The week the coronavirus reached California

California is currently locked down. The freeways are empty, film production is halted, Disneyland is closed. People are losing their jobs and restaurants are barely hanging on. And it all happened so quickly, starting on Saturday, March 7.

Saturday, March 7

Over a month has passed since the coronavirus reached California. The first cases were confirmed on January 26. But little has changed in the Golden State. People are going about their business as usual.

Tane Chang is the owner of a small Asian kitchenware shop in San Francisco's Chinatown district. She seems unconcerned by the potential impact on business.

"Well, it's March and business is usually slow at this time of year."

But she quickly adds, "Foot traffic has been slower than usual."

Down in Los Angeles, the morning trains are as packed as ever and the freeways remain teeming with cars.

The state has 88 infections and 1 death.

Friday, March 13

"Church was empty for mass," my mother tells me. "People are very anxious."

This morning, President Trump declared a national emergency. The rush hour trains are mostly empty. The complex where the NHK Los Angeles bureau is located in is eerily quiet. Building management tells us a person who works here tested positive for the virus.

At this point, California has 247 confirmed cases with 5 deaths.

Rush hour trains in Los Angeles are empty.

Sunday, March 15

This weekend, local pharmacies and supermarkets were flooded with people stocking up on supplies. A sense of shared anxiety is palpable throughout the city.

A few hours ago, Governor Newsom called on bars to close and restaurants to implement restrictions in the face of the worsening crisis.

"Do you know what other store might be open at this time?" a woman asks me outside a closed grocery store in the evening. I tell her I don't know.

California now has 335 cases and 6 deaths.

Super Market
The coronavirus fueled toilet paper panic buying.

Monday, March 16

In my neighborhood, restaurants are adjusting to the first day of the new restrictions. Many have no choice but to lay off staff.

"This happened so fast, so fast that every hour we got new news," Wendi Hyde, manager of the Gingergrass Silver Lake restaurant, tells me. "We are on a skeleton staff. We've had to let everyone go."

California has recorded 392 infections and 6 deaths.

Gingergrasss restaurant
Gingergrass Silver Lake restaurant in Los Angeles is now operating on a delivery and takeout only basis.

Thursday, March 19: Lockdown

Governor Newsom has finally ordered everyone to stay at home.

"We project that roughly 56% of our population, 25.5 million people, will be infected with the virus over an eight-week period," he says.

The count in California stands at 675 infections and 16 deaths.

As of writing, California has 5,763 confirmed cases and 135 deaths. The state is on lockdown and the expectation is that things will get worse before they get better. March 7 feels like a long time ago.