New coronavirus restrictions go into effect in Los Angeles County today and I’m left wondering if I can walk my dog in the park with other dog walkers. Coronavirus restrictions are more complicated than they appear at first blush; certainly more challenging for the populace that is supposed to obey them than for the bureaucrats who put them down on paper.

Consider the puzzlement of an L.A. bookstore owner who told a reporter about the new restrictions that will limit the number of people in her store, “Telling people to stay home but then also telling them to keep supporting small businesses—that’s kind of a Catch-22.” 

The same can be said about my dog walking dilemma. Under the new restrictions, parks remain open. However, the edict advises all residents to stay home and always wear a mask when outside the household. 

But more than advising residents to stay put, the rules actually prohibit gatherings with individuals not in the same household, except for religious services or protests.

A number of dog walkers meet in the park to walk their dogs at the same time of day. All participants wear masks and we are in a public park—but we are not of the same household. And while the human walkers attempt to keep social distances, the dogs didn’t get the message and they lead their walkers on peripatetic routes that cause the prescribed social distance to evaporate in a flash. 

Should I continue the walks and turn myself in as a scofflaw or try to explain to the dog why we are taking a different route for the next three weeks to avoid his pals? 

Rules that disrupt dog walking have a much greater effect on businesses, jobs and the economy.  

New restrictions that are in place until December 20 are intended to cut down the surge of Covid-19 cases that have averaged over 4500 new cases daily in Los Angeles County for five days prompting the lockdown.

Under the edict, essential retail establishments must limit entrance to 35% of capacity, while non-essential stores are limited to 20% capacity. Given that this is the Holiday shopping season in which many retail establishments count on to meet their yearly sales goal, the new restrictions could prove to be devastating. 

Specific limitations for such facilities as tennis clubs or golf courses are restricted to use for individuals or members of a single household. Hopefully, a foursome for a round of golf can be found under one roof. 

How these restrictions are policed is anyone’s guess. 

Yet, the complex messaging and restrictions add another obstacle to business owners who want to dig out of the hole the pandemic has put them in. For workers, more have been let go, particularly in the restaurant industry, with outdoor dining closed.  

The new restrictions will test the patience of L.A. County residents as well as be a test for the leadership credentials of elected officials. We could be near a breaking point not only in following the restriction orders, but in the effect the shutdowns will have on the economy and government coffers. 

For those who want to follow the recommendations, they must grit their teeth a little longer, hope that the restrictions indeed stick to their three week temporary status, and that the vaccines start shipping soon.

Or they can protest. 

Which brings us back to the dog walking dilemma over the next three weeks. Walking dogs is not exactly a religious experience. But perhaps the multi dog and people gatherings can continue by asserting that by walking the dogs as a group we are protesting against the new restrictions. A couple of hand-drawn signs should do the trick to keep us on the right side of the law.

Then again, I better prepare for that talk with the dog.