Los Angeles has instituted one of the most sweeping set of lockdown orders in the country, affecting millions of people. But news reports say the rules on what’s open and what’s closed (and why) have resulted in confusion and widespread noncompliance.

According to the L.A. Times:

The percentage of Angelenos staying home except for essential activities has remained unchanged since mid-June — around 55% — despite pleas from health officials in recent weeks for people to cut down on their activities, according to a survey conducted by USC.

A similar story has played out nationwide, as millions of Americans zigzagged across the country to visit family over the Thanksgiving holiday, flouting the advice of health officials. 

“It’s not because the public is irresponsible; it’s because they are losing trust in public health officials who put out arbitrary restrictions,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious-disease specialist at UC San Francisco. “We are failing in our public health messaging.”

The failures are bigger than just messaging.  Times columnist Ericka Smith writes L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s orders are contradictory and confusing:

It started off well, with an “all persons living within the City of Los Angeles are hereby ordered to remain in their homes.” But it went on to list 11 pages of exemptions.

Among them, tattoo parlors are still open, along with nail and hair salons, and shopping malls. So are golf courses and tennis courts, and beaches, parks and trails. And producing music is still OK.

However, the city is now banning gatherings of people from multiple households, except for religious services and protests. And using playgrounds is still banned, along with dining outdoors.

Hectoring residents to stay home for fear of killing grandma — unless they want to go to the liquor store or the mall — is bad messaging. It’s also worse public policy, which seems to be the rule among California’s political class.

Image Credit: Banej / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)