or ethical argument to me. Someone else doing a worse thing does not excuse you doing the not-great thing.

(* Noting that there are lots of people this description does not apply to, though it is more likely to apply to folks who live in the Bay Area and can also afford ski vacations in Tahoe.)
posted by eviemath at 7:50 PM on March 16, 2021 [9 favorites]

But latkes makes a good point about systemic problems/failings versus Individual responsibility, too.
posted by eviemath at 7:57 PM on March 16, 2021

FWIW I agree with you.

However, this article mentions "harm reduction:" Covid-19’s big public health lesson: Ask people to be careful, not perfect
posted by oceano at 9:18 PM on March 16, 2021 [6 favorites]

"What would you be saying if a friend or acquaintance or work colleague was talking about their weekend plans in Tahoe or traveling down to SoCal to see their elderly vaccinated parents?"

At this point, I wouldn't say anything. We're over a year into this mess. No reasonably aware person is confused about travel recommendations. Commenting is unlikely to educate; at best it may elicit an attempt to self-justify.

In terms of how to handle these relationships going forward: this is my opinion as someone who leads a particular, ethically motivated lifestyle. I would urge grace. When you live by ethical tenets that are not universal, you have to decide whether to be unyielding, or tolerant. I've not observed positive emotional outcomes for almost anyone who does the former. I think at first it feels just and empowering to think that way, but it becomes embittering. And for what? If there were a need for you to pass judgment or otherwise take action, that'd be one thing. Social pressure can be a valuable tool. But again, I think people are pretty much wherever they are at this point, and that any previous buildup of social pressure will continue to deflate.

Eventually you're only being hard on yourself, even it's disguised as "holding others accountable."

Obviously, with close friends, you may have to decide if there's an unbridgeable moral gap. To me, this sorta comes down to attitude. If you have a close friend who ignores guidelines because they really don't care, that's bad. If your friend doesn't follow guidelines, but feels conflicted about it, maybe take comfort in the fact that they understand and at least partly share your ethical position. Like, at a certain point, this stuff is not so much about shared ethics as it is about differing levels of willpower. Yes, there are levels at which dereliction of moral willpower is flat-out not okay. But a. I don't think this level of COVID misbehavior meets that definition, and b. on a practical level, I think most Americans just do not have the willpower to follow these guidelines for over a year. In general, it's hard for people to resist the norms/behaviors they see around them--and for people who grow up in societies of abundance*, it's VERY difficult to resist living more pleasantly.

*i.e., people with limited stamina for anything they aren't strictly required to endure

In that light, I think those of us who've gotten frustrated with acquaintances over COVID stuff may really be grieving our ignorance of the American societal character, a character that we sensed but did not care to witness. (...And/or that we fear we also harbor, and might display under harder circumstances...)
posted by desert outpost at 10:53 PM on March 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

Ah, that got off track. I guess I would just add that I feel pretty stoic about Americans who are taking car-based vacations right now. Because if Americans haven't been banned from something, and the risk of doing the thing is not both dire and readily apparent, then in general, they're going to do that thing.

It could be argued that nearby vacations still, in fact, carry dire risks...but I dunno. I've been stringent about this virus, but at this moment, is a nearby vacation SO much worse than staying in the Bay Area, going to local stores, etc? From the Bay, most in-state drives can be made without stops. (Assuming a normal adult bladder and a willingness to be mildly dehydrated.) And if the intent is to then stay in a vaccinated relative's home, and not go out and about, or else to rent a vacation unit where the household isn't around strangers...that sounds pretty reasonable to me.

Of course, I'm not sure of the nature of your acquaintances' plans; for all I know they're about to get on a plane unvaccinated for no good reason, while saying, "Gee, can't wait to get to L.A. and eat at X Y Z restaurants!" I'm just saying: it's at least possible to do this sort of travel at low risk to the public. To me, a cautious drive of 200-400 miles isn't even in the same universe as, like, "Would you believe the price I got on my ticket to Florida? Spring fucking break, baby!!!"
posted by desert outpost at 11:07 PM on March 16, 2021 [3 favorites]

As someone who was forced to work in a hospital for nearly the entirety of the pandemic until January, I can't help but chuckle a bit about what I see as a bit of overly high mindedness of some in regards to diligently following COVID restrictions. In my experience, both personally and professionally (mental health) it is typically the people who are the least likely to catch COVID (white, financially stable to well off, remote workers with health insurance) who are the most uptight (and frankly, judgmental) about following COVID rules. Like, I get this past year has been hard in varying degrees for everyone, but I honestly feel like people need to cut others some slack, if only for their own wellbeing because living in a world where you cut off people because they've decided to travel or whatever makes no sense when you've been getting your Prime packages delivered by some poor schlub who is forced to hustle or if you bought a Tesla made by workers forced to return to work in open defiance of the law or if you benefited (you did) by having whole hospitals of people putting their lives at risk to make sure you had access to healthcare.

Let's all just cut people some slack because I promise that someone (your instacart guy or your partner or housemate) has had to cut you some during this shitty shitty time.
posted by flamk at 11:28 PM on March 16, 2021 [47 favorites]

I’m a Californian (LA) who never went indoors anywhere from November through February due to the surge, who double masks, and is generally Covid cautious. I was loosely aware of the travel recommendations, but they’re just that - recommendations. The travel guidance is there to help you minimize risk, and even the page you quoted talks about what to do if you DO travel. On this one, I can forgive the travelers who exceed 120 miles. If you do grocery pickup and self-service gas, I honestly don’t see the risk.
posted by samthemander at 11:32 PM on March 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

If you want an outside perspective: I'm posting from the southeastern part of the plague isle of Great Britain, where we are now able to indulge in outdoor recreation again, but all we have to go on when it comes to location is a vague "stay local", nothing as helpful as an actual DISTANCE. I'm green with envy that you get to know that it's considered OK to drive a hundred miles for a change of scenery, while I'm tying myself in knots over whether it's reasonable for me to walk three miles to the coast, given that I'd be walking through the edge of a village I don't live in to get there.

I would look very askance right now at someone choosing to ignore something as unambiguous as "Please, for public health reasons, don't go more than 120 miles from home for the time being". I would assume that some thought had gone into that request and the specific number in it.

I wouldn't end a friendship over it though. I'd carry on doing what I'm doing myself - I'm in a position to be able to minimise the chances of my catching the virus or passing it on to anyone else, I'm doing what I can to minimise what I ask others to risk on my behalf, and it's not driving me completely insane (yet), so I'll stick with it - and accept that other people analyse risks differently. This is a situation that's unprecedented in our lifetimes, and it's hopefully a situation that we will never find ourselves in again. I wouldn't (and don't) want to let how my friends behave in exceptional circumstances affect how much I enjoy their company in non-exceptional ones.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:55 AM on March 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

I suspect the reason for a 100- or 120- or 150-mile rule is that's about the distance you can expect for a daytrip in a car, without needing to stop except maybe for gas. If you are taking public transit or flying, staying overnight, eating or shopping in local restaurants, are/are not vaccinated, etc, that changes the calculus considerably, in a way that is, to me, non-trivial.

For instance, your example of visiting vaccinated parents (assuming 2 weeks after last dose, etc) is orders of magnitude different than skiing in Tahoe followed by après with ten other unvaccinated people, or going to your neighborhood "Irish" pub for St Patricks Day. One of these activities is allowed; one of them is safe; are they the same?

This question is partly about morality and judgement, but it's also about envy/jealousy at perceived frivolity in the midst of pandemic. I don't know how to easily separate the two.

Many moons ago, I took an undergraduate child psychology course that discussed moral development. We learned the Kohlberg stages and the Heinz dilemma. Maybe they've been supplanted by more recent research, but I've found it actually pretty helpful in understanding how people have responded to lockdown and vaccinations and all this jazz.
posted by basalganglia at 4:59 AM on March 17, 2021 [8 favorites]

I would assume that some thought had gone into that request and the specific number in it.

I don't think that is true. Look at those addendums. It's 100% a rule that recommends you to stay home unless you are a useful economic unit. In the scope of CA travel, it's right at the edge of being able to travel from LA to San Diego, two giant major metros.

I honestly think they made it up because they don't want to hit certain sectors and the earlier advice to not go to the beach or do anything even sort of 'fun' outdoors turned out to be completely incorrect.

In other words, walking 3 miles to beach is among the safest things you can do as long as you reasonably social distance.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:54 AM on March 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

I'll admit that I'm surprised so many people here think that the standard of following the public health rules (at minimum) during an ongoing pandemic is too high of a standard to expect people to follow. Good insight for me to think about.

I'd revise this to say that, for a lot of us, public health rules have been kind of a shitshow, and we're all trying our best to do what's safe and manageable. For example, I live in NY, and they've just bumped up indoor dining to 50% capacity. So I can go eat at a half full restaurant and be following public health rules. But I think those public health rules are wrong, and that following them would be irresponsible. To my mind, driving to spend a weekend in a cabin is much less dangerous than doing the restaurant dining that my state finds perfectly acceptable.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:35 AM on March 17, 2021 [8 favorites]

I don't agree that it is morally wrong to travel. You can certainly think otherwise.

To withdraw from a relationship based on this seems pretty rigid.

You can despise entitled and privileged behavior, but I'd not use this one rule as a test.
posted by rhonzo at 9:40 AM on March 17, 2021

(I would totally agree, by the way, that these folks are being jerks if they are boasting about all of their funtimes on social media. There was a sense, before the vaccines and before there was a potential to ever do anything again, that at least we were all in this together except for the REAL dillweeds. I am happy for every person who gets vaccinated and so so relieved but also, like, now we are NOT all in this together; some of us are done, and others are still left in the shit, and that is harder.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:14 AM on March 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have no problem with people who are forced by economic factors to not follow the guidelines.

Those people aren't going skiing.

And it is impossible to separate, in California for sure, that the people who are largely forced by economic factors to not follow the guidelines, the people who are dying, are mostly not white and not rich. It is crystal clear those people don't matter, don't count as human, to people who choose to disregard the guidelines for fun and comfort.

Like the people who have to clean the bathrooms in Tahoe, and at our beaches, and all those places where you're having your "outdoor fun". The people who clean the Airbnbs (you don't think the rich white landlords are doing that, do you?) and hotel rooms, the people in those drive-thrus you're using on your roadtrips and the servers (and the entire kitchen staff) at the "outdoor" dining, the tow truck drivers who have to come when you have car trouble. And then there's all the locals in the emergency room when your unquarantined self breaks your leg, or gets in a car accident, or wake up unable to breathe.

The point of the mileage restriction is to stop people going on multi-county community spread sprees. So yes, those of us who are staying home because we are able and doing so because it's the right thing are going to have a problem with people with other priorities. That shouldn't be surprising, even if it hurts.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:35 AM on March 17, 2021 [7 favorites]

Sorry, when I said "people who are forced by economic factors" obviously there are other factors besides economics that are forcing people to take risks they'd rather not. Some are essential workers or can't/aren't allowed to work under safer circumstances, or it could be they have caretaking responsibilities, medical needs, insecure housing etc. Non-recreational, though, whatever the exact circumstances.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:59 AM on March 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'll admit that I'm surprised so many people here think that the standard of following the public health rules (at minimum) during an ongoing pandemic is too high of a standard to expect people to follow. Good insight for me to think about.

Not that I really want to get started ranting again, but it's deeply true that half of people are below average. That includes stuff like public health directives all the way to the morality hierarchies that basal_ganglia posted above.

Public health people even make rules with that in mind. Must be maddening to them. But public health is a tragedy of commons. I always felt bad for feeling cynical about what I might expect from fellow humans. Now I know. Now we all know.
posted by Dashy at 12:52 PM on March 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Like the people who have to clean the bathrooms in Tahoe, and at our beaches, and all those places where you're having your "outdoor fun". The people who clean the Airbnbs (you don't think the rich white landlords are doing that, do you?) and hotel rooms, the people in those drive-thrus you're using on your roadtrips and the servers (and the entire kitchen staff) at the "outdoor" dining, the tow truck drivers who have to come when you have car trouble. And then there's all the locals in the emergency room when your unquarantined self breaks your leg, or gets in a car accident, or wake up unable to breathe.

I mean here's the thing: all of that shit can happen within 10 feet of your home as easily as 150 miles. I haven't traveled more than a couple miles all year but I still used restaurants that have kitchens and went to grocery stores that have staff and nearly broke my fucking knees less than a mile away and needed x-rays and medical assistance. Someone cleans the common areas of my apartment building (not the rich fucking owner that's for fucking sure). We just had a blizzard here and folks had to have their dead cars dragged out of snowbanks by tow trucks. If we actually gave a fuck about risk we would have actually shut shit down, but we don't, so we didn't. It's not even a matter of getting off a high horse. ALL OF THE HORSES ARE SHORT NOW, my dudes.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:17 PM on March 17, 2021 [12 favorites]

The biggest travel-specific problem is spreading the variants to other regions.
posted by latkes at 1:50 PM on March 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'm in a state where people (and not just privileged people - also poor people and people of color) have regularly refused to wear masks, had huge Thanksgiving/Christmas gatherings, and now our restaurants are at 75% indoor capacity(!!) I'm in a tourist location, and the tourists have been back since...the summer. People driving 150+ miles for the mental health benefits of seeing an elderly relative or outdoor fun who make a point to socially distance the whole time are not the problem. If these people going skiing are also filling their trip with indoor dinning, hanging out with various people without distancing, than yeah, that's gross. As is someone doing that within 5miles of their home.

Frankly, if I heard someone pass harsh judgement on someone for driving "too far" to see/hug a vaccinated elderly relative they hadn't been able to see for a year, I'd consider cutting that person out of my life for being devoid of empathy. Because after this year, I value kindness and radical empathy more than anything.
posted by coffeecat at 4:01 PM on March 17, 2021 [11 favorites]

I get it, I've been so frustrated and infuriated with people making choices I believe are ridiculously unsafe or even just moderately unsafe but in a way that sets a bad example.

But in a world where the government says indoor dining, gyms, and personal services are allowed but driving a few hours alone in your car (and yes, I do understand the complex risks involved and that it's not entirely about human contact) is not, I cannot imagine basing my moral judgement of someone on whether they're following the government's public health rules to the letter.

I worked in public health for years, and it is a deeply unfortunate thing, but it is not true that government public health regulations and recommendations always have clear and and unassailable logic and science behind them. In some cases they're fudging things to aim for harm reduction because perfect compliance isn't going to happen. In other cases, they're more economically motivated than human health and safety motivated. In still others, they're politically motivated, or based on missing or incorrect information.

It's not unreasonable to decide that because you don't have all the information to consider the risk of every single action you might take (no one does!), you'll follow the state's rules and recommendations. It IS unreasonable to believe that those rules and recommendations are equivalent to a moral code.

Unless your moral code IS that following the rules is required! In that case, while I have a hard time understanding that, I can see why it would make sense to pass a moral judgement on someone specifically for not following the rules.

Ultimately, of course, you get to make your own decisions about who you don't want to associate with and why, and you don't owe us or them an explanation for it. But you asked what others thought, and maybe this helps clarify why most commenters aren't in agreement that "following the public health rules (at a minimum)" is not in fact a reasonable standard to hold someone to.

How can you hold someone to a standard that isn't actually standard?
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:41 PM on March 17, 2021 [11 favorites]

I mean here's the thing: all of that shit can happen within 10 feet of your home as easily as 150 miles.

Here's the thing: you know that whole bubble idea? It works when sub-groups of people keep pretty well separated. The same low level of contact with people outside of your usual community really is worse. You can model this mathematically with graph theory: it's worse both for transmission of a static disease vector, and it's worse for increasing the rate at which new strains (that current vaccines may be mildly to significantly less effective against) develop. I know that expecting everyone to know random advanced math topics is highly unreasonable and that politicians have made some non-science-based rules and recommendations, so I understand folks' skepticism here. But please look up the details from an actual science-based source before continuing to promulgate this inaccurate claim.

This ties in with a reasoning error that lots of folks seem to be implicitly making in this thread: yes there are people doing higher risk of transmission activities locally than the people travelling longer distances but trying to better social distance while doing it. These are not necssarily the same individuals, though. You can see that here in the comments, where the folks trying to defend long distance recreational travel are not saying they would be going out to restaurants and bars or private parties and failing to mask locally if they were to stay home instead. Those people would tend to behave more responsibly locally as well. And the ones behaving irresponsibly locally? Yeah, you better believe they're not being super careful if they travel long distances either. Quite apart from intention, it's hard for people to change habits that much - if you're bad at wearing a mask in general everyday life, you're not going to have the requisite practice to do a good job of it while travelling, for example, or you'll just unknowingly and by habit do something that breaks your social distancing compliant intentions (and probably not even notice that you've done so).
posted by eviemath at 12:10 AM on March 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

One thing that struck me about your question is that while SoCal is clearly way over the limit, Tahoe is ~190 miles away, or the difference between a 2-hour and a 3ish-hour drive. So the most relevant comparison isn't between going to Tahoe and not traveling at all; it's going to Tahoe versus going to Monterey. Would you still feel mostly the same way about someone taking a weekend trip to Asilomar?

If you have absolutely no problem with someone taking a 2-hour drive, but do have a problem with a 3-hour drive, then it seems like the problem is not really about risk (as the difference in risk for you and others would be pretty minimal between these two scenarios). In fact, you've stated as much in your question. Since I'm taking you at your word that the utilitarian practical difference in risk is not important here, I think there are two ways to look at this.

One is the sort of deontological take, e.g., "what if everyone acted this way." Again, since the comparison is not "traveling vs. not traveling" but "the same people who are now going to Tahoe instead go to Asilomar," both of these probably involve a similar degree of interacting with others outside your usual contact network, so I personally doubt that this would have a major effect on the course of the pandemic. It's a judgment call, of course, both in terms of how big an effect it would have and the moral significance of this effect -- but my point is that thinking about it in this way might at least clarify how you feel about it.

The other thing that comes up is that this could be more of a response to perceived unfairness than it is really about the ethics of these specific decisions. In other words, it may be more about feeling resentful and frustrated that other people don't seem to feel bound or troubled by following the rules in the same way that you do. Or, it may partly be about feeling angry that some people have so much more privilege than others. I completely get feeling either or both of these emotions right now, especially in the Bay Area where the disparities are so glaring, and especially when you're contrasting tech bros' ski trips with how hard it is to raise children there (not to even mention the current additional burden on women as "default parents"). I've also personally sat through a lot of inane bro conversations about Tahoe, so I can see why at this point maybe you would be kind of BEC about these blatant displays of privilege.

It may be useful, though, to separate these feelings from your moral judgments of specific people's actions with respect to the pandemic. Also, if it really does have something to do with a strong emotional response to rule-breaking, and less to do with actual injustice, that may be something that is worth exploring, since that can ultimately have negative impacts on your relationships with others and potentially your own mental health. That doesn't mean you have to be friends with anyone who annoys you, or makes you angry, or whose lifestyle you don't respect -- just that you want to be clear on the difference between that and evaluating their actions as seriously unethical.

If it turns out that the difference in risk actually is important to you, though, then I think you do have to start considering a couple of other things. First, the rules handed down during this pandemic have been pretty arbitrary and can lag behind what we now know about Covid transmission (e.g. prioritizing cleaning surfaces vs. reducing time spent indoors and improving air filtration). It is also now clear that most of the spread is happening in clusters, almost all of which involve lots of people gathering together indoors (see e.g. the lack of spike in cases after the BLM protests, vs. the ACB confirmation super-spreader event where it turned out that there had been an indoor maskless buffet). So just because people may not be following official guidance does not necessarily mean they are ignoring it out of convenience, or that they lack a well-reasoned and consistent ethical basis for making that decision.

Second, while public-health experts seem to be basically in agreement about things like masking, testing, quarantining, dine-in restaurants, bars, and other indoor gatherings, the extent to which we should sanction minor risks like road trips to the beach is something that is much more actively debated. This is especially relevant after it became clear that these restrictions were going to be in place for years as opposed to weeks. One of the reasons is that forbidding things isn't risk-free: in other public health contexts, it's accepted that shaming people for low-risk activities can not only be ineffective but can even be counterproductive. Practically, people are better able to adhere to long-term restrictions if they feel less onerous and still allow them to get their needs met in some ways. People also react to shame in ways that are not helpful (getting more covert, distancing themselves from people whom they think will judge them, etc.). That's why people are weighing approaches like harm reduction, even when taking a hard line would be "better" assuming that everyone followed the rules perfectly.

Again, with these last two points, I'm not saying you are wrong to feel the way that you do, or that these people are making the right choices, I'm just bringing up the main reasons that you might not expect perfect compliance with public-health guidance that aren't as much about individual people making unethical decisions. But I suspect that this aspect of it is, as you said, kind of beside the point anyway.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:04 PM on March 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

Not everyone values rule following in and of itself. I personally am a rule follower but I have to acknowledge that rules must be judged for their moral value on a case by case basis and not everyone is going to come to the same conclusion as I am.

I just try to keep the DND alignment chart in mind; people have different places on the axis of ‘good-evil’ and ‘lawful-chaotic’, the classic examples being a hippy as chaotic good and a nazi as lawful evil.

Just because someone breaks a rule doesn’t mean they are evil.
posted by bq at 12:58 PM on March 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

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