One Angeleno’s Coronavirus Pandemic Diary: Day 8 – Time to Shelter in Place

Coronavirus meme via Instagram
Coronavirus meme via Instagram

Day 8 of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of midday March 18 there are people infected/deaths: worldwide 214,797/8,779, U.S. 7,539/118, CA 636/11, L.A. County 190/1 (46 new cases)

Today is the third entry in a series of journal-type posts about what’s happening regarding coronavirus in one SBLA editor’s neck of the woods. Today I am going to touch on a few things going from the micro to the macro.

Personally, we’ve been struggling with just how much contact our daughter should have with the kid who lives next door. We live at Los Angeles Eco-Village (LAEV), where we have relatively small personal spaces with relatively large common spaces – especially a large backyard with garden and play area. We’re a one-child two-parent family. Our next-door neighbor family (in the same eight-plex building) has an only-child who’s less than a year younger than our daughter. The kids are really good friends – often yelling out the windows to each other, and spending lots of time together in our home, theirs, and in common spaces. The family’s back door is less than 10 feet from ours.

Early on (meaning last Sunday – seems like a long time ago) we discussed how our kids could probably isolate together – as long as we’re all basically healthy, and all observing good preventative practices. The trick is that there are another half-dozen kids at LAEV, which makes things more complicated. They’re a couple doors away, they share common spaces. There are kids across the street. Some kids of single parents have joint custody – so there’s a parent I know and trust, but another one who I don’t know as well. These complications have my wife and I up at night discussing what arrangements we’re comfortable with – and not. It feels a little like Dan Savage talking about non-monogamy.

We’re telling our daughter things like “you can play with kid A, but if you see kid B you need to wave and say hi – but stay six feet from them.” Is it realistic to expect that a six-year-old can maintain a six-foot separation? I don’t think so. Frankly, though, from my observations neither do grocery customers or pedestrians. Anyone out there have good advice for socially isolating a six-year-old? I’m leaning toward keeping her isolated from our neighbor’s kid, mostly because it just seems impossible to keep the circle to two families. I feel like a jerk… but it seems the most responsible thing to do… and so many decisions now feel so provisional – let’s try this for a couple days and see.

At the L.A. County level, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer today reported 46 new COVID-19 cases in L.A. County, stating that there are “cases everywhere in L.A. County.” Based on other countries, Ferrer anticipates “we will see a lot of new cases every day” for at least the next four weeks.

L.A. has closed down plenty of events and places where people gather – but has not yet directed Angelenos to shelter in place. When asked about shelter in place, Ferrer responded that “our guidance is very similar.” Anecdotally, though there are stores closed, my Koreatown neighborhood today still has lots of car and foot traffic. I suspect that quite a bit of non-essential travel was happening. I observed people waiting for buses, street vending, and even elderly evangelists handing out religious tracts. No offense, but no thanks.

Shelter in place is already in effect in seven Bay Area counties: Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Alameda, and Sonoma. Streetsblog California and Streetsblog Chicago have good overviews of what those rules look like. Here’s SB Chicago on the basics:

  • Vulnerable populations must stay home. Everyone else is required to stay home except to get food, care for a relative or friend, get necessary health care, or go to an essential job.
  • It is OK to go outside for walks or bike rides if you are not in a group.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart when leaving your home for essential activities.

I think Angelenos should expect that shelter in place very soon. I would urge folks to act as if it was already here. Alissa Walker at Curbed makes the case that, right now, “staying home is providing the most exponential benefits to our community today.”

And a follow-on note to bicyclists and drivers. I know we all feel pretty invulnerable when we move through the city. But the more we all move through the city, the more crashes result in injuries and worse. We may think that we can just run to the store to pick up that item we didn’t stock up on… but a crash at this time means a strain on an already strained healthcare system.  And a trip (even with needed handwashing and social isolation) is a chance to get infected or to spread infection. For the benefit of all, minimize your trips. Shelter in place, really. Better to check in with neighbors, to walk, or to do without.

Resist the urge to make any trips other than what’s necessary. And while making necessary trips, whether bicycling or driving, slow down. Even more than ususal, lives depend on it.

Today’s recommended reading:

  • Alissa Walker at Curbed: “It’s not just staying home—it’s about making choices that enable other people around you to stay home. The best way you can help retail employees is to stay home. The best way you can help unhoused residents is to stay home. The best way you can help elderly neighbors is to stay home. The best way you can help essential city workers is to stay home. Until the end of March, we need to worry less about each other’s economic livelihood and more about each other’s lives.”

Image of the day:

Vox explainer video on how social distancing saves lives by flattening the curve.

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