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Coronavirus: Can California’s economy survive the latest surge?

Earlier this year, California was praised for an early lockdown, which helped stem the pandemic in the US state. But cases have since surged. What’s next for the Golden State, known for Hollywood, sunshine and celebrity?

Scott DeAngelis spent a decade building up a lucrative tour guide operation on Hollywood Boulevard.

For years tourists flocked to the Hollywood Walk of Fame and there was always enough work to go around. But now there are more palm trees than people and the stars once hard to find under the feet of potential customers, now bake, exposed to the midday sun.

Hope was briefly on the horizon when California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a phased reopening plan. He said it would be a dimmer switch, gradually shining a brighter light at the end of this dark tunnel.

But cases began to rise again after the Memorial Day weekend in late May – and the dimmer switch has now been turned down and the reopening plan is in reverse. There are now over 550,000 known cases in California, and over 10,000 people have died.

In mid-July, Newsom ordered a sweeping new shutdown of indoor business like restaurants, movie theatres, wineries, and museums.

“You can’t survive like this,” DeAngelis says. “There are no tourists.”

This weekend, California’s Department of Public Health director abruptly resigned even as California struggles to contain the outbreak. The resignation came days after a computer glitch was found that might have caused the state to significantly undercount recent Covid-19 cases.

With indoor operations for restaurants, gyms, and hair and nail salons halted once more, every piece of pavement and parking lot has become coveted real estate as businesses take to the streets determined not to add to the continually climbing death count. Barbers and nail technicians have erected tents to protect themselves from the sun as they try to carry on regardless.

In West Hollywood teams of Sheriff’s deputies weave between them. They are on patrol making sure the state-wide mask mandate is upheld and ensuring everyone here is doing their bit to flatten the coronavirus’s unwelcome upward curve. Most people are complying. So far they have issued just over a dozen fines.

The economic impact of the pandemic is evident at almost every turn. Businesses are boarded up and there are “For lease” signs seemingly in every other window along famous shopping streets in Los Angeles like Melrose Avenue and the Sunset Strip.