The Coronavirus Outbreak  03/26/2020 12:57:17   Jill Cowan

Thursday: Gov. Gavin Newsom announced protections for homeowners. But many renters are still on the hook. Also: Cultivating your own garden.

Jill Cowan
ImageAn aerial view shows Sunset Boulevard, shortly before sunset, with lighter than normal traffic on Wednesday.
An aerial view shows Sunset Boulevard, shortly before sunset, with lighter than normal traffic on Wednesday.Credit...Mario Tama/Getty Images

Good morning.

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On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Gavin Newsom took his now-usual spot behind a podium in Sacramento for a live-streamed news conference and rattled off a dizzying list of statistics.

Some 66,800 tests had been conducted, he said, once again emphasizing that the state is working with commercial labs, hospitals and universities to ramp up testing even more. California had distributed more than 24 million N95 masks and more are on the way, he said.

[Here are more of the latest updates about the coronavirus in California.]

But one number in particular stood out.

We just passed the one million mark in claims since March 13, Mr. Newsom said. He was talking about people filing for unemployment.

It was a jarring encapsulation of how many Californians are and will continue to be out of work, and how many will desperately need help paying their bills to stave off homelessness.

[Read about how to apply for unemployment insurance.]

Mr. Newsom announced that four of the five big banks  Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo  along with almost 200 state-chartered banks and credit unions, had agreed to put off collecting mortgage payments for up to 90 days from borrowers who can document theyve been affected by the crisis.

He said the financial institutions also agreed not to report the late payments to credit agencies and wouldnt start foreclosure sales or evictions.

(Absent from the 90-day agreement was Bank of America, Mr. Newsom noted more than once. The bank committed to a 30-day pause.)

Still, Californias pre-existing housing crisis has disproportionately hurt renters, who make up a large share of the states population. April 1 is not far away.

And although Mr. Newsom signed an executive order giving cities and counties explicit permission to halt evictions, many activists and lawmakers have said thats not enough.

In a letter on Wednesday, more than 30 lawmakers called on Mr. Newsom to make the decision for the hundreds of cities and counties across California that havent taken up the suggestion.

Fewer than 50 local governments had put in place any kind of eviction limits, it said.

During this emergency, our state needs one clear order that covers all tenants, the letter said.

Mr. Newsom responded that the state was exploring legal ways to do that.

For landlords, halting evictions for tenants who have been affected by Covid-19 is good business, said Tom Bannon, who is chief executive of the California Apartment Association, one of the nations biggest landlord groups.

Mr. Bannon told me that while the association doesnt formally support or oppose legally mandated eviction moratoriums, the group still advised landlords of any size to halt evictions on their own through May 31.

Heres the reality, Mr. Bannon said, If you evict somebody, the chances of getting a new resident are not good.

That was one of several guidelines the association sent to members. The group also called on association members to commit to freezing rents during that period, waiving late fees and offering payment plans. (Stopping evictions doesnt mean that tenants are not expected to pay the rent back eventually.)

Mr. Bannon said he knew that for many landlords, particularly ones with fewer units, even a month of lost rent can be tough to survive.

Thats why he said he was hopeful there would be enough relief money for both small businesses, like landlords, and for tenants.

[Read about whats in the $2 trillion federal rescue package.]

The faster you get people back to normal, the better youre going to be, Mr. Bannon said.

Julianna Mazziliano, an 18-year-old student at Fresno State University, told me that, in the meantime, shes overwhelmed.

Ms. Mazziliano was working two jobs, but her hours have been slashed thanks to the coronavirus.

The catering company where Ms. Mazziliano worked is shut down for now, and shes gotten just about five hours a week at a fast-casual pizza chain, where shes also worried about contracting the virus while handling cash or interacting with customers. Shes taking home about $30 per week.

She said shes gotten food from the universitys food pantry for students and shes applied for unemployment benefits.

Still, she knows that even if evictions have been paused in Fresno, the $865 in rent she owes for a one-bedroom apartment she shares with her boyfriend, whose work has also been cut, will become just another bill due down the line.

I think a lot of people that have money and their jobs are still operating, Ms. Mazziliano said, I dont think they clearly understand what people are going through.

At least one landlord reportedly did, though: According to The Bakersfield Californian, a local lawyer and property owner waived April rent completely and encouraged others to do the same.

[Read more about the race to head off evictions.]

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  • If you watch nothing else about how the coronavirus outbreak is overwhelming hospitals, make it this video, a chilling, rare look inside a hospital in New York City at the center of the pandemic. [The New York Times]

  • Its not clear whether gun stores are considered essential businesses, and on Wednesday, Mr. Newsom said hed defer to local sheriffs. [The New York Times]

  • Bay Area and Los Angeles schools officially said their closures will extend to at least May 1. [The Mercury News | The Los Angeles Times]

  • The Cheesecake Factory, based in Calabasas Hills and founded in Beverly Hills, has said it wont pay rent on any of its restaurants. The move underscores how widespread the pain has been for restaurants of all sizes. [Eater Los Angeles]

  • Stephen Curry is set to hold an Instagram Q. and A. session with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nations top expert on infectious diseases. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

  • In other news, the Clippers bought the Forum for $400 million, clearing the way for a new arena in Inglewood. [The Los Angeles Times]

William, the dog, and Inky, Blinky and Clyde, the chickens, help out with gardening.Credit...Anne Dazey

My colleague Tejal Rao reported that as Americans retreat to their homes in the midst of this war against an invisible enemy, theyve begun to look back at World War I- and II-era victory gardens as a way of soothing anxieties about food shortages.

In 2020, though, gardens are also just little slivers of the outside, where you can rest and breathe.

Anne Dazey, 66, sent this picture of her dog, William, and chickens  named after the Pac-Man ghosts Inky, Blinky and Clyde. She said in an email that William likes to keep watch over the garden while the girls take care of snail and bug control.

Ms. Dazey lives in what she said is a family-oriented neighborhood in Palo Alto. Walking with William, she said, is disquieting now that the streets are empty. Being at home alone for days without being able to see people at work feels isolating.

Nevertheless, Ms. Dazey said, This sheltering at home has been a reflective time for me.

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles  but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

  • Updated March 24, 2020

    • It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can be carried on tiny respiratory droplets that fall as they are coughed or sneezed out. It may also be transmitted when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch our face.

    • Unlike the flu, there is no known treatment or vaccine, and little is known about this particular virus so far. It seems to be more lethal than the flu, but the numbers are still uncertain. And it hits the elderly and those with underlying conditions  not just those with respiratory diseases  particularly hard.

    • If youve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • If the family member doesnt need hospitalization and can be cared for at home, you should help him or her with basic needs and monitor the symptoms, while also keeping as much distance as possible, according to guidelines issued by the C.D.C. If theres space, the sick family member should stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom. If masks are available, both the sick person and the caregiver should wear them when the caregiver enters the room. Make sure not to share any dishes or other household items and to regularly clean surfaces like counters, doorknobs, toilets and tables. Dont forget to wash your hands frequently.

    • No. Unless youre already infected, or caring for someone who is, a face mask is not recommended. And stockpiling them will make it harder for nurses and other workers to access the resources they need to help on the front lines.

    • Plan two weeks of meals if possible. But people should not hoard food or supplies. Despite the empty shelves, the supply chain remains strong. And remember to wipe the handle of the grocery cart with a disinfecting wipe and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

    • Thats not a good idea. Even if youre retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But retirees may want to think about having enough cash set aside for a years worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.

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