La Jolla on Lockdown: What locals are up to during the coronavirus crisis

Days following the state’s stay-at-home mandate and order to close all non-essential businesses results in a rare for a mid-day, nearly empty Girard Avenue in La Jolla. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 19, 2020 executive order calls for California’s 40 million residents to stay home indefinitely and venture outside only for essential jobs and errands, acquiring food, seeking medical care or getting some exercise.
(Photo by Patricia Yuengling)

La Jolla residents are facing the coronavirus pandemic the same as they do everything else — in different ways. Some only leave their homes for non-essential trips, others spend more time outdoors. Some fear for their lives and livelihoods, others look for silver linings.

All of this is due to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 19 executive order mandating California’s 40 million residents stay home indefinitely and venture outside only for essential jobs and errands, acquiring food, seeking medical care or getting some exercise.

La Jolla psychologist Samantha Rafie has moved her practice entirely online to evaluate and treat people dealing with anxiety, pain, depression and other disorders.

“I take this virus very seriously, as should all others,” she told La Jolla Light, “and have taken drastic measures to keep my distance from others.”

Civic volunteer Gail Forbes likewise described herself as “cautious” and “staying put,” venturing out only for essentials to Vons or Valley Farms, “which I hear has toilet paper, but don’t tell anyone.” Forbes recalled a college road trip to La Jolla in 1968, during which she contracted Hong Kong Flu.

“That disease was a doozy,” she said. “That flu featured a surprisingly quick spread of a disease. Everyone got sick, so I may even get the income taxes done this week.”

In contrast, architecture professor Kathryn Anthony spends even more time outdoors than usual. She now takes daily strolls to commune with and photograph nature.

“It’s easy to keep social distancing here,” she said. “Fresh ocean air and sunshine are the best vitamins of all. By contrast, I can’t help but think of the millions of people in cities around the world trapped in small dark apartments all day and all night. It must be so hard for everyone.”

John Shannon is unusally the only swimmer heading toward La Jolla Cove, Friday, March 20, 2020. The state’s stay-at-home order allows for going out locally to exercise, if 6-feet social distancing is observed.
(Courtesy Photo)

Last Friday, March 20, before the City banned gathering at beaches and parks, real-estate agent John Shannon reported seeing pelagic red crabs and his first horn shark in 30-plus years of swimming at The Cove.

One thing he didn’t see? A single other swimmer.

“Without all the people, it was so beautiful,” said the former Ironman triathlete.

Community activist Melinda Merryweather, who has occupied her downtime by painting the side of her house and making herself a new front gate, isn’t convinced that the lockdown is entirely bad.

“It’s a good time for people to slow down and think about what’s important,” she said. “I believe the universe thought the world needed to chill out, so it may be a good thing. We have taken so many cars off the roads, it already looks better from space.”

For other residents, however, it’s difficult to see the beauty in a La Jolla without people. The economic shutdown is terrorizing them, threatening their financial and even housing stability.

“I am typically building amazing vacations for my clients,” said Susan Rutan, who owns a travel agency. “But instead, for the last few weeks, I have been spending my time being on hold with vendors to deconstruct vacations, trying to get refunds for my clients or move trips to later dates. I work 100 percent on commission and don’t get paid by vendors until clients travel. So right now, I’m working for less than free.”

Brandy Zabodyn is a travel agent specializing in cruises, the hardest-hit industry of all by the crisis. She’s also a single mother of four who is newly out of work.

“Being a contractor, none of the bailout money is headed my way,” she told the Light. ”These are very scary times for us.”