Six months ago Thursday, nearly the entire Bay Area began closing businesses, staying home and paying a lot more attention to how far they stood from others.
On March 17, health officers from six Bay Area counties formally ordered people to shelter at home, and the one thing everyone can say is that life hasn’t been the same since then.
“This order will take effect at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow, March 17 and will remain in place for at least three weeks,” said Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody.
Three weeks has now stretched into six months.
Since Cody and seven other Bay Area health officers announced everyone should shelter at home, millions of people lost their jobs, businesses have struggled to hang on, some lost that battle and words like “facemask” and “Zoom” have become as common as “hello” and “goodbye.”
“It just weighs on you. It weighs on everybody,” said Si Duong. “I had a lot of people to take care of.”
Duong is the owner and manager of this Fire Wings restaurant in east San Jose.
He was supposed to open for business right as the shutdown happened.
The shelter order set him back thousands of dollars and delayed his grand opening by months.
“Everybody was counting on this to open,” he said. “And we were delayed already before COVID. COVID just added another four months to it.”
It wasn’t just restaurants that were turned upside down.
Air travel virtually evaporated. San Francisco International Airport saw it’s passenger load drop from two million a year earlier to just 69,000 this April.
At San Jose — a similar story.
“I feel like it’s super depressing that no one gets to travel as much and that things are different,” said traveler Kendy Acuna. “Like the airports are super empty.”
And Bay Area traffic took a vacation.
The number of cars crossing the Golden Gate Bridge dropped to about 510,000 this April compared to 1.7 million that same time last year.
BART ridership plummeted 94% immediately after the shelter order, it’s still down about 89% this month.
San Jose commuters say they’ve seen a similar trend on Caltrain too.
“Now, compared to before, it’s a little bit different because they changed the schedule, there’s less trains, but there’s definitely a lot less people before covid started,” said commuter John Cimino.
Six months later, there are glimmers of normal. But it’s a new normal, complete with facemasks and hand sanitizer.
For Si and his family, there’s still a lot of uncertainty with the new business. But, just like all of us, they’re trying to find their way.
“Just got to keep moving. Just can’t dwell on it,” said Si. “I’m not going to sit here and cry about it. It is what it is. We’re just going to keep moving forward.”