By Dan Whitcomb
LONG BEACH, Calif., March 20 (Reuters) – At a coffee shop in the Los Angeles suburb of Long Beach, a few locals gathered in the tiny, half-lit dining room, cleared of tables and chairs, and talked about how they might make ends meet under sweeping new ‘stay at home’ orders by the governor.
A soccer coach was meeting players at a nearby park for one-on-one workouts. A contractor planned to finish remodeling a customer’s bathroom. A lone barista hoped the cafe would be able to stay open and keep giving him work.
“I’ve got bills to pay, rent, kids, all that,” said Rocky Merlo, a 63-year-old contractor who was relieved to learn that hardware stores selling the parts he needed were still open, considered essential businesses under Governor Gavin Newsom’s directive.
Newsom on Thursday abruptly clamped down on daily life for California’s 40 million residents, telling them to hunker down in their homes for the foreseeable future in the face of the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic.
The governor said his order was desperately needed to slow the spread of the respiratory illness across the nation’s most populous state.
Some 30 miles (48 km) to the north of Long Beach, 26-year-old massage therapist Katie Osenbaugh stood on the beach in Venice while her boyfriend surfed and wondered how she would earn a living in her hands-on business under the new rules, which have no expiration date.
“I’m a massage therapist so I’m probably going to be out of work for a couple of months because people will be too scared to come in. So I’m kind of upset,” Osenbaugh said.
“I have been doing some private clients. But it’s iffy that’s going to continue. I don’t know that people would want me to come to their house any more,” she said.
Venice Beach resident James Alexander said he thought the beach should be ok as long as everyone kept their distance.
“We can’t go to the gym and this is the only way we can exercise,” he said.
In Southern California, a plant nursery skirted the orders by offering drive-through services, handing out flowers to customers in their cars. A gun shop had a sign on the window saying only customers with appointments to pick up weapons they had ordered would be allowed inside.
But in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale, television and film writer-director David Anderson said as he waited in line outside a pharmacy he was “grateful” for Newsom’s stay-at-home mandate.
“I wish he’d done it a week ago,” said Anderson, who ventured out on an errand to refill prescriptions and buy antinausea medication for his wife, who is pregnant and home with the couple’s young son.
“The way this virus is exponentially growing, we’re right behind Italy,” Anderson said. “I guess I am shocked that it took this long for these measures to be put in place. But I’m hopeful it’s not too late.” (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb Additional reporting by Jill Serjeant in Venice, California, Steve Gorman in Glendale and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)