Opinion: Bored? Isolated? You’re a pandemic winner

Southbound  110 Freeway north of downtown L.A. is empty as the coronavirus crisis begins
The southbound 110 Freeway north of downtown L.A. is empty as the coronavirus crisis begins in March 2020.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, March 13, 2021. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Those of us lucky enough to have experienced boredom and isolation for a year — and not economic ruin, mortally dangerous “essential” work or even death — can appreciate an emerging genre of pandemic punditry: the “where I was when I found out things would change” retrospective. For it was roughly this past week, exactly one year ago, when the pandemic “started” — not in the sense that the coronavirus became a global problem, but that it profoundly disrupted normal life in California. Today’s Opinion section features several letters from readers recalling the days in late February and early March last year when the severity of the pandemic took hold in their lives.

Staffers at the Los Angeles Times also experienced this upheaval. I quite clearly recall the moment on March 9, 2020, when my boss at the time returned from a meeting and announced to those of us who were at our desks that we would all begin working at home because of the coronavirus (few of us had started using the word “COVID”). That former boss, Nicholas Goldberg, is now an op-ed columnist, and he recently returned to the L.A. Times mothership in El Segundo after a year of working from home to find his desk — newspapers, legal pads and other items — largely as he left them in March 2020, an eerie scene that he describes as “ghostly.”


I don’t know why, but “ghostly” seems to be the right word for a lot now. It captures the sensation I feel looking back at the newsletter I wrote almost exactly one year ago, which quaintly encouraged readers not to panic over this virus and included an excerpt from an editorial that comes across now as woefully naive: “We hope that a year from now we look back on this moment as the point at which the U.S. got the upper hand in the coronavirus outbreak.”

Humans are no match for nature. Yeah, we hear that a lot, but the occasion of the anniversary of the pandemic, and the fact that many of us are either still seeking safety at home or risking ourhealth to work somewhere else, ought to reinforce our understanding of how fragile we are. Says The Times Editorial Board: “So here we are, a year after government officials began ordering businesses and schools shuttered, after we began looking at each other warily and worrying over a tickle in the throat, and after we began sheltering in place against a danger we could not see. It is, in the end, a reminder that for all of our human advances and hubristic successes over nature, we are still a part of the web of life and susceptible to its capricious ways.” L.A. Times

This is not what “reopened schools” should look like. The Los Angeles Unified School District finally announced an agreement to welcome students back onto campus next month, and the editorial board isn’t impressed. Kids will be in a classroom two days a week, but they will still be learning via Zoom there; the instructor supposedly supervising them in person will be on Zoom as well, teaching students online. This is, in effect, supervised Zoom school, and it is so lacking in value that the district should pour its efforts into planning a robust summer school program, says the board. L.A. Times

The British royal family blew a once-in-a-dynasty chance when it mistreated Meghan Markle, the biracial Los Angeles-born daughter of a white father and a Black mother, during her time in Britain after she married Prince Harry in 2018. Instead of supporting Markle and asserting its relevance in a multiethnic world, the palace drove Markle and her husband to escape to Southern California, writes the editorial board. Columnist Robin Abcarian heard echoes of the pain expressed by the late Princess Diana in Harry’s and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey.

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How badly do you really need that stimulus money? Something tells me the anti-Trumpers who spent the last four years agreeing with Jonah Goldberg will feel whiplash reading his most recent column, in which he disputes the Biden administration’s narrative that his predecessor didn’t act aggressively enough to help economically distressed Americans. “The idea that this package comes ‘not a moment too soon’ for an ailing economy is also preposterous,” Goldberg writes. “Yes, there are millions of Americans suffering from the economic consequences of the pandemic, but signs point to an economy about to skyrocket.” L.A. Times

Does anyone remember what 2003 was like? I do: It was the year California voters recalled our boring if arguably competent governor Gray Davis and replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now, just 18 years after that political circus made a mockery of California politics, we may be poised to do it again, this time with Gavin Newsom. Columnist Nicholas Goldberg implores voters not to go down the recall road again. L.A. Times

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