Newsletter: Coronavirus cases surge in California

Essentials are sold outside a discount store on Figueroa Street in Los Angeles. Since the coronavirus outbreak, toilet paper, paper towels and face masks have been scarce.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Friday, March 27, and you know what that means? We Californians have made it through our first full week of the statewide “stay at home” order.

If someone had told us at the beginning of the month that this was the world we’d be waking up to on the last Friday in March, well, who could have believed them? But here we are.

In the last two weeks, California has all but shut down in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

[Read the story: “Empty freeways, canceled flights: How life in California has changed since the coronavirus outbreak” in the Los Angeles Times]


In looking at traffic patterns, my colleagues found that amid the social distancing restrictions, mass layoffs and stay-at-home order that took effect last Friday, the volume of vehicles on the road in California fell by 36% last week compared with the same time in February. Buses and trains are also almost empty.

On Thursday, the U.S. surpassed Italy and China in a tally that no one wants to lead: The U.S. now has the most confirmed coronavirus cases, according to a global case tracker run by Johns Hopkins University.

The number of known cases in California also saw a major increase over the last few days, surging to 4,052 on Thursday as testing continued to ramp up. The statewide death toll reached 83 on Thursday.

Los Angeles County also saw a rise in confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths. The county reported an additional 422 confirmed cases Thursday, for a total of 1,230 cases. Cases doubled this week in Orange County, pushing the overall count to 256.

But as my colleagues write, many of those now listed as being infected got sick before social distancing rules were imposed across California, “so it’s still not fully clear how much the restrictions might slow the spread. The hope is that confined movements eventually will make a difference.”

How is the pandemic affecting your life? Tell us about it, and we may share some of what you write in a future newsletter.

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


Air traffic is down 85% at LAX as local airports face historic declines due to the coronavirus. Los Angeles Times

L.A.'s beloved taco trucks are in survival mode. With drastic reductions in foot traffic and revenue, many of the city’s popular taco vendors are fighting for their livelihoods. Los Angeles Times

The nightly crowds have thinned at Tacos El Pecas, as seen Monday.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

As demand for government relief grows, L.A. restaurants form a united front. The push, at least in L.A., emphasizes outreach at three levels: city, state and federal. Los Angeles Times

The luxurious Chateau Marmont in Hollywood abruptly fired most of its staff without severance pay and only a brief extension of health benefits. The coronavirus crisis has forced the closures of several other high-profile hotels, but not all have responded in the same way. In the City of Commerce, managers of the Commerce Hotel and Casino announced they would continue to pay the base salary of all 2,500 employees while the operation remains closed, as well as provide health insurance for those who had the benefit. Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times Book Club is rebooting with its first virtual meetup on March 30. Authors Steph Cha and Joe Ide will join Times reporter Maria L. LaGanga for an evening of new L.A. noir. Los Angeles Times

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The roughly $2-trillion stimulus plan, which the House is expected to approve on Friday, includes long-sought boons for special interests. Some measures will last only as long as the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout last. Others are permanent. Los Angeles Times

Q&A: How big will your government check be from the coronavirus bailout? Here are answers to common questions about the payments. Los Angeles Times

Massive unemployment claims during the coronavirus crisis have California officials scrambling: California faces an unprecedented number of unemployment claims amid the pandemic, which has left the state agency that handles jobless benefits scrambling to meet demand. Los Angeles Times

The California Department of Motor Vehicles announced in a memo to employees Thursday that it is closing all of its more than 170 field offices to the public starting Friday. The memo said that the closures are part of the agency “taking steps to address employee health and safety concerns.” Los Angeles Times


The push to release more inmates from L.A. County jails due to the coronavirus: Authorities in Los Angeles County have said that a top priority in the coronavirus pandemic was reducing the number of inmates housed in the county jail system, which is the nation’s largest. Los Angeles Times


The Fresno Fairgrounds will soon double as a makeshift hospital to treat coronavirus patients in Fresno County. Fresno Bee


Coyotes are being seen on the empty streets of San Francisco. It appears the stay-at-home order does not apply to them. SFGate

How truck stops in the Coachella Valley are making changes during the pandemic. Desert Sun

San Diego’s Hotel Del Coronado is shutting down temporarily for the first time in its 132-year history. The closure of the hotel will require furloughing many of its 1,171 employees. San Diego Union-Tribune

How to boil water: With so many people having to stay home and cook for the first time — ever or more than you have in a long time — our cooking team is going back to the basics. Each day, they’re posting a new skill and giving detailed instructions on how to do it, from sautéing onions to cooking a pot of rice. Los Angeles Times

Fifty life skills you can learn online — for free! — during self-quarantine. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles: sunny, 66. San Diego: sunny, 64. San Francisco: partly sunny, 55. San Jose: partly sunny, 60. Fresno: sunny, 62. Sacramento: sunny, 64. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Linda Lee:

A second-generation Californian, I grew up in Encino until I went off to UCLA in the early ‘60s. It seemed like a great life. Schools would close practically every time it rained and we could row rubber rafts around on some of the streets. In summer, everyone went to the beach and had their favorite spot. Ours was Zuma - 4th Life Guard station, first food stand. Currie’s offered mile-high ice cream cones and the Helms truck brought doughnuts right to your house. We rode our bikes everywhere until that magic day when we got our drivers licenses.

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.