California's spirit financially and emotionally battered as coronavirus toll continues to rise

The surf’s still up in Santa Monica, and the boulevards of Los Angeles still stretch for miles under countless palm trees, but the easy sophistication of this great state sits uncomfortably alongside a public health crisis which it has handled poorly.California locked down earlier than any other state, but it lifted those restrictions very early too. 

Concern for the economy and people’s livelihoods, and a misplaced confidence that the virus had been seen off, combined to generate a resurgence of the disease which has now put the Golden State at the top of all those graphs and tables which record the growing death tolls across America.

California has a higher weighting in the US election compared to the smaller states. Credit: ITV News

Mark McKay doesn’t need to see the data. 

He is a funeral director in Los Angeles who has buried and cremated twice as many people this year as his usual annual total, and it’s only July. 

He’s also had to listen as grief stricken relatives who tested positive for the virus have spoken of their unbearable sense of guilt that they may have caused their loved one’s death.

"You have a 47-year-old woman who is married.

"Her husband works in a factory and for some kind of way, he infects his wife.

"He told me, he says: 'I murdered my wife. I murdered my wife, Mr McKay'."

California’s attempt to sustain its economy has been undermined by itself. 

Canter’s Deli has been serving the film stars on Fairfax Avenue since the 1930s. 

It’s still a family business, but its current owner Jacqueline Canter is now working harder than she ever has just to keep it open. 

When the lockdown was lifted, she recalled her 150 staff members to their much-needed jobs. 

And then when the virus reared up again, she had no choice but to lay most of them off, for a second time. 

These are people she has known all her life, and her heart is broken.

Face masks are now mandatory across California and social distancing measures are everywhere. 

The boundless energy of this state has discovered that it has, well, bounds. 

The enormous queues for coffee meander along sidewalks they now share with exercise classes that have been banished from gyms. 

The Golden State’s spirit will find a way through this pandemic, but its shine has been tarnished by the certain knowledge that there have been many more deaths here than there should have been.