Newsletter: Schools will probably be closed for months

Los Angeles Unified, the nation's second-largest school district, closed Monday.
Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest school district, closed Monday.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, March 18, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Are you settling into the unimaginable?

It’s difficult to believe that it has only been a week since the World Health Organization first called the novel coronavirus a pandemic, and five days since a national state of emergency was declared in the United States.


A mere nine days ago, the president of the United States jotted a tweet from his iPhone comparing the new coronavirus favorably to the flu, which kills tens of thousands of Americans every year. “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on,” he wrote. “At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”

That was last Monday. As of Wednesday morning, there were 6,496 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., with confirmed cases in all 50 U.S. states. Scientists say the true number of U.S. cases is probably far above the official tally, due to the lack of available testing. The U.S. death toll has surpassed 100, with 13 deaths in California.

[See all the numbers: “Tracking coronavirus in California” in the Los Angeles Times]

The proverbial seas of this public health emergency are rising all around us, as authorities desperately work to stem the tide of new cases with ever more extraordinary measures. The news changes by the hour, and sometimes by the minute. Individual stories that might have otherwise dominated the front pages for weeks in a previous lifetime (say, two or three weeks ago, back when our lives still looked like our lives) now wash over us. How many times can you say “unprecedented,” “unimaginable,” “previously unfathomable”? Words start to mean less. The waves keep breaking, and we’re all just trying to keep our heads above water.


In an announcement that resonates especially with parents and educators across the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that California public schools are likely to be closed for the remainder of the school year in response to the spread of the virus. Nearly all the school districts in the state are now already closed in response to the pandemic.

As my colleague Howard Blume writes, the state education department is assembling detailed guidelines on how schools can attempt to continue learning for millions of students in the weeks and months ahead. I know that people are going to be struggling with these lengthy school closures, and we’ll do our best to include as many resources as possible in the days to come.

[Read the story: “Schools likely to be closed for the rest of the school year, Newsom says” in the Los Angeles Times]

Starting on Wednesday, LAUSD parents and students can pick up food at 60 “grab and go” sites scattered throughout the nation’s second-largest school district. A complete list and map of locations in Los Angeles and information about other resources have been published on the district website.


On Tuesday, Orange County, Ventura County, Monterey County and the central California county of San Benito, just south of Santa Clara County, also announced severe restrictions in an effort to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. To date, 10 counties have issued such orders, with Ventura County’s being somewhat less restrictive than the others.

The economic fallout also continues to slam the American workforce: A new poll found that some 18% of adults reported that they had been laid off or their work hours cut, with the proportion growing larger for low-income households.

[See also: “Resources for restaurants and workers affected by the coronavirus crisis” in the Los Angeles Times]

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:



The L.A. City Council met inside City Hall on Tuesday, but the public had to watch remotely outside, under a tent. Chairs were roughly six feet apart under the 40-by-70-foot tent. Los Angeles Times

Rachel Carlson and others watch Tuesday's Los Angeles City Council meeting
Rachel Carlson, center, and others watch Tuesday’s Los Angeles City Council meeting sitting under a tent outside City Hall. A television live-streamed video of the meeting, and the public offered comments electronically.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Renters and homeowners are likely to see significant new protections against evictions and foreclosures after the City Council approved emergency measures to mitigate the economic effects of the novel coronavirus. Los Angeles Times

L.A. could let homeless people’s tents stay up all day. Three members of the Los Angeles City Council called for the city to temporarily stop enforcing a law requiring tents to come down during daytime hours, saying the change is needed to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Los Angeles Times


A federal judge has called for an emergency hearing in Los Angeles over the virus’ threat to homeless people. The hearing, set for Thursday, is on a case filed last week alleging that the city and county of L.A. have failed in their duty to protect public health and safety and to provide shelter to people living on the streets. Los Angeles Times

These L.A. restaurants are offering takeout and delivery as the pandemic keeps Angelenos close to home. Los Angeles Times

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With masks at the ready, ICE agents made arrests on the first day of California’s coronavirus lockdown. With safety measures taken across the state, immigrant advocates have criticized ICE for its continued enforcement operations. More than 45 organizations signed a letter this week calling on the Department of Homeland Security to suspend such actions. Los Angeles Times

The Trump administration is taking steps to close the southern border to certain migrants, citing the spread of the coronavirus. Los Angeles Times


The Trump administration on Tuesday proposed a $1-trillion economic stimulus package to counter the effects of the coronavirus, including relief for small businesses and the airline industry, and sizable checks for Americans in the next two weeks. Los Angeles Times

The U.S. is pushing back the April 15 deadline to pay taxes owed, giving individuals and many businesses 90 extra days to send checks to the government. Los Angeles Times


Former Vice President Joe Biden won the Arizona, Florida and Illinois primaries in a sweep that could lock up the Democratic nomination. Los Angeles Times


Former Rep. Duncan Hunter sentenced to 11 months in prison for campaign finance violations. The disgraced former lawmaker resigned his seat representing the state’s 50th District in January during his sixth term. Los Angeles Times


Here are some tips from Coronavirus Today, a new special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter that will help you understand more about COVID-19:

Wash your hands for at least 40 to 60 seconds.


—Stop touching your face, and keep your phone clean.

— Watch for these symptoms of possible infection: fever, cough, shortness of breath.

— If you’re sick, stay home. If you’re worried you might be infected, call your doctor or urgent care clinic.

— Know your labor rights, from working from home to paid sick leave. In California, employees who meet certain requirements are entitled to at least three days of paid sick leave; several cities provide more.


— Experts still aren’t sure whether pets can get the coronavirus. Pet owners who contract the coronavirus should isolate themselves from their animal companions out of an abundance of caution.

— Wondering whether you should self-quarantine? Here’s our guide, along with tips on how to stock up in advance. You can also watch our video guide on YouTube.


Store hours exclusively for seniors, pregnant women and people with disabilities are being established at some Southern California supermarkets. Los Angeles Times

“We sold out of Camus’ ‘The Plague’ pretty quickly.” Across L.A., bookstores close or scramble to stay afloat. Los Angeles Times


Some of Los Angeles County’s botanic gardens and conservatories remain open as a place of “peace” and “respite” amid the many closures. Guests who do visit are urged to abide by social distancing guidelines. Long Beach Press-Telegram

“I hate the sense of powerlessness, watching the small businesses I write about — the seats of community and hospitality in L.A. — struggle to the brink of financial devastation.” A critic and a restaurant face the pandemic over pastries (six feet apart). Los Angeles Times

Come and ravage us: Scenes from the fire sale at one of L.A.’s hottest restaurants, where customers lined up to buy the remaining food, and suddenly jobless employees faced an uncertain future. Los Angeles Times

Need some distraction? “Asian Enough” is a new podcast about being Asian American — with guests like John Cho, Lulu Wang, Mina Kimes, Margaret Cho and Padma Lakshmi. Los Angeles Times



Los Angeles: sunny, 62. San Diego: rain, 60. San Francisco: partly sunny, 55. San Jose: cloudy, 57. Fresno: sunny, 60. Sacramento: cloudy, 55. More weather is here.


“Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.”

- Susan Sontag

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.