Andres Vidaurre’s story is a lot like those of the many young adults who make their way to Los Angeles in search of work and a vibrant, diverse city to call home.
The 27-year-old Houston native moved here two years ago after attending Notre Dame University and settled down in a five-bedroom home in northeast Los Angeles that he found on Craigslist. He has roommates — 22 to be exact. Each tenant pays $580 a month and each room has several bunk beds.
Vidaurre loved the vibe, so when the house manager moved out, he took over the role, which allowed him to live there for free. The additional work came with a new set of headaches, but his duties never included “pandemic response” — until last month.
On March 14, one of his roommates texted to say he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and had moved back with his family in Fresno.
Vidaurre delivered the news to his roommates. Almost everyone handled it calmly, he said. But there were a few exceptions, including one who started packing and left that night on a 13-hour drive back to his parents’ home in Oregon.
But moving back in with his parents isn’t an option for Vidaurre, as it might be for others in their mid-20s. His mom has an autoimmune disorder.
“Going to Houston and coming into contact with them is really not a desire I have right now,” he said. “I just really hope they stay inside.”
In the last month, as the headlines about the pandemic have become grimmer, young people in cities across the country have contemplated the possibility of moving home to live with their parents or extended family.
Some of them can’t afford it. Others, like Vidaurre, worry that they might be asymptomatic and put their medically frail relatives at risk, as some reports suggest that infection is more likely to happen in clusters, such as with a family living under one roof.
But many others are returning to their childhood bedrooms and setting up workstations in the dining room of homes where food — and support — are in ample supply. The trade-off is often living in a household where siblings are sleeping nearby and families are trying to figure out who will do a video-conference from what room.
Decisions to stay or go have been made under pressure, sometimes in haste. For those who have moved home, it’s not clear how long they’ll be there. It’s highly unlikely that anyone was thinking about their emotional or financial independence, but their decisions could very well influence the way they and their parents navigate the world for the rest of their lives.
Young people who are hunkered down far from their immediate families may be confronted with parents whose separation anxiety is growing. Subtle cues may be missed; estrangements may be amplified.
But no one can think about any of that right now. The future will have to wait.
Socially distanced bikers and walkers, against a backdrop of the Queen Mary, make their way along pedestrian and beach bike path on the first day that Long Beach reopened the path on Monday May 11, 2020. The city of Long Beach eased a few of its public health restrictions, allowing under certain guidelines the reopening of pedestrian and beach bike paths, tennis centers and courts. Beach bathrooms are also reopening, but the parking lots and beaches still remain closed. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)
Traffic remains light on the southbound 110 Freeway headed toward downtown Los Angeles on April 28. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dominique Barrett, center, known as “King Vader” to his 2.4 million TikTok followers, prepares to shoot a video on April 30 in Glendora. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
Cody Purcell of Redondo Beach rides a wave, glowing from the bioluminescence, in Hermosa Beach, CA, after midnight Friday morning, May 8. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)
Friends play spikeball, a game perfect for social distancing on an open but restricted San Buenaventura State Beach. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
The majority of golfers are wearing masks while hitting balls on the driving range at Van Buren Executive Golf Course in Riverside. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Beaches including Harbor Cove Beach were open but beachgoers were not supposed to be sitting on the sand. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Tango instructor Yelizaveta Nersesova leads a Zoom tango event from her Los Angeles home April 27 that brought together hundreds of dancers from around the world. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
Grocery store workers, joined by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 770 representatives and community members, hold a rally in support of strict social distancing on May 1 at a Ralphs store in Hollywood where 19 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Mostly masked commuters keep their distance from one another on a Metro bus in downtown Los Angeles on April 29. (Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)
Gregory Kuhl, 69, heads home after a shopping trip in Hollywood on April 28. Big cracks in the street, cars parked in driveways blocking sidewalks and uneven pavement levels make navigating his route difficult. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
Tenants and their supporters from across Los Angeles gather at city hall to call on L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, the L.A. City Council and California Gov. Gavin Newsom to cancel rent and mortgage payments during the COVID-19 crisis. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Aerial view of over 100 vehicles lined up at the West Valley COVID-19 testing center at Warner Center in Woodland Hills. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Senior Mason Wise, left, helps his sister, Mackenzie, a sophomore, clean out her PE locker at El Camino Real Charter High School in Woodland Hills. School officials were allowing no more than five students at a time on campus to take home their belongings. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Shuttered storefront businesses in the garment district of Los Angeles. California’s unemployment rate has skyrocketed since the statewide coronavirus shutdown took effect. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Healthcare workers celebrate as Claudia Martinez is discharged from the ICU after she recovered from COVID-19 at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Chula Vista. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Carson residents Kaeli Burks, 3, left, and her cousin Bailey Watson, 5, look out the window of their car after their mothers helped them with self-testing at a new drive-up testing site for COVID-19 in Carson. Free COVID-19 testing is available to all city residents thanks to a partnership between the city and US Health Fairs. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Norm and Tracy Kahn enjoy eating dinner outside on a small cafe table sitting in blue chairs on their side yard during the coronavirus pandemic on April 27 in Riverside. “During this pandemic, eating outside offers us an opportunity to change surrounding and appreciate the calmness of being outdoors among trees, scents from nature and the sounds of birds,” she said. Also adding, “Mixing up where we eat puts variety into our days and takes away the sameness of feeling trapped at home.” (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center nurses carry supplies outside the hospital. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Tom Sean Foley pauses on a walk with his kids, Cathelen Claire, “C.C.,” 3, and Timothy Joseph, 4, to take a photo in front of the “Love Wall,” mural by artist Curtis Kulig, outside of Smashbox Studios in Culver City. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Protesters stand along Mission Blvd. in Pacific Beach during A Day of Liberty rally on April 26. The protesters were against the government shutdown due to the coronavirus. (K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)
People make orders at a food truck along Shoreline Avenue in Long Beach. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Medical staff, wearing protective gear, work inside a COVID-19 isolation area inside the emergency department at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in Los Angeles, where patients with the virus are being treated. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Neighbors practice social distancing while enjoying the nice weather near The Strand in Hermosa Beach. (Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)
Counter-protesters attend a protest to call on state and local officials to reopen the economy in downtown Los Angeles. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
A group of protesters cheer on cars during a vehicle caravan protest to call on state and local officials to reopen the economy in downtown Los Angeles. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
Cedar Mountain Post Acute Rehabilitation staff member Navi Cavaltera waters a flower pot put up by the community to show their support for the nursing staff of the facility in Yucaipa. Eighteen of 20 coronavirus-related deaths in Yucaipa were residents of the skilled nursing facility. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A pedestrian wearing a protective mask passes a mural on a store on Melrose Avenue in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Jonte Florence, a freestyle dancer, does a handstand on a mostly empty Hollywood Walk of Fame. Florence said he normally performs for hundreds of tourists along the busy street. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
The Tyrannosaurus rex overlooking the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue wears a protective mask while practicing social distancing. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Businesses are shuttered and pedestrians are few and far between on Hollywood Boulevard. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Daniel Rogerson wears a vintage military gas mask while riding a bike along the beach path in Santa Monica, which is closed to enforce social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
A face mask seller in colorful dress appears to be part of a mural behind a bus stop on Soto Street in Los Angeles. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Life around Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard and Soto Street has slowed down as California officials extended stay-at-home orders into May and residents entered Easter weekend with unprecedented limits on their movements. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
UC Irvine Medical Center health care workers return their gratitude as about 25 Orange County first responder vehicles participate in a drive-by parade of gratitude as they battle COVID-19 at the hospital. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Billy Budd, 55, of Hollywood, walks along Hollywood Boulevard with a protective face covering. Budd is a scenic artist for movies and television who is currently out of work due to the coronavirus outbreak. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Stuart Reyes and his sister, Stephanie, sell masks for $5 each on the 3000 block of West Century Boulevard in Inglewood. Stuart Reyes said he is selling masks to support his mother. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A jogger runs on a closed trail past dozens of pieces of caution tape, torn off by hikers and mountain bikers at El Escorpion Canyon Park in West Hills. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Alex Herron and nurse Mercy Pineda at a blood drive sponsored by USC athletics and the American Red Cross at USC’s Galen Center. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles City Hall displays blue lights to show support for healthcare workers and first responders. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
After being indoors for several days because of rainy weather and coronavirus stay-at-home orders, Olivia Jacobs, 4, and her mom, Cia Jacobs, enjoy a warm and sunny afternoon making chalk drawings on the sidewalk in front of their home in West Hills. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
An Oceanview Plaza security guard sports a whimsical mask while on patrol. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Jacob De Wilde, left, and Lesli Lytle load a car with food during a food distribution organized to mark Good Friday. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
As a late season storm continues to make its way across the Southland, a young basketball player dribbles along an alley through an Elysian Park neighborhood in Los Angeles. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
People are silhouetted in a window of an apartment building in Hollywood, where a stay-at-home order remains in effect to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
The Wilshire Grand Center display blue lights and a heart to show support for healthcare workers and first responders. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Women wear masks as they stroll along Highland Avenue in Hollywood. Wearing masks while outdoors is mandatory in the city of Los Angeles. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Patients are removed from Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center after 39 tested positive for the coronavirus and nursing staff was not showing up to work. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
A specimen is turned in at the new mobile testing site for people with symptoms of the coronavirus at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in South Los Angeles. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
Hippie Kitchen in Los Angeles hands out food, water and toiletries to homeless people and residents of skid row. Additionally, masks were offered to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Nurses pose for a fun photo during a break in drive-through public testing for the coronavirus at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A woman shows a notice from her doctor that allows her to obtain a test for coronavirus at a new drive-up testing site in a parking lot at the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A person who wishes to remain anonymous strikes from her car to support McDonald’s employees who are demanding the company cover healthcare costs of any worker or immediate family member who gets sick from COVID-19 in Los Angeles. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
Cassidy Roosen, with Beach Cities Health District, holds up a sign that says, “We’re All in This Together,” while waiting to direct cars at a drive-through, appointment-only coronavirus testing location at the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Grace Carter, 15, of Riverside, practices a dance routine at home after dance classes and school were canceled. She has to use the Zoom app on her iPhone to practice with her dance group. “It’s hard,” she said. “My bedroom is a smaller space. I miss all my friends at the studio.” (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
A man works from his home in Long Beach. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
A San Bernardino County healthcare worker takes a sample at a coronavirus drive-through testing site at the county fairgrounds in Victorville. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
A Metro general service employee disinfects a bench in Boyle Heights. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
A runner jogs past the Pottery Barn in Pasadena. Some businesses in the area have boarded up their stores. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Raquel Lezama and daughter Monica Ramos collect meals for their family at Manual Arts High School. Lezama was laid off from her $17.76-an-hour job at a Beverly Hills hotel. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
The Iron City Tavern in San Pedro tries an incentive to lure takeout customers. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Healthcare workers gather outside UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center to call for further action from the federal government in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Kristen Edgerle, of Victorville, collects information from a blood donor before drawing blood at The Richard Nixon Presidential Library blood drive during the coronavirus pandemic in Yorba Linda. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)
Shauna Jin, of Los Angeles, with her dog, Bodhi, practices social distancing with John Kiss, of Los Angeles, at the entrance of Runyon Canyon Park in Los Angeles. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
A lending library had some additional useful items, including a roll of toilet paper and cans of beans and corn, in a Hermosa Beach neighborhood. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Protesters drive by the Getty House, the home of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, in Hancock Park. Tenant advocates are demanding a total moratorium on evictions during the coronavirus crisis. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Venice residents Emily Berry and Gavin Kelley take a break at Venice Beach. Berry, a cocktail waitress at Enterprise Fish Co., lost her job due to the coronavirus outbreak. Kelley, a manager at a performing arts school with a focus on music, said that he still has a job and that classes at the school will resume online this coming Monday. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
The JW Marriott at L.A. Live is sharing a message of hope with red lights in 34 windows, creating a 19-story display on the hotel’s north side. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Juan Diaz Jr., a lifelong Dodgers fan, prays that the season will start by May in front of Dodger Stadium on what would have been opening day. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Hayley, CEO and founder of Love My Neighbor Foundation, right, dances with Crystal Armster, 51, while she and her colleagues continue to feed the homeless on skid row amid the pandemic. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A masked passenger on a Metro bus in downtown Los Angeles. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dede Oneal waits for a coronavirus test at the Crenshaw Christian Center in South Los Angeles. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
A man in a mask passes a closed restaurant along Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Artist Corie Mattie paints a mural on the side of a pop-up store as a man takes a picture in West Hollywood. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Medical assistant Zoila Villalta works with Rosie Boston, 32, of Glendale, who is donating blood for her first time at L.A. Care Health Plan downtown. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
A couple wait for a bus outside the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
With all Los Angeles schools closed until further notice, LAUSD buses sit idle in Gardena. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
A lone traveler makes his way to catch a flight in Tom Bradley International Terminal. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Denise Young looks on as her daughter, Allison, 9, a fourth-grader at EARThS (Environmental Academy of Research Technology and Earth Sciences) Magnet School in Newbury Park, receives a Chromebook. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Hollywood Boulevard is devoid of the usual crowds. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Michael Ray, 11, plays before a movie at the Paramount Drive-In. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Isabella Leader, 15, counts how many flags have been left for World War II veteran Lt. Col. Sam Sachs who was celebrating his 105th birthday at the Mom & Dad’s House, an assisted living facility, in Lakewood. Lt. Col. Sachs appealed to the public for birthday cards after the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of a big celebration and wound up receiving thousands, including a letter and photo from President Trump. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Cole Gilbert, 26, says the seriousness of this pandemic sneaked up on him. As schools across the state closed and Gov. Gavin Newsom told people over age 65 to stay home, Gilbert said, he continued to live a “normal” life, going out for drinks March 14 at a packed bar in Venice, where he lives.
Then, days later, Newsom asked restaurants to close to dine-in guests.
Gilbert thought about his routine and started to worry about washing his clothes at the laundromat. “I didn’t want to go to the grocery store” to prepare for a long shut-in.
“I feel like in a time of crisis, the places I retreat to are my comfort zones,” Gilbert said. So he grabbed his dirty clothes and his two dogs and headed to his parents’ place in Long Beach.
Gilbert works as a production manager for his family’s aerospace finishing company. The Friday before he returned home, the company had furloughed half its staff as business dropped off. Gilbert wondered whether his move home might be permanent.
After business started to pick up again, the company was able to bring employees back on and Gilbert surveyed the landscape.
Living at home hasn’t been so bad.
“I’m more of a grown-up now about everything,” he said. “Going home and realizing I have responsibilities at the house. Now that I’m their guest, I’m not treating it like my home. I’m trying to do my part,” running errands and buying groceries.
Gilbert has given up his place in Venice and plans on being a Long Beach resident for the foreseeable future. But he swears it won’t be forever.
As the novel coronavirus continues its assault, how should families deal with the return of adult children who considered themselves launched?
Julie Lythcott-Haims is a former college administrator with two college-age children who have returned to their Palo Alto home. Her 81-year-old mother lives in a small house at the back of the property and her 20-year-old son just came out of a 14-day quarantine after returning from Portland, where he lives and works.
The author of “How to Raise an Adult,” Lythcott-Haims said there’s a fine balance that parents need to strike between communicating the seriousness of following rules and young people’s desire for the independence they had when they were living on their own.
“Everybody is accustomed to greater autonomy and freedom, and now we’re in an environment where everyone is supposed to be locked down,” she said. “We kind of want to be sure everybody is abiding by the rules, and yet we’re all adults here. So I think there’s a lot of walking on eggshells about serious issues.”
Lythcott-Haims says this all fundamentally comes down to trust — whether the person has returned home or not.
For young adults who are far away from family, it’s also a fraught time. When twentysomethings are separated in moments like this, she says, they become more like peers with their parents. Trust comes when parents and adult children are able to have honest conversations about the risks they are facing and the precautions they are taking.
“I think they’re both worried about each other and they’re both having compassion for each other and wanting to check up and check in,” Lythcott-Haims says. “But inherently, each is required to look after oneself, which I think develops agency and resilience in those young adults who did not return home.”
In the middle of last month, Milwaukee native Ben Levey had a frank should-I-stay-or-should-I-go discussion with his mother. Both of his parents have had health issues.
“I was potentially worried about being asymptomatic and getting her sick,” Levey said of his mother. “That’s scary because you really don’t know.”
His regular Friday night Shabbat dinners with friends in Washington, D.C., had started to change. Instead of ripping the challah bread with their hands, as is custom, Levey and his friends cut it with a knife and kept some distance from one another. The 24-year-old stopped taking the train to his job at a nonprofit.
As it became clear that he could work from home, Levey decided that his best bet was to pack up his car and make the 13- hour drive back home to Wisconsin. Now, he’s living in a room where he hasn’t spent much time since he was 17. He has claimed the living room as his workspace.
His younger brother also is home from college and taking his classes via Zoom.
“We’re four adults in a house in the suburbs,” which feels just a little more cramped than it has in the past, Levey said. “My dad has the back office. I got the living room and my mom is in the bedroom.”
Lucy Putnam, 23, didn’t have to travel far to get home. Still, it was a decision that gave her pause as she wrestled with the implications of getting her parents or siblings sick.
Putnam’s roommates at her apartment near Beverly Grove had been on the go, not paying much attention to social distancing before it was mandated. “I had been interacting with my roommates,” she said, so she asked her parents, “Would you prefer [for] me to stay in my apartment? I’m young and it won’t affect me.’”
No, her mother said, please come home.
Putnam, who works in film and TV development and can work from home, is grateful to have the means and the ability to ride this out in her childhood bedroom in West L.A.
There was, however, the challenge of having a boyfriend, who had been coming and going from the house, which worried her parents. He eventually returned to his family’s home on the East Coast.
Three weeks into the stay-at-home order in Los Angeles, Vidaurre’s circle of roommates continues to shrink and his anxiety growing.
It turned out the housemate who returned to Fresno had not been infected with the coronavirus. He had influenza.
There are still about 15 people living in the house in northeast L.A.
With that many people in close quarters, Vidaurre feels like he constantly needs to clean dishes in the communal kitchen. When someone else begins cleaning, he wonders if the cutlery he just left to dry has been contaminated.
“It just increases the paranoia so much,” he said. “If it were possible to transition to living alone and creating an environment that can be clean and safe, I would do that.”
Vidaurre plans to be out of the house by the end of the month.
He and one of his roommates, Oko Carter, 30, share a box of disposable masks.
As with Vidaurre, Carter returning to his family isn’t an option. Both his grandparents are over 70 and not in great health. And his dad is a truck driver transporting medical equipment in Florida.
Carter’s dog-walking and dog-sitting business has dried up, but he has lived in Los Angeles for a decade, and he says that if he’s going to ride this out somewhere, it’s going to be here.
For now, he shares a room with two other people — one of whom works at a local 7-Eleven. Some of his housemates have lost their jobs or are struggling in the gig economy.
“The bedroom normally holds five people, but only three are here right now,” Carter says, sounding almost relieved. “It’s just been this feeling for those who have remained — it’s been a little sad seeing people who had work just have nothing.”
Still, Carter remains optimistic. He notes what’s been written on the dry-erase board in the communal kitchen.
Keep your head up.