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Los Angeles officials in recent days have pleaded with residents to cancel social gatherings and announced limited hours for businesses in an effort to counteract a swift rise in coronavirus cases. But the clear messaging belies a murkier reality: They don’t fully understand why so many people are becoming infected.

For months, Angelenos have been prohibited from exercising inside gyms, watching movies in theaters and dining indoors at restaurants. It was with these restrictions in place that L.A. County in early October recorded its fewest cases since the spring.

“The irony about right now is we are approaching our worst numbers with the same things open as [when] we … had our best numbers” a few weeks ago, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said this week.

The virus itself hasn’t changed, and there has been little relaxation of the rules. Interviews conducted with people who have recently tested positive for the coronavirus don’t show any significant shifts in behavior compared with a month ago, such as more visits to restaurants or other businesses, said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, L.A. County’s chief medical officer.

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