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Opinion

Opinion: Here’s how coronavirus is affecting the people in my world. How about yours?

Coronavirus
An image of virus particles of the new coronavirus, isolated from a patient.
(National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Integrated Research Facility)

In the comments section below, add your own story of how the coronavirus crisis is affecting your life, and the lives of people around you.

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Late most Monday afternoons, weather allowing, neighbors here in our Irvine neighborhood gather in our community park for a get-together, a happy hour of sorts to start the week rather than wait until Friday to end it. There’s a core of about a dozen of us, but sometimes the crowd swells to twice that.

Today, none of us will be there.

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Most of the group are north of the age line — 65 years — that Gov. Gavin Newsom drew for folks who should avoid going out in public as the coronavirus courses its way through the state, the nation and the world.

But one couple in their 50s began “social distancing” a few days ago, as the reports became more dire. Their son returned early from a college that shut down. Now one of them is frantically trying to help her parents navigate the logistics of an early return to the U.S. from a world cruise.

Another couple, in their 70s, have been shut in by what turned out, fortunately, to be a bout of the flu. But as the coronavirus spread, they had already canceled a dream cruise to Norway to watch the northern lights.

My next-door neighbor, also in her 70s and still working, returned home from work this morning when her employer gave people the option of doing so. The L.A. Times last week told employees that if they could work from home, they should do so, so I (and the rest of the editorial board) am. The neighbors on the other side are from Iran, but I haven’t seen them in the past few days to ask how their family and friends back home are faring.

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My wife’s employer, the Irvine Unified School District, is closed for the next two weeks, and then has spring break the week after. Teachers and staff are at work today as they sort out how to do remote teaching, no easy lift for an elementary school. But my wife’s looking at three weeks of disorientation.

Friends who work in a local restaurant are waiting to hear if they will be scheduled for reduced shifts, or, worse, if the restaurant will be ordered closed by city or county officials. One is a senior at a local university, which has shut down for the semester. “Last Thursday was my last day on campus as a student and I didn’t even know it,” she texted. “A little bummed about that.”

A friend who owns a children’s bookstore announced that she’s canceled all March events and will happily meet customers in the parking lot to hand them preordered books so they don’t have to enter the building. Our youngest son, an Orange County jazz bassist, just saw his income for the next few weeks take a significant hit with canceled gigs.

We have a longtime friend a couple of towns away who is physically disabled with a compromised immune system, and who lives with her octogenarian mother, who is also her caregiver. We called Saturday to cancel plans to visit that afternoon. Too much risk of inadvertently exposing them.

My brother, who lives in Pennsylvania, is a salesman but his employer has banned flying for business purposes; with ever-more-stringent limits on crowd sizes, he suspects his trade shows will be canceled anyway. Our sister in New Jersey canceled plans for a Caribbean cruise. Our oldest son and his wife, who live in the Washington, D.C., area, were supposed to have left Saturday for a vacation in Malta, but it was canceled as Europe began closing down.

Fortunately, none of these folks have — at least for now — fallen ill to the virus. Still, the disruptions in their lives are all manifestations of the pandemic.

And, in many ways, it’s only just beginning.


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