March 31, 2020 1:15 PM
by Rick Cole
It’s been eleven days since Governor Newsom’s “stay at home” order went into effect – and we are all adjusting to the new normal. No one knows how long this will last, but it seems like it will be at least a month under these – or even harsher – restrictions.
I can’t emphasize enough the gratitude I have for everyone who is doing their part by staying home.
Life has changed dramatically for Santa Monica, as it has across Southern California.
Thousands have no work or had to close their businesses. Those lucky enough to still be employed, are often working from home, many taking care of kids trying to adapt to online classes. Grocery stores are still struggling to restock shelves and provide physical distancing to their workers and shoppers. Things we took for granted --working out at the gym, going out for dinner, enjoying movies, plays, and concerts, playing sports in the park– all shut down indefinitely. Two weekends ago, our beach was thronged with people hoping to escape their homes for some fresh air. This past Friday, all the beaches in LA County were closed until April 19.
There has been an emotional toll as well. Many are afraid, some desperately so. The virus is invisible, and some vulnerable residents are afraid to even open their windows. Physical distancing has imposed social distancing on many – and neither Facebook nor Facetime can make up for the loss of social contact.
It has meant a huge change for City government. Our libraries, recreation programs, and public counters are shut down. We’ve suspended street sweeping to allow for resident street parking and stepped up efforts to get compliance with public health orders. We’ve been working non-stop to respond to questions, concerns, complaints, suggestions, and demands from residents. As with the incomes of many residents and businesses, City revenue has plunged.
Even our Emergency Operations Center looks completely different. If we’d been hit with an earthquake or any other natural or human disaster, it would be a crowded beehive of activity. Now those working to respond to the health emergency and maintain vital City services are mostly working remotely, adapting to meetings over video and phone networks.
We know from what’s happened in China, Europe, and New York that this is not going to be over soon. Our original emergency declaration lasted through March 31. The City Council held a special meeting to extend that through the end of April. I don’t know any responsible authority predicting an easing of these restrictions before at least a month, likely longer.
So as we adjust to living in this new normal, a quick reminder for the weeks ahead about what you can and can’t do. You can get food – at the grocery store, farmers market or using delivery or take-out from our restaurants. You can do necessary errands to keep you and your house safe. You can check on neighbors and relatives. You can take a walk in your neighborhood or visit your local park (Palisades Park, however, has been closed because of visitor spill-over from the beach closure). If you do any of these things, however, please be careful and stay six feet away from people, even your good friends. And practice all the now well-known hygiene practices, starting with washing your hands before and after touching surfaces or objects that may harbor the virus.
What you can’t do is live a normal life. “Stay at home” means just that. Not only are you “safer at home” – you are keeping your vulnerable neighbors (and ultimately health care workers) safer by avoiding giving or getting the virus.
Of course, some people are using their extra time at home to jump on the keyboard, a great way to check-in with friends. Not so great when people spread unfounded rumors, conspiracy theories, and petty complaints. We have an email address monitored daily to answer questions: firstname.lastname@example.org and a COVID-19 hotline to take your calls from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. daily at (310) 458-8400.
Even as we cope with these realities, this too shall pass. There are better times ahead. Now is not a time to panic or bicker. Now is a time for us all to work together to build a foundation for a stronger, more equitable, more sustainable future for Santa Monica.
Stay calm, stay informed and stay healthy!