This story is part of Spectrum News’ special reporting on the coronavirus pandemic in Southern California. Join us at 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 11 for “A Year of COVID” on Spectrum News 1 or the Spectrum News app.
LOS ANGELES – COVID-19 cases are declining. More of us are getting vaccinated. Restaurants may soon return to interior service. And toilet paper has returned to its pre-pandemic status as a common grocery item that no longer needs to be hoarded. But as the first anniversary of the World Health Organization approaches declaring the coronavirus a pandemic, daily life in Southern California is almost unrecognizable from what it once was. So let’s look back to see how we even got here.
No one would have suspected that COVID-19 would turn our lives upside down the way it did in early January 2020, when the World Health Organization issued a statement on a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. It seemed too far, too far away to be of much concern in a place as carefree as sunny Southern California.
At least until January 20, when the United States Centers for Disease Control began coronavirus screenings at three U.S. airports, including LAX. These screenings turned out to be for a good cause. Less than a week later, California documented its first case of coronavirus in a person who had traveled to Wuhan and had been hospitalized in Orange County.
COVID-19 was officially here.
As the virus quietly continued its deadly ramp through the south of the country, sending more Californians to hospitals and, for too many of them, to their graves, life seemed normal for most of us. . We were concerned about other more devastating news on the same day as the CDC’s announcement: Kobe Bryant and his daughter were killed in a helicopter crash – an event that dominated local news for an entire month.
Then came in March
Considering what was to come, cases of the coronavirus were quite low. As of March 4, 2020, 129 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the United States, including 53 in California. Still, more than 9,400 Californians were being watched for possible travel-related exposure to the virus, prompting Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency in anticipation that the pandemic would only get worse.
It made. Days later, 21 passengers on a Carnival cruise ship carrying more than 3,500 people off the coast of California tested positive for COVID-19.
California is often an outlier for the rest of the country. What starts here is frequently adopted elsewhere, which started happening on March 8 when the BNP Paribas Open 2020 tennis tournament in Indian Wells became the first U.S. sporting event canceled due to COVID-19. Two days later, organizers of the Coachella music festival followed suit, postponing the event until October.
It was only a matter of days before mass gatherings of more than 250 people were banned statewide, as were social gatherings with more than 10 people. The restrictions have resulted in the closure of iconic gathering places including Disneyland and Joshua Tree National Park.
Life as Californians knew it was officially on hiatus. The Los Angeles Times and other media reported that many stores were running low on toilet paper. Hand sanitizer was scarce. Trying to find an N95 mask was impossible.
The effects of COVID were starting to be felt, even for the Hollywood guys. When Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson told the world they had coronavirus in mid-March, it particularly resonated for a city focused on entertainment. Even celebrities were not immune.
March 16: Daily life has stopped as we know it
Few things have hampered our coasting lifestyles as much as the LA County Public Health Order was released on March 16. Cinemas, gymnasiums, arcades, bowling alleys and bars that did not serve food were ordered to close. Restaurants were only allowed to serve meals on takeout, delivery or drive-thru. The Los Angeles Unified School District has closed all of its campuses, prompting children to attend school virtually from home for the first time.
Just when it looked like life could no longer be curtailed, three days later Newsom issued a stay-at-home order statewide, barring residents from going outside except to do essential work or buy items. essential products. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued his “safer at home” order the next day, preventing Angelenos from participating in non-essential activities outside their homes.
Yes, you can walk your dog or jog around the neighborhood. Yes, you can buy groceries or take out food. But Netflix was your new best friend.
With everyone stuck at home, the LA County subway ridership dropped by half. Traffic through Los Angeles International Airport fell 95%. Bird and Lime scooters have temporarily halted operations for everyone except essential workers. But there was a small ray of hope in the city that is by and large synonymous with traffic: the number of vehicles on the road fell by more than half, allowing Angelenos for the first time in years to pass through the city, passing more time to press the accelerator. than the brake pedal.
Masks are the new normal
In April, LA became one of the first cities to require employees and customers of essential stores and businesses to cover their faces; it also granted companies the right to refuse service to customers who did not comply. A month later, Garcetti said all residents of the town were required to wear a mask whenever they left their homes.
Even when they are mandatory, masks are a matter of contention. Still, they were a staple that enabled LA restaurants to start offering alfresco dining last summer and partially reopen hair salons.
This was, unfortunately, short-lived. As of July 1, California had the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country – over 200,000 (a major LA County milestone would reach on its own a month later). The result was another round of business closures when the governor ordered restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, gyms, museums and most other domestic businesses to close in several counties, including Los Angeles. , within the framework of an authorized activity level by color code. operations based on COVID-19 cases.
And that’s where Southern California is: in the most restrictive purple level, nearly a year after the start of a pandemic that indelibly changed the Southern California way of life, even if hope is on the horizon with an acceleration of vaccines.
It might sound like an April Fool’s Day joke, but California is aiming for April 1 to allow Major League Baseball to resume and theme parks to reopen, albeit at 15% capacity. Restaurants are preparing for the day when they can once again serve customers inside. And travelers can’t wait to come back through LAX. Thus, life will return to a semblance of normalcy.
Many economists predict a “roaring 1920s” redux in the second half of the year, as the United States nears collective immunity. According to the UCLA Anderson School’s prediction for California, technology, residential construction and logistics will lead the economic recovery and that after the pandemic, the state will grow faster than the United States as a whole.