The new normal: Life during the coronavirus crisis | News | Palo Alto Online |


The new normal: Life during the coronavirus crisis

Ordinary people share how they're coping during these extraordinary times

In order for all area residents to have important local information on the coronavirus health emergency, Palo Alto Online has lifted its pay meter and is providing unlimited access to its website. We need your support to continue our important work. Please join your neighbors and become a subscribing member today.
The coronavirus crisis has significantly disrupted the lives of many people in the community, from Stanford University students to restaurant workers to everyday people. Photo collage by Kevin Legnon.

When Esther Tiferes Tebeka and her 15-year-old daughter returned home from Wuhan, China, last month after being on lockdown, the Palo Alto mother was relieved to escape the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak and get back to a normal life.

She thought the ordeal was behind her, but now weeks later, Tebeka is trapped for a second time by the virus that has spread across the globe. She is among the nearly 7 million residents in six Bay Area counties who were ordered to shelter at home at the start of this week to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, which has spiked in the region.

The coronavirus outbreak has created a new reality along the Midpeninsula: Schools have shut down, Stanford University students have been ordered off campus, all concerts and sports events have been canceled, tech campuses are empty and most residents are now stuck at home. Life as we knew it has come to a screeching halt.

As residents adjust to the new normal over the next few weeks, the Weekly plans to share personal stories of how ordinary people are coping during these extraordinary times.

We talked to Tebeka as well as a health care worker on the frontline, a gig worker weighing the risks of making deliveries, an older adult living behind closed doors, Stanford University students facing eviction, an artistic director who had to cancel his first premiere and a restaurant owner offering discounted and free meals to those in need. Read their stories at

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?


35 people like this
Posted by Trump fired the national pandemic team
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 20, 2020 at 10:43 am

I've spent the last couple days tuning in to the covid task force briefings. Listening is difficult enough, but watching is a whole 'nuther level. Watching Dr. Fauci squirm when others lie and misrepresent the current situation is brutal.

Fortunately, long walks with an appropriate playlist aid in recovery.

I like the suggestions in other threads: hikes, gardening, etc.. If you have the money (plan on this being LONG, tho) try to support some of the local businesses (a restaurant trying to survive on takeout, etc..)

Be good, all. We'll make it.

25 people like this
Posted by K Bhatt
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2020 at 11:42 am

Now I get where long-time residents yearning for days of yore with no traffic, crime and construction are coming from.

This town can be so beautiful in the solitude!

...just making lemonade with what we've been given.

10 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 20, 2020 at 12:00 pm

Try to focus on the positive, and stay away from negative comments. We are in a strange and eerie situation, but it will go by if everyone does his/her best, and when it is finished, we may be living in a kinder and more thoughtful world.

Also, deaths from traffic accidents in California will fortunately go down tremendously .

17 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2020 at 2:28 pm

> Try to focus on the positive, and stay away from negative comments.

I hesitate to say this, because it could be perceived as being negative, which
is not my intention, but ... and this is the kind of "but" that is not meant to
cancel out everything said before it ...

Reality, or any feedback control system that requires thought and deliberation
has to go in both ways, positive and negative. Problems are negatives and
without thinking about them dispassionately, with clarity and and
open-mindedness how can things be addresses appropriately. Maybe
negative is things that tend to push discussions off into emotional conflict?

For instance, one negative-positive or positive-negative I've seen is that a lot
of people in lines still have this tendency to try to push the person ahead of
them by closing in on them as if it will force the queue to move faster.

Lines have been a problem we have all dealt with ages before this crisis, and
may have even made some of us sick with regular colds and flus, but COVID-I9
is putting a whole different spin on the way we do a lot of things. Can we change?

I suggest we standardize on what I am seeing in some stores, where a single-
file line distributes to however many check-out stations there are, and in that
single line there is lines or tapes on 6 foot intervals.

If you mean by negative comments to forego nasty, insulting, condescending,
mean, or personal "micro-aggressions" that people seem to like to insert for
some reason, I would agree with you. It's hard to know what exactly positive
and negative mean sometimes.

We have to start acting smarter and not forego criticism at the chance of
offending what is usually institutional power that expects people not to think
or speak.

2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2020 at 2:32 pm

Trump fired the national pandemic team a resident of Greenmeadow: ???
>> I've spent the last couple days tuning in to the covid task force briefings.

Is there a place the public can go to get those briefings and can you post it here?

10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2020 at 4:20 pm

Has anyone else noticed that everyone seems friendlier, at least out on the street, than normal.

As I have walked outside for a short while each day, I see people waving and smiling to those they pass at a distance. People seem pleased to receive and give a wave whether they are on a bike, walking a dog, or just strolling outside.

As for online, I think Nextdoor has shown some friendly helpers, and some negative comments.

4 people like this
Posted by Oliver Stephens
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2020 at 9:21 pm

I'm sorry but there is no lock-down in Palo Alto to speak of. I was driving through Palo Alto neighborhoods today (Saturday March 21), and everywhere I went, I saw young kids, teenagers, and young adults playing outside, walking in groups, talking to each other without distance.

Nobody is in lock-down here. Let's stop pretending we are.

Everybody is treating this as a joke, and I think it's going to come back to haunt us.

5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2020 at 9:36 pm

Posted by Anneke, a resident of Professorville

>> Also, deaths from traffic accidents in California will fortunately go down tremendously .

Serious traffic accidents *should* go way down, but, may not. A lot of drivers seem to think that with little traffic, they can race around at will. I've seen a lot of near-misses in the last couple of days.

1 person likes this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 22, 2020 at 6:46 pm

Are these threads permeated by Soviet divisive cyber trolls?

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Get fact-based reporting on the COVID-19 crisis sent to your inbox daily.

'A devastating impact:' The coronavirus claims Clarke's Charcoal Broiler, Mountain View's oldest operating restaurant
By Elena Kadvany | 29 comments | 11,613 views

Coronavirus Food Safety Update + New! Insider Tips
By Laura Stec | 7 comments | 4,686 views

A Pragmatic Approach to A Trillion Trees
By Sherry Listgarten | 1 comment | 3,287 views

The University of California’s flexible policies during COVID-19
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 6 comments | 2,294 views

Repairing a Disagreement with your Beloved & “Physical” vs. “Social” Distancing
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 2,083 views



The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by April 10, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category. Sponsored by Kepler's Books, Linden Tree Books and Bell's Books.

Contest Details