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Opinion

Newsletter: Time to ‘revise’ California’s lockdown?

The downtown view from Griffith Observatory, which has been closed since late March, on Easter Sunday.
The downtown view from Griffith Observatory, which has been closed since late March, on Easter Sunday.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, April 25, 2020. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

I’d be lying if I told you this home-confinement-for-the-benefit-of-all business wasn’t starting to grate. Yes, the need physically to distance ourselves from everyone but members of our own household is undeniably important in making the coronavirus outbreak manageable. But bear in mind that the majority of people who inhabit my home are school-aged children, so while the critical benefits of this isolation accrue to society as a whole, the pain is immediate, increasing and indefinite.

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It may seem selfish (OK, it is selfish) to express such self-pity, but surely it’s a problem for society when countless other families have children for whom the school year came to an abrupt and premature halt. In her op-ed column this week, Virginia Heffernan cited the masses of unschooled children as an aggravation that ought to prompt Gov. Gavin Newsom to start talking about “revising” — not relaxing or loosening — the state’s stay-at-home order. Considering how we can refine the lockdown “is not the equivalent of denying science,” Heffernan writes. “And proposing modifications to quarantine measures is not like saying Jesus is your vaccine.”

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Evidence for some unease among the masses over the indeterminate nature of the lockdown can be found elsewhere in Opinion. Prompted by the first spring heat wave in Southern California, the L.A. Times Editorial Board encouraged state officials to “figure out how reopen the beaches, parks and trails safely, equitably and coherently.” Our readers’ heretofore rock-solid report for California’s actions began to show cracks this week. In one letter, a reader suggested that a looser lockdown may be in order considering the relative good health of our hospitals; another questioned whether local officials erred in closing hiking trails and other open spaces.

Got cabin fever? Dancing at home might help, even if such exuberant behavior might seem improper against a backdrop of misery, sickness and death. Videos posted on social media that show celebrities sashaying at home have been met with howls of protest from those who would impose a more monastic house arrest. “To scorn dance now is to join in a centuries-old prudishness and closed-mindedness that overlooks movement’s blessings and charms,” writes Henry Alford. “Sacred or profane: I don’t really care. Just keep the beat alive.” L.A. Times

Is the coronavirus a cure for car culture? That’s more than just idle speculation, considering that some experts are starting to wonder if more people would have died overall without the lockdowns that have kept personal automobiles largely off the road. The cleaner air in Los Angeles is also making for some killer mountain views, writes Matthew Fleischer, who excoriates car culture: “Frankly, the idea that we can transport ourselves sustainably en masse in toxic 4,000-pound battering rams is just as delusional, entitled and self-destructive as the ‘liberate’ protestors who are demanding a premature end to coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders.” L.A. Times

The coronavirus reminds Asian Americans that their belonging is conditional, John Cho writes. The “Harold and Kumar” actor, who came to the United States at the age of 6 and was naturalized nearly 30 years ago, bemoans the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S. Cho concludes with an injunction: “Please don’t minimize the hate or assume it’s somewhere far away. It’s happening close to you. If you see it on the street, say something. If you hear it at work, say something. If you sense it in your family, say something. Stand up for your fellow Americans.” L.A. Times

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California’s exceptionalism may be the new American exceptionalism. Gov. Gavin Newsom is getting all kinds of positive media coverage nationally, and why not? His early stay-at-home order appears to have paid dividends, and his decision to loan medical equipment to states worse off than California has all the trappings of leadership sorely missing in Washington. But Newsom’s bold action is draining the state’s impressive budget reserves, and the governor concedes that the crisis will probably lead to some jaw-dropping deficits and unemployment rates in the coming years. The Atlantic

Put your phone away during those precious neighborhood walks. Even before the pandemic hit, writer Ella Taylor was noticing a troubling new reality on her local strolls: pedestrians out and about but digitally confined by their smartphones, and empty stores struggling to remain in business in an era of online shopping. “Before the current plague sent us indoors, to go out on foot was to risk getting knocked over by smartphone junkies who lumbered around the sidewalks, bellowing into devices or surfing the net as they abdicated responsibility for avoiding collision,” Taylor writes. L.A. Times

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As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.
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