Newsletter: How the coronavirus is reshaping our lives

MaryAnn Lawson
MaryAnn Lawson collects prayer requests from people gathered in their cars in a Santa Ana parking lot for an Easter service by the Rev. Robert A. Schuller.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, April 13. I’m Esmeralda Bermudez, filling in for Julia Wick, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

By now, many of us have been cooped up in our homes for nearly a month — rationing toilet paper, fashioning masks out of handkerchiefs, trying to grasp from scientists and headlines just when and how this pandemic might end.

In L.A. County, officials have extended stay-at-home orders through at least May 15.

History has taught us, my colleague Joe Mozingo writes, that outbreaks such as these — the Plague of Justinian, Black Death, polio, AIDS — have reshaped civilizations for generations.


The grief and death of previous outbreaks have prompted massive transformation in medicine, technology, government, education, arts, social hierarchy, sanitation and religion.

In recent days, COVID-19 has even changed the way we speak. And all the things that seemed unalterable have been disrupted — including the holy celebration of Easter.

Across California, communities ushered in the celebration with new restrictions on movements as traditional outdoor spots were shut down for safety. That included lakes, parks and all L.A. County botanical gardens.

In South L.A., First African Methodist Episcopal Church has always sprung into action when the community has been in need — during the 1992 riots, after 9/11 — but the oldest black church in Los Angeles had to close its doors for Easter during due to the virus.

“It’s emotional and a spiritual struggle,” Pastor J. Edgar Boyd told my colleague, Angel Jennings.

In Atwater Village, Father Ricardo Viveros also felt a sense of loss, worried about his working-class congregation, which he tends to now by phone and online. His small church, Holy Trinity Catholic Church, sits empty. It has never felt so big.

When Viveros found out that Holy Week had been canceled, he was angry and disappointed with God.

“I don’t do well with the unknown,” he said. “The unknown is disorienting.”

That uncertainty has affected just about everyone, including those caring for the state’s vast aging population.

In thousands of California facilities, there’s an escalating scarcity of protective gear, testing kits and, increasingly, of staff, who are sick or afraid to show up to work.


The virus is forcing nurses and medical assistants on the front lines to employ creativity and pluck to combat the pandemic.

It’s astonishing, to look back now, and consider just how it was we got here.

New signs suggest the coronavirus was in California far earlier than anyone knew, that it established itself in the community long before health officials started looking for it.

It’s possible, my colleagues James Rainey and Kiera Feldman write in this detailed overview of how the virus came to be, that while we were all focused on other things — New Year’s schedules, Kobe’s death, the 2020 election — COVID-19, like an intruder, quietly crept in.

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


The faithful found creative ways to celebrate Easter together and separately. As state and local officials ramped up restrictions on Californians’ movements, most houses of worship have moved their services, classes and prayer groups online. Los Angeles Times

In Riverside, guitarist Javon Jones of Antioch Church sings gospel hymns during a live-streamed sunrise Easter service on Mt. Rubidoux. The coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of services on Mt. Rubidoux for just the third time in 111 years.
In Riverside, guitarist Javon Jones of Antioch Church sings gospel hymns during a live-streamed sunrise Easter service on Mt. Rubidoux. The coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of services on Mt. Rubidoux for just the third time in 111 years.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Amid the coronavirus, should young adults move back in with Mom and Dad? Many are saying yes. They’re returning to their childhood bedrooms and setting up workstations in the dining room of homes where food — and support — are in ample supply. Los Angeles Times

Mayor Eric Garcetti talks to L.A. each night about distancing, masks and love. At least five nights a week, Garcetti has appealed directly to Angelenos on live television. He’s been one part stern dad, one part life coach, with a hint of self-help guru. Los Angeles Times

Stan’s Donuts, the beloved Westwood doughnut shop that fed and comforted generations of UCLA students, faculty, staff, locals and tourists, has permanently closed. Los Angeles Times

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A federal judge ruled that ICE must allow detainees free, private calls with attorneys during the pandemic. The ruling reverses a policy that critics said made it virtually impossible for detainees and their attorneys to confer in private at the Adelando ICE Processing Center. Los Angeles Times

Detainees at Otay Mesa Detention Center were offered masks, but only if they signed contracts. The women thought they would finally be able to ditch masks they made from rubber bands, panty liners and cut-up shirts. Los Angeles Times


President Trump and Congress scrambled to revive a virus-hunting agency that was marked for cuts. The Global Health Bureau now has abundant government support and a budget of more than half a billion dollars. Los Angeles Times

The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to block Texas’ abortion ban. Abortion providers asked the Supreme Court on Saturday to lift a state order that banned nearly all abortions in the state during the coronavirus pandemic. Los Angeles Times

In Palm Desert, Stuart Davis is one of millions of small-business owners who have applied for financial help from the federal government. But the rollout process has been fraught with confusion and uncertainty. Davis still isn’t sure when that money will come in. Desert Sun


A powerful California union that claimed to have discovered 39 million masks for healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus was duped in an elaborate scam uncovered by the FBI. Los Angeles Times

Six people were shot at a large party in Bakersfield, where there’s a ban on all gatherings. Deputies found six victims including a girl at the scene of the gathering attended by dozens of people inside a Bakersfield apartment complex. Los Angeles Times


The coronavirus is forcing breast cancer patients to make tough decisions. Roughly a quarter of a million U.S. women learn they have breast cancer each year. That diagnosis, already loaded with angst and uncertainty, is even more fraught when it comes in the midst of a pandemic. Los Angeles Times

A doctor treating COVID-19 patients gambles on a clot-busting drug. Doctors around the world are frantically trying to figure out how COVID-19 is killing their patients. One growing theory: In the sickest of the sick, little blood clots clog the lungs. Los Angeles Times

‘Mom, I feel like I’m dying’: Sailors describe life on a coronavirus-stricken carrier. For almost a week, a sailor aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt waited for results and fought her symptoms. She slept in close quarters and worked 16-hour shifts, without wearing a mask. San Francisco Chronicle


Diane Rodriguez, a celebrated stage artist, passionate for the work of Latino and Latina artists, died Friday. She was 68. “Her power as an artist came from the heart, which she shared onstage as well as in life...” Los Angeles Times

For Hollywood’s workforce, the coronavirus has been devastating. Tens of thousands of workers have lost their jobs. Still, as bleak as the jobs picture is, some entertainment companies are still expanding. Here’s a look at who’s hiring. Los Angeles Times

Meet humanity’s new ally in the coronavirus fight: robots. They disinfect hospital corridors, help nurses manage routine tasks, deliver meals to people. Los Angeles Times

The Bay Area’s poor bear the brunt of the shutdown. How you survive the pandemic may depend on your ZIP Code. Even before the virus shuttered schools and parks, businesses and restaurants, the region was known for its vast economic divides. San Francisco Chronicle

Disneyland’s coronavirus closure could stretch to June with an attendance slump through 2021, analysts warn. The shuttering of all 12 Disney resorts around the globe could cost $5 billion in lost revenue. Orange County Register


Olympic hopefuls are trying to arrange a new training regimen amid the coronavirus outbreak. Athletes at this level tend to operate on meticulous schedules, so the pandemic has thrust them into a starkly different reality. Los Angeles Times

When surfing gets banned, surfers in Santa Cruz get salty: The coronavirus pandemic shut down our oceans. Now, those who reside on the coastal town experience a whole new level of harsh reality. Mercury News


Los Angeles: cloudy, 65. San Diego: cloudy, 64. San Francisco: cloudy, 63. San Jose: cloudy, 73. Fresno: cloudy, 76. Sacramento: cloudy, 76 . More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Rep. Susan Davis (April 13, 1944), Rep. Jim Costa (April 13, 1952), former Rep. David Valadao (April 14, 1977) and Laker great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (April 16, 1947).

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.