CVIndependent

Tue07072020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

If we’re going to beat this pandemic, we need to do a better job at testing.

A friend decided over the weekend to get a COVID-19 test. He’s developed sinus issues, as well as an annoying cough. He’s confident he doesn’t have COVID-19—he is fairly susceptible to these types of coughs, especially during allergy season—but he wants to be safe, seeing as he is in a high-risk category, and he lives with his elderly father.

He called the county on Saturday to get an appointment at the Cathedral City testing site, and got an appointment for Thursday. However, five days to get a test—plus another five days or so to get results—is a long time, so he called CVS to see about getting an appointment there. They said they could get him tested on Wednesday—with results in another 5-7 days.

I realize my friend’s story is merely one anecdote, and does not make a trend—but I’ve heard plenty of other stories, and seen plenty of news coverage about testing delays, like the Los Angeles Times reporting today that L.A. County appointments are being booked as quickly as they’re made available.

The county and the state—in the absence of federal leadership (and don’t get me started on that)—need to do everything they can to make COVID-19 testing more available, with results returned faster. The quicker someone can learn whether they’re positive, the faster they can take precautions—and the faster contact tracers can get to work.

We need to do better—and we can’t just wait for the technology to get better. Someone with pre-existing health conditions and an elderly father living with him shouldn’t be facing a 10-day wait to find out whether or not he has this god-awful virus.

Today’s news:

The Washington Post looks at the grim state of the pandemic in the nation as we emerge from the Fourth of July weekend. Key quote: “The country’s rolling seven-day average of daily new cases hit a record high Monday—the 28th record-setting day in a row.” 

• While Harvard University will be allowing some students back on campus for the fall, all courses will be taught online, the school announced today

• Related: Instead of focusing on testing or evictions or anything helpful, the federal government announced today that foreign students will need to leave the U.S.—or face deportation—if their colleges move to online-only courses. Sigh. 

• Up in Sacramento, the Capitol building has been closed for a week after a Marina del Ray assemblyperson and four others who work there tested positive for the virus

Here’s another piece on the impending national eviction crisis. Key quote: “Of the 110 million Americans living in rental households, 20 percent are at risk of eviction by Sept. 30, according to an analysis by the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project, a Colorado-based community group. African American and Hispanic renters are expected to be hardest hit.”

• The World Health Organization continues to say that the coronavirus is spread by large respiratory droplets that don’t linger in the air. Well, a large number of experts are now calling on the WHO to change its guidance—because they’re sure it’s transmitted by smaller droplets that remain airborne for longer.

• The Washington Post asked five infectious-disease experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, what risks they’re willing to take in their day to day lives, in terms of going out, letting people into their homes, etc. Some of their answers are a little surprising.

• Speaking of Dr. Fauci: He announced today that the average age of coronavirus patients nationwide has dropped by 15 years in recent weeks. Key quote: “It’s a serious situation that we have to address immediately.”

• Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms—rumored to be on Joe Biden’s VP short list—announced today she’s tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Fortunately, she has no symptoms as of now.

Hate incidents against Asian Americans are skyrocketing due to stupidity and this damn virus (mostly stupidity)—and activists want Gov. Gavin Newsom to do more about it.

• Good news: The feds today released information on the companies that received PPP loans totaling more than $150,000. Key quote: “The Ayn Rand Institute, named for the objectivist writer cited as an influence on libertarian thought, was approved for $350,000 to $1 million.” Wait what?

• And because nothing makes sense anymore, announced-presidential-candidate-but-not-really Kanye West’s Yeezy was one of those companies, receiving more than $2 million in PPP money.

And so was … Burning Man?! Yes, really. Our partners at CalMatters look at some of the California-based takeaways from the long-overdue PPP data release.

• San Diego County today joined Riverside County (and much of the rest of the state) in being forced to close indoor dining at restaurants, because the county has now spent more than three days on the state’s watchlist.

• Let’s end with a couple of positive pieces: The San Francisco Chronicle talked to Bay Area doctors about how much they’ve learned since the pandemic began about treating COVID-19and the new treatments that are saving lives.

NBC News takes a look at the relationship between Dalila Reynoso and Smith County, Texas, Sheriff Larry Smith. She started calling for the sheriff to do more to slow COVID-19 in his system’s jails—and he listened.

That’s enough for today. Wear a mask. Please support local journalism, without fees or paywalls, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent.

Happy Fourth of July weekend, y’all.

Those of us here at Independent World Headquarters are planning on basically staying at home this weekend. We’ll support some of our fave restaurants by getting takeout and cocktails; have a Zoom happy hour or two with friends; and catch up on some much-needed rest.

If you do decide to venture out this weekend, I recommend taking the advice of this Los Angeles Times article: Assume everyone you’re around has the virus. Positivity and hospitalization rates are on the upswing, after all.

I’d like to take this chance to thank all of you who have supported the Independent’s work over these last several trying months. I can’t tell you how much all of the emails, social-media messages and phone calls have meant to us. I’d also like to thank the dozens of you who have opened your wallets to support us financially by becoming Supporters of the Independent—and I ask those of you who haven’t done so already to join them. Find details on how to do that here.

Stay safe. Wear a mask. And keep making the Coachella Valley the amazing place that is.

Here’s the news:

• Some interesting drug news out of Spain: Some HIV-positive patients on anti-viral medications seem to be less at risk for COVID-19 than the general population. Could drugs that helped slow the AIDS pandemic help slow the coronavirus pandemic?

The late-stage trial for one of the more promising vaccine candidates has been delayed by several weeks.

• Recent unemployment numbers have not been as dire as many had forecasted. However, the economy’s still going to take a while to recover, and it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. (Spoiler alert: The coronavirus surge isn’t helping.) The Washington Post explains.

• One other thing that may keep the economy down: While a lot of workers have kept their jobs (at least for now), they’ve had to accept sometimes-drastic pay cuts.

NBC News looks at the latest research into whether people infected with COVID-19 will have immunity—and there’s “some encouraging early evidence of possible protection against reinfection.” 

• Things have gotten rather dire in Arizona—you know, our neighbors to the east. The state this week became the first in the nation to enact crisis standards of care—which, to oversimplify things, means overwhelmed doctors there may begin determining which patients get treated, and which ones don’t, based on limited resources.

• Chicago is the latest to place to demand that people from California and other states experiencing a coronavirus surge quarantine for two weeks

• Oh, and Mexico has closed the Arizona border based on the spike in that state

• While more people than ever before are getting sick with COVID-19 in the United States, so far, the death rate has remained relatively low. The New York Times explains why that is—and why that may not remain the case for long.

• Hooray! It’s now easier to make SARS-Co-V-2 testing appointments at Riverside County-run sites; you can now make appointments online

The New York Times examines why fireworks are driving so many people crazy here in California.

• Good news: The state has extended unemployment benefits. Bad news: Some eligible people who filed months ago have yet to receive a dime.

California is doing about 85,000 coronavirus tests per day. However, Harvard says the state needs to do several times that to keep the virus in check

Amazon is facing yet more criticism for not taking proper care of its people; this time, workers with Amazon’s air service are making the complaints about unsafe environments

• In some places, contract tracers are using subpoenas to get people infected with COVID-19 to spill the beans on who they’ve been with, and where they’ve been

• The Conversation takes a deep dive into the history of Mexico City, where many water ways were destroyed to prevent illnesses—but that history has paved the way (pun not intended) for COVID-19 to run amok there.

Have great weekend. We’ll be back on Monday.

Happy (?) July, all. The news of the day:

The reopening process is moving further backward: Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced that restaurants, movie theaters, family-entertainment centers and other businesses in much of the state—including Riverside County—must shutter all indoor operations for at least three weeks. Bars must completely shut down, and parking lots at state beaches will close for the weekend.

• The governor is also imploring people NOT to have personal gatherings—and threatening to withhold some state funding from counties that disregard the state’s mandates and requests.

He also took a veiled swipe at casinos. The state does not have regulatory power over them, but he said the state is “in deep conversations and will be making public the fruits of those efforts to at least get a rationale of understanding between partners in our sovereign nations and the state of California.”

• The city of Palm Springs is tightening up the mask mandate, making them mandatory when someone is near any business or in any business district; at restaurants when servers or other employees are near a table; and while working out in gyms.

• While the state is rolling back the reopening process, it’s also no longer funding new testing sites, and is closing underutilized sites, according to the Los Angeles Times. What the hell, California?

Apple is temporarily closing another 30 stores, including a bunch in the L.A. area—but for now, the Palm Desert location is remaining open.

• News that a small trial study of one vaccine candidate yielded promising results got the stock market all excited this morning.

CNN took a look at the mess in Imperial County, where Americans who live in Mexico are crossing back over the border for COVID-19 care—and overwhelming the small county’s medical system.

• It’s official: The European Union is allowing travel again—but those of us from the U.S. aren’t allowed in.

• The coronavirus situation has gotten so dire at San Quentin State Prison—more than 1,100 inmates have the virus—that about 20 prisoners have gone on a hunger strike, according to The Appeal.

The virus is spreading among detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, too.

Along other guidelines, the FDA says a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine will need to be at least 50 percent more effective than a placebo in order to be approved for use.

A study at Stanford University is looking into the possibility that Apple Watches, Fitbits and other wearable technology could let people know that they may have the coronavirus before they start to feel sick.

• The Conversation looks at what went wrong in Texas—and what needs to happen for that state to get out of its current COVID-19 spike.

• The Seattle Times reports on yet more evidence that the widespread Black Lives Matter protests have NOT led to spikes in the diseaseoffering pretty convincing evidence that the disease does not spread well among people who are outside and wearing face coverings.

• One of the biggest mysteries of this damn virus: Most people don’t seem to spread it—but a select few REALLY spread it. The New York Times talks to experts who are trying to solve this mystery.

Autopsies are helping scientists better understand the damage being done by COVID-19—and that’s helping doctors and researchers develop better treatments.

• The fight between insurers and pissed-off business owners who want business-interruption payments are heading to the courts. The Wall Street Journal looks at hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed—and explains why some business owners may have precedents on their side.

United Airlines thinks people are in the mood to travel again—and as a result, it’s adding hundreds of flights to its August schedule.

I did not predict this side effect of the pandemic: Pissed-off otters are biting people.

• OK, now for some good news: The Palm Springs Cultural Center is launching a drive-in movie series—and kicking it off with free showings of Hamilton this weekend.

• One activity that’s free and will always be open: skywatching. Independent astronomy columnist Robert Victor explains what the heavens have in store for us this month.

Finally, we all have something to live for: New episodes of Beavis and Butt-head are coming.

That’s the news of the day. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. Become a Supporter of the Independent, please, if you have the funds and you value what we do. The Daily Digest will return on Friday.

As we move deeper into the toasty Coachella Valley summer during this ongoing pandemic, I ask all of you: Please, be careful, and take precautions.

On one hand, June was an exciting month: In many ways, our valley came back to life. Stores, restaurants and bars reopened. Traffic returned to the streets. Tourists are here again—in significant numbers.

On the other hand … June was terrifying. Riverside County and the Coachella Valley are both experiencing all-time highs in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Bars closed back up. The governor, thank goodness, has stepped in and instituted a statewide face-coverings order, because of increasing case numbers—and to give cover to beleaguered local health officials who were becoming the targets of insane anti-face-mask ire.

SARS-CoV-2 is very much still a danger. It continues to spread here in the Coachella Valley. It’s going to claim the lives of yet more of our neighbors. Meanwhile, the now-backtracking reopening process will succeed only if we all do our part: We need to wear face coverings whenever we’re near others. We need to wash our hands. We need to stay home and get tested if we feel ill—and perhaps we should get tested even if we feel fine, too.

Meanwhile, here at the Independent, we’ll continue doing what we do—quality local journalism—as best we can. If you haven’t already signed up for our Daily Digest to be emailed to you, please consider doing so here.

While the business climate remains challenging for the Independent and other newspapers around the country, we’re hanging in there—and we have three groups and entities to thank for that.

First: I’d like to thank our advertisers—new, resuming and continuing. Readers, please thank them yourselves, and give them as much business as you can.

Second: I’m proud to announce the Independent is a recipient of $5,000 from the Google News Initiative Journalism Emergency Relief Fund. Forgive me for tooting our own figurative horn here, but I’ll repeat what I said when we received $5,000 from the Facebook Journalism Project a couple of months ago: Not only is it evidence of the quality work we’re doing at the Independent; it’s a testament to all of the support and feedback we have received from you, our readers.

Third: Speaking of reader support: Nearly every day, we receive at least one payment from a reader who has become a Supporter of the Independent, sending us anywhere from $5 to $500. Thank you to all of you who have supported us; if you’re interested in joining them, go here. When the pandemic has passed, we’re going to all get together for a fantastic celebration—I promise.

As always, thanks for reading—and be sure to pick up the July 2020 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, now available in more than 300 locations across the valley.

Happy Monday, everyone. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get right to it:

The coronavirus is spreading locally. According to the just-released Riverside County District 4 report, the local positivity rate—the percentage of tests that come back positive for the virus—is a too-high 14 percent. (The state wants that number kept below 8 percent.)

The numbers of cases keep going up. At first glance, the recent case numbers always look deceptively low on this report, and here’s why: The dates reflect positive cases based on when the tests are taken, not when the results come back—and since test results can take 3-5 days to receive, sometimes longer, we don’t have a lot of results back yet from last week. Just look at the numbers from May 25 on, and you’ll see the mess that the Coachella Valley is in.

• COVID-19-related hospitalizations, after being somewhat stable for the last week, have gone up substantially in recent days. County-wide, as of the weekend, 98.7 percent of our hospitals’ ICU beds were taken. However … according to the Los Angeles Times, that’s not the big problem, believe it or not; apparently, even in non-pandemic times, local hospitals frequently run out of ICU beds (!). Even now, there’s enough space, and plenty of ventilators. The problem is the number of medical professionals. Key quote:

Michael Ditoro, chief operating officer at Desert Regional Medical Center, said the facility hit ICU-bed capacity “well prior to COVID. Year after year.” The medical center’s surge beds are equally equipped to treat patients as regular ICU beds, he said.

Bed capacity might not be their biggest challenge, Ditoro said. Instead, it’s scant staffing.

“You don’t really have a centralized area with the beds all around it where it’s really quick to get to them. Instead, you may be in a longer hall unit where you need staff closer to each room,” he said of the surge units.

• Because of the increasing numbers, Gov. Gavin Newsom over the weekend cracked down on 15 counties, either ordering that they close bars—or strongly suggesting they do so. As a result, bars here in Riverside County—many of which had already voluntarily closed—will need to shut their doors tonight. Loophole alert: Bars can remain open if they serve food, and mandate that customers purchase food with their drinks. It’s also worth noting that Newsom said more closings could be ordered if things don’t improve.

The county Board of Supervisors meeting will take place online tomorrow, and parts of the County Administrative Center were closed, because several county employees tested positive for the virus

Los Angeles County is closing beaches over the July 4 weekend, since we, as Americans, are collectively proving that we’re incapable of wearing masks and social distancing and simply being intelligent in general.

• Cocktail break! Here’s Alton Brown’s refreshing mint julep recipe. If you don’t partake in spirits, here’s a non-alcoholic recipe.

• In Arizona, one of the COVID-19 hotbeds in the United States, Gov. Doug Ducey today ordered that bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks close for at least 30 days, starting this evening. He also pushed back the planned opening of schools there by a couple of weeks. Weirdly enough, there’s still NOT a statewide mask order in the Grand Canyon State.

All Broadway shows have been cancelled through the rest of 2020 due to the pandemic—which has also led Cirque du Soleil to file for bankruptcy.

• However, in some places, the show is going on. CBS News looks at how some smaller theater companies are planning on presenting socially distanced plays.

• Oh, great. There’s more evidence this damn virus has mutated to make it more contagious. Just great!

According to this BBC News lede: “A new strain of flu that has the potential to become a pandemic has been identified in China by scientists.” OH COME ON YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME.

• I don’t think we’ve ever taken two cocktail breaks in a Daily Digest before, but it seems necessary today. So, compliments of Independent cocktail scribe Kevin Carlow, here’s the lowdown on the history of the mai tai—with delicious recipes included.

Gilead has set the prices for remdesivir—the one drug sorta proven to help really sick COVID-19 patients—and it’s definitely not cheap.

• Maybe good news: According to The Conversation, SARS-Co-V-2 attacks cells kind of like some types of cancers do—but that means some cancer drugs may help battle the virus, too.

• We’ve often warned in this space that stories on scientific studies need to be taken with massive figurative grains of salt. CNN’s Sanjay Gupta isn’t wild about what he calls science by press release.

As a result of a screwed-up prison transfer, more than 1,000 inmates at San Quentin State Prison—that’s a third of the prison population there—have COVID-19.

• “Screwed up” can also describe the state inspectors’ response to COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes, which have killed thousands of people in California alone. Key quote from this Los Angeles Times piece: “Time and again, inspectors sent to assess nursing homes’ ability to contain the new virus found no deficiencies at facilities that were in the midst of deadly outbreaks or about to endure one.

• Finally, after all of that crappy-ass news, take 3 1/2 minutes, and let Randy Rainbow offer you a laugh or two—because he’s back with a new, mask-related ditty.

I think you’ll agree that this is more than enough news for the day. Please, everyone, wash your hands. Wear a mask. Social distance. Be kind. If you have the ability, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep paying Kevin Carlow to write about mai tais. (And so we can do other quality local journalism, too.) The digest will be back on Wednesday, barring something humongous happening tomorrow. 

Today was one of the biggest COVID-19-related news days in quite a while, so let’s get right to the links:

Reopening processes around the country—and in some parts of California—are coming to a halt or being reversed, due to increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. In Texas and Florida, bars are being closed, and other business are being restricted.

San Francisco was planning on allowing hair salons, outdoor bars and other businesses to open on Monday. That move has been delayed indefinitely.

• And most worrisome locally: For the first time since the reopening process began, the state has told a county that it needs to re-impose a strict stay-at-home order—Imperial County, our neighbors to the southeast. And another neighboring county, San Bernardino, is close to running out of non-surge hospital beds

Riverside County is behind the curve at hiring contact tracers. The good news is that as of yesterday, the county was up to 220 of them, with 180 added in the last five weeks, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise. However, the state says we need around 375 of them.

• Dr. Anthony Fauci said the federal government is considering a new way of testing for SARS-CoV-2—pool testing. “The approach works this way: Samples from, say, 20 people are combined into a single pool,” reports The Washington Post. “One coronavirus test is used on the entire pool. If the test comes back negative, researchers know they can move on to another pool of samples. If it comes back positive, only then would each individual be tested.

A Tucson emergency room doctor penned a column for The New York Times with this headline: “I’m a Health Care Worker. You Need to Know How Close We Are to Breaking.”

• While the state-by-state numbers here are probably too small to take too seriously … a recent Axios/Ipsos poll shows that 64 percent of Californians wear masks whenever they go outthe second highest percentage behind New York.

• A JPMorgan study shows a correlation between restaurant spending and the spread of the coronavirus, according to CNBC—and, conversely, “higher spending at supermarkets predicts a slower spread of the virus.” However, experts point out that this doesn’t necessarily mean restaurants are to blame for the spread.

• Also according to CNBC: The number of homeowners delaying their monthly mortgage payments is on the rise again, after falling for several weeks.

Can you shop safely in a brick-and-mortar clothing store? Esquire talked to some experts to get answers. Key quote from Erin Bromage, associate professor of biology and immunology at the University of Massachusetts: “It comes down to how long you spend in the store and how many people are in the store. If you are only in there for a short period of time, and they’re restricting occupancy, then the risk is low.”

From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: University of California campuses are telling students to prepare for a fall semester that will mostly—but not entirely—take place online.

• We’re now moving to our WTF?! portion of the digest, starting with the news that American Airlines is going to stop keeping middle seats open, and resume booking flights to capacity.

• It’s not often that I’ve wanted to tip my hat to Dick Cheney, but here we are: He says that real men wear face masks.

• Did you know North Carolina has an anti-mask law? It’s true—and it’s caused no small degree of confusion. It turns out the law is a decades-old measure meant to crack down on the KKK—but thankfully, it’s been temporarily suspended, at least through Aug. 1.

• Finally, this story is particularly devastating news to those of us here at Independent World Headquarters: Costco has stopped making half-sheet cakes. DAMN YOU ’RONA! DAMN YOU!!!

• No … we take back that “finally”; we can’t end the week on that awful note. So here’s some good news: San Francisco’s Transgender District was “the first legally recognized district in the world dedicated to a historically transgender community.” The economic downturn almost forced the nonprofit to close—but then came the Black Lives Matter protests. Now, the Transgender District is on firmer footing, as “the two movements have converged in a kind of intersectional synchronicity that is bringing renewed attention to the realities of transgender people of color,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Readers, these are scary times. Please, take care of yourself this weekend. Wear a mask when you go out. Check in on neighbors and loved ones. Live in the now and enjoy life, because these days still count against the total number you have on this planet. Right? Oh, and help out the Independent, if you’re able, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will return Monday.

In response to yesterday’s Daily Digest, I received this email from a reader, verbatim:

You read so old lady at times, but the wearing of masks is important but some people cannot and you never say that?

Along with chiding the reader for his ageism and sexism with the “old lady” remark, I responded that the number of people who truly can’t wear masks is small, and that many of those people can wear other forms of a face coverings, like a shield.

The back and forth went another pointless round which I shan’t recap here. Nonetheless … you know what? This reader is right. There are some people who can’t wear face masks.

So, to those of you out there (aside from this cranky reader) who are unable to wear face masks, I’d like to ask: How do you handle this? Do other face coverings work? If you go out somewhere, how do you explain your situation? What steps, if any, do you take to protect yourself—and the people you’re around—from possibly spreading COVID-19?

I’d love to hear from you. Please email me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.); if you don’t want your name or identifying characteristics used, I won’t do so. I’ll recap the responses I get in an upcoming Daily Digest.

Thank you in advance for your time, and for helping us all learn.

Let’s get to the links:

• The big national news of the day: During a call with reporters today, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the agency believes that only a tenth of the coronavirus infections in the country are being reported. Says NBC News: “Currently, there are 2.3 million COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S. The CDC’s new estimate pushes the actual number of coronavirus cases up to at least 23 million.

• Don’t take this as a reason to panic; take this as a call to action: The Desert AIDS Project reports that in one week, the clinic there has seen more positive results that it had in the previous 10 weeks combined.

• I was once again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs Podcast, with hosts John Taylor, Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr, and all sorts of other amazing guests. We lead off by talking with Dr. Laura Rush about the local COVID-19 case increases. Be careful out there, folks.

• What kind of mask is best at preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2? FiveThirtyEight breaks it down.

• If you don’t mind dense scientific articles, this piece, from JAMA Psychiatry, is worth at least a quick skim. It recommends steps we can take, collectively and as individuals, to promote better health during these crazy times. Key quote—and keep in mind this is coming from a media outlet: “Limiting media exposure time is advisable. Graphic imagery and worrisome messages increase stress and anxiety, elevating the risk of long-term, lingering fear-related disorders. Although staying informed is essential, one should minimize exposure to media outlets.”

• For a less-dense scientific read, The Conversation examines how deforestation is a key driver in introducing new diseases to mankind. Sigh.

Texas has put a stop to its reopening process—and ordered hospitals to postpone elective procedures in four of the largest counties—because things there are getting pretty bad.

• Meanwhile, in Arizona, where things are almost as bad as they are in Texas, Gov. Doug Ducey held a press conference today and asked people to wear masks and stay home, but, as KTAR put it, “stopped short … of offering any additional formal action that would help slow the spread of the virus in Arizona.”

• Also in Arizona: Sick people are having problems getting tested there … and that problem is not limited to Arizona. According to The New York Times: “The United States’ coronavirus testing capacity has begun to strain as the pandemic continues to spread, with over 35,000 cases recorded Tuesday. Across the country, more than a dozen public laboratories say they are now ‘challenged’ to meet the demand.

This lede from The Sacramento Bee, via SFGate, should make your blood boil: “More than three months into the coronavirus pandemic, California officials say they still have no plans to collect and publish basic data about COVID-19 testing and outbreaks in local jails, frustrating advocates, families and even some members of the state’s own jail oversight board.”

MedPage Today recently spoke to Dr. Theodore Mazer, the former president of the California Medical Association, about the need for doctors to speak out in defense of public health officials. Key quote: “Public health officers and governments in general have always done things that restrict some activities for the public good. And I don’t mean to get down too deep into that, but we have laws against defecating in the streets. Is that infringing on somebody’s rights or is it a recognition that that brings about things like hepatitis outbreaks?”

• One of the drivers of the recent boost in local COVID-19 cases is believed to be people getting together with friends and family—and then letting down their guard. The Los Angeles Times examines what some health officials say about gatherings between friends and family, and how they can be done as safely as possible.

• Some people with all the usual COVID-19 symptoms still test negative for the disease. One possible reason: False negatives are still a problem.

I am going to present a quote from this Washington Post piece without comment (other than shaking my head, grumbling to myself privately and feeling utter despair): “In recent weeks, three studies have focused on conservative media’s role in fostering confusion about the seriousness of the coronavirus. Taken together, they paint a picture of a media ecosystem that amplifies misinformation, entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others.”

• And now your Disney news roundup: While the Downtown Disney District is still slated to reopen on July 9, the theme parks will NOT reopen on July 17, as was previously announced. Disney is blaming the delay on the fact the state has yet to issue guidelines—but the fact some of the company’s unions were pleading for a delay may (or may not) have been a factor.

• Disney’s Mulan is, as of now, scheduled on July 24 to be the first major film release since, well, you know. However, The Wall Street Journal says that may be delayed, too.

• OK, now, some good news: Riverside County on Monday will begin accepting applications from small businesses for a second round of grants of up to $10,000. This time, sole proprietors and businesses that received EIDL money (but NOT PPP money) will be eligible.

That’s today’s news. Wash your hands. Wear a mask (unless you can’t, in which case, please fill me in). Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you’re financially able, so we can keep producing quality local journalism—and making it available to everyone without pay walls or subscription fees. The Daily Digest will be back tomorrow.

Before we get to the links, I’d like to briefly discuss face coverings.

The COVID-19 projections by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) have been among the most lauded from the start of this whole mess—and the people behind the projections recently added a new metric: universal mask use.

And, boy, are the results stunning.

Here in California, as of today’s reports, 5,632 people have died from COVID-19. According to the IMHE models, that number—if we keep on our current track—will double, reach 11,631, by Oct. 1.

However, if California could get “95 percent mask usage in public in every location, reaching levels seen in Singapore,” the projections show 8,745 deaths by Oct. 1.

That’s a difference of 2,886 people.

Nationwide, the model is projecting 179,106 deaths by Oct. 1. With 95 percent mask usage, the number drops to 146,047—a difference of more than 33,000 people.

While I have a feeling I’m preaching to the choir here … if any of you out there are not yet onboard with wearing masks in public, please reconsider. Please. If these numbers are anywhere near correct, many thousands of lives will be saved if we all just wear face coverings in public. If not, well, you were slightly inconvenienced.

Wear a mask, people. Please. 

Today’s links:

• Gov. Gavin Newsom said today that if county governments don’t comply with things like the face-covering mandate, the state could withhold state and federal funding that comes through the state budget. Orange County (and, to a lesser extent, our own Riverside County) should take note. 

Nevada and North Carolina are the latest states to mandate that people wear face coverings in public. To repeat: Lives. Saved.

• As COVID-19 cases rise nationally, the federal government plans on ending support of coronavirus testing sites in five states at the end of the month. Sigh.

NPR reports that contract tracing is leading to some interesting conclusions—like, for example, in Washington state, protests haven’t led to a rise in cases—but parties and other private celebrations have.

• Related: News Channel 3 took a look at local contact-tracing efforts. The county currently has 250 contact tracers on the job, and more are coming.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are requiring that people traveling there from hotspot states self-quarantine for 14 days. As of now, the list of states from which people must quarantine does NOT include California; it does include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas according to CNBC

• While testing capacity seems decent in the Coachella Valley, such is not the case in Los Angeles, where people are getting quite frustrated at how hard it is to make testing appointments, according to the Los Angeles Times.

• Also according to the Times: I don’t necessarily agree with the paper’s characterization of Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties as “suburban,” but the paper’s assertion that we have contributed to the statewide uptick in hospitalizations is unfortunately quite accurate.

• After you read this story in The New York Times, about the steps other countries are taking to keep COVID-19 at bay, you may shake your head and wonder what could be happening in the United States under competent federal leadership. Just sayin’.

• Affirmative action has been banned in California since 1996. In November, voters will get to choose whether to remove that ban, following steps taken today by the Legislature.

The Democratic National Convention will be dramatically scaled down come August, the party announced today: While there will still be some in-person events in Milwaukee, delegates and others will be asked to stay home.

• Finally, if the rising number of COVID-19 cases is worrying you, an epidemiologist from the University of Arizona, writing for The Conversation, suggests five things you can do right now. I, for one, need to work on No. 4.

That’s enough for today. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Fight injustice. If you can afford it, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, because all this quality news we’re providing, for free to all, costs money to produce. We’ll return tomorrow.

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Let’s get right to it:

The city of Palm Springs announced today that an employee has tested positive for the coronavirus, and that all employees who had direct contact with the employee are being tested and quarantined at home. My two cents: Don’t be concerned by announcements like this; take them as a good sign: We know the virus is out there, and diligent actions like this will help stop the spread.

The deadline to apply for $33 million in rental assistance—up to $3,500 per household—is just two days away. Get details and the application here.

• Meanwhile, some more shady counting is going down in Florida, as the Department of Health has told hospitals to decrease the numbers of COVID-19 patients they’re reporting in their ICUs. Here’s an explanation why.

Younger people are driving the increases in COVID-19 cases in some places seeing spikes, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci. “The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges that we're seeing in Florida, Texas and Arizona,” Fauci said.

• On a happier note, Fauci said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that there will be a vaccine available around the first of the year, which, if you’re keeping track, is about six months from now.

• Oh, and Fauci made it clear that, despite what the president says, nobody has asked him to slow down testing—and, in fact, he said the federal government is working on doing more testing.

• Public-health experts yesterday explained to a House committee that systemic racism is to blame for a disproportionately high number of COVID-19 cases in America’s Black communities.

A doctor with UCSF answers five questions you may have about asymptomatic carriers of SARS-CoV-2. Key quote: “Public health experts don’t know exactly how much spread is caused by asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic patients. But there are some telling hints that it is a major driver of this pandemic.”

• Because the United States is not exactly doing a bang-up job in flattening the curve, the European Union is considering barring Americans from visiting.

Washington state has become the latest place to require that people wear face coverings in public places. Lives. Saved.

• Remdesivir can currently only be administered intravenously, meaning someone pretty much has to be hospitalized to receive it. However, Gilead Sciences is working on an inhalable version—which means it could be given to people suffering from COVID-19 when they’re at home, before the disease can further progress. One doctor told the San Francisco Chronicle that’s a potential game-changer.

Square, used by a lot of small businesses to collect payments, is holding up to 30 percent of businesses’ payments all of a sudden. Square claims it’s to protect against possible refunds or risky transactions—but The New York Times found that to often be a lame excuse.

• Well, folks, it’s come to this: A new Apple Watch feature senses when a wearer is washing his or her hands—and is offering prompts to encourage said wearer to keep going for the recommended 20 seconds.

A Los Angeles doctor invented a machine seven years ago that could quickly disinfect an airplane using ultraviolet light. Nobody was very interested in the idea until, well, along came the pandemic.

• Recycling efforts have taken a serious beating due to the coronavirus. Two researchers, writing for The Conversation, say they “are concerned about challenges facing the recycling sector and growing distrust of communal and secondhand goods. The trends we see in the making and consuming of single-use goods, particularly plastic, could have lasting negative effects on the circular economy.

• Finally, a researcher on alternative media, also writing for The Conversation, looks at how important alternative newspaper coverage of the Stonewall Riots was at documenting what actually happened—while The New York Times was running headlines like “4 Policemen Hurt in ‘Village’ Raid.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Speak out against injustice. Please support independent alternative news sources, like the Independent, if you’re able. Thank you, and be safe.

Happy Monday, everyone.

I’d like to start off the week, to use that old cliché, by tooting our own horn and shining a spotlight on two recent Independent stories.

The first one, posted at CVIndependent.com earlier today, looks at the fact that thousands of Coachella Valley families lack reliable internet access—which presents big problems, especially in the middle of a pandemic, when students can’t go to physical schools.

“These are the families and the students who can least afford for their children not to be engaged, (which could) ultimately widen the achievement gap,” said local Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. “Someone called this a civil rights issue—because without (broadband), you are severely disadvantaged.”

In addition to Garcia, staff writer Kevin Fitzgerald talked to all three local school district superintendents, as well as a community-broadband expert, for the 2,200-word-plus piece. (One flaw: We didn’t talk to any students. Kevin was working on tracking down a student or two, but we ran out of time before our July print-edition deadline hit.)

The problem is especially pronounced in the east valley’s Coachella Valley Unified School District, which partnered with the city of Coachella to buy thousands of Verizon Wireless mobile hotspots to make some progress.

“We are trying to find ways to get more hotspots and more devices (for) our students,” said CVUSD Superintendent Dr. Maria Gandera. “We estimate that about 40 percent of the households in our district did not have connectivity. We could probably use double the amount (of hotspots)—and we still might have some issues with connecting.”

While Kevin talked to at least five people for his story, Independent music contributor Matt King only talked to two for his story, posted on Friday, about live music at restaurants in the era of COVID-19—because four restaurants we reached out to never returned our various messages.

California’s guidelines for bars and restaurant re-openings make it very clear that, for now, concerts and performances are a no-no. “Restaurants, bars and wineries must discontinue this type of entertainment until these types of activities are allowed to resume modified or full operation,” say the state guidelines.

Nonetheless, some local restaurants have brought live music back to their stages—while others are doing the right thing and following the guidelines, even if it affects their bottom line. Matt reached out to five restaurants that have touted live music on social media—and only Lana Ristich, the owner of Chef George’s Restaurant in Bermuda Dunes, got back to us.

“Virus is virus,” Ristich said. “I know it’s killing people, but people still have to live their life. If someone is sick, they are not going to go out. Older people should stay home, but younger generations with better immune systems might get sick from something worse by just staying home.”

Meanwhile, at The Hood Bar and Pizza—one of the valley’s foremost entertainment venues during “normal” times—owner Brad Guth is choosing to follow the guidelines.

“I take both my health and the health of my employees and customers very seriously,” Guth said. “The county is discouraging large crowds, and we are doing the same. We’ve cut hours and limited space, and we just want people to be safe.”

As always, if you have any thoughts on these stories, or anything else we do, drop me a line—and thanks for reading.

Today’s news links:

The latest countywide hospitalization stats are, well, still not great. It’s too early to call what’s happening a “spike,” and the county as a whole is tiptoeing close to the state’s watch-list metrics … but the trend isn’t good.

The latest District 4 report (including the Coachella Valley and points eastward), covering the week ending yesterday, is a mixed bag. I must admit I find these reports confusing, but here’s what it says: The weekly local positivity rate is a still-too-high 14.6 percent, but it’s down from the 16 percent reported the week before. The number of new local cases dropped significantly to 292 (from 771, 942 and 1,182 in previous weeks), with 6,073 new tests reported. So, there ya go.

As for local hospitalization numbers: They’re slowly but steadily rising. We went from 106 local confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, to 108 in Friday, 113 on Saturday, and 116 on Sunday. Not a “spike” but not good. Wear a damn mask.

The San Francisco Chronicle profiled eight people who got sick with COVID-19, but have recovered … at least somewhat. These stories show how this disease isn’t just a bad flu—instead, it’s unpredictable and often permanently damaging.

• The feared increase in coronavirus cases due to the Black Matters Lives protests has not yet materialized … yet. MedPage Today talks to some experts who explain what this all could mean. (Spoiler alert: Staying outside + wearing a mask = prevention?)

• Speaking of wearing face coverings … NPR looks at the science and the anecdotal data, and concludes that mask-wearing is somewhere between helpful and a pandemic game-changer

• Again speaking of wearing face coverings … the local convention and visitors bureau is pleading with local businesses to insist that customers wear masks and take other precautions—and is asking those local businesses to take the “Safer Together, Greater Together” pledge. The Independent has done so, for the record.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said today that more than a third of California’s COVID-19 cases have come in the last two weeks. While this is a big reminder that we’re still very much in the first wave of this pandemic, the news—at least on a statewide level—is not all bad.

Riverside County is going to contact 3,500 random residents and ask them to take part in an antibody study. “We are asking those who are contacted to strongly consider taking part in the study,” said Kim Saruwatari, director of Riverside County Public Health, in a news release. “It’s important to know the extent of the spread of the virus. … That information is vital as we move forward.” Get more details here.

• This is dense but important: A nonprofit called the Open Technology Fund acts as an intermediary between the U.S. government—specifically the US Agency for Global Media—and vitally important open-source tech tools. Well, it appears the Trump administration is attempting to steer funding away from that agency—and direct it toward closed-sourced (read: corporate) companies. As a result, the agency’s head has resigned, and a whole bunch of nonprofits are very worried.

• The state tourism bureau claims that California could lose more than $2 billion in revenue from travelers through mid-July who opt to go to more-open neighboring states like Nevada and Arizona.

The New York Times looks at the wildly varying costs of COVID-19 tests. Key quote, regarding how some unscrupulous companies are spending our tax dollars: “Insurers have paid Gibson Diagnostic Labs as much as $2,315 for individual coronavirus tests. In a couple of cases, the price rose as high as $6,946 when the lab said it mistakenly charged patients three times the base rate. The company has no special or different technology from, say, major diagnostic labs that charge $100. It is one of a small number of medical labs, hospitals and emergency rooms taking advantage of the way Congress has designed compensation for coronavirus tests and treatment.”

Also from The New York Times comes this head-shaker of a headline: “Coronavirus Attacks the Lungs. A Federal Agency Just Halted Funding for New Lung Treatments. The shift, quietly disclosed on a government website, highlights how the Trump administration is favoring development of vaccines over treatments for the sickest patients.”

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Fight injustice. And please, if you’re going to be anywhere near other people, wear a mask. If you’d like to support local, quality journalism—made free to all, never with paywalls—please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow.

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