SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Extraordinary restrictions on everyday activities expanded to more areas of California on Wednesday as many parents around the state struggled to fathom the prospect put forth by Gov. Gavin Newsom of schools staying closed until summer to head off the spread of the coronavirus.
Newsom, meantime, announced he would spend $150 million to provide emergency housing for the homeless. Two-thirds of the money will go directly to local governments to spend on homeless services and $50 million will be used by the state to purchase 1,300 travel trailers and lease hotel rooms for emergency housing.
California has more than 150,000 homeless people, the most in the nation, and there’s concern that as the rest of the state’s residents are being urged and forced to stay apart and frequently wash their hands, the homeless are living just as they did before the outbreak.
The state will use the trailers for homeless people requiring isolation because they have tested positive for the virus or are showing symptoms. It also has identified 950 hotels that could lease rooms to local governments to house the homeless.
The California Department of Public Health said Wednesday the state now has 13 deaths related to the virus and more than 700 confirmed cases. More than 11,900 people are self-monitoring after returning from overseas.
The elderly are a particularly vulnerable population. Newsom has urged all people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions to stay inside. He has also called for the shutdown of bars, movie theaters, fitness centers and other gathering places, and for restaurants to only serve to-go orders.
Napa joined at least 12 other Northern California counties, an area that is home to about 10 million people and includes all of the San Francisco the Bay Area, in telling all residents to stay home, limiting movement to only essential purposes such as trips to grocery stores and to jobs in health care and other industries deemed critical.
Newsom said Tuesday that nearly 99% of the state’s K-12 schools are shuttered. Districts generally ordered closures between two and five weeks, but Newsom said it’s likely most and perhaps all won’t reopen before summer.
David De Leon, whose son is an 8th-grader in the Southern California city of Santa Ana, said he was shocked by the announcement, which would mean that so-called distance learning would be required for the rest of the school year.
“I don’t know if it’s viable,” De Leon said. “To throw it out for everyone to use until the end of the school year I think is unreasonable.”
In Los Angeles, Filiberto Gonzalez, 45, said his three children have been in touch daily with their teachers and have an hour to four hours per day of work they can do on an existing online platform that supplemented classes. But the prospect of moving to an entirely online system raises a slew of challenges few were expecting.
“This whole process started with OK, we’re going to be away from school for two weeks, take this material with you, here’s a Chromebook,” he said. “The news that came yesterday was a real shock to a lot of us.”
For areas not sheltering in place, state and national parks remained an alternative to sitting on the couch, but with limitations.
California State Parks announced it is temporarily closing all its campgrounds. But trails and beaches would remain open, along with restrooms. Visitors were reminded to maintain social distancing.
Those who can’t make it outside have an online alternative to enjoy California’s coming spring.
In the tiny desert town of Borrego Springs, which draws throngs of tourists when rains bring a “super bloom” of wildflowers, residents are making videos and photographs of the evolving landscape and posting them on a web page called ” Borrego Outside For People Inside.”
“We hope it brings people a little bit of diversion, of happiness, a feeling of actually being here,” said Mike McElhatton, program director of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association.