Like an invisible tidal wave barreling into the coast in slow motion, the novel coronavirus crashed on local shores over the last week. Schools were closed and teachers scrambled to prepare weeks’ worth of learning materials on the spot. Workers stayed home and businesses scrambled to fill a new need. Gyms, theaters, art galleries and more taped hastily handwritten “closed” signs on the windows.
That was before Monday’s joint announcement from public health officers in seven Bay Area jurisdictions — home to 7 million people — ordering most residents to shelter in place in a desperate effort to slow spread of coronavirus across the region. By Tuesday, 472 people in California had tested positive for the disease; 11 have died.
The extraordinary health order is intended to minimize social contact and prevent an overwhelming drain on the area’s health care system, like that experienced elsewhere across the globe.
Residents flocked to grocery stores to stock up on the essentials, including toilet paper, hand soap and frozen and canned goods. Shelves were pillaged despite warnings from officials not to panic. Lines were long in Half Moon Bay Safeway and New Leaf stores.
Within hours, almost every aspect of life came to a halt. The city of Half Moon Bay announced that it would continue only offering essential services and city hall would remain closed to the public. San Mateo County courts announced it would delay all trials.
The court system won’t be the only source of delays.
Planning and building projects in the county and city have been put on hold indefinitely. The majority of public meetings have been canceled or reworked as remote affairs with no live contact with constituents.
Meanwhile, many locals are raising their hands to volunteer to go on grocery and pharmacy runs for seniors. Restaurants and local shops are offering extended delivery and pickup options.
To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, residents suggested online putting shamrocks in their windows for kids as they walk around the neighborhood, practicing proper social distancing. And neighbors chatted about buying gift cards to support local businesses while their doors are shuttered.
With no clear end to the pandemic in sight, anxiety is high among Coastsiders. Parents now forced to work from home are also juggling teaching their kids. And seniors are asked to follow even more stringent guidelines and are advised to not leave their homes.
By Tuesday, however, Coastsiders were beginning to find solutions to some problems.
- Cabrillo Unified School District made available bagged lunches from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at El Granada and Hatch Elementary schools.
- The Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau put together a list of businesses that were coping with the outbreak.
- Senior Coastsiders was pairing volunteers with older residents in need of food, medicine or just a friendly voice.
Conditions continued to evolve hour by hour. The shelter-in-place order remains in place until April 7. It could be extended or shortened, officials say. And, on Monday, President Donald J. Trump prepared Americans for an outbreak that he said could extend well into the summer.