The lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus in the United States is growing — and, some economists say, could lead to an even sharper contraction than during the Great Recession.
A Time to Hunker Down
With life in the U.S. already undergoing big changes in an effort to slow the new coronavirus’ spread, more disruption is on the way.
State and local officials across the country have ordered the closure of schools, restaurants, bars and other areas where people might mingle and spread the virus, taking steps that even a few days ago were considered too drastic to contemplate. On Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that for the next eight weeks, all in-person events consisting of 50 or more people — public and private — be canceled or postponed nationwide. The new guideline is expected to deliver another major blow to the economy.
In turn, the Federal Reserve has slashed interest rates to nearly zero, taking its benchmark rate down to the same rock-bottom level where it was pinned for seven years until December 2015 because of the Great Recession and slow recovery from it. U.S. stock futures tumbled, signaling a rough day ahead today on Wall Street.
Even so, President Trump painted a positive picture of the government’s efforts to stem the spread. “This is a very contagious virus. It’s incredible,” Trump said at a White House briefing. “But it’s something that we have tremendous control of.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s most visible infectious diseases expert who said he would like to see more aggressive measures taken, was far more somber: “The worst is yet ahead for us.”
How to Get Californians to Stay at Home
In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus in California, which has 335 confirmed cases, Gov. Gavin Newsom is urging people 65 and older and those with chronic health conditions to isolate themselves from others. He also asked bars and brewery and winery tasting rooms statewide to close their doors to patrons.
In L.A., Mayor Eric Garcetti took it a step further, requiring the city’s bars, nightclubs, entertainment venues, gyms and fitness centers to close and restaurants to stop dine-in service and limit their business to takeout orders. The order became effective at midnight Sunday and lasts until March 31.
The mayor also announced a moratorium on evictions for renters and that the city is putting together a fund for small businesses that will offer loans.
... Or Not
Despite repeated calls from health officials for “social distancing,” not everyone is doing so. Though many businesses have been affected by slower streams of customers, bars in West Hollywood were packed on Sunday afternoon. Some older Californians have reacted with anger and defiance, even if they knew they were especially vulnerable to the virus that causes the disease known as COVID-19, which can ravage the lungs and has a fatality rate that increases with age.
And for others, it’s about much more than the deprivation of simple joys — it’s a question of economic survival. Indeed, for many caregivers and domestic workers, staying home is not an option. “If they quarantine us, where are we going to get money?”
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More Top Coronavirus Stories
— Anxious Californians have continued to clear the shelves of grocery stores, leading many to announce changes to deal with the throngs of shoppers. The Los Angeles Police Department is among the agencies trying to assure residents there is no food shortage and stores will restock.
— Los Angeles school officials were racing to organize the complex logistics of opening 20 meal pickup sites and 40 family resource centers to serve students who will be displaced from campuses beginning today in an unprecedented shutdown.
— As airports across the country were thrown into chaos this weekend because of hastily rolled-out health screenings for travelers returning from Europe, Los Angeles International Airport remained relatively calm. But average wait times were still about 30 minutes longer than usual, an LAX spokesman said.
— Gun sales are surging in many U.S. states, especially in those hit hardest by the coronavirus — California, New York and Washington. But there’s also been an uptick in less-affected areas.
— South Korea’s rapid coronavirus testing, far ahead of the U.S., could be saving lives.
Plus, here are some tips from Coronavirus Today, a new special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter that will help you understand more about COVID-19:
— Wash your hands for at least 40 to 60 seconds. It’s a better protective measure than a mask.
— Stop touching your face, and keep your phone clean.
— Watch for these symptoms of possible infection: fever, cough, shortness of breath.
— If you’re sick, stay home. If you’re worried you might be infected, call your doctor or urgent care clinic.
— Experts still aren’t sure if pets can get the coronavirus. Pet owners who contract the coronavirus should isolate themselves from their pets out of an abundance of caution.
In a debate dominated by talk of the coronavirus, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders squared off last night in a quiet CNN studio in Washington with no live audience and no press room filled with reporters. It opened with an elbow bump. Biden vowed to pick a woman as his running mate and temporarily stop all immigrant deportations, resuming them only for felons. Sanders challenged Biden’s record, his plans and his fitness for office. But throughout, Biden signaled he has shifted his vision to include a more expansive and compassionate view of government in an effort to persuade the followers of Sanders to join him.
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OUR MUST-READS FROM THE WEEKEND
— How one man’s infection created a web of potential illness around the world.
— Inside the Life Care Center of Kirkland nursing home in Washington, the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
— A Chinese citizen living in Massachusetts became ill earlier this month, with symptoms consistent with the coronavirus. She asked to be tested three times but was denied. Frustrated, she flew to China — and tested positive upon arrival.
— The fundamentals of our toilet paper pipeline remain strong.
— Joined palms, hands on hearts, Vulcan salutes: saying hello in a no-handshake era.
— Why closing Disneyland is such a blow to American optimism.
— Columnist Steve Lopez on the week that changed everything and with a reminder that “this too shall pass.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
On March 13, 1961, the Greek freighter Dominator ran aground off the Palos Verdes Peninsula. For two days, the U.S. Coast Guard and tugboats tried to refloat the vessel, but heavy surf and high winds pushed it higher onto submerged rocks. On this date in 1961, the crew had to be rescued from the vessel.
The wreckage quickly became a tourist destination — albeit one that proved deadly for more than one person trying to get a glimpse up close. Parts of the shipwreck are still lying on the shore.
— A new urgency about helping homeless people is an unexpected side effect of the coronavirus outbreak.
— The Robert Durst murder trial has been postponed to April 6 amid concerns across the court system of about coronavirus. In the face of the growing outbreak, courts have taken a patchwork of measures. On Sunday, the Los Angeles County Superior Court announced that new criminal and civil trials would be put off for at least 30 days.
— Southern California’s chilly, rainy conditions are expected to continue through the early part of this week as another winter weather system moves into the region.
HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS
— As health officials urge social distancing, the overall North American box office plummeted 40% from last weekend with several high-profile movies being rescheduled, in some cases indefinitely.
— The Actors’ Equity Assn. has launched a letter-writing campaign urging U.S. senators and representatives to take emergency action for those working in the theater industry amid the pandemic.
— Harvey Weinstein was convicted and his brother, Bob, wants a comeback. Some aren’t having it.
— In Las Vegas, there are more and more closures and cancellations. Caesars Entertainment has closed spas, fitness centers and restaurants through at least the end of March. Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International are closing down fully.
— An oil war and coronavirus are rattling Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s dangerous game of thrones.
— In Berlin, where there’s always a party, the government has shut down all bars, nightclubs, concerts, dance halls, betting parlors and brothels.
— Business is booming for California survival stores, which have seen an uptick in sales of supplies and bunkers and a growing interest in prepping.
— Global oil consumption is in free fall, heading for the biggest annual contraction in history, as more countries introduce measures to fight the pandemic.
— It’s possible the NFL draft and the start of the season could be delayed because of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, players have approved a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement that will run through 2030 and, starting in 2021, add a 17th game to the regular season.
— At Santa Anita Park, the track is closed to fans because of the coronavirus, but the horse racing goes on.
— “Your hoarding masks could cost me my life”: a doctor’s view from the front lines.
— The Orange County Sheriff’s Department can’t be trusted to police itself, The Times’ editorial board writes.
WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING
— An interactive graphic looks at why outbreaks such as the coronavirus can spread exponentially and how to “flatten the curve.” (Washington Post)
— China’s economy suffered a dramatic collapse in January and February in a warning to the rest of the world. (South China Morning Post)
ONLY IN CALIFORNIA
Jonny Blue, a 33-year-old physical therapist and avid surfer from Encinitas, was seriously bummed by reports of people hoarding toilet paper. One of his friends had a difficult time finding diapers and essential supplies for his kids at a nearby store. So on Saturday morning Blue took a cardboard sign bearing a simple request — “Share your toilet paper” — and camped out on a street corner. Soon enough, like a “take a penny, give a penny” try, the TP started rolling in and out of his simple exchange. “I just want to encourage everyone to be better,” he said. “Difficult times can reveal us to ourselves and help us see ourselves more clearly.”
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