Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, March 23, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.
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In their first weekend under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s historic statewide order to stay at home, stir-crazy Californians flocked to outdoor spaces.
But that led to its own problems, as trails, beaches and parks crowded with people — many of whom were ignoring calls for social distancing, which requires that people stay at least six feet apart.
[Read the story: “As crowds gather despite coronavirus rules, some parks, trails and beach parking lots are closed” in the Los Angeles Times]
Newsom issued another plea for Californians to avoid unnecessary social contact during a news conference on Saturday afternoon.
“Be a good neighbor. Be a good citizen. Those young people that are still out there on the beaches thinking this is a party time — grow up,” the governor said. “It’s time to wake up, time to recognize it’s not just about the old folks. It’s about your impact on their lives. Don’t be selfish.”
The legions of people led to legions of closures: On Sunday, Santa Monica closed its beach parking lots due to the crowds. The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority also said Sunday that it was closing all of its parks and trails, which include the parkland owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. Parking lots and access roads also will be closed. Popular parks and some roads have also been closed in the San Francisco Bay Area.
So, what exactly is allowed, and what isn’t? “If you need to go outside to get some exercise, do that, but don’t do that in a group setting,” Newsom said Saturday. “If you see a busy street, don’t run down that street. Again, use common sense. You want to take a walk with your dog, take a walk with your dog — just don’t do it with five or six neighbors.”
As Californians tried to adjust to extraordinary restrictions on their movement as the new normal over the weekend, the number of confirmed cases and the COVID-19 death toll continued to rise across the state.
The total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in California stood at more than 1,800, with 35 deaths Sunday night. But as my colleagues write, officials have said that the number of cases is a gross underestimation due to the lack of tests for the virus.
President Trump approved a request Sunday from Newsom to declare a major disaster in California to help the state respond to the pandemic with “mass care,” emergency aid, unemployment assistance and disaster legal services, among others.
[Read the story: “Trump approves declaration of major disaster in California over coronavirus” in the Los Angeles Times]
The president said the Federal Emergency Management Agency would be shipping mobile hospital units to the state within the next 48 hours. California is in line to get eight of them for a total of 2,000 beds. The Navy hospital ship Mercy, which is based in San Diego, will also be deployed to Los Angeles. The ship will not be used to treat COVID-19 patients and will instead accept other patients in an attempt to relieve the burden on hospitals.
How is the pandemic affecting your life? Tell us about it, and we may share some of what your write in a future newsletter.
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
Want a coronavirus test? If you have money and know the right doctor, it’s not a problem. As people across the country were unable to get tested for COVID-19, a Santa Monica pediatrician emailed the parents of his patients with a pricey but tempting offer. For $250, they could buy a cheek-swab test for the virus to be administered at home, even if they showed no symptoms or had no other reason to fear they were infected. Los Angeles Times
L.A. County has strengthened its coronavirus bans: Nail and hair salons, drive-in movies and golf courses are among the closures ordered. Los Angeles Times
Half of the NBA and NHL coronavirus cases are linked to Staples Center. What happened? Los Angeles Times
“It’s like losing a family.” The coronavirus outbreak has already devastated the live music economy. For a small independent venue like Lodge Room in Highland Park, it may be a death knell. Los Angeles Times
Listen to a message of optimism from legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully: Scully says the coronavirus outbreak is unlike anything he’s ever seen, but he finds hope in a time of despair. Los Angeles Times
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
Congressional leaders and the Trump administration raced Sunday evening to reach agreement on an enormous financial rescue package totaling nearly $2 trillion meant to steer the U.S. economy through the coronavirus crisis and help ordinary Americans weather devastating job losses, but lawmakers appeared far apart. Los Angeles Times
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the first member of the Senate to report a case. Paul, a doctor, said he has not had symptoms and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. Los Angeles Times
As lawmakers begin falling ill from COVID-19, Congress may move to remote work. Proposals are swiftly being drafted to have lawmakers patch in for votes and debate from afar, raising a question Washington has pondered over the years but never before so directly confronted: Is a virtual Congress possible? Los Angeles Times
Fact-checking Rep. Devin Nunes on the coronavirus. Nunes (R-Tulare) has received “withering criticism” for appearances on national TV and local radio, where he questioned state and local government orders to stay home, among other things. His hometown paper fact-checks those statements. Tulare Advance-Register / Visalia Times-Delta
Bay Area congressman Mark DeSaulnier is in critical condition with pneumonia after a fall. DeSaulnier, 67, tested negative for the coronavirus. Los Angeles Times
CRIME AND COURTS
California courts are paralyzed by the coronavirus, with justice hanging in the balance. Los Angeles Times
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
How do you become infected with the coronavirus? Feeling confused about how transmission works? Reporter Ron Lin’s latest story walks you through it in incredibly clear terms. (The short answer is droplets. As Ron writes, droplets are “the typical answer physicians give when they talk about how this virus jumps from person to person.”) Los Angeles Times
You want to help sew homemade masks — but will hospitals accept them? “The answer depends on the hospital. But more are starting to say, ‘yes.’” LAist
Beware the coronavirus scams: Colloidal silver, herb remedies and fake test kits, among other things. Los Angeles Times
Teachers find many obstacles as they try to keep kids learning amid a pandemic. Almost all K-12 schools in California were shuttered last week. Los Angeles Times
Hoping to escape the coronavirus, city dwellers are fleeing to California’s deserts and mountains. But they’re not entirely welcome. Locals fear their arrival could overwhelm the public health systems of small towns already struggling to cope with the growing crisis, and public health officials worry the movement will lead to greater spread of the highly contagious virus. Los Angeles Times
At sea during a pandemic, fishermen return to stormy times. “They were as safe as anyone from the virus doing one of the most dangerous jobs, and now? Fishermen are returning home to California to find a state all but shuttered and nowhere to sell their catch.” Associated Press
The Anheuser-Busch plant in Van Nuys is going to start producing hand sanitizer along with its usual beer. Orange County Register
In one Northern Californian community, neighbors have made an outdoor “community art museum” while social distancing. The sidewalks of Mountain View now have some very elaborate chalk drawings. CNN
Los Angeles: partly sunny, 64. San Diego: rain, 64. San Francisco: partly sunny, 55. San Jose: partly sunny, 62. Fresno: rain, 64. Sacramento: partly sunny, 64. More weather is here.
This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:
Clippers owner Steve Ballmer (March 24, 1956), L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian (March 24, 1960), L.A. City Councilman Gil Cedillo (March 25, 1954), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (March 26, 1940) and Rep. Ted Lieu (March 29, 1969).
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)