Life in California 'upended' by restrictions from coronavirus pandemic

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LOS ANGELES — Last week most Californians were still working, freeways were congested, kids were playing baseball and soccer, restaurants and bars were serving food and drink and toilet paper supplies were, well, relatively flush.

The reality of how much coronavirus would alter life came first with a wave of life-changing restrictions and took on new gravity when Gov. Gavin Newsom said it's likely schools will remain closed until summer.

Suddenly, parents who were trying to care for and school their kids while telecommuting — or finding child care and going to work — were faced with the prospect the scenario could drag on for months. Students worried about their futures. Employees saw paychecks evaporate as once-thriving business dried up seemingly overnight.

"Almost everything in our life is upended right now," Paul Toscano, the chief marketing officer of Joyride Coffee, a San Francisco area company that supplies high-end coffee and kombucha kegs to offices, said Wednesday. “When we see the Bay Area going into lockdown, we fear that our revenues in the affected area could go to virtually zero.”

The daily rhythm of life has changed swiftly across the state with 11 Northern California counties and the Southern California city of Palm Springs telling residents to stay home, except to buy groceries, visit the doctor or do anything deemed essential.

Newsom encouraged people 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions to stay indoors. He's also called for the shutdown of bars, movie theaters, gyms and other gathering places, and for restaurants to only serve food to go — restrictions already in place in Los Angeles and several other cities.

This week's shelter-in-place order was devastating to Toscano's business in the Bay Area after many tech companies, ahead of the curve, told workers to stay home. Toscano and other co-owners have stopped taking salaries and are putting their savings into the business to prevent laying off employees.

Lines are forming at supermarkets for food and other necessities and stores are limiting quantities of items such as bottled water and toilet paper to prevent hoarding after a run on the goods led to shortages. Newsom's wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, tweeted that her home is about to run out of toilet tissue.

Wendy Lightbourn, who was wearing rubber gloves for the first time for a shopping excursion at Ralphs supermarket in Los Angeles, said her family is passing time playing cards, working on puzzles, watching bad reality TV shows and doing lots of hand washing.

Lightbourn had been out of work since her job was eliminated following the Walt Disney Co. merger last year with 21st Century Fox. Now her husband, a fifth grade teacher, and two children in college, including a daughter who was studying in Rome, are home.

“I've been enjoying staying home until everybody had to stay home with me. It was really nice till then," she said. "I'm kidding.”

Her family canceled an April vacation planned to Italy, which has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths, and also dropped plans to go to Mammoth Mountain this weekend after the ski resort closed. They were going forward with her daughter's 21st birthday Wednesday and had purchased large red plastic cups for a beer pong match, but had limited the gathering to family.

Despite new guidelines in Sacramento to stay home except for essential trips, open signs flashed in some stores downtown, including a camera business and a hair salon.

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Keri Furry, who runs the Cotton Club, was inside her clothing store setting up an online order system, which she doesn't currently have. She wants her customers, many in the older group deemed vulnerable, to be able to get what they need and she has to pay off loans she took when she bought the three-decade-old business last year.

Sergio Medina, who was busy pruning palm trees in the Los Angeles suburb of La Habra Heights, said some customers canceled jobs because they’re worried about taking a financial hit themselves as their businesses close or hours are cut.

“On the other side, I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but there’s no traffic, so we're going from Point A to Point B in record time,“ he said.

Students have had to adjust to taking classes remotely online or lessons arranged or taught by their parents. But their concerns go well beyond learning.

Deshae Lee, a high school senior from Fresno, is overwhelmed by so many uncertainties — from whether she'll be able to complete her college scholarship applications and take her AP exam to whether she'll experience the rites of passage most teens expect.

"Will we get prom and grad night?" she said. "This year was supposed to be fun, but slightly stressful. But this year is like a whole 'nother level of stress."

In the prohibitively expensive San Francisco Bay Area, real estate agents are arranging viewings by appointment only rather than open houses and are arming themselves with disinfectant and protective clothing, said Steve Madeira, who was prepared to show an empty four-bedroom home in Livermore to eager buyers.

“I’m bringing the latex gloves, the hand sanitizer and booties and then my buyer said they’re bringing little face masks,” he said by phone. “We’ll be totally gowned up.”


This story has been corrected to reflect that Paul Toscano of Joyride Coffee fears that revenues could go toward zero and clarifies that the shelter-in-place order was devastating for local business.


Associated Press writers Jocelyn Gecker and Janie Har in San Francisco, Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento and John Rogers in Los Angeles contributed.

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