October 1, 2020

Are California State Parks Open During the Pandemic?

ImageNoah and Valentina Gonzalez relaxed at their campsite in Yosemite National Park in June.
Credit…Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Good morning.

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Today we have another installment of Your Lead, where we answer readers’ questions about how the pandemic is changing daily life in California. Submit your questions here.

Eli Edelson, a reader in Los Angeles, has been sheltering in place since March but wants to take a trip this summer with his friends to go hiking or camping. He wrote: “I am curious about the status of national parks and camping in California. Are they fully open?”

While many of California’s national and state parks are open to the public, there’s a caveat: Visitors still have to social distance, although wide open spaces may make that easier. And just because the scenery has changed, you should take the same health precautions that you would at home, like washing your hands regularly and not traveling if you’re feeling ill.

Additionally, public health officials say that visitors should be from the same household and must remain in small groups. They should wear masks when they aren’t able to stand six feet apart from other visitors.

“The state recognizes the need for people to explore the outdoors, get some fresh air and exercise,” said Gloria Sandoval, the deputy director of public affairs for California State Parks. “That’s why we are increasing access across our state park system provided that Californians do their part.”

Campgrounds in 80 state parks are currently open, and most of California’s national parks are open to visitors, with limitations.

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Updated 2020-07-13T12:45:14.643Z

Californians are still discouraged from traveling significant distances for recreation, so it’s best to also choose a park that’s close to home.

Before embarking on a trip, Ms. Sandoval advises first checking the park’s website to make sure it’s still open, as things change quickly. State park rangers are working hard to keep information on their website up to date. People can visit the Reserve California website to make a reservation or check to see if previous reservations still stand. Visitors whose reservations were canceled because of the pandemic were notified by phone or email.

Once you are settled into a campsite, be prepared for limited access to services, like barbecue pits, picnic areas and playgrounds. State park restrooms are open and are being cleaned more frequently. Visitor information centers and museums remain closed, for the most part.

State officials are closely watching counties where there’s been a surge in cases and parks can be quickly shuttered in response.

[See The Times’s map tracking cases in California.]

“We’re monitoring physical distancing and visitation, and if there is a need for us to toggle back on some of these opportunities to increase access we will definitely do so,” Ms. Sandoval said.

Mr. Edelson, who works as a TV writer, said that Yosemite National Park was on the top of his travel wish list. The park has partially reopened, having reduced the number of vehicles allowed to enter. But because of the park’s distance from his home in Los Angeles, he may have to wait a little longer to see El Capitan and Half Dome in person.

We want to hear from you. Ask your question about life during the pandemic here.

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Credit…G L Askew II for The New York Times
  • In California, early hopes for a quick rebound from the pandemic have yielded to worries about its long-term impact on state finances and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ambitious agenda. [The New York Times]

  • An investigation reveals how Immigration and Customs Enforcement became a domestic and global spreader of the coronavirus. [The New York Times]

  • Results from a testing blitz in early April showed that Covid-19 struck mostly low-wage workers in San Francisco. [Stat]

  • A fire early on Saturday morning destroyed the roof and badly damaged the interior of the San Gabriel Mission, a Catholic church in Southern California that is more than 200 years old. [The New York Times]

  • A couple have agreed to plead guilty to charges that they paid $250,000 to fraudulently gain their daughter’s admission to the University of Southern California as a volleyball recruit, prosecutors said. [The New York Times]

  • The Bay Area’s homelessness crisis was severe before the pandemic, but even as it worsens, some say they see new opportunities for solving the crisis. [San Francisco Chronicle]

  • The family-owned publisher of The Sacramento Bee and The Miami Herald announced the winner of its bankruptcy sale: Chatham Asset Management, the owner of The National Enquirer. [The New York Times]

  • After the Trump administration said that international students must attend one in-person class to keep their visas, a former student from the University of California, Los Angeles, started a Google doc to help American students swap in-person classes with international students. [The Lily]

  • A Golden State Warriors fan who painted his Oakland home in team colors was about to lose it to foreclosure when he received a boost from the Warriors player Steph Curry, who shared his GoFundMe page on Instagram. [The Mercury News]

  • A fire broke out on the Navy warship Bonhomme Richard at the U.S. Naval base in San Diego on Sunday, the Navy said. Seventeen sailors and four civilians were being treated at a hospital for injuries that were described as not life-threatening. [The New York Times]

Credit…Jessica Perez/Hulu

My colleague A.O. Scott reviewed the film “Palm Springs,” a comedy set in the aforementioned city and starring Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg. The film, which Mr. Scott calls “wildly funny” and “admirably inventive,” takes some unexpected twists and turns. So does his review.

Read the full review here.

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Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.