Life’s restricted, schools and restaurants are closed, and our reality has altered
By Terry Miller
Scores of schools and businesses through Los Angeles County are being forced to shut their doors due to the coronavirus, Covid-19. Many businesses are furloughing some staff in the wake of the outbreak that has affected every one of us in some shape or form. Life as we knew it has changed dramatically, at least for the foreseeable future.
There are active discussions within the Trump administration to encourage a possible “curfew” across the nation in which non-essential businesses would be encouraged to close by a certain time each night in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to CNN. However, on Tuesday, Trump said he didn’t expect a nationwide shutdown or any shelter in place orders.
Governor Gavin Newsom called for a directive Sunday, that seniors and those with chronic medical conditions isolate themselves “in attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus.” Newsom said Sunday he was “directing all bars, pubs and wineries in the state to close while also calling for new restrictions on restaurants as the country grapples with the growing COVID-19 pandemic.”
Newsom made the announcement during a press conference shortly after several states ordered all bars and restaurants in their states to close or only do take-out orders. The California governor said that restaurants would be allowed to remain open but would be required to reduce their capacities and maintain measures to ensure social distancing among customers.
While Newsom’s press conference put some panic in local restaurants and pubs in the San Gabriel Valley, there was no official mandate to close until Monday when Los Angeles County ordered the closure of bars, gyms, and entertainment centers, and restricted restaurants to just take-out or delivery service.
This Covid-19 decree is a particularly hard pill to swallow for Pasadena restaurants as only a few months ago they were bombarded with the minimum wage issue that forced many to change their hours of operation.
British pub Lucky Baldwin’s owner, Peggy Simonian, remains cautiously optimistic about the future during this outbreak but is naturally upset about the misinformation and the emergency directive from the city manager, Steve Mermell. We spoke to Simonian Monday afternoon.
“It has been chaotic and super stressful. Everyone has many questions and I simply do not have answers, as this is changing every day, every hour. It is very difficult to even plan what to do when authorities send out public messages to close restaurants and bars … but still support local businesses by ordering take out? Isn’t this a mixed message of sorts? Still bring in staff and have everything available to go — and sit and wait for orders — that is not my business model. The restaurant business is the hardest hit in this situation, and especially when it employs so many people in this industry.
“We are social creatures and honestly I am not sure how long everyone is going to be willing to stay home before going completely mad!” Simonian said.
Not all pubs/restaurants honored the mandate on St. Patrick’s Day, traditionally among one of any speakeasy’s biggest days of business. There was at least one popular bar open in Arcadia but they did practice what has now become the new normal — social distancing.
Cameron’s Seafood held a special emergency meeting with Bill Bogaard and Victor Gordo Monday at lunchtime, to discuss the Pasadena city manager’s state of emergency declaration which stated that all restaurants, bars and gyms must close, effective immediately. The abrupt notice came as a complete shock to the restaurant industry and subsequently put many smaller restaurants’ future in jeopardy.
On Tuesday, City of Pasadena held a special council meeting to discuss the immediate crisis facing the city in addition to more long term efforts like approving an anti-eviction ordinance. The chairs for the public were spaced out at 6 feet apart and limited in accordance with federal guidelines. The sergeant at arms wore a face mask. Spokesman for Pasadena Unified told the council that remote learning opportunities are in place for the students and a team of experts is available for anyone with difficulty navigating the new digital curriculum.
Meanwhile, overly cautious shoppers continue to wipe clear the shelves at local grocery stores. Even the president of the United States said there is no shortage of supplies as did the Los Angeles Police Department, which tried to reassure residents on Twitter that there is no food shortage and stores will restock.
Unfortunately, the reality is somewhat different. Residents waiting in long lines could be found at area supermarkets only to be exasperated with lack of essentials like bread, milk, toilet paper, and cleaning agents among other things when they actually get in.
“People are panic buying — it’s crazy,” said one checker at Ralph’s in Arcadia Friday who wished to remain anonymous. It was a remarkable sight inside the popular store this weekend. One shopper said even with limits, supplies were wiped out in minutes.
The shelves — usually fully stocked with milk, bread, butter, cheese, paper goods including toilet paper and diapers — were empty when Beacon Media checked early Sunday evening.
However, on Monday morning the local Ralph’s manager told Beacon Media that supplies are steadily coming back and that milk and other perishable goods were delivered early in the morning and that supplies of toilet paper were expected to be in by Tuesday.
Conversely in Monrovia, Baja Ranch manager Amar Iglesias told Beacon Media that his market was “like a war zone on the weekend.” People were apparently grabbing anything they could to fill their baskets before the next shopper could. “I’ve been in the business for over 40 years,” Iglesias said, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my career.”
Iglesias told Beacon Media that as of Monday morning 90 percent of his stock was gone. He added that milk supplies have been cut by 60 percent but was hoping to get some produce deliveries late Monday. Additionally, the store will open early for seniors between 6-7 a.m. and also give them free hand sanitizers.
Governor Gavin Newsom March 13 issued an executive order ensuring California public school districts retain state funding even in the event of physical closure. The order directs school districts to use those state dollars to fund distance learning and high quality educational opportunities, provide school meals and, as practicable, arrange for the supervision of students during school hours.
“Closing schools has a massive, cascading effect for our kids and their families – especially those least equipped financially to deal with them. The needs of California kids must be met regardless of whether their school is open or closed. School districts that choose to close must use state educational dollars to quickly meet the needs of children and families. The State of California is working around the clock to help those districts and provide best practices to ensure no kid is left behind,” said Newsom.
On Tuesday, Newsom warned it is likely “few if any” California schools will reopen before summer break. Newsome acknowledged that much remains uncertain and so the state is preparing for worst-case scenarios. The governor also placed the California National Guard on alert to prepare to perform humanitarian missions across the state including food distribution, ensuring resiliency of supply lines, as well as supporting public safety as required.
This story continues to change hourly and our lives with it.