Get ready to stay home indefinitely, my fellow Californians. Gov. Gavin Newsom has suggested that the stay-at-home order he issued Dec. 3 will likely be extended well into January.
So for a few more weeks — at least — most Californians won’t be able to engage in a wide range of activities, from indoor and outdoor dining and worship services to overnight camping in state parks. Many cities and counties have imposed their own restrictions on top of the state’s.
These restrictions aren’t merely crippling California’s economy and harming residents’ mental health. They’re also riddled with inconsistencies and often unjustified by public health data.
Take Los Angeles County, which until recently had closed all playgrounds and barred small outdoor meetings, even though the risk of contracting the coronavirus outdoors is quite low. According to a London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine database of more than 20,000 COVID-19 cases, only 461 — 2.3% — were linked to fully outdoor settings.
Meanwhile, outdoor restaurant dining, a relatively safe activity, is currently banned in much of the state. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant called L.A. County’s outdoor dining ban an “abuse” of power. Bars and restaurants represented just 3.1% of nonresidential outbreak locations in the county, according to court data. Renowned defense attorney Mark Geragos, a restaurant owner himself, recently filed a lawsuit against Newsom challenging the bans.
School closures are also unjustified by the “science” so many lockdown enthusiasts fetishize. More than 99% of California’s kindergarten through 12th grade students live in purple tiered counties, where in-person learning is generally prohibited, even though children rarely catch the virus in the classroom. Brown University economist Emily Oster analyzed infection rates among nearly 200,000 students in states with open schools. Over two weeks in September, she discovered an infection rate of just 0.13% among students and 0.24% among adults.
At the same time, indoor retail stores can legally remain open for the holiday rush — but are supposed to operate at 20% capacity. Malls statewide are reportedly violating such restrictions.
In other words, Californians can pile indoors to complete their Christmas shopping in fairly risky conditions but haven’t been able to go to school or dine outside in relatively safe conditions.
It’s hard to take the stay-at-home hectoring from California’s political class seriously, given that they’ve been setting such a poor example. Indeed, as Newsom and San Francisco Mayor London Breed have shown, it’s never been easier to get a table at the ritzy French Laundry restaurant in Napa County!
It’s not just right-wingers condemning the arbitrary nature of the state’s stay-at-home orders.
“This seems so counterproductive. In LA, you’re not (technically speaking) allowed to go on a masked, distanced jog with one friend? Few people are going to abide by those rules and you lose your claim to being science-driven,” tweeted Nate Silver, editor in chief of the data-based news site FiveThirtyEight.
Popular podcaster, former Obama speechwriter, and Los Angeles resident Jon Favreau has called communication about the rules from his county “atrocious” and delivered with “an overly officious chiding tone.”