Essential California Week in Review: Unprecedented steps

A crowd stands outside a home in El Sereno
A small crowd gathers outside a home in El Sereno on March 18. Homeless mothers and families have taken over about a dozen vacant houses in L.A., saying officials have not provided affordable, safe shelter that’s sorely needed as the coronavirus spreads.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, March 21.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:

Just stay home. On Thursday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all Californians to stay home as the number of known coronavirus cases in the state topped 1,200. The order included exceptions for purchasing food and essential workers.


L.A. shuts down. The week began with an unprecedented series of closures in Los Angeles. By the end of the week, dine-in restaurants, gyms and movie theaters had been forced to close their doors. Here’s the full list of new regulations around Southern California.

A recession begins. Business activity in California and nationwide has ground to a halt, leading to a painful contraction of the economy. Restaurant workers in particular have been hit hard, with mass layoffs. Questions remain about how long small businesses can handle a shutdown, while some local restaurants fight to hold on.

Urgent new stimulus. Washington lawmakers are hashing out a spending plan that appears likely to pump $1 trillion into the economy to keep it running. What it will look like is still in flux: It may include checks for workers, loans for businesses or an airline bailout. President Trump also harnessed wartime powers to boost the manufacturing of medical equipment.

A state one, too. California lawmakers passed their own emergency funding bill to help the state battle the pandemic. On Monday, they approved $1 billion in new funding, then put legislative business on hiatus.


Travel bans. Trump also rolled out a series of restrictions on travel to and from the United States. By Friday, the measures included closing the borders with Canada and Mexico.

Some are getting tested ... Eight NBA teams, including the Lakers, have offered coronavirus testing for their players since Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive. The Lakers said two players also tested positive as public complaints of unfairness swelled.

... while others can’t get tested. While the Lakers found easy access to testing, average people have struggled to find answers, as some doctors said it was nearly impossible to order tests. Even after giving CPR to his wife as she died of COVID-19, a Florida man stuck in California has been unable to get tested.

Seeking shelter. A group of homeless moms and families took over at least 12 vacant houses in Los Angeles. Inspired by a group in Oakland, they say L.A. officials have not provided affordable, safe shelter that’s sorely needed as the virus spreads. Meanwhile, officials are getting creative in finding new places to convert to homeless shelters.


Duncan Hunter sentenced. The former Southern California congressman was sentenced to 11 months in federal prison Monday. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to illegally use more than $150,000 of his campaign money for personal benefit.

Enjoying this newsletter?

Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a Times subscriber.

1. The coronavirus is changing life in California. These 20 photos show how. Los Angeles Times

2. What are the coronavirus restrictions in my community? A guide for Southern California. Los Angeles Times


3. KROQ fires host Kevin Ryder and his entire morning show team. The Wrap

4. ‘Your hoarding could cost me my life’: A doctor’s view from the coronavirus front lines. Los Angeles Times

5. California calls on millions of senior citizens to stay home. What you need to know. Los Angeles Times

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Her Facebook friends asked if anyone was actually sick. She and her husband had an answer, and became the face of the coronavirus for their conservative Louisiana community. New York Times


After 23 years, this beloved Highland Park elotero is moving to Mexico to be with his true love. He plans to marry his long-distance girlfriend in his homeland and start another food business. Los Angeles Times

Inside the surreal and lucrative world of Cameo, the marketplace that turns D-list celebrities into monetization machines: “When the masses find themselves in quarantined isolation — looking for levity, distractions, and any semblance of the human touch — sending each other personalized videograms from the semi-famous has never seemed like a more pitch-perfect offering.” Marker

Need some fun distraction? Here are the magazine stories that inspired 25 movies. Longreads

Poem of the week: "(I lived in the first century of world wars)” by Muriel Rukeyser. Poetry Foundation


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. (And a giant thanks to the legendary Diya Chacko for all her help on the Saturday edition.)