As Covid Cases Rise in a Weary Los Angeles, So Does Apathy

She is fine with the change, has been vaccinated and boosted, and will no longer wear a mask unless required. Besides, it’s different here,” she said. In South Korea, people usually wear masks when going out of the house and always wear them. In Los Angeles, she said, “They put it on when you start a conversation.”

In Boyle Heights, a neighborhood east of downtown, Food 4 Less shows how optional face masks have become. It’s a far cry from an era when groceries were the only reason to leave the house and patrons wore plastic gloves and walked in one direction down the aisles.

There, a mother pushes a cart, her children dragging, looking for ingredients for a school lunch. No family members wore masks. A woman in her 30s wears a mask, while her husband does not. About half of the employees do not wear face coverings.

Across the street, Mariscos Linda, a seafood restaurant, hints at another truth of the moment: many businesses have not been able to fully recover. The red leather booths covered with glitter and the neon-lit bar failed to draw the crowds that had been anticipated for the World Cup screenings. Patronage has dwindled over the past few weeks.

Jhonatan Chavez, assistant director and chef, said: “As the number of infections goes up, customers drop and even workers get sick. Mr. Chavez, who has worked at the restaurant for five years, said he noticed that customers always seemed to be wary of their surroundings. No matter how much people try to return to pre-pandemic attitudes and habits, things are not going the way they used to.

Jill Cowan and Soumya Karlamangla Contribution reports from Los Angeles. Mitch Smith contribution report from Chicago. Sharon Otterman, grace Ashford and Joseph Goldstein Reporting contributions from New York.


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