Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, March 25, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.
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On Tuesday, with a once-in-a-century pandemic bringing the world to its knees, the president of the United States took time between retweeting actors Kirstie Alley and James Woods and plugging books by not one but two conservative media personalities to double down on his repeated comments about quickly easing social distancing restrictions during a virtual Fox News town hall.
“I’d love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” President Trump said. Easter is April 12, just over two and a half weeks away. The holiday would be a “beautiful time” to have “packed churches,” Trump later said. He also repeatedly downplayed the threat of the novel coronavirus by comparing it to seasonal flu.
The advice from doctors and public health experts on the topic of social distancing is by no means mixed: In an increasingly desperate chorus, they have prevailed upon the American public to stay home to slow the spread of the disease. On Tuesday, the the American Hospital Assn., American Medical Assn. and American Nurses Assn. issued a joint open letter — quite literally addressed to “the American public” — begging people to stay home to give “everyone on the front lines a fighting chance at having the equipment, time and resources necessary to take on this immense challenge.”
In L.A. County, where the first death of a person under 18 potentially from the virus was reported on Tuesday, medical providers “are rushing to draft policies to handle the tough decisions they anticipate making in the coming weeks as the outbreak surges and they contend with a limited number of beds, equipment and staff,” as my colleagues write. Coronavirus hospitalizations in L.A. County have sharply risen, probably signaling the approach of a wave of extremely sick patients that experts say could overwhelm hospitals in the coming weeks.
As my D.C.-based colleague Chris Megerian writes, Trump’s remarks Tuesday drew sharp rejoinders and resistance from lawmakers in both parties, including New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Republican governors of Ohio and Maryland.
[Read the story: “Trump and governors in heated debate over saving lives versus the economy” in the Los Angeles Times]
California’s own Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, has largely “tried to avoid directly tangling with Trump over the pandemic,” as Chris writes. But Newsom pushed back on Trump’s comment that the coronavirus restrictions, which have caused widespread financial disruption and hardship, could potentially be lifted by Easter. The governor said with the spread of the virus still on the rise, he doubts that would happen in California.
“I think that would be misleading to represent, at least for California, that that will be the case,” Newsom said.
The mayors of several Bay Area cities were less diplomatic. In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed suggested that state and local officials ignore the president.
“Why are we still listening to the president?” Breed, whose city has pushed aggressive social distancing rules to slow the spread of the virus, said Tuesday on KGO-TV. “I mean, the fact is, we here in our city, throughout states in the United States of America, we have demonstrated, sadly, that we have had to jump into action and make this work without federal government support.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also slammed Trump on Tuesday, calling the president “his own state of emergency” and saying he had exhibited “poor leadership throughout this crisis.”
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases across the state continued to rise. As of Tuesday night, there were more than 2,600 known cases and 55 deaths.
The economic costs of the virus remain dire, but stocks surged on Tuesday as Congress and the White House neared a deal to inject nearly $2 trillion of aid into the coronavirus-ravaged economy. Late Tuesday night, Senate Democrats and the White House agreed to a package that includes direct payments to most Americans and a half-trillion-dollar fund to shore up struggling companies.
I know a lot of people are really struggling right now. Before we get to the rest of the news, I wanted to go through a few resources:
- Knowing your rights, from paid sick leave to working at home. Here’s a guide to the rights workers have in California.
- Applying for state benefits: Californians can apply for unemployment here, disability or paid family leave here and food assistance here.
- Resources for seniors in their county: The California Department of Aging contracts with 33 agencies that coordinate a wide array of services to seniors and adults with disabilities at the community level. Find services in your county here.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. The number for their crisis counseling hotline is (800) 985-5990.
- Are you struggling with how to talk to your kids about the virus? My science writer colleague Deborah Netburn has been answering kids’ questions, in kid-appropriate language.
- In the entertainment industry, more than 100,000 workers are now out of a job. Here’s a guide to entertainment industry-specific resources, financial and otherwise.
- Resources for restaurants and workers affected by the coronavirus crisis in L.A.: From our food section, a list of resources for hospitality workers blindsided by the loss of revenue and jobs.
- Free food for struggling hospitality workers: Here is a list of L.A. restaurants offering meals to people in the hospitality industry who have been laid off or had their hours cut due to the shutdown of nonessential businesses.
- An emergency loan program for small business owners in L.A.: Here’s what small businesses need to know about L.A.'s new emergency microloans.
- Los Angeles Unified School District continues to offer grab-and-go meals to all students who need them during the temporary closure of schools. Here’s where the 64 centers to find those meals are located.
- For seniors who need essentials brought to them, here’s a roundup of Southern California organizations ready to help.
- LAist also has a great general resource list of places offering assistance for Angelenos, from financial assistance, to food for adults and kids and other more specific situations.
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
The L.A. County sheriff says gun stores must close amid coronavirus restrictions. If they don’t close their doors, they will be cited and face the loss of their business licenses. Los Angeles Times
The Museum of Contemporary Art is laying off all 97 of its part-time employees, given the grim prospects for a long coronavirus-related closure. The museum called the layoffs temporary, saying it hoped to hire back staff when the museum reopens and made the move so workers could file for unemployment benefits and cash out accrued vacation pay. Los Angeles Times
The Clippers reached an agreement to purchase the Forum from Madison Square Garden Co. for $400 million in cash, in a deal that ends a long-running legal war with an opponent that had long fought to block construction of a Clippers arena in Inglewood. Los Angeles Times
POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT
Joe Biden found his footing — then the coronavirus changed everything. Los Angeles Times
HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
California is way behind in testing and tracking the coronavirus. In the race to expand testing for the novel coronavirus and track the results, California has fallen behind New York and other hot-spot states as an assortment of public and private groups pursue testing programs in an uncoordinated fashion. Los Angeles Times
“If you decide you want to do your own thing and follow your own rules ... You spit in our face, and you will contribute to the death toll that will follow.” The San Mateo County health officer lambasted those flouting shelter-in-place rules in an unrestrained letter sounding a dire warning. Mercury News
Domestic abuse victims are in a “worst-case scenario” during the outbreak, providers say. Los Angeles Times
Ready to finally see inside the famed Winchester Mystery House? The San Jose attraction has a 40-minute video tour of the 160-room mansion available for free on its website. Mercury News
In Palm Springs, thousands of parked rental cars cram lots as tourists and snowbirds leave. “The influx in parked vehicles appeared suddenly and continues to catch the attention of local residents wowed by the anomaly.” Desert Sun
From the annals of “what could have been,” Lady Gaga edition: Lady Gaga was planning a surprise Coachella set, but the coronavirus canceled that. Los Angeles Times
Online dance classes are booming: Here are eight places to keep you moving through self-isolation. Los Angeles Times
Visit these seven Los Angeles museums without leaving your sofa. They’re opening their virtual doors with videos and online collections. Curbed LA
Los Angeles: partly sunny, 62. San Diego: cloudy, 64. San Francisco: sunny, 53. San Jose: rain, 55. Fresno: rain, 57. Sacramento: sunny, 59. More weather is here.
Today’s California memory comes from Pepper Salter Edmiston:
In the late 1950s, I attended John Burroughs Junior High in Hancock Park. I was in a crowd of about a dozen girls and we did everything together. When we were turning twelve, one of my friends held her birthday party at Griffith Park. At dusk we had a picnic and then we each mounted a beautiful horse. A cowboy was leading us and, once he started galloping, we followed at high speed. No helmets, no worries. Just the blissful sensation of being young and free and of rushing along the trails with the wind blowing through our hair. I was a pretty dramatic kid and still remember how I felt: young and fortunate and that I was riding toward a future filled with excitement. Times are different now and this virus isn’t helping. Still, my hope for my grandchildren is that their days will be overflowing with adventure and that their minds will be infused with hope.
If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)