Quarantine grandma? California families scramble as coronavirus hits
“Social distancing.” In this time of coronavirus, it sounds straightforward: Avoid crowds. Don’t shake hands. Shield the elderly and infirm from infection. If necessary, go home and hunker down.
In the complex real lives of California families, however, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s policy advice this week looked more like Michelle Cescatti in Los Angeles saying no to all comers — canceling her 9-year-old daughter’s homeschool field trips, a Knott’s Berry Farm outing, a bevy of playdates, plans for her father-in-law’s 82rd birthday this weekend.
Or like Meryl Opsal in Pasadena, left without childcare options after her parents — a medical researcher and a physician who had been regularly babysitting for her — self-isolated with the first case of community spread in Southern California.
Or Aleigh Lewis, who loaded her children, 3 and 6, into her mother’s car Wednesday with their magna tiles, books and dress up clothes and sent them from her home in Los Angeles to sit out the pandemic in rural Siskiyou County.
Or Jeannee Wainscott, a physician assistant in Sacramento who has lined up a mom swap with two other families in case their children’s schools shut down. Or the San Fernando Valley classroom of preschool teacher Kelly Ferguson, where about half of her 14 little charges this week have been absent.
Or Carmen Marquez in Los Angeles, who has stocked up on her lupus medication so she can keep babysitting her grandchildren. Or Linda Le Park, late to her job and scrambling to drop her third-grader with ADHD off at her mother-in-law’s house because classes have been canceled at his school in Elk Grove.
“Oh my God,” Park said on Tuesday, harried. “I usually take him to school at 8 a.m. and go to work, so now, here I am, it’s like almost 10 a.m., and I just got to work.”
California authorities have rushed to respond as the threat from the coronavirus has exploded into a worldwide public health crisis. With the nation’s largest and most polyglot populace, biggest economy and longest coastline, the state has been on the pandemic’s front lines.
As of Wednesday, four California lives had officially been claimed by COVID-19, the potentially lethal respiratory infection caused by the virus, and tests — which have badly lagged its spread — had diagnosed at least 190 coronavirus cases. College campuses from Sacramento State to the University of California to USC and Stanford had shifted from in-person classes to online instruction, and K-12 schools throughout the state were braced for emergency closures, including 90 Bay Area parochial schools run by the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
Google sent most of its workforce home with instructions to work remotely. The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments announced they are restricting attendance. The NBA suspended the season and UCLA barred audiences from home sporting events until April.
The governor banned gatherings of 250 or more people, the massive Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was postponed to October, and E3, the biggest gaming event of the year, was shut down in Los Angeles. In San Francisco, “Hamilton” was canceled. Passengers on the infected Grand Princess cruise ship in Oakland were taken ashore and triaged in Oakland, with the well-but-symptomatic quarantined in Bay Area hotels. Some sued.