Cheering, clapping, and singing can be heard across Los Angeles at 8 p.m. | Photo by Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images

Quiet Los Angeles neighborhoods come to life at the same time every night

Downtown LA’s normally busy streets have been eerily quiet over the last few months. Lately though, its buildings have come briefly to life.

That’s when residents open windows and step out onto apartment balconies to join in a round of applause for healthcare workers fighting to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

It’s a ritual that’s spreading quickly through neighborhoods in and around Los Angeles—from Long Beach to Silver Lake.

Nightly cheering, clapping, and singing helped residents of Wuhan, China weather a long lockdown when the virus broke out there. The practice has been taken up in cities around the world, and formalized as a salute to frontline medical staff.

Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council president Patti Berman says she heard about cheering taking place in New York and worked with other members of the council to get a similar ritual started in the Downtown area.

“There are so many people working at their own peril right now,” she says. “The least we can do is say thank you.”

Through emails and social media posts, the neighborhood council last week began encouraging people to clap every night during the month of April. Berman says her apartment doesn’t have windows to the street, so she can’t participate in the applause, but she’s been encouraged by videos of cheers circulating on social media.

“It’s gotten pretty loud,” she says.

South Park resident Sara Eastwood has lived in her one-bedroom apartment for two years. She says the 8 p.m. applause has brought out neighbors she’s never noticed.

“It’s built more of a sense of community here,” she says. “A lot of people say that’s lacking in Downtown LA. It seems like a dense neighborhood at times, but it’s pretty quiet [in South Park] most of the time.”

For more than a week, the Wilshire Grand, its hotel rooms darkened, has been displaying its own tribute—an enormous digital display that reads “thank you medical workers.”

Eastwood says these tributes are nice, but that she wishes some of the positive energy could be directed toward ensuring better pay and benefits for non-medical workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.

“This sort of misses the custodians, grocery workers, and lower paid workers who are essential right now,” she says.

Berman says the nightly cheering is a small gesture, but that it’s a clear and easy way for people to feel like they are supporting their community at a time when public officials are urging most people to simply stay at home. It can also be therapeutic.

“There’s nothing like opening the window and yelling,” she says.