California COVID-19 rules are getting so confusing, some people have tuned out

ByKris Reyes KGO logo
Saturday, December 5, 2020
CA shutdown rules are getting so confusing, people tune out
California's new stay-at-home order has some people so confused, they've stopped paying attention to the new restrictions. They're not sure whether to listen to Gov. Newsom, the Bay Area county health guidelines, or the tiered reopening map.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- From phases of reopening, to regions on lockdown to watch lists and color codes, it's easy to feel like we're living through some pop quiz that's impossible to study for. The most recent announcement by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Bay Area county health officials has only added another layer of confusion.

When we hit the streets, we couldn't find a single person who could keep track of it.

"I don't know where I land in it, I don't know what tier I'm in, it's all confusing to me," said Greg Scott, a school bus driver.

RELATED: 5 Bay Area counties enacting stay-at-home order starting Sunday, not waiting for state's timeline

"It's so much information out there and people don't know what to follow," said another San Mateo resident.

Every resident we spoke has been wearing a mask and generally trying to stay isolated, but even the most concerned citizen is having a hard time figuring out the daily changes of rules and restrictions.

We asked a communications expert and a front-line doctor to rate, on a scale from 1 to 10, the pandemic communication strategy of our local leaders.

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an epidemiologist at UCSF, gave it a 6 out of 10.

Nicholas Adams, CEO and President of Ninico Communications, only gave it a slightly higher score: "6.5 to 7, so it's not where it should be and it's certainly not where it needs to be."

One example of a communication breakdown they both pointed to was the governor's latest press briefing. It was two hours long and full of details, numbers and new guidelines.

NEWSOM LATEST: Gov. Newsom announces new, regional stay-at-home order in California

"That's where they're missing the clarity opportunity because they're trying to shove too much on people's plates," said Adams.

"Use a lot more graphics," suggested Dr. Chin-Hong. "If you can't understand something in a few seconds, it's not going to work."

That's why the residents we talked to say they're forgetting the rules and just using their common sense

"It's getting to be too much, so I've learned to adapt and that's pretty much it," said Christina, a San Mateo resident,

Dr. Chin-Hong says he's seeing something a little more troubling: people giving up on the rules altogether.

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"I'm seeing that from my grocery store, to the gas station, to people who come into the hospital and family members of patients, confusion of what can we do and can't we do," he said.

Adams said local leaders have been doing some things right, including conveying confidence in their ability to handle the pandemic. He added they can also communicate more empathy.

But the bottom line is clarity and consistency.

"People don't need a litany of two hours watching the governor deliver something. What they need is the top three takeaways, how is this going to affect my life and what's my next option," said Adams.