From lighter commutes to cancelled events: How coronavirus is changing California life

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at the Disneyland Resort
A Disneyland “cast member” dressed as Rey from the “Star Wars” films poses for a photo with Michael Bland, 5, of Alhambra at Disneyland on Jan. 16, 2020.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

With coronavirus cases spreading across California, life is changing in ways big and small.

Universities are going to online classes. Commuters are working from home. There is a lot more hand-washing. But expect more disruptions and everyday changes in the coming weeks.

“These are trying days. And the weeks ahead are going to be difficult for everyone in our community,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said, summing up the view of many California officials. “And I am confident that if we take care of each other and we work together, we are collectively stronger than this virus.”

Here’s what we know as the virus has sickened more than 140 in the state and killed two people.


Public events
The health officer for Santa Clara County issued a rare legal order banning mass gatherings of 1,000 or more people. This is the most aggressive action taken in California and includes games played by the San Jose Sharks hockey team. The Sharks said the team would abide by the county’s new order at SAP Center in downtown San Jose, which is enforceable by the county sheriff and city police agencies.

The Los Angeles Times has postponed its Festival of Books and Food Bowl — annual events in Los Angeles that draw thousands of visitors — from April and May to the fall.

Multiple sources told The Times that Coachella promoter Goldenvoice is in talks with artists to move the 2020 edition of the event, which was set to take place on two consecutive weekends starting April 10, to Oct. 9 and 16.


Social distancing
The Los Angeles County director of public health, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, on Monday called for “social distancing,” a term officials use to describe keeping people away from crowded areas in hopes of dramatically reducing the spread of an infectious disease.

Ferrer’s call came after one of two newly confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in L.A. County was announced to be from an unidentified source of exposure, the county’s first case of community transmission. That indicates the virus is being passed through people in the community, even those without a history of travel or close personal contact with people known to be infected.

Small gatherings
Some health officials are advising that even smaller gatherings be canceled in the interest of halting the spread of disease.

“All nonessential gatherings should be canceled, postponed or done remotely,” Dr. Scott Morrow, health officer for San Mateo County, said in a statement Thursday. “Unfortunately, at this time, I have no standard definition of ‘nonessential’ or ‘gathering’ to guide your decisions. Use your best judgment.”


More people are working from home, sometimes by choice, some mandated by companies. Many in Los Angeles have noticed less traffic during their morning and evening commutes. Traffic is also lighter around Los Angeles International Airport as fewer people travel.

BART’s mass transit ridership in the Bay Area was down last week by 8% compared with the week before, a spokesman said, and the BART commute Monday morning seemed particularly light. BART said it was wiping down hand-contact surfaces with “hospital-grade disinfectant more frequently each day.”

Colleges and universities
UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, San Francisco State, San Jose State, Santa Clara University and Stanford University are moving classes online; a Stanford faculty member has tested positive for the virus. USC is testing online classes this week.

Theme parks
Disneyland and other theme parks remain open. Universal Studios said it is keeping in close touch with health officials.


“We are enhancing our already aggressive cleaning protocols — and applying stringent guidelines for cleaning all areas of our destination and CityWalk. This includes our rides and attractions, our restaurants and dining areas, our merchandise locations and more,” Universal said in a statement.

Disneyland announced a list of measures designed to address coronavirus:

  • Defined cycles for frequent cleaning and disinfection of targeted areas
  • Easy access to hand-washing facilities and hand sanitizers
  • Quick response to spills, trash and other situations
  • End-of-day sanitation procedures for restroom, kitchen, and other facilities
  • Frequent cleaning and “wash down” of outdoor locations, including walkways and queues
  • Training for employees, or “cast members,” with ongoing reinforcement on a regular basis