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Guidance and directives about what’s happening and what you’re allowed to do outside your home are more confusing than ever. We clowned on the podcast this week about how the governor said you’re encouraged to watch the sunset – so long as you don’t linger. Meaning, I guess, you can: time your arrival at a viewpoint to the exact moment the sun sets, watch it while casually zooming from side to side or hope that the sun abruptly drops into the void instead of taking its sweet ass time.

The barrage of news over the last two months has been overwhelming for everyone, but as someone who makes a living trying to make language and information as clear and accessible as possible, it’s been particularly frustrating. This all doesn’t have to be so chaotic. As I’ve thought about it, I’ve decided the confusion can be boiled down to three categories:

New Words

There are plenty of things that are strange and surreal about what we’ve all gone through. One of the strangest is that people just started peppering all their discussions with “social distancing,” PPE, Zoom as a verb and more as if we’ve all been saying them our whole lives.

On top of being unfamiliar on their face, people often disagree on what, exactly, these phrases mean. An Atlantic piece back in March that attempted to clarify what social distancing meant showed even experts aren’t sure – either it’s OK to have dinner parties with your friends, or it’s not. It might be OK to go to restaurants so long as you’re six feet away from others; except no, of course you can’t go to restaurants.

Vague Directives

Is a stay-at-home order the same thing as a shelter-in-place order?

How could running possible be construed as a “passive” use of a park?

If it’s only mandatory to wear a mask if you’re going to come within six feet of someone, then is it really mandatory?

Every attempt to convey to the public that the rules have changed has brought with it a barrage of questions about what, exactly, is allowed.

Conflicting Directives

Even when officials are clear about a new change being enacted – beaches are open for surfing and swimming – that information can still be wildly confusing when leaders from other agencies have said something different. Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office this week clarified its vague directives about parks with a much clearer one: Yes, you can sit down at parks. But Supervisor Nathan Fletcher almost immediately made things confusing again: No, you can’t, he said.

The county then decided that you could.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Major concerns remain when it comes to how the most vulnerable among us are faring throughout this crisis. In Encinitas, homeless residents being housed in hotels during the pandemic were released back to the streets. Doctors say they don’t have access to vital information about senior care centers. And the city is trying to figure out what to do with the homeless residents it’s currently housing in the Convention Center. A plan to place some of them in converted hotels is taking shape.

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Counterintuitively, San Diego health care providers are bleeding money and laying off workers in the midst of a health crisis. Hospitals in the South Bay, meanwhile, are dealing with higher percentages of positive cases. Hospitals and others are, however, slowly ramping up the amount of tests they’re performing – a crucial step toward reopening society.

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School officials are juggling two seemingly conflicting goals: getting educators up to speed on online learning, while reminding them of limits to their online interactions with kids to prevent abuse.

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Smart streetlights aren’t quite living up to their name.

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Several business owners told us in their own words about how they’re surviving and adapting to our new reality. The owners of China Max, meanwhile, described how their challenges were mounting even before a fire destroyed their restaurant.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“We are #hereforyou. We are #withyou. Not literally, or physically, or fiscally, but — symbolically. We mean we are sending the maximum amount of thoughts and prayers, on which no one can ever put a price tag. We would never offer you hazard pay or paid sick leave, lest people suspect you had a motive for helping besides sheer, radiant heroism.” – We can never repay our frontline workers, so why try?

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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