SACRAMENTO — Across California, as the coronavirus marches through communities, life as everyone understands it in the Golden State is changing dramatically, hour by hour, minute by minute.
The state has begun enacting extreme measures to halt the coronavirus outbreak. On Monday, seven counties around Silicon Valley, one of the hardest-hit areas in the nation, announced a shelter-at-home order that begins Tuesday, which Mayor Sam Liccardo of San Jose said was the strongest directive yet in the United States. Residents, including those living in San Francisco, were told not to go out for three weeks except to meet "essential needs."
A day earlier, Gov. Gavin Newsom had told all residents older than 65 to stay in their homes. He called for the closure of bars, nightclubs and wineries, and restrictions on restaurants. He banned visits to hospitals and nursing homes unless patients were on the edge of death. He announced plans to buy hotels to house some of the state's 150,000 homeless people .
For days, the virus has consumed the state's leaders. In the capital, Mr. Newsom huddled around a conference table with his advisers, scrambling to sort out how 6 million public school children would do if they were not in class.
In the heart of Silicon Valley, Mr. Liccardo raced down the 101 freeway dialing technology executives, begging them to contribute to a fund to prevent people from falling into homelessness.
And in the fields of the Central Valley, the nation's breadbasket, Miguel Arias, Fresno's City Council president, inspected the tight living quarters of farmworkers — mattresses stacked up in a garage — and recoiled at the thought of what would happen if, or more likely when, the virus spreads there.
California, America's most populous state, with an economy bigger than the United Kingdom's, has been remarkably resilient since the Great Recession, powered by technology, agriculture and Hollywood. No one knows how far the mounting toll from the virus will climb, but California is already one of the hardest-hit states, and stands as one of the places with the most to lose.
The shelter-in-place order announced on Monday, which goes into effect on Tuesday, is expected to disrupt life for millions of residents in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. The city of Berkeley also issued the same order.
"This is not the moment for half-measures, and history won't forgive us for waiting an hour more," Mr. Liccardo said.
Residents are being ordered to stay home except for essential reasons, which include buying food; people can also leave for outdoor activities including "walking, hiking or running" and caring for a pet.
Mayor Joe Goethals of San Mateo put it this way: "I'm asking people to go home with their families and to stay there until they are told otherwise."
Mayor London Breed of San Francisco said "necessary" government offices and "essential stores" would be allowed to remain open. The order, she said in a Twitter post, would be effective at midnight.
In a state very familiar with disasters, from wildfires to earthquakes, the leaders of California found themselves in recent days confronting something altogether different, with no playbook to lean on.
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The state that has pioneered the technology that allows people to connect remotely is quickly realizing how much human contact is important not only for the economy but also for the well-being of its residents.
In the time it takes for an email to drop in an inbox, or a news alert to flash across an iPhone screen, school districts, one after another, were closing. Movie productions were shutting down, premieres canceled. At the ports, terminals were shuttered, as fewer ships, loaded with consumer goods and parts for American factories, set sail from China. And exports, poultry and oranges, were piling up on the docks.
Even Disneyland was closing its gates, and the ski lifts stopped running at resorts.
With the sense of crisis growing by the minute, the governor's office was confronting a dizzying number of problems.
One moment it was how to prevent renters from being evicted and homeowners from being foreclosed on.
Another, how to expand the state's capacity to test for the virus.
And the school closings, designed to enforce social distancing and halt the spread of the virus, raised a number of difficult questions.
In shirt sleeves, and as aides came in and out of the room with news updates, the governor considered how to feed low-income children who rely on free or reduced-price lunches. What about child care for parents who cannot work from home, especially health care workers who are needed at hospitals to treat sick patients?
"This is real," Mr. Newsom said while managing the many crises. "This is raw."
Mr. Newsom has said he expected the economic damage from the crisis to be worse than the aftermath of 9/11 but not as bad as the financial crisis of 2008, but those assessments are changing by the day. Yet with a $21 billion budget surplus, plus a rainy-day fund of close to $16 billion, Mr. Newsom said he was confident the state could manage the economic fallout from the crisis. "We are well positioned from a cash perspective to get through this," he said. "More perhaps than any other state."
But at the ground level, the pain is coming fast. Drivers have been laid off and forced to sell their trucks. Those who are still working are putting off oil changes and maintenance to stay afloat.
"We're picking and choosing which bills to pay," said Gio Marz, 30, a truck driver who hauls containers from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to warehouses in Southern California.
Restaurants are closing, and real estate agents say buyers are pulling their offers because sagging stock portfolios have left them spooked and shriveled the amount of cash they have for down payments.
Even the most optimistic economists are forecasting a recession. "This is the first time in 10 years that I've thought, 'OK, this is the thing that could finally tip us into recession,'" said Chris Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics, a consulting firm.
Fallout from the coronavirus has been swift across the state.
At one of Mayor Liccardo's favorite Chinese restaurants, Hunan Taste, in San Jose, only two of the 15 tables had customers at a time when the restaurant would normally be overflowing with city hall workers, lawyers and sheriff's deputies. The owner had already laid off two kitchen workers. At an empty Mexican restaurant Mr. Liccardo visited, the head of a local Latino business organization told him business owners were weeks away from shutting down. A nearby fitness studio was empty, and classes were canceled.
"This is grim," Mr. Liccardo said. "This looks worse than 2008."
Later, in a nearly empty City Hall, he met with three aides, all sitting several feet apart in accordance with the county's social distancing guidelines, and discussed converting school gymnasiums and the hulking city convention center into isolation centers for the sick.
The mayor estimates that 8 percent of city revenues have vanished, blowing up plans for a balanced budget and raising the likelihood of cuts to city programs.
Miles away, in the farming community of Mendota in the Central Valley, Maria Martinez's home, a single-story ranch with brick and stucco siding and solar panels on the roof, would seem an ideal place to hunker down and keep a safe distance from others.
But peek inside, and several single mattresses sit in the garage. Like many of her neighbors, Ms. Martinez, a 57-year-old immigrant from El Salvador, rents out beds for $300 a month to the farmworkers who cycle through town. She crams them in wherever she can find space — sometimes there are 20 renters living in 1,100 square feet.
Mr. Arias, the Fresno official who was visiting her, worried the cramped living environment, pervasive around town, would fuel a spread of the coronavirus if it reaches the community.
"They're living on top of each other," he said. "There's no way that they can honor the six-foot social distance. That's the most dangerous part."
At La Nayarit, a grocery store and wire transfer operation just outside Mendota's main commercial district, the owners use Clorox wipes on all their counters and door handles at least once every two hours. One of the owners, Baudelia Fuentes, 73, microwaved dollar bills on a recent afternoon, hoping that would disinfect them.
The most anxiety-provoking question around town is, what happens if the virus spreads among farmworkers?
"Oh, we're done," said Rolando Castro, the mayor of Mendota.
It would threaten not only farm operations, but also the economy of a town with five dollar stores and where 42 percent of families live in poverty. There will not be money to spend in the local pool hall, or at the taco truck across the street. Or at the auto mechanic shop that Mr. Castro owns.
As a sense of crisis convulsed California and the nation, tourists in Southern California enjoyed their last few hours at Disneyland, which was closed as of Saturday. The park has closed only twice before at times of national crisis: after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The weather was overcast, and crowds were noticeably smaller than usual. The line for the popular Space Mountain ride was just over an hour, and the wait for the Matterhorn ride was about 30 minutes. On a normal spring weekday, waits for those rides can be twice as long.
"If I'm going to get corona, I might as well get it at Disneyland instead of work," said Sami Nielsen while strolling down the park's main street. She traveled to California from Arizona with friends to celebrate her 27th birthday.
After a series of meetings late Friday, Mr. Newsom signed an executive order requiring the state to continue to send money to local districts to pay for distance learning and school meals and to help supervise children while they are out of school.
"I am deeply concerned about the capacity of these communities that are shutting down the schools already to meet the needs of their children and parents," he said.
The terrifying backdrop to all of this is the steadily growing number of confirmed infections — over the weekend the number of infections in California reached 380 — and the certainty they will rise sharply as testing becomes more widespread.
"Tests are going to substantially increase," the governor said. "Positive rates will substantially increase. The anxiety and concern about anticipating the public's reaction knowing that will heighten anxiety is something we are all trying to manage."
Tim Arango reported from Sacramento, Thomas Fuller from San Jose, John Eligon from Mendota, and Conor Dougherty from Oakland. Louis Keene contributed from Anaheim, and Joe Purtell from Elk Grove.
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