On Thursday, the California Department of Motor Vehicles announced that all DMV field offices in the state will close starting on Friday.
While physical locations will be closed until further notice, the DMV will resume services online starting on April 2nd. The DMV has enacted the mass closures in response to the need of social distancing and to avoid the risk of spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus during the pandemic.
“The DMV is concerned about the health and safety of its customers, including seniors and those at risk for COVID-19,” said the Department in a press release. “Following deep cleaning of the offices, expansion of virtual services and development of new protocols, DMV will offer in-person services in each region. The DMV will gradually add more transactions to continue to provide alternatives to an in-person office visit. Customers are encouraged to check the dmv.ca.gov website for future appointment availability.”
Services had been gradually reduced during March, with many services either having been moved online or all-together stopped. Behind-the-wheel tests had been canceled last week, with the DMV even asking California law enforcement to stop giving tickets for expired licenses and registrations until May. Any in-person need had been switched to appointment only, catching many people off-guard and leading to a flood of people trying to get appointment times online.
“You’d think it would have been chaos,” said “Mary,” a DMV employee in Northern California. “But it wasn’t. A lot of people were upset about the appointments, but so many people had decided to not come because of the coronavirus that it kinda evened out.”
“Other offices were different since mine is usually more lower traffic on an average day, but we also did have some drama too. Some of us were starting to refuse to come in because, you know, they had kids and they didn’t want to risk the spread.”
“The DMV had to notice because everything is now on hold for a week.”
When offices resume next month, there will be a push to do as much online as possible through their virtual offices at virtual.dmv.ca.gov. While it is known that services such as title transfers and vehicle renewals will be done online, full details have not been announced yet. Services such as license renewals and behind-the-wheel tests currently have no return date, although it is expected for them to resume later in April or May based on the DMV wanting a 60 day ‘law enforcement discretion’ period for expired licenses and the DMV previously suspending all behind-the-wheel tests until mid-April.
The deadline for requiring a REAL ID to travel commercially in the United States has also been pushed back a year in response to the pandemic and its subsequent closure of services.
“We’ll get DMV services back to normal as soon as possible,” added Mary. “But when we return in-person we might be disinfecting and taking precautions like that for a long time after.”
As of midday Friday, California has had 3,006 Positive COVID-19 cases, with 65 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.