CVIndependent

Mon11302020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

If you’re one of the 130 readers who has taken the time to complete our short, six-question survey: Thank you! If you have not taken the survey yet, and you have 90 seconds to spare, please click here.

We’ll close the survey tomorrow (Thursday) night, and I’ll share some takeaways from the survey in Friday’s Daily Digest.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Here are today’s links:

Here’s the most recent District 4 COVID-19 report from Riverside County. District 4 consists primarily of the Coachella Valley, as well as points eastward to the Arizona state border. The good news: Local cases and hospitalizations seem to be edging slowly downward. The bad: The weekly positivity rate remains alarmingly high. Peruse yourself you’d like.

• Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, who has resisted wearing a mask at the Capitol, has tested positive for the coronavirus. I shan’t comment further, because I have no words.

• Meanwhile, California has endured its deadliest day for COVID-19. Again.

• The state linked to this article yesterday: XPrize is offering $5 million to anyone who can “come up with inexpensive, fast, and easy COVID-19 testing that enables effective, data-driven tracing.” Let’s all hope they have to fork out that money—and fast.

The Conversation looks at the impending eviction crisis—and a legal system that, for centuries, has favored landlords over tenants.

• Related: The economies in California and a lot of other states will take huge hits if the new GOP stimulus package gets passed without major changes.

• Also related: California is considering providing the extra $600 in unemployment if the federal government doesn’t extend the benefit … but will need to borrow money to do so.

• NBC News looks at the tactics protesters are using to stand up to federal law enforcement in Portland. Get out the leaf blowers!

• Related: The New York Times reports that those federal agents have agreed to leave Portlandas long as the federal courthouse is secured.

• An NPR analysis shows that the coronavirus is becoming a huge problem in a lot of the nation’s small cities, as more and more hospitals become overwhelmed.

• The fact that we’re talking about what may happen when a vaccine arrives is a good thing, but nonetheless, take note: Now is the time for people to learn about a vaccine’s possible side effectsnot to cause alarm, but to learn.

AMC theaters and Universal Pictures have kissed and made up. AMC had said it’d never again show Universal films after the studio released Trolls World Tour online because of the pandemic. As part of the reconciliation, AMC has agreed that Universal can release films online after just 17 days in theaters; before, that number was at least 75 days.

• Sigh … meanwhile, in Minnesota, a rodeo took place over the weekend. The organizer said there’d be “no spectators,” but invited people to show up to protest “government overreach.” Thousands of people—many of them not wearing masks—did.

• From the Independent: We’ve posted an interesting commentary piece from local PR guru David Perry, in which he asks people to stop calling for a complete shutdown—because those of us who are less privileged can’t “shut down.”

The stock value for Eastman Kodak—a company that has struggled in recent years, because film really isn’t a thing anymore—has gone bonkers, after the feds gave Kodak a Defense Production Act loan of $765 million to start making drug ingredients.

• From the “What in the Ever-Loving $&%# Is Going On?!” files: Random people in at least 28 states have received seeds in the mail, apparently from China … and nobody knows why. If you get them, contact the state, and DON’T PLANT THEM; investigators are trying to figure out whether these seeds are harmful. Man, 2020 just won’t quit.

• Whoever had “Madonna Posts Discredited Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory” on their 2020 Bingo card … step up and claim your prize!

Finally, a bit of … possible local news: Is the Riviera Palm Springs about to become the latest Margaritaville? Hmm.

That’s the day’s news. Wash your hands! Wear a mask. Be kind. If you’re able to send us a few bucks to help fund this Daily Digest and the other things the Independent does, please click here. The digest will be back Friday.

Published in Daily Digest

As July comes to an end to make way for August … I am tired.

I am tired of this damned pandemic. Of not being able to hug my friends. Of seeing so many people struggle. Of not being able to play softball with my teammates. Of watching my business limp along financially. Of not being able to travel to see family. Of not being able to enjoy the world I took for granted back in February.

Yeah. I’m really tired.

I say this not to complain—because I know I am one of the blessed ones. I live in a place where I am comfortable and safe. Because I have an amazing husband whose work has (knock on wood) been stable, the bills are paid, and I have food in the refrigerator. No, I say this because I know a lot of you out there can relate.

And you know what? Even though I am tired, and I am not feeling optimistic, I know, logically, that better times are coming.

First: We’re learning more about how to deal with this damned virus. Treatments for the virus are getting better. Professional sports are back—yes, without spectators, but this is an improvement over the bleakness of late March and April. All the early vaccine trials that we’ve heard about have gone well. One way or another, we will eventually defeat SARS-CoV-2, just like we’ve beaten every other pox on humanity that’s come our way over the centuries.

Second: Despite all the pain and fear and isolation at home, good people continue to do great things in this community. Various recent Independent stories prove that: You can read about an elder-law attorney fighting the good fight. About activists working to get out the vote in November. About the medical world, at long last, acknowledging that racism is a public-health issue. About a young future leader eventually heading off to Stanford University—and pledging to come back to the Coachella Valley for her career, because she wants to make it a better place. About restaurants feeding seniors in need. About local musicians continuing to create. About the McCallum Theatre finding a way to give their Open Call talent-competition finalists their moment in the spotlight, despite the pandemic. About passionate local theater artists coming to together to find a way forward, even though nobody knows when we’ll be able to gather in auditoriums again.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

These are dark and scary times, and a whole lot of people are hurting. A whole lot of us are tired. But there’s a lot of good out there—and better times are coming. Really.

As always, thanks for reading—and be sure to pick up the August 2020 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting streets this week.

Published in Editor's Note

Our gardener, Jose, came over today.

"How is your family?" my husband and I casually asked. His visage changed.

"My brother and his wife died last week of COVID, in Mexico."

Speaking with Jose (who rushed over to help us with a totally trivial gardening matter) brought me to tears; in fact, I had to go inside. Jose's family has worked on what is now our home for more than 30 years; frankly, this piece of real estate is more "theirs" than "ours." So, so many working-class families are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. That's why I have so little patience—actually, NO patience—with generally white, work-at-home people (like me) who say, "Oh! We need to shut down until there's a vaccine!"

Get a clue, people. COVID is a part of our world now, and people who think everyone can "shelter in place" and "Zoom" into the "new normal" are living in a fantasy world. We need to be SMART. We need to be CAREFUL. We need to support those who live and work in the public realm to keep us all ALIVE and LIVING.

Just over the border, Mexico is feeling COVID—big time—and that means that the families of their immigrant brethren here in the United States are suffering. Today was heart-breaking. Wearing a mask and going out to eat at a restaurant or shop in a small business isn’t that hard. Stop pretending that we can "internet" this pandemic into submission. That is the definition of white privilege.

We're all in this together—but some of us are "more" in this than others. Get out of your digital bubble. Shop. Be careful. Support your local small businesses and restaurants—smartly—and stop calling for "shutting down" forever. Many people in working-class communities don't have that option.

The next time you ask to "shelter in place" forever, please realize that the people whose labor allows you to "shelter" cannot.

David Perry is a public-relations consultant and author of the new novel Upon This Rock. He and his husband, Alfredo Casuso, live in Palm Springs; www.davidperry.com.

Published in Community Voices

Could the Independent have about 90 seconds of your time?

We have developed six-question survey asking questions about this Daily Digest. All responses are anonymous; please click here to take it.

A little background: I started the Daily Digest when the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic hit full force (on March 13, to be exact). The goal was for it to be sent each weekday, offering up vetted, reliable links to news about the pandemic. The response was overwhelmingly positive (and I thank you for that).

In late May, following the death of George Floyd, the Daily Digest also started including links relevant to the Black Lives Matter protests. Today, the digest is primarily focused on COVID-19, with occasional links to other matters of importance to you, our readers.

Several weeks ago, we cut the frequency of the Daily Digest to three days per week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). We did so for two reasons. First: The open rate for these Daily Digests had decreased ever so slightly, and I feared y’all were suffering from news fatigue. Second: Frankly, I needed a break. Each of Daily Digest takes, on average, about two hours of my time, meaning the digest had added 10 hours to my work week. By going down to three days a week, I was able to reclaim four hours of my time per week for either personal matters or other work.

So … as we head into August, it’s time to re-evaluate things. The Daily Digest isn’t going anywhere; we’re just trying to figure out what to include in it, and how often you want it to appear in your inbox (and at CVIndependent.com).

That survey, again, can be found here. Thanks for your time, and for helping us figure out how best we can serve you, our amazing and talented readers.

Today’s links:

• From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: The vast majority of California’s schools will not be reopening this fall—at least to start. As a result, parents are scrambling. Key quote: “Millions of working parents … need to wade through constantly evolving scenarios about the school year ahead, weighing the twin stressors of how prolonged campus closures will affect their childrens’ learning and mental well-being, as well as their own livelihoods.”

This just in from the city of Palm Springs: “In an effort to flatten the spread of COVID-19 and minimize large gatherings, the city of Palm Springs today issued a new supplementary order that requires restaurants, bars, wineries, distilleries and breweries to close from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. The temporary order goes into effect at noon on Friday, July 31, and will remain until the COVID-19 emergency is abated. Guests already in the facilities at 10 p.m. may be allowed by the operator to remain until 11 p.m. Only staff needed to close, open or clean can be in such facilities between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.” Interesting.

• A sliver of good news: The COVID-19 hotspot messes that are Arizona, Texas and Florida are indeed sill messes—but there are signs of improvement.

• And a sliver of hope: The final-stage, large-scale study of a promising SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is officially under way

Alas, globally, the coronavirus news is not good, as nations in Asia, Europe and elsewhere are issuing new restrictions and closures because of outbreaks. (However, it should be noted that these outbreaks would be mere nits here in the U.S.). Sigh.

• Google says its employees will be working from home for another year. Yes. Another whole year.

• Sinclair Media—a conservative-owned company that has 294 stations nationwide—was going to run a segment over the weekend featuring whackadoo “Plandemic” conspiracy theorist Judy Mikovits claiming Dr. Anthony Fauci himself created SARS-CoV-2. However, thank goodness, the company had a change of heart.

• In my post-print-deadline haze, I forgot to mention last week that I was again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast, along with hosts Shann Carr, John Taylor and Brad Fuhr, and expert Dr. Laura Rush. Check it out! 

The New York Times takes a look at current state of antibody testing, and more or less concludes that we’re doing it wrong.

• Related-ish: Riverside County today released the results of an antibody study—and almost 6 percent of the people tested had the antibodies. That means less that less than a third of the COVID-19 cases in the county have been reported, if true.

The Washington Post takes a heartbreaking look at some of the chaos that’s unfolded in California’s prisons as a result of the coronavirus. Key quote: “Before the pandemic, women at (the California Institution for Women) were allowed out of their cells for 23 hours a day. They worked and participated in professional training or personal development programs. That ended in mid-March, along with family visits. Women say they now often spend 23 hours locked in their cells, with little information on how long the latest lockdown measures will last or when they’ll be able to exercise outside, call their families or even be allowed to shower.”

The Major League Baseball season could be in jeopardy, as the Miami Marlins team is in the midst of an outbreak, affecting 11 players and two coaches. As of now, only three games, total, have been postponed—but needless to say, this is not good.

• It turns out FEMA has been sending expired and faulty personal protective equipment to nursing homes across the country. What in the heck? 

The Save Our Stages bill has been introduced in Congress; it would offer a lifeline to independent performance venues across the country. Rolling Stone recently spoke to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, one of the sponsors of the bill.

• Our friends at The Conversation examine the various lawsuits filed against the Trump administration because he’s sending mysterious federal law enforcement into various cities, foremost Portland.

A study of Microsoft employees newly working from home revealed some fascinating things. Key quote: “One overarching result of being stuck at home—at work—is that the working day has become longer. ‘People were 'on' four more hours a week, on average,’ say the researchers.”

• Finally, let’s conclude with this humorous call to change our vocabulary because of the pandemic, including the introduction of terms like “Zoom Tourism” into our vernacular.

That’s the news for the day. Please, if you’re able, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, to help us continue providing quality local journalism, for free, to all. Stay safe; wear a mask; and, as always, thanks for reading.

Published in Daily Digest

They worry about who will care for the children and how far their education will slide.

They anxiously await details on what distance learning will actually look like this fall—hopeful but skeptical that there will be more structure and support than there was during the spring crisis.

They’re furiously networking on Facebook and Nextdoor in the tens of thousands to form learning pods or arrange child care. They’ve placed a huge number of calls to local tutoring services in search of help. Some wonder who will watch their child—let alone supervise online classes—while they work essential jobs.

Parents of more than 5.9 million California K-12 children are scrambling to adapt to a new reality without schools where they can send their children. Ninety six percent of the state’s total enrollment is in one of the 37 counties—including Riverside County—currently on the state’s watch list. Many students still do not have computers and or reliable internet access, and research has increasingly shown the inequitable toll distance learning took on disadvantaged students who lacked opportunities to meaningfully engage.

Many teachers and parents remain worried that physically reopening schools while coronavirus cases surge in most of the state will endanger educators and students and further spread the virus. Schools, which spent weeks devising plans for socially distant classrooms, still lack financial support from the federal government they say they need to safely reopen. Last week, as coronavirus cases continued to rise in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled new requirements that effectively shut the door for most schools to begin school with in-person instruction until their respective counties stabilize infections and hospitalizations.

Now, millions of working parents, like Rebecca Hill in Chico, need to wade through constantly evolving scenarios about the school year ahead, weighing the twin stressors of how prolonged campus closures will affect their childrens’ learning and mental well-being, as well as their own livelihoods.

Hill’s son and daughter will start second-grade and kindergarten in less than a month under distance learning after Butte County landed this week on the state’s COVID-19 watch list, which now governs whether local public and private schools can physically reopen for in-person instruction.

But Hill, 38, is also back at work as a code inspector in neighboring Yuba County, where she spends her days scoping out buildings, nuisance calls and illegal marijuana grows in the rural northern county.

A few weeks ago, Hill and her husband debated whether to opt for morning or afternoon in-person classes under proposed hybrid scheduling—an anxiety-inducing prospect since her husband is immuno-compromised and receives dialysis three days a week. After their district said last week that it would start the year online, the question became whether to enroll full-time in an online school offered by the district, which Hill is leaning toward to minimize chances that her husband will get sick if and when schools do re-open in person. Homeschooling might be an option if they had the time.

One thing is for sure.

“We definitely don’t have the ability for me to not work,” said Hill, the family breadwinner.


Unanswered Questions

In Los Angeles, Tunette Powell’s three sons will begin the new year under distance learning, but details so far remain sparse, three weeks before schools begin instruction, adding stress to how she and her husband, an essential worker, will balance work and co-teaching their kids.

As it did when it initially closed schools in mid-March, Los Angeles Unified, a massive district of 600,000 students, created a ripple effect across the state when it said July 13 that it would begin the year with full-time distance learning, citing surging cases in the county.

Superintendent Austin Beutner and school leaders across California have told families that distance-learning programs will be more rigorous and robust than what schools offered this spring. New statewide standards for distance learning will attempt to hold schools accountable, and students will be graded for their work.

A recent survey by Speak Up, a Los Angeles-based parent advocacy group, found wide disparities in the amount of live instruction Black and Latino students received this spring compared with their white peers. Many were dissatisfied with how little live, or synchronous, instruction their students received, and the group has called on the district to gather input from parents over how to improve distance learning.

Several critical questions remain unanswered for Powell and other parents as the first day of school draws closer.

What will the school day look like? Will there be a consistent start time every day to plan her workday around? How much face time will her kids get with their teachers, and will her 11-year-old receive more live interaction than the weekly, one-hour check-ins the student received spring? Will the district distribute newer devices to replace the outdated ones that resulted in several technical headaches last spring? Will there be support for Powell’s kindergartner and other young students not yet adept at using technology to learn?

“I don’t know any of that. I know none of that. It worries me,” said Powell, interim director of UCLA’s Parent Project, a think tank aiming to improve parent engagement in schools.

Powell’s oldest son, the 11-year-old entering sixth-grade, is not enthusiastic about continuing distance learning. She’s especially worried about her youngest son, a 5-year-old who will start kindergarten at Baldwin Hills Elementary. Many academics believe younger students should be among the most prioritized groups for getting into physical classrooms once it’s reasonably safe to do so, arguing that elementary students stand the most to lose from being away from classrooms.

“He knows he’s going to a new school,” Powell said, “but I don’t think he’s fully grasped that going to a new school is going to happen in his room, so that’s been difficult.”


DIY Education

With schools across the country planning for distance learning starts, parent interest in arranging “learning pods,” in which small groups of students are taught by a tutor or teacher, has grown.

Shannon Mulligan, owner of Marin Tutors, has seen that spontaneous interest firsthand.

“As soon as Gov. Newsom announced schools weren’t going to open, my phone rang every day, all day, for four days in a row,” Mulligan said, with parents inquiring about teachers or tutors willing to participate in a learning pod.

The pod concept has attracted everyone from working-class moms holding down full-time jobs looking for tutors to help guide their students during distance learning, to a dad looking to secure a teacher for more than 60 hours a month to teach curriculum supplementing what his kids learn online.

Mulligan’s tutoring company, which also works with the county to offer services for foster youth, charges hourly rates that vary depending on educators’ experience. Individual rates for parents go down as students are added to the pod, with a cap of five kids. Once inside a pod, everyone wears masks outside, socially distanced.

Traffic on Mulligan’s website has increased by 75 percent since Newsom’s July 17 announcement. She said many calls come from parents with incoming kindergartners wary of how the tots will fare learning remotely.

“So many (parents) said to me when they called, ‘I didn’t want to have this happen, but I’m forced to homeschool now,’” Mulligan said.


Insufficient Support

Comprehensive current data on how working parents are adapting to school closures remains elusive. It’s unclear how many parents statewide have been laid off, had work hours reduced or quit their jobs and filed for unemployment, since neither the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics or the California Employment Development Department include parental status in monthly job reports. That’s especially true for essential workers, who in California are disproportionately Black and Latino and have experienced higher infection rates, since policy analysts usually rely on longer-term Census surveys to gauge economic status.

“I don’t know if we do know a lot about those families, to be honest,” said Kristin Schumacher, a senior policy analyst at the California Budget and Policy Center, who is also juggling her 6-year-old’s Zoom classes while she works remotely. “The reality is a lot of families are really scrambling under impossible situations to make this work.”

In Santa Cruz County, Erendira Guerrero and her team at Encompass Community Services are trying to help fill the gaps for parents who work at farms, grocery stores, cleaning services and medical offices with remote versions of their Head Start and Papás program for fathers. Wellness check-ins are now done by phone or video chat, and more than 600 care packages have been distributed with diapers, toys and learning aids like puppets, bubbles and songs in English and Spanish.

Still, the pandemic has exposed major holes in systems like unemployment, rent assistance and health care, especially for undocumented families.

“A big part of our program’s work is focused on connecting parents with resources in the community to support their needs,” Guerrero said. “Some of our families are just not as comfortable sharing their needs over the phone or video.”

Existing regulations offer limited protection for working parents considering requesting time off or other alternatives to juggle school and jobs. For companies with 25 or more employees, California workers are guaranteed five days of job protection for emergencies under the Family School Partnership Act. The California Family Rights Act allows workers at companies with 50 or more employees to take 12 weeks off for a new child or family illness. In March, the federal government enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to extend 12 weeks off for school conflicts, but it only applies to companies with 500 or fewer employees and excludes industries including health-care providers.

For many families, that leaves “no great options,” said Katherine Wutchiett, senior staff attorney for San Francisco advocacy group Legal Aid at Work.

“We always recommend talking with your employer, seeing if there’s something that you can work out with them,” Wutchiett said. But outside those limited exceptions, “At the end of the day, if the employer says you have to be at work and they cannot be at work … there isn’t any legal obligation on their employer’s part to continue holding their job.”

Education policy advocate and former teacher Elliot Haspel floated the idea of a “Parent Protection Program,” modeled off forgivable loans made to businesses under the federal Paycheck Protection Program, but the prospect of major reform is uncertain. A bill from Santa Barbara Democrat Hannah-Beth Jackson, SB 1383, would expand state requirements for employers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid family leave and was approved by the state Senate, but still requires sign off in the Assembly. Presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden’s plan for universal child care, introduced this week, could help, but is months away at best.

In the meantime, remote schools offer a prime example of the state’s increasingly polarized economy.

Some employees of deep-pocketed companies, especially in the tech industry, are offered company-funded online tools, additional paid time off or flexible schedules. Many essential workers have no recourse. The toll on women’s employment and the gender-wage gap, kids’ educational attainment and costs for businesses seeing employees leave the workforce are just the beginning.

“What economists don’t consider often enough is the economic cost of duress,” said Tracey Grose, founding principal of Bay Area business consultancy Next Curve Strategy, who herself helped supervise Zoom classes for the children of two working neighbors in the fall. “When a family is stressed out trying to keep a roof over their heads, they cannot be the best parents they can be.”

Felecia Przybyla, a Sacramento County mom, is trying to answer long-term questions on short deadlines before classes resume. She works remotely for a company out of state while her husband reports to his job with the county, leaving her to juggle her own work calls and her three elementary-age childrens’ need for instruction and technology help. While she doesn’t want to rely on the state, Przybyla has considered leaving her job to focus on school and file for unemployment, with expanded aid available to contractors like her.

So far, she’s held off.

“We’re hoping to buy a house in the next six months, and I need to have a job,” Przybyla said. “I don’t want to give that up, either, and I don’t think I should have to be put in a position to decide between a job that provides for our family and my kids’ schooling.”

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Local Issues

Happy Friday, all. We survived another week!

Today’s news links:

• Under pressure from the Trump administration, the CDC has released new school-reopening guidelines that The New York Times callsa full-throated call to reopen schools.” Yeesh. 

• The governor today announced that the state would take more steps to protect essential workers. Key quote: “The governor said his administration has fallen short in educating businesses on how to safely reopen, and he's trying to make up for that with a new public information campaign targeted at employers. The state launched a new handbook for business owners and employers to support a safe, clean environment, with guidance on everything from cleaning guidelines to what to do in an outbreak.”

• The much-needed next round of stimulus spending—including a possible extension of extra federal unemployment benefits, which will run out in mere days—is likely several weeks away, according to the Senate majority leader.

• Related: NPR and Bloomberg both offer updates on the impending nationwide eviction crisis.

Also related, here’s some good news locally, from The Desert Sun: The city of Palm Springs has extended its eviction moratorium through Sept. 30.

• So … if/when that glorious day comes when there’s a coronavirus vaccine available, who will get the first doses? How will that be decided? The New York Times looks at the matter. Spoiler alert: The word “lottery” comes into play.

• The FDA has now recalled some 77 different types of hand sanitizer that federal regulators say are toxic.

• This is a nasty virus. NBC News reports that the CDC revealed today that many people who get COVID-19, but are not hospitalized, can have lingering effects from the illness for weeks or even months.

• Orange County is quickly becoming the state’s coronavirus hotspot—and beleaguered experts there are having a hard time figuring out the cause, according to the Los Angeles Times. This quote from the county’s acting health officer, Dr. Clayton Chau, speaks volumes and will make you want to bang your head against the wall: “It’s quite difficult, even the person themself would not know,” he said during a briefing Thursday. “‘Well, I was at the bar; I was at the beach; I was here; I was there, where did I get infected?’ It’s a very difficult question to decipher, and all case investigators and tracers do their best to try to ask people, ‘Where were you at so we can pinpoint?’ But, as far as I know, we can’t really pinpoint.”

• Meanwhile, the virus continues to spread in Los Angeles—largely among people of color.

• McDonald’s is the latest large businesses to say it’s going to start requiring customers to wear face coverings. What took ya so long?

• Riverside County plans on giving out 10 million masks via local nonprofits, churches and businesses. They’re calling it the Masks Are Medicine campaign.

Meanwhile, they’re getting serious about masks in Indiana: As of July 27, people not wearing masks there could be charged with a misdemeanor.

• Related: There have been a lot of recent news articles about the science behind masks. NPR cites scientists saying that if 95 percent of people wore masks, coronavirus transmission would decrease by at least 30 percent; meanwhile, CNBC says the more layers a mask has, the better.

• Many so-called experts have declared that the pandemic has essentially ended the era of the office, in favor or working at home. However, The Conversation says not so fast. Key quote: “Organizational life is founded on relationships. Sure, the current remote work experiment has demonstrated that more jobs can be done virtually than many managers previously assumed. But jobs are comprised of tasks; organizations are comprised of relationships. And relationships require ongoing—and often unintended—interactions.”

• Also from The Conversation: The U.S. coronavirus testing system is a mess—but you probably knew that already … and it isn’t going to be easy to fix.

• Speaking of testing: Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services, says tests soon will be able to look for both SARS-CoV-2 and the flu. Yay?

• The lost year of 2020 continues: The Dinah, the huge party weekend for lesbians and queer women every year, will not be held this year.

• How much of 2021 will be lost, too? This just in from the county, via a news release: “The 2021 Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival, set for February 12-21, has been canceled and hopes to resume in 2022 with its 75th year celebration. In addition, the Queen Scheherazade Scholarship Pageant, scheduled for November 2020, is also being canceled. Queen Scheherazade and her court act as goodwill ambassadors leading up to, and during, the Fair in February.”

Movies keep getting pushed back, too: Disney has delayed the release of Mulan, and all Star Wars and Avatar films are being delayed a year.

• And finally, now for something completely different: The New York Times yesterday published a piece on the Pentagon’s Office of Naval Intelligence—the secretive agency that looks into UFO reports. The Times botched the piece by writing it in such a droll and formal fashion—and by burying some holy-shit-level revelations about some of the office’s findings. Key quote: “Eric W. Davis, an astrophysicist who worked as a subcontractor and then a consultant for the Pentagon UFO program since 2007, said that, in some cases, examination of the materials (gathered from purported UFO crashes) had so far failed to determine their source and led him to conclude, ‘We couldn’t make it ourselves.’

That’s enough for the week! Stay safe. Wear a mask. Enjoy the weekend, as best you can—safely, of course. Oh, and if you can spare a buck or two, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent; we’re giving you great local journalism free of charge … but it isn’t cheap to produce! The Digest will be back Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

A little more than a year ago, in June 2019, then-incoming La Quinta High School senior Lizbeth Luevano beat out hundreds of other students to travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the 2019 R2L NextGen week-long program, organized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) and sponsored by State Farm. The Independent covered the story of her experience.

This summer, Luevano has earned another honor: She’s one of four Inland Empire students participating in a prestigious, paid internship with Bank of America’s Student Leaders Program. According to a press release, the students will engage in an “experience of leadership, civic engagement and workforce skills-building with local nonprofit OneFuture Coachella Valley. In light of the health concerns that remain in local communities, the program has been adapted to a virtual format. … As part of their Student Leader program, each student will receive a $5,000 stipend.”

The Independent recently spoke by phone with Luevano, and she said the Student Leaders Program has given her a chance to talk to a lot of people she wouldn’t be able to access otherwise.

“Part of the project has been talking to specific community leaders who are local to my area and come from similar underserved backgrounds like mine, and also, talking to other national student leaders who might be from different states,” Luevano said. “This week, we just finished up the young democracy session. I came out of it feeling a lot more knowledgeable about the disparities we see across the nation. I’ve developed more skills to try to provide solutions for those problems. I’ve always been very interested in becoming an immigration-rights lawyer, and I want to practice here in the Coachella Valley. So, for me, it’s important to understand how to recognize those problems and how to be a part of that solution. The community leaders we’ve seen are not necessarily from one sector. We’ve talked to people from the private sector, the nonprofit sector and the for-profit sector—who come from different backgrounds, but are all focused on that one goal of helping society. It’s been amazing how much I’ve learned from every webinar.

“Bank of America has been so good about wanting us to learn more about issues like food insecurity here, but they’re tackling so many different aspects that will help me on my journey. There’s also been the mentorship project that’s teaching us how valuable mentorship opportunities are. … We were talking about how important it is to reach out to people to make connections. That’s how I ended up finding a job that I’ll be going to in August: I’ll be working as a legal assistant to an immigration attorney (Hurwitz Holt) in San Diego. I don’t think I would have been empowered enough to reach out to that immigration attorney if I hadn’t been coached to pursue those kinds of opportunities.”

The students have been working with OneFuture Coachella Valley, a nonprofit that “works to help all students graduate prepared for college, career and life—expanding and enhancing the local workforce so that our youth and economy thrive,” according to the organization’s website.

“Locally, with OneFuture CV, we’re working on a story-making project,” Luevano said. “Essentially, they’re connecting us—myself and three other IE-market student leaders—with community leaders and doing interviews. We’re drawing up articles from those interviews, and we’re sharing them across the social media of OneFuture. So, it’s a campaign to promote OneFuture and to raise awareness about the kind of impact they’re having on the community.”

Luevano and thousands of other Coachella Valley students had the in-person aspects of their senior year of high school cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The virtual (classes) didn’t really work,” Luevano said. “No one was really attending the Zoom meetings with my teachers, so I really felt that I had graduated in March. I didn’t expect I could have a physical graduation, but La Quinta High School did do a drive-through ceremony, which was really nice. We were really rushed through, but it was at least nice to get the photos onstage. It really has been interesting to adjust—and it’s been weird not to have felt that closure. It’s weird to think that I’m already a high school graduate when I haven’t had the chance yet to say goodbye to my teachers or my peers at high school. It’s definitely been difficult—but I definitely have felt a lot of support from the community. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Coachella Valley Adopt a Graduating (2020 High School) Senior program. It was a way for other people in the community to reach out via Facebook to a member of the class of 2020, and celebrate them with gifts and snacks, and things of that nature. That was really nice. But I do wish I’d had a physical graduation.”

After taking a gap year, Luevano will embark on the next chapter of her education when she begins her studies at Stanford University. When we spoke last year, she’d mentioned that in order to “get out of her comfort zone,” she wanted to attend college at either Swarthmore or Bowdoin, which are both East Coast schools. Luevano explained her change of heart.

“It was definitely (a decision) I was struggling with,” she said. “Because of the coronavirus pandemic, I wasn’t able to get on the campus of some of the schools I was admitted to. I was admitted to Bowdoin and Swarthmore, and I was heavily considering them—but I thought that I had to go with my gut, and I think that Stanford is decently far away for me to get uncomfortable enough. It was something I struggled with until the last day.

“My priorities have been shifting (as far as) what I wanted as a college experience, and I felt like maybe a larger student population would be more suited for what I wanted to do.”

Luevano wanted to emphasize how important her involvement with OneFuture CV has been to her growth.

“I’d been part of the Migrant Education Program and already had access to OneFuture CV, even before this Student Leaders program,” she said. “I think the kind of emphasis they place on education as economic development is especially important. One of the general sentiments that I always felt in high school is that a lot of people want to get out of the Coachella Valley. I see it even with some of my friends—a lot of people just want to leave, and they don’t want to come back. As I mentioned, I even wanted to go to the East Coast (for college), because I felt too familiar here. But long term, I do want to come back, and I do want to practice here as a lawyer.

“It’s been very valuable for me that One Future CV promotes this kind of narrative of people who have gone to college—UCLA and all these different schools—and have eventually come back to pursue their careers here. … Students and leaders should not only see those problems, but also be part of the solution of alleviating those problems here. People like Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz, who went to Harvard Medical School—he still came back here to the Coachella Valley. County Supervisor (V. Manuel) Perez went to Harvard as well—and he came back. With what I’m learning as a student leader, I’ll be able to continue those initiatives here with a local nonprofit that has that kind of mission statement. For me, it’s been invaluable and very nurturing.”

Published in Features

Good science journalism is hard to do. And SARS-CoV-2 is a tricky S.O.B.

Those are today’s lessons, brought to you by The New York Times and The Washington Post, two undeniably great newspapers, which today brought us these online headlines:

Can You Get Covid Again? It’s Very Unlikely, Experts Say.

Can you get coronavirus twice? Doctors are unsure even as anecdotal reports mount.

Yep: Here we have two stories, impeccably sourced and well-written, that on the surface come to two entirely different conclusions—on a question of utmost importance.

“While little is definitively known about the coronavirus, just seven months into the pandemic, the new virus is behaving like most others, (experts) said, lending credence to the belief that herd immunity can be achieved with a vaccine,” says the Times.

“As the United States marks its sixth month since the arrival of the virus, (WNBA player Sophie) Cunningham’s story is among a growing number of reports of people getting COVID-19, recovering and then falling sick again—assertions, that if proved, could complicate efforts to make a long-lasting vaccine, or to achieve herd immunity where most of the population has become immune to the virus.”

Sigh.

Anyway … if you dig a little deeper into the stories, you’ll find that the two entirely different sets of experts the writers spoke to indirectly come to the same conclusion: Nobody knows for sure whether or not someone can get COVID-19 twice. Various experts have different opinions, some stronger than others … but the figurative, hopefully-mask-wearing jury is still out.

Other news from the day:

• We’re No. 1. Crap! California today passed New York to become the state with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19. Meanwhile, the state is working to get more personal protective equipment, as complaints about shortages begin to mount.

• The city of Palm Springs is calling on the state to do a better job of distributing federal stimulus money. According to a news release by the city, “the largest 13 cities (in the state) are receiving between $85 and $174 per resident while cities like Palm Springs are receiving just $12.28 per resident” in federal funds. The city is asking Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assemblyman Chad Mayes, State Sen. Melissa Melendez and U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz to fix this inequity for those of us who live in cities of less than 300,000 people

• From the Independent: Can the show go on? The valley’s theater companies are in limbo, not knowing when they’ll be able to reopen—or, in some cases, if they’ll survive that long. In an effort to support each other, some—but not all—companies have banded together to form the brand-new Alliance of Desert Theatres. Here’s what people in the know have to say about the uncertain future of Coachella Valley theater.

• Also from the Independent: Anita Rufus’ Know Your Neighbors column introduces Michael “Mick” McGuire, an elder-law attorney—who’s quite upset about the nursing-home mess in the country, a mess that’s been exposed in horrific fashion by the coronavirus. Key quote: “It should be a red flag that out of all the developed countries in the world, we’re (the only one) without a plan. We can talk about it all academically, but when it’s your family member, the whole thing changes.”

More than 100,000 people have signed up to be vaccine test subjects so farsomething that makes Dr. Anthony Fauci happy, reports The Hill.

• Related-ish: Can states or employers force people to get a coronavirus vaccine? Surprisingly, according to a law professor writing for The Conversation, in a lot of cases, they can.

Another legal expert, also writing for The Conversation, says the same thing goes for mask requirements.

• More vaccine news: The federal government has agreed to pay Pfizer and its biotech partner nearly $2 billion for 100 million doses of its now-being-tested coronavirus vaccine—with delivery by the end of the year.

MIT scientists have designed a reusable face mask that’s just as effective of N95 masks, according to CNBC.

• After four deaths and more than 1,000 COVID-19 infections at the Lompoc prison complex, a U.S. District Court judge has demanded that the prison release medically vulnerable inmates to home confinement, according to the Los Angeles Times.

• The Washington Post declares: “The inflatable pool is the official symbol of America’s lost summer.” Has there ever been a sentence so wholesome and depressing at the same time?

• Finally, Randy Rainbow is back with another song parody: “Gee, Anthony Fauci!

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Enjoy yourself (safely, of course). If you value free-to-all journalism like this Daily Digest and our aforementioned stories on the theater scene and the elder-law attorney, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Thank you.

Published in Daily Digest

Before everything went to hell, the Coachella Valley theater community was enjoying, by far, its most successful season ever.

CVRep was reveling in its first full season in its gorgeous new home, the CVRep Playhouse in Cathedral City. Dezart Performs and the Desert Rose Playhouse were in the midst of sold-out seasons. Coyote StageWorks was getting settled into its new digs at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, while Palm Canyon Theatre and Desert Theatreworks were packing people into shows in downtown Palm Springs and Indio, respectively.

“We started off our ninth season like a rocket,” said Shawn Abramowitz, the executive director and board president of the Desert Ensemble Theatre Company, which shares space at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club with Dezart Performs. “We had not just record attendance, but record donations—and we were really growing, which allowed us to invest more.”

The weekend of March 13-15 was going to the biggest weekend during this most successful season ever: Four of the six aforementioned companies were opening shows, while LGBT-focused Desert Rose was entering its second weekend of Beautiful Thing, which had received rave reviews, and Palm Canyon Theatre was embarking on the final weekend of a successful production of The Pajama Game.

But as that weekend approached, the reality of COVID-19 began to set in. The BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament was postponed, while Coachella and Stagecoach were delayed until October (before being cancelled altogether for 2020). Disneyland closed—as did all of the shows on Broadway.

Desert Rose Playhouse, Dezart Performs and Desert Ensemble Theatre Company (which, appropriately, was preparing to open a show called How to Survive an Apocalypse) chose to cancel the weekend’s shows, while Desert Theatreworks and Palm Canyon Theatre shut down after Friday’s performances. Only CVRep would make it through the weekend—and on Sunday, March 15, the company’s production of The City of Conversation would become the final full theatrical production the valley has hosted since.

The cancellations devastated the local theater community, both emotionally and financially.

“I will tell you, the amount of frustration and disappointment in coming right up to opening night and having to cancel—I do not want to go through that again,” said Chuck Yates, the founding artistic director of Coyote Stageworks. “We shut down The Velocity of Autumn the day before we were supposed to open. It’s too hard.”

Now, more than four months later, all of the valley’s theater companies remain in limbo. None of them know what the 2020-2021 season will bring—even though some companies have optimistically announced seasons starting as early as September.

In other words, the theater world is a mess—but the mess has had a silver lining, of sorts: It’s brought the local theater community together.

Some—but, notably, not all—of the desert’s theater companies have banded together to launch the Alliance of Desert Theatres, “a cooperative of producing theater companies in the Coachella Valley that network and take action in order to nurture a vibrant performing arts community,” according to the website. The effort started with a Zoom call back in May, and continues with weekly Zoom calls and subcommittees that look at various initiatives.

“I felt that (the alliance) was going to be a great resource and offer a sense of community and camaraderie to get through this horrible time,” said Michael Shaw, the artistic director of Dezart Performs. “We’re sharing our woes; we’re sharing our strategies. This was an opportunity to really get a sense of what we need to do to survive as a theater community.”


David Cohan, the vice president of the board of directors at CVRep, serves as the Alliance of Desert Theaters’ spokesman. He explained that the alliance grew out of internal conversations taking place at CVRep.

“With everything that is (happening), we felt that this is the time and place where we need to come together,” Cohan said. “Joe Giarrusso, the president of the (CVRep) board, and I started discussing this. I suggested that if nobody was doing it, maybe we should be the ones to organize it. So we put out emails to all the other theater groups and set up an initial meeting. That was the starter.”

Cohan said the alliance’s weekly meetings give participants the opportunity to share information and ideas, and the group is working on possibly pooling some resources. As an example, Cohan said, the alliance has discussed the feasibility of filming productions and streaming them.

“That’s not as simple as it sounds,” he said. “For instance, for CVRep, we are a union theater company, and there are two different unions—one that covers live theater, and one that covers, basically, broadcast theater. … If you’re recording a live performance, but then wanting to stream it, you’re talking about two different unions and two different sets of rules.

“Then you get into technology—how could you do it? How do you do it in terms of equipment? A lot of theaters don’t have recording equipment—and how expensive is it? Besides cameras, what do you need? … There are some people who are much more technically oriented and have been doing research on recording. Could we buy some recording equipment and share it among the theaters? That’s one of the things we’re discussing.”

While it’s been helpful to exchange ideas and share information, Cohan said the sense of community the alliance has fostered has been its biggest benefit.

“The camaraderie has been nothing short of amazing and heartwarming and astounding,” he said. “We’re all working really well together—and it makes for a stronger arts community. We all have a much better appreciation for one another.”

Desert Ensemble’s Abramowitz agreed.

“It’s really a huge support system for theater companies,” Abramowitz said. “Even the groups that aren’t necessarily a part of the alliance, it doesn’t mean that the alliance wouldn’t have resources available for those other theater companies. There’s been a need for a very long time for groups to come together to figure out how we can combine resources in a way that is non-competitive and that allows us to grow. We’re all doing great work, and we all support each other, and we all love each other—even though we’re also all very competitive.”

Abramowitz said the Alliance of Desert Theatres fulfills a different purpose than the long-established Desert Theatre League—best known for its annual Desert Star Awards, honoring the best in local theater each year. (Incidentally, Desert Star nominations are slated to be announced on Aug. 1.)

“The Desert Theatre League’s mission is to highlight the work that is being done in the valley,” Abramowitz said. “What’s not a part of their mission is helping us expand, in terms of resources and availability.

“I think the common thread among all of us is … how can we best help each other out when we do not know what our reality is going to be like? The alliance itself is supposed to be equal in terms of participation. That there’s no specific leader; there’s no specific hierarchy. We’ve formed subcommittees to help each other out, whether it’s regarding fundraising, or what possible grants are out there for us, and who could possibly use them. What are the (standard operating procedures) for reopening? What do we think it’s going to look like? Where can we get the best deal on hand sanitizer?”

Shaw said one of the alliance’s goals is to help educate the public about local theater.

“The fact that we are speaking weekly, it’s good that all of our patrons and all of our donors know that we’re doing that, because what we’re also doing is educating the public,” Shaw said. “‘Did you know that there is a LGBTQ theater in the valley? Did you know that there’s a very successful theater in Indio at the Indio Performing Arts Center? Did you know that?’ There are a lot of people who don’t know that. It’ll help open the eyes and educate the public about what the offerings are in the community once we get back up and running. It would have been great to have something like this before, pre-COVID, but we’re all so busy.”

That busy-ness is one of the reasons some of the valley’s theater companies have declined to participate in the alliance—at least for now. Take Coyote StageWorks, for example; the company was listed as a member in the news release first announcing the formation of the Alliance of Desert Theatres, but Yates said he later decided that he needed to take a step back.

“I applaud them. We were in the first three Zoom conversations about setting it up and what it could be,” Yates said. “David Youse is my board president. We talked a lot about it. … It was taking away our focus from keeping our own business alive. It also seemed to be heading in a different direction from what we initially thought the alliance was going to be. We just decided that at this particular moment, it was imperative that we focus on Coyote.

“Some of the talk was in getting buying power on hand sanitizer and that kind of stuff for the theaters. Well, we already have that covered with being at the Cultural Center.”

Yates said he may at some point decide to rejoin the alliance.

“Things may change. I may go back to them and say, ‘All right, now we’re ready,’” Yates said. “But at the time it was all happening, there was too much unknown. We had people saying that they were definitely starting up in November, and I was like, ‘I can’t support that.’ An alliance means that you’re aligned.”


Meanwhile, the theater companies are all trying to figure out how to handle their 2020-2021 seasons—if the pandemic even allows a 2020-2021 season.

Palm Canyon Theatre and Desert Theatreworks, as of this writing, are selling tickets for fully announced seasons, starting in September. Desert Rose is in the midst of a move from Rancho Mirage into a new home—the former Zelda’s nightclub space, on South Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs.

Most of the other theater companies have their eyes set on 2021.

“Gosh, we are definitely not opening up this year,” Desert Ensemble’s Abramowitz said. “There’s just no way, especially without state or federal guidelines on how a theater company or a performance-art center should operate. We don’t want to give hopes to any of our patrons and then cancel. Right now, we are thinking of the beginning of next year. We’re changing our gala event—which would normally be an event with food, and drink, and song, and a ton of people—to something a little bit more quaint.

“We are (hoping to do a season starting in the first part of 2021), but it will be very short. Instead of doing the gala event and then three full-stage productions, we would be doing a gala event and two stage productions. One of them would be (company founder) Tony Padilla’s show that we want to do for our 10th anniversary, that we did a reading on back in December of last year. Then, we also hope to redo How to Survive an Apocalypse. We have the set; we have everything.”

Dezart Performs’ Shaw is also setting his sights on a scaled-down season in 2021, starting with the show he was never able to open back in March—presented, perhaps, in an unconventional manner.

“Our goal is to produce three shows this season, and start with Every Brilliant Thing, where we left off; how we’re going to present it comes down to money,” Shaw said. “We are looking into various streaming platforms. We’re looking at filming it live and then streaming it as a recording.

“Our second show—for the first time, we’re actually producing a musical. It’s only two actors. … Then we’re doing a brand-new drama by Paul Coates called The End of It.”

Chuck Yates, at Coyote StageWorks, said the set for The Velocity of Autumn remains onstage at the Cultural Center.

“Our plan is, when it is safe for people to come back to a theater, we will do that show,” he said. “We have a couple of other titles in a holding pattern if we get to do more than one show—but at the moment, nobody seems to know when we’re able to do what we do.”

In the meantime, Yates said he’s working with the Cultural Center—which recently started hosting drive-in movies—to possibly hold smaller events outdoors.

“I won’t say they’re full productions, but they’d be some concerts and some other sorts of fun outdoor events for Coyote StageWorks,” he said. “All of that’s in the works right now, just so we can keep doing some things. … We’ve also talked about doing our play-reading series outdoors when it gets cooler.”

Over at CVRep, which has been hosting a steady series of virtual events, the plan is to reopen with The City of Conversation, hopefully in January 2021—but even if that can happen, Cohan said it will be a big challenge to actually pull it off, barring a miracle cure for COVID-19.

“We’re making all sorts of plans,” Cohan said. “We have multiple calls a week where we’re coming up with plans A, B, C, D and E; it just keeps going. One of our plans is, if it is safe enough, and if we think we’ll have the patrons to be able to do it, we will invite people to come back to the theater with enormous modifications to how we do in-person shows—with a very limited seating capacity and socially distanced seating. We’re also talking about making it safe for the actors by having their dressing rooms and rehearsal rooms separated with Plexiglass and all kinds of other things. We’re trying to figure all that out—and then having particular protocols for how people will actually come to the theater, everything from going to fully paperless ticketing to having people arrive at the theater at staggered times so people aren’t waiting together in our lobby.

“We’re thinking about everything. There are very extensive cleaning protocols to the actual seats and every surface, and restrooms, both during the shows, when restrooms will get cleaned multiple times before the show and intermissions, and after the show, as well as all the seats being sprayed down and disinfected between shows. … And then what happens as we approach a show, if an actor comes down with the sniffles, which is not an unusual thing? Can we still run the show? We used to be able to. An actor used to be able to muscle through. But now if an actor has the sniffles, can we still do that?”

Below: Josh Odsess-Rubin and Martha Hackett in CVRep’s The City of Conversation—the final show to be performed in the valley before the March shutdown.

Published in Theater and Dance

Elder-law attorney Michael “Mick” McGuire, 73, says he keeps trying to find a way to retire. “But when the pandemic hit, that went on the back burner.”

McGuire, a La Quinta resident for seven years, used to visit the desert from Long Beach—until his wife of 30 years, Vivien, a public defender, made him to decide to relocate.

McGuire was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and his birth family included grandparents who had emigrated from Ireland. They had four daughters and were scrounging for work during the Great Depression. “My grandfather died in his 30s, and my grandmother was one of those people you’re blessed to have in your life. She cleaned houses to support her daughters.

“My mom had no education past the ninth-grade, and they were always one step ahead of the landlord. My mom always used to say, ‘If things aren’t going your way, just get on with it. If one thing doesn’t work, do something else.’

“My dad was a true Pittsburgh boy. He came along at a time when they were letting guys out of high school to go to war. He was in the Army Air Corps, and then he took a correspondence course at Cornell University. He worked in the restaurant business and became a regional manager.

“I have one sister. I always joke that we’re 'Irish twins'; our birthdays are so close. Once we were out of high school, my folks couldn’t wait to get out of the dire winters of Pittsburgh, so after my freshman year of college, we moved to Arizona.”

McGuire (www.calelderlaw.com) got his education at Arizona State University. After a year in the Army Reserve, McGuire’s first job was with Hallmark Cards in Seattle. He relocated to Los Angeles in 1970 and worked for companies including Xerox, E.F. Hutton, and Home Savings. What made him decide to go back to school and study law?

“I was dealing with real estate agents all day long,” he says, “and I had met my wife, who was in law school at the time. In 1991, I studied at the University of West Los Angeles, and passed the bar on my first try!”

McGuire opened his first law office in Long Beach, doing estate planning, wills and trusts. “I had a client who was having real problems with his elderly mom, and thus I discovered elder law as a specialty,” says McGuire. “I realized the need for people to be able to deal with the Medi-Cal system and Veterans (Affairs).

“The best part of what I do is being able to listen to people’s stories. I had a client who had been in a small village in France during World War II at the age of 16 when the Germans had come. He was stopped by two Gestapo officers, was arrested, and he ended up in a concentration camp. He survived and went to Canada, then came to the U.S. He had told his family that he had been in the war, but his daughters had never heard the full story. When they asked him why he had never told them, he said, ‘I didn’t want you to worry.’

“I had another client who had been a submarine commander during World War II and didn’t realize he had benefits available. You can’t make these stories up—they’re amazing!”

McGuire gets particularly emotive when we talk about the COVID-19 pandemic—and particularly its impact on elders in nursing-home situations.

“The state drives people to long-term care, because there’s nowhere else to go,” he says. “It’s all corporate money now, and they’re driven by profitability. They say, ‘It’s all about heads in the beds.’ People get three meals a day, and poor care—and what we’ve seen over the past months of the pandemic shows how bad it is. It’s a terrible conundrum: You have someone who makes about $12.50 an hour to change people’s diapers and wipe their chin. Those willing to do those jobs are often the migrants at the border.

“We have a glaring hole in Medicare for taking care of seniors when they need help. The Affordable Care Act created a plan to pay up to $1,500 a month for long-term care. On average, decent care costs $10,000 a month for a nursing home in California. Long-term care is expensive, but in my experience, it probably only costs an average family about $1,500 to $2,500 a month to keep someone at home. I’ve never met anybody ever who wanted to go to a nursing home.

“It should be a red flag that out of all the developed countries in the world, we’re (the only one) without a plan. We can talk about it all academically, but when it’s your family member, the whole thing changes. The counties are often ignorant of the actual regulations, and how people are being treated is ridiculous. I’ve become very aggressive and insistent to benefit my clients.”

In 2014, McGuire handled what he described as his most interesting case. Los Angeles County had denied long-term benefits to a man taken to a nursing home as a qualified patient. “It took a year to bring the county to the table. I came to understand how badly the system is stacked against the public interest. You walk away from these experiences and realize that for every one who gets representation—how many are left to their own devices, meeting obstacles at every turn?”

McGuire and his wife are very proud of their family, including son Sean (“He works in the office with me, handling veterans’ cases”) and twin grandchildren. (“She’s at MIT, and he’s at Berkeley,” beams the proud grandpa.)

McGuire’s latest venture is a radio program, Elder Answers, airing every Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. on KNEWS 94.3 FM/970 AM. McGuire describes the show as an opportunity to start a conversation, and he looks forward to, when the pandemic is over, again presenting workshops where people can talk on a more personal level.

“Throughout life, no matter the situation, you’re well-advised to exercise patience and introspection before you react,” McGuire says. “I’ve failed to follow that many times and paid a price for sure. When I’ve done it, it’s always paid off.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show The Lovable Liberal airs on IHubRadio. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors