By Da Lin

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Despite having the strictest guidelines, California leads the nation in COVID-19 cases. Some doctors are blaming inconsistencies in the messaging for leading people to form their own guidelines.

“Earlier in the pandemic, it was easier to do messaging because it was new, everyone was afraid,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, infectious disease specialist at UCSF. “Right now it’s very difficult. It’s like saying ‘don’t smoke’ instead of trying to meet people where they are.”

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While most people trust the science, they say the restrictions don’t always make sense.

“(Health officials) say you can’t come to the restaurants, eat outside but yet you can still go and do some shopping in some malls. The messaging could be a little better,” said San Francisco resident Dennis Brown.

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The latest stay-home order also prompted health officials in the Bay Area to tell people to pop their social bubble and stop gathering with anyone outside of their household. Many people are ignoring that advice.

“I do still see my mom and there’s a level of trust there,” said San Francisco resident Stephanie Hudson. “I mean I trust my mom more than I trust maybe some other people that I know and that’s how I just, like, calculate that risk.”

“I will try to wear a mask if I’m in a car with (my friends). I’ll leave the windows open. I believe in ventilation. I try to be outdoors as much as possible with anybody,” said San Francisco resident Jeff Ente.

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Dr. Chin-Hong said “stricter” doesn’t always mean “better.” He said it can backfire.

“Different messaging coming through that didn’t make sense to folks — like closing playgrounds or not keeping public schools open — I think that led people to wonder and question. At that point, some people just shut down,” Dr. Chin-Hong said.

California is now the epicenter of COVID-19 cases in the country. On Sunday the CDC reported California has an average of 98.8 daily cases per 100,000 residents.

“We have all been talking about pandemic fatigue and that’s really turned into pandemic resentment,” said Dr. Chin-Hong.

Some people KPIX heard from pointed to the high cost of living and housing prices as factors contributing to the surge.

“A lot of people live with different people, like they have roommates or they live with inter-generational families. If you live with two other people, three other people, four other people, your bubble just gets bigger and the exposure gets bigger,” Hudson said.

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Doctors believed coronavirus numbers in the state will remain high for the next couple of weeks because of recent holiday gatherings. They expect to see a decline by the end of January.