Newsletter: The road map to reopening


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, April 15. I’m Christopher Goffard, filling in for Julia Wick, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

We’re now a month into Gov. Gavin Newsom’s unprecedented stay-at-home order. When might he ease restrictions on the state’s nearly 40 million people?

The governor says he’s working with his counterparts in Oregon and Washington on a regional strategy. “I want you to know it’s not, it will not be, a permanent state,” Newsom said Tuesday.

The Democratic governor says social distancing and stay-at-home orders have worked to slow the virus, with hospitalization numbers lower than expected. But he says six goals must be met before the order is modified. He said California needs to increase testing to track potential cases, prevent the infection of high-risk people, expand hospital capacity to handle surges, develop therapeutics, ensure social distancing at schools and other gathering spots, and draft guidelines for future stay-at-home orders.


[Read the story “Gov. Gavin Newsom names six goals that must be met to lift California coronavirus order” in the Los Angeles Times]

Part of the problem: The lack of access to tests prevents us from knowing what percentage of the population is infected. “The whole issue of how much it’s out there will drive the fundamental question of when could it end,” said Diana Dooley, chief of staff to former Gov. Jerry Brown.

[Read more in “Reopening the economy requires testing, and the U.S. still isn’t close” in the Los Angeles Times]

The cost to the economy has been harsh, with more than 2.3 million Californians filing for unemployment benefits in the last month.

Newsom has not given a timeline for when people might get back to work

“It’s not helpful to give an end date if we don’t know an end date,” said Harvard’s Lisa Berkman, in a story by Times staff writer Taryn Luna. “I don’t think that any governor should be saying that we’re going to end this in three, four or five weeks when it’s completely unknown.”


In an article by the Times’ Rong-Gong Lin II, UCLA epidemiologist Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, who calls this “the most significant public health pandemic of our lifetimes,” said he suspects that the number of new cases will flatten by late April into the middle of May.

By the end of May or into mid-June, in places where people have adhered to social distancing, Kim-Farley said he expects a significant drop in cases. He thinks stay-at-home orders could persist into mid-June. And in June and July, he said, some people may be returning to work. The people who were infected and recovered may get to return first. Restaurants may reopen, but with separated tables, and retail stores may limit customers in the fashion of supermarkets.

Expect more telecommuting and videoconferencing, Kim-Farley said. If large numbers of cases persist by summer’s end, he added, it would not be smart to reopen schools.

[Read the story “A 2020 timeline: This is how California could reopen, from restaurants and schools to offices and sports” in the Los Angeles Times]

When might a vaccine be available? By optimistic projections, a year to a year and a half. But Kim-Farley says that within a month or two we should have news about promising medications.

Hospitals in California have not been overwhelmed by coronavirus patients, and UC San Francisco has sent a team of healthcare workers to New York City to help.

California’s schools are expected to reopen in the fall, but the governor suggested the possibility of reconfigured classrooms and staggered start times.

Schools will likely make major changes when they reopen, Gov. Gavin Newsom said. Pictured: Last month, Bell High School Academic Decathlon students attended a study session on the great pandemics of world history.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

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


A grim milestone. On Tuesday, Los Angeles County confirmed 40 new coronavirus deaths, the highest single-day total yet. That brings the death toll to 360 in the county, where total confirmed infections now exceed 10,000. Los Angeles Times

Cautious optimism. In Orange County, meanwhile, where there have been 19 deaths linked to the coronavirus, there were 31 new reported cases on Monday and Tuesday, the county’s lowest two-day total in three weeks. Los Angeles Times

Keeping Californians in the dark. Has government secrecy undermined the response to COVID-19? In Tulare County, officials kept quiet for days, even as infections surged. Los Angeles Times

Hospital ship infections. On the Navy hospital ship Mercy, sitting pier-side in Los Angeles, seven sailors have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Navy has removed 116 people from she ship. Los Angeles Times

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Tent cities, taboo no more: Last week, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs set up L.A.’s first temporary tent city in four decades. It’s for veterans without homes to wait out the COVID-19 crisis. Los Angeles Times

Funding on hold: President Trump said that he is suspending U.S. funding for the World Health Organization pending an administration review of its early response to the coronavirus outbreak in China. Los Angeles Times

Guaranteed pay? How do you keep the economy in “sleep mode” until the health crisis passes? The federal government should guarantee paychecks, according to George Soros and Eric Beinhocker. Los Angeles Times


Pot and kickbacks. A tale of California’s cannabis industry, involving the FBI and a motorcycle-driving union organizer who called himself Superman. San Francisco Chronicle


How to de-stress. Breathe deeply. Say, “It’s all going to be OK.” Here are 13 steps to staying sane during the pandemic. Los Angeles Times


Film festival will stream. In response to COVID-19, the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival will allow people to stream movies, masterclasses and other works on its website. Los Angeles Times

Music festival’s fate. Will Coachella happen in October? Not plausible, says one expert. Desert Sun

Busted. In San Francisco’s Bayview industrial district, officials say, a former metal shop warehouse became an illegal nightclub. San Francisco Chronicle

And busted. While in Santa Cruz, seven Fremont men got $1,000 fines for a trip to 7-Eleven, in violation of restrictions on nonessential travel. San Francisco Chronicle

A word from McCartney. Paul McCartney tells Howard Stern that the spectacle of people pulling together reminds him of the aftermath of World War II. The former Beatle, an animal rights activist, also says he’d like to see the Chinese government close the country’s “wet markets.” Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles: sunny, 81. San Diego: sunny, 75. San Francisco: mostly sunny, 63. San Jose: mostly sunny, 78. Fresno: sunny, 81. Sacramento: mostly sunny, 81. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Marie Lambe:

We drove to California from Illinois, just out of college and newly married, to start our new jobs, our new life and our new family in Fresno. I remember our first drive down Highway 99 with the oleanders in full bloom at the end of May. I had never seen something so beautiful. Having grown up in the Chicago area, Fresno was a culture shock. Forty-two years later, Fresno is still our home and we love it. Our children have grown and moved on with their lives, but our friends and memories are here. Now, when we go back to Chicago to visit, it is a culture shock and we always look forward to going back home to Fresno.

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.