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Californians turn anger on each other over second coronavirus shutdown

Brittny Mejia, Maria L. La Ganga and Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- Dee Lescault got the bad news from her landlord. Her Costa Mesa hair salon had reopened on June 1 after being dark for months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing a painful economic blow to the 66-year-old stylist. And now, Coronavirus Shutdown 2.0.

"Is it asking too much to wear a mask?" Lescault tweeted in a rush of anger. "You can't have a healthy economy without a healthy community. Get a clue please."

At least she said please. Social media exploded this week with furious, often expletive-laced outbursts after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that California must largely close for business yet again because of a spike in COVID-19 cases statewide that shows no sign of easing. On Tuesday, the state reported its largest one-day total of new cases, along with sharp jumps in hospitalizations and deaths.

Over the course of the four-month pandemic, Californians have focused their anger at the governor and other politicians, county health officials and the current resident of the White House. But now, in the early days of yet another shutdown, they are turning on each other like never before.

Because, when it comes to the coronavirus, we have met the enemy, and he is us.

The first shutdown was bad enough, throwing millions of workers out of jobs, canceling graduations and in-person June weddings and forcing families to bury loved ones without the solace of funeral services and the comforting embrace of supportive friends. Then George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, unleashing a nationwide flood of fury aimed at police brutality and systemic racism.


And now, the federal program that offered out-of-work people an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits is about to end unless a divided Congress votes to re-up it. The California Employment Development Department, which handles unemployment claims, is overwhelmed. The struggling economy has just taken another body blow. And hundreds of thousands of parents will have to keep their children at home for remote learning for the foreseeable future.

And those people strolling toward you on the narrow sidewalk aren't wearing masks? What the ... ?

"I'm angry with people that refuse to protect others," Lescault said Tuesday, as she and her partner went to collect plants and anything else they'd left behind at Muti Hair Design Studio. "They're being selfish and ignorant and they're not paying attention."

Don't tell that to Bahre Freeman, a personal trainer at Built, a neighborhood gym in Manhattan Beach that shut down this week and is struggling to stay alive. "We're pissed off at Gov. Newsom," he said. "Small businesses are going to close that are never going to come back. ... Is this gym gonna be able to survive if they have 60 days more of no revenue?"


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