CVIndependent

Wed11252020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Happy Monday, everyone!

Last week in this space, we linked to an article in which many experts were quoted as saying that curfews—like the one most of the state is under now—don’t help much when it comes to the spread of COVID-19.

Well, uh, here’s an article from the Los Angeles Times that says the opposite:

It should be no surprise, as acting state public health officer Dr. Erica Pan outlined in her health order, that late-night activities are often related to social gatherings where there’s “reduced inhibition and and reduced likelihood” of wearing masks and staying distanced from friends and family.

“It’s because bad behavior goes up in the evening, at least as I recall from college,” Dr. George Rutherford, epidemiologist and infectious diseases expert at UC San Francisco, said at a campus town hall meeting last week.

So … curfews are helpful, unless they’re not. Got that? Good.

In other news: While small private gatherings can obviously lead to COVID-19 spread, they aren’t driving the spike we’re seeing around the country, according to this New York Times piece:

Household gatherings have “become a major vector of disease spread,” the Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar, said in an interview with CNN in late October.

But many epidemiologists are far less certain, saying there is little evidence to suggest that household gatherings were the source of the majority of infections since the summer. Indeed, it has become much harder to pinpoint any source of any outbreak, now that the virus is so widespread and Americans may be exposed in so many ways.

“Somebody says something, and somebody else says it, and then it just becomes truth,” said Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard University. “I worry about this narrative that doesn’t yet seem to be data-based.”

Meanwhile, The Washington Post today interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci. And what did he have to say?

Until a vaccine is widely available, he said, people must remain vigilant about following public-health guidelines such as maintaining social distance from others. Infections are increasingly spreading through small gatherings of five to 15 people, he said.

Sigh.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s crazy how little we know about this disease, eight-plus months into the height of the pandemic.

Today’s news:

• Finally: The formal transition process has begun. According to CNN: “The General Services Administration has informed President-elect Joe Biden that the Trump administration is ready to begin the formal transition process, according to a letter from Administrator Emily Murphy sent Monday afternoon and obtained by CNN. The letter is the first step the administration has taken to acknowledge President Donald Trump's defeat, more than two weeks after Biden was declared the winner in the election.” This news capped a busy day of transition news—including the announcement of several of Biden’s cabinet picks.

In Los Angeles County, officials are shutting down outdoor dining for at least three weeks—and say that a complete stay-at-home order could be put in place very soon if the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise. As a result, many restaurant owners are wondering if their businesses can survive.

• Another week, another vaccine-maker releases positive trial results. As The Washington Post explains: “AstraZeneca on Monday became the third pharmaceutical company to announce positive results from late-stage trials of a coronavirus vaccine, saying that its candidate, developed by Oxford University, is up to 90 percent effective. Scientists and politicians alike hailed the third straight week of buoyant scientific news as a sign that, even as coronavirus cases surge to devastating levels in many countries, an end to the pandemic is in sight.”

• The results of the Independent’s seventh annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll are here! Congrats to all the winners and finalists.

California’s first family is under quarantine after three of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s kids were in contact with a California Highway Patrol officer who tested positive for the virus. “Thankfully, the entire family tested negative today. However, consistent with local guidance, we will be quarantining for 14 days,” Newsom tweeted. NPR has the details

The monoclonal antibody cocktail President Trump credited for helping him overcome the coronavirus has received emergency-use authorization from the FDA. MedPage Today explains: “The FDA authorized use of Regeneron's REGN-COV2 intravenous monoclonal antibody cocktail … for treating mild to moderate COVID-19 in patients at high risk of progressing to severe disease, the agency said late Saturday. … ‘Authorizing these monoclonal antibody therapies may help outpatients avoid hospitalization and alleviate the burden on our health care system,’ FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, said in announcing the EUA.” 

• General Motors had been siding with President Trump in his effort to remove California’s ability to demand more fuel-efficient vehicles. Well, the automaker has changed its tune. Per The New York Times: “The decision by Mary Barra, the General Motors chief executive, to withdraw her company’s support for Trump administration efforts to strip California of its ability to set its own fuel efficiency standards was a striking reversal. It was also a signal that corporate America is moving on from President Trump. More specifically, it was a sign that Mr. Biden may find the auto industry amenable as he tries to reinstitute and rebuild Obama-era climate change regulations that Mr. Trump systematically dismantled, at times with the help of industry.”

• While SARS-CoV-2 is running amok in the U.S., people in China are living relatively normal lives. A scholar in public health, writing for The Conversation, says China is doing much better at handling the virus because the country learned lessons from a previous pandemic. Key quote: “My research suggests that the control of the virus in China is not the result of authoritarian policy, but of a national prioritization of health. China learned a tough lesson with SARS, the first coronavirus pandemic of the 21st century.”

Yes, please. Reuters reports: “New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday she offered President-elect Joe Biden assistance with tackling the rampant outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States. During the first talks between the two since Biden was elected as the next U.S. president, Ardern said she offered access to New Zealand’s most senior health officials …  New Zealand has eliminated COVID-19 from the community twice, and currently has just 58 active cases of the virus, all in managed isolation facilities. In contrast, the United States over the weekend recorded its 12 millionth case.”

Our partners at CalMatters bring us this fascinating story about a dispute between two high-ranking Democratic state leaders: “The unpaid invoices piling up in Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office had climbed to more than $34.2 million. It was Nov. 2. Since early September, his staff had been wrangling with the staff of State Controller Betty Yee over whether Padilla’s office had the budgetary authority to pay for a $35 million contract it had awarded to public affairs firm SKDKnickerbocker to run a statewide voter education campaign called Vote Safe California. The secretary of state’s office maintained that it did have budgetary authority. The controller’s office, which approves payments, maintained that it did not.

This San Francisco Chronicle article examines why more employers aren’t offering their employees coronavirus testing. Key quote: “The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance to employers to include coronavirus testing, and it advised that people working in close quarters be tested periodically. However, the federal government does not require employers to offer those tests. But the board overseeing the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, on Thursday approved emergency safety rules that are soon likely to require the state’s employers to provide coronavirus testing to all workers exposed to an outbreak on the job at no cost to the employees. Testing must be repeated a week later, followed by periodic testing. California would be the first state to mandate this, though the regulation doesn’t apply to routine testing of employees. That is up to individual businesses.”

• We may soon learn a little bit more about dinosaurs due to the “Dueling Dinosaurs.” National Geographic explains: “For more than a decade, paleontologists have speculated about a single fossil that preserves skeletons of two of the world’s most famous dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops. Not only are the bones arranged as they once were in life, but the dinosaurs are practically intertwined. Each specimen is among the best of its kind ever found. Together, the pair—nicknamed the ‘Dueling Dinosaurs’—present a paleontological mystery: Did the beasts just happen to be entombed together by chance, perhaps as carcasses caught on the same river sandbar? Or had they been locked in mortal combat? Nobody has been able to study the fossil to find out. But that’s about to change.”

Finally, the producers of Jeopardy! have announced the new host … sort of. The Associated Press, via SFGate, reports: “’Jeopardy!’ record-holder Ken Jennings will be the first in a series of interim hosts replacing Alex Trebek when the show resumes production next Monday. Producers announced Monday that Jennings, who won 74 games in a row and claimed the show's ‘Greatest of All Time’ title in a competition last year, will host episodes that air in January. A long-term host for Trebek, who died of cancer on Nov. 8, will be named later.”

As always, thanks for reading the Daily Digest and the Coachella Valley Independent. Please click here to become a Supporter of the Independent if you want to help us be able to continue producing quality local journalism. Be safe, everyone.

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It’s Nov. 11, Veterans Day. To all of you out there who served our country: Thank you.

Let’s get right into the news … and please accept my apologies for the fact that much of it is rather dour:

• Riverside County needs to get used to being in the state’s most-restrictive coronavirus tier—because we’re going to be in it for a good, long while, according to the weekly numbers released by the state yesterday. As the Riverside Press-Enterprise explains: “Riverside County’s seven-day average of daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, adjusted for testing volume, rose to 13.9 from last week’s 11.5. This week’s rate is nearly double the threshold of seven new cases per day allowed in the red tier—the next lower and less-restrictive level.”

In the Coachella Valley specifically, we’re also heading in the wrong direction, according to the county’s latest District 4 report. (District 4 includes the valley and points eastward.) Case counts, hospitalizations and the weekly positivity rate are all going up. Worst of all, six of our neighbors died due to COVID-19 in the week ending Nov. 8. This is NOT GOOD, folks.

At the state level: No counties this week advanced into a better tier. On the flip side, as explained by SFGate: “Acting California Public Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan announced Tuesday that 11 counties are falling back to more restrictive tiers in the state's reopening plan, forcing a host of businesses to close and activities to stop. Sacramento, San Diego and Stanislaus are moving back to the most stringent purple tier marking widespread infection.”

On a national level, case counts continue to set horrifying new records. As The Washington Post explains: “In one week, new daily coronavirus cases in the United States went from 104,000 to more than 145,000 on Wednesday, the latest all-time high. Almost every metric is trending in the wrong direction as states add restrictions and health officials warn of a dangerous fall ahead.”

Things are getting so bad in North Dakota that this is happening, according to The Hill: “North Dakota is allowing health care workers with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic to keep working in coronavirus units to make up for a staff shortage. The extraordinary move, announced by Gov. Doug Burgum (R) on Monday, comes as hospitals hit their capacity amid a rise in coronavirus cases.”

• College football is a mess of cancellations and postponements. In the high-powered SEC, four of seven scheduled games this weekend has been postponed. Sports Illustrated explains that contact tracing is just as much to blame as players testing positive.

A top adviser for President-elect Joe Biden thinks we’d all benefit from another strict lockdown. As reported by CNBC: “Shutting down businesses and paying people for lost wages for four to six weeks could help keep the coronavirus pandemic in check and get the economy on track until a vaccine is approved and distributed, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, a coronavirus advisor to President-elect Joe Biden.”

• I think we can safely call President Trump’s election night gathering at the White House a super-spreader event. As The New York Times explains: “Three more White House staff members have tested positive for the coronavirus, including at least one, the political director, Brian Jack, who attended an election night event at the White House, people familiar with the diagnoses said on Wednesday. … Three other people had previously tested positive after attending the election night event.”

• Finally, some decent news, but first, I challenge you to say “bamlanivimab” three times fast! Or, uh, maybe just once correctly? Or don’t. Anyway, what is bamlanivimab? It’s Eli Lilly and Co.’s new monoclonal antibody therapy for the coronavirus, which received emergency-use authorization for COVID-19 on Monday. Says CNN: “FDA authorization was based on a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in October. It found the treatment seemed to lower the risk of hospitalization and ease some symptoms in a small number of patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19.”

NPR makes it clear: “Wearing a mask protects the wearer, and not just other people, from the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasized in an updated scientific brief issued Tuesday. And the protective benefits of masks are stronger the more people wear masks consistently and correctly, the agency says.”

Our partners at CalMatters contrast the ways in which the states of California and Oregon report workplace COVID-19 outbreaks: “Since May, Oregon has used a centralized tracking system, which has enabled health officials there to release weekly reports that list the names and addresses of every known business with at least 30 employees where five or more positive COVID-19 cases are identified. … California, in contrast, doesn’t post workplace outbreaks. The state lets its 58 counties handle coronavirus data, with wide variety in how each county tracks and reports workplace outbreaks. The distinction has workers and public health experts worried.”

The Conversation asked an epidemiologist about the precautions she’s taking to host a safe Thanksgiving meal. Key quote: “No matter how careful you and your family are, there is some risk that someone will be infected. With that in mind, the goal is to reduce the conditions that lead to viral spread. The biggest risks are indoor spaces with poor ventilation, large groups and close contact. So we are planning the opposite: a short outdoor Thanksgiving with a small group and plenty of space between everyone.”

• And now for news about the unprecedented and dangerous effort to undermine the results of last week’s election: The New York Times called election officials in every state—red, blue and every shade in between. How much fraud did they find? None. Key quote: “Top election officials across the country said in interviews and statements that the process had been a remarkable success despite record turnout and the complications of a dangerous pandemic. ‘There’s a great human capacity for inventing things that aren’t true about elections,’ said Frank LaRose, a Republican who serves as Ohio’s secretary of state. ‘The conspiracy theories and rumors and all those things run rampant. For some reason, elections breed that type of mythology.’”

The AP looks at the various lawsuits President Trump’s campaign has been filing in battleground states … and doesn’t find any winning at all: “A barrage of lawsuits and investigations led by President Donald Trump’s campaign and allies has not come close to proving a multi-state failure that would call into question his loss to President-elect Joe Biden. The campaign has filed at least 17 lawsuits in various state and federal courts. Most make similar claims that have not been proven to have affected any votes, including allegations that Trump election observers didn’t have the access they sought or that mail-in ballots were fraudulently cast.”

• Military.com notes that Trump’s installation of a new acting secretary of defense wasn’t exactly done by the book: “President Donald Trump on Monday fired Mark Esper as defense secretary and put Christopher C. Miller, who previously led the National Counterterrorism Center, in charge at the Pentagon. … But some say that doesn't follow the rules set by DoD statute and an executive order on the Defense Department’s line of succession. Those call for the deputy defense secretary—another Senate-confirmed position—to fill the vacancy.”

• And the firing of Esper/installation of Miller is just the tip of the iceberg. This sentence from a Politico article is, to put it mildly, alarming: “In quick succession, top officials overseeing policy, intelligence and the defense secretary’s staff all had resigned by the end of the day Tuesday, replaced by political operatives who are fiercely loyal to Trump and have trafficked in ‘deep state’ conspiracy theories.” Gulp.

• Finally … after all that pants-wetting news, doesn’t a nice hike sound lovely? If you’re nodding your head right now, check out the Independent’s brand-new hiking column, Hiking With T.

That’s enough for today, right? Thanks for reading—and please help the Independent continue its mission of offering quality local journalism for free to everyone by clicking here and becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will return Friday.

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So, uh, hi. Raise your hand if you’re just a wee bit nervous about what may take place four days from now—not only regarding the outcome, but the reaction to that outcome.

Yeah. I see a lot of hands raised out there.

A whole lot of Americans are expecting the figurative shit to hit the fan next week, in large part because one of the two major participants in this year’s presidential election has refused to say he’ll accept the results if he loses—with some of his followers going so far as to say that the only way he could lose is if there’s fraud, despite what all the polls say.

According to NBC News: “In the crosshairs of what may be a struggle over the result of the election are the country’s thousands of storefront businesses. ‘Many have (and will be) boarding up locations or relying on other safety precautions—normally methods that are reserved for severe weather incidents (hurricanes, floods),’ Tom Buiocchi, CEO of the facilities software company ServiceChannel, said in an email. ‘But now also for the social unrest throughout the summer of 2020 and in preparation for the upcoming national election.’”

Here in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said today that the state was preparing for post-election violence—but declined to be more specific.

Per Politico: “Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that California is taking precautions in case of civil unrest on election night amid an emotional and partisan presidential campaign, in a state where voters overwhelmingly oppose President Donald Trump. ‘As it relates to making sure people are safe, making sure not only the process of voting is a safe and healthy one, but keeping people safe after the election for whatever may occur, the answer is yes, we are always gaming out different scenarios and making sure that we are prepared,’ the governor said when asked about possible election night chaos.”

Folks, I have no idea what next week will bring. However, I can promise you that the Independent will be here to help you make sense of it.

Today’s news:

• Related to all of the above: According to The Washington Post, mail delays are causing major problems in swing states: “Over the past five days, the on-time rate for ballots in 17 postal districts representing 10 battleground states and 151 electoral votes was 89.1 percent—5.9 percentage points lower than the national average. By that measure, more than 1 in 10 ballots are arriving outside the Postal Service’s one-to-three-day delivery window for first-class mail. Those delays loom large over the election: 28 states will not accept ballots that arrive after Election Day, even if they are postmarked before.” Gulp.

• This was the worst week for COVID-19 cases in the U.S. since the pandemic arrived …

• … and the worst week for the stock market since March, when everything started going to hell.

• Yikes! I need a drink now! Maybe something with Fernet in it? From the Independent: “Unlike most apertifs and digestifs, Fernet-Branca is very low in sugar. It’s also one of the only amari liqueurs to be aged for a full year in oak barrels, a process that adds intensity and complexities to the final result. Distilled in Milan, Italy, since 1845, its ingredients include the familiar and the exotic: Chamomile, peppermint, saffron, myrrh, Chinese rhubarb, aloe ferox, angelica, colombo root, cinchona bark and orris root are just a sampling of the herbs that go into the mix using both hot and cold infusion processes. … On this continent, it’s most frequently consumed as a bracing shot. It’s also turning up as an ingredient in many craft-cocktail recipes.”

• OK. Back to the news—and some good news to boot: Scientists are examining the possibility that a flu shot may also offer some protection against the coronavirus.

• Look! More good news: It looks like Regeneron—the antibody treatment the president received as he battled COVID-19—is somewhat effective against the virus. At least that’s what the company behind Regeneron said earlier this week.

• Alas, the good news stops here: A Washington Post investigation looks at how the government bungled the response in nursing homes to COVID-19: “Government inspectors … during the first six months of the crisis cleared nearly 8 in 10 nursing homes of any infection-control violations even as the deadliest pandemic to strike the United States in a century sickened and killed thousands. … All told, homes that received a clean bill of health earlier this year had about 290,000 coronavirus cases and 43,000 deaths among residents and staff, state and federal data shows. That death toll constitutes roughly two-thirds of all COVID-19 fatalities linked to nursing homes from March through August.”

• NPR reports that the government is gathering—but not publicly releasing—data on COVID-19 hospitalizations that could be quite helpful: “NPR has obtained documents that give a snapshot of data the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services collects and analyzes daily. The documents—reports sent to agency staffers—highlight trends in hospitalizations and pinpoint cities nearing full hospital capacity and facilities under stress. They paint a granular picture of the strain on hospitals across the country that could help local citizens decide when to take extra precautions against COVID-19. Withholding this information from the public and the research community is a missed opportunity to help prevent outbreaks and even save lives, say public health and data experts who reviewed the documents for NPR.”

• Buzzfeed yesterday published a trove of documents—which Immigrations and Customs Enforcement only provided after being sued—regarding more than 40 immigrants who died while in custody over the last four years. Key quote: “In response to a request for comment on this story, ICE said the agency takes the health and safety of detainees very seriously and while deaths are ‘unfortunate and always a cause for concern,’ they are ‘exceedingly rare.’ But internal emails show that ICE’s own investigators raised serious concerns about the agency’s care of the people it detains, with one employee describing the treatment leading up to one death as ‘a bit scary.’”

The Trump administration is removing the gray wolf from the Endangered Species list. The Interior Department is hailing the removal as a species-recovery success story; environmentalists are calling it “premature” and “reckless.”

• Gov. Newsom signed an executive order on Wednesday allowing Californians 70 and older to renew their driver’s licenses by mail. According to the Sacramento Bee: “These Californians traditionally have to apply in-person for a new license at a DMV office. The department estimates around 860,000 seniors visit offices every year to apply for updated licenses.

• The Riverside Press-Enterprise looks at steps Inland Empire hospitals are taking just in case Southern California endures a coronavirus surge—and examines the ways in which treatments for COVID-19 have changed as medical professionals have learned more about the disease.

• Our partners at CalMatters break down the ways in which counties—including our very own—are joining forces to challenge the state’s COVID-19 restrictions. Key quote: “There’s a lot of broad consensus among the counties that … we should be able to return to local control of the crisis and not be stuck under this (tiered reopening) metric for the long term.

• I was again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs Podcast, with hosts John Taylor, Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr. I joined fellow guest Dr. Laura Rush to discuss COVID-19, mask enforcement (or the lack thereof) and other things. Check it out!

• Finally, we set our clocks back this weekend, as Daylight Saving Time comes to an end for another year. A neurologist, writing for The Conversation, looks at the reasons why the time change is really a terrible thing for humans who need sleep.

As always, thanks for reading. Please have a safe, fun weekend—because next week’s certainly going to be a doozy. If you like this Daily Digest, or the other journalism the Independent produces, please consider becoming a Supporter of us by clicking here. The Daily Digest will return on Monday.

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Riverside County will remain in the red, “Substantial” COVID-19 tier for at least one more week—even though the county’s numbers are getting worse.

Why? The county asked the state for another week to make improvements—and the state, via an “adjudication process,” gave the county the requested break.

“The aim with the adjudication process is to make the case to the state that we can maintain our current status and still control COVID-19 in our communities,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County’s public health officer, via a news release. “Whether or not we stay red or return to purple, we have to get people tested to find cases, and continue to use facial coverings, social distance and avoid gatherings. If we return to purple, we want to get back to red as quickly as we can. If we stay red, we want to progress. We can’t do either of those things without individuals, businesses and institutions working together to reduce spread.”

In order to be in the red tier, a county is supposed to have a positivity rate below 8 percent, and less than 7 new daily cases per 100,000 residents. As of today’s weekly reporting, the county has a 5.9 percent positivity rate—but 8.1 new daily cases per 100,000, a number the state adjusted up to 9.2, because the county is lagging behind the rest of the state in testing.

The county did meet the criterion for the new health equity metric, coming in below 8 percent (at 7.7 percent, to be exact). This metric tracks the positivity rate in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

So … what does this all mean? If we don’t get that case rate per 100,000 residents down, the state could put Riverside County back into the purple, “Widespread” tier, as soon as next week. That would mean movie theaters, gyms, restaurants and places of worship would have to close down indoor operations—yet again.

Stay tuned.

Other news from the day:

Another vaccine’s Stage 3 trial has been halted due to a serious illness. The Associated Press reports via SF Gate: “(Johnson and Johnson) said in a statement Monday evening that illnesses, accidents and other so-called adverse events ‘are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large studies’ but that its physicians and a safety monitoring panel would try to determine what might have caused the illness.” Johnson and Johnson’s potential vaccine, unlike many other candidates, only requires one dose.

A similar halt over a safety concern has occurred in the clinical trials for Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 antibody treatment. According to the Los Angeles Times: “The independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board recommended pausing enrollment in the U.S. government-sponsored trial, a company spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. The company didn’t provide information about what caused the panel to recommend the stoppage.” This treatment is similar to the antibody therapy from Regeneron that President Trump received and has hailed incorrectly as a “cure.”

• In other COVID-treatment news, the one company that could know for sure whether it has a working vaccine by the end of the month is taking steps to make sure people trust the vaccine, should everything work out. Per Politico: “The company behind President Donald Trump’s last hope for a vaccine by Election Day has quietly begun courting influential health experts, including some of its toughest critics, to head off charges that it's moving too fast in the face of intense political pressure.

A Nevadan is the unlucky man who has become the first person in North America confirmed to have gotten COVID-19 twice, from two slightly different versions of SARS-CoV-2. The Los Angeles Times explains why these rare re-infections show why we need a vaccine, and can’t just depend on herd immunity.

Having said that, we’ll present this headline from The Washington Post sans comment: “Proposal to hasten herd immunity to the coronavirus grabs White House attention but appalls top scientists.”

• By now, you’ve probably heard of the unauthorized drop boxes that have been appearing around the state—often with labeling saying they’re “official.” The state Republican party is responsible; the state attorney general has demanded the Republicans cease and desist; the state party is refusing to do so. Our partners at CalMatters look at the legal questions involved with this shady move by the GOP.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the Trump administration can stop Census field operations early. According to The Associated Press, via SFGate: “The Supreme Court justices’ ruling came as the nation’s largest statistical association, and even the bureau’s own census takers and partners, have been raising questions about the quality of the data being gathered — numbers that are used to determine how much federal funding is allotted to states and localities, and how many congressional seats each states gets.” Interestingly, only one of the eight justices, Sonia Sotomayor, dissented. 

• The state has officially said that Californians should not go trick-or-treating this year. According to the Los Angeles Times: “Health officials voiced concerns that it’s not possible to practice social distancing while trick-or-treating and that Día de los Muertos and Halloween celebrations would lead to people interacting with those from outside their households. State officials are strongly discouraging trick-or-treating and suggested that some Halloween activities, such as costume contests and pumpkin carving, move online. They recommended that families go on a walk while dressed up but forgo going door-to-door for candy.” Damn you, 2020!

• Climate change and poor forest management have fueled (literally) California’s awful wildfires in recent years. So … what can be done to fix the forest-management portion? According to two engineering professors, writing for The Conversation, forests can be restored—but it’ll take many years and billions of dollars.

• Republicans have been crying out about the possibility that a President Biden could choose to “pack” the U.S. Supreme Court by adding justices. Well, it turns out the Republican Party has been more than happy to “pack” lower courts. According to The Washington Post: “Marin Levy, a law professor at Duke University, says there’s important context missing from the discussion: the recent partisan attempts to pack state supreme courts. In a study published earlier this year, well before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Levy documented court-packing attempts in at least 11 states in recent years. Most of those efforts were initiated by Republicans, including the two that succeeded. Moreover, compared with earlier decades, court-packing attempts are now more common and more explicitly partisan.”

President Trump’s campaign used an out-of-context quote from Dr. Anthony Fauci—and Fauci is not pleased. According to CBS News: “Fauci also said he thinks that the approach could backfire and be detrimental to President Trump's re-election chances. ‘By doing this against my will they are, in effect, harassing me,’ he said. ‘Since campaign ads are about getting votes, their harassment of me might have the opposite effect of turning some voters off.’” Yikes.

• Hmm. The New York Times is reporting that the Trump administration is accelerating subsidies to farmers as Election Day approaches: “Farmers are not the only constituency benefiting from the president’s largess: He has promised $200 prescription drug cards to millions of seniors, approved $13 billion in aid to Puerto Rico, which could help his prospects in Florida, and he directed his Agriculture Department to include letters signed by him in millions of food aid boxes that are being distributed to the poor.

Also from The New York Times: A whole lot of large companies are telling their employees to plan on working from home until next summer. At least.

That’s enough news for the day. A scheduling note: The Daily Digest will be off tomorrow, but will return later in the week. Be safe, everyone—and please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you’re able.

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It’s common practice for media organizations to prepare coverage of certain events before said events have actually happened.

Take obituaries, for example. The Associated Press, The New York Times and other large media organizations have files upon files of pre-written obituaries for prominent people. (Reporters once worked on them on what used to be called “slow news days,” a concept that the year 2020 has completely and totally obliterated.) This way, when a death does occur, all editors need to do is pull out the pre-written obit, add in a date and a cause of death, and perhaps update a few details before quickly publishing. This practice is sometimes called “preparedness.”

Sometimes, this preparedness can cause weirdness. The New York Times, for example, has a long and storied history of publishing bylined obituaries penned by writers who themselves have been dead for years.

Then there’s the problem of obituaries making their way to the wire or the internet before the subject has actually died. My favorite example of this happened back in 1998, when someone working for the AP hit the wrong button, more or less, and sent out Bob Hope’s obituary. The obit was clearly not complete—a bunch of x’s were in the places where Hope’s cause of death and his age would have been—but the story got the attention of an aide to then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, which led to Hope’s death being announced on the House floor. Which led Reuters to report Hope’s death. Which led ABC Radio to report Hope’s death. And so on.

Hope would live five more years.

Today, in an effort to get things published online quickly after they happen, some news websites will pre-write stories, just in case something, which may or may not happen, actually happens. And this brings us to the big mistake Deadline made yesterday.

The background: Vice President Mike Pence cancelled an event scheduled for today in his home state. Even though a Pence spokesman said at the time that COVID-19 was NOT the reason for the change, the fact that the White House is now confirmed to have been the site of a super-spreader event led to all sorts of speculation—and apparently led Deadline to write up a piece announcing that Pence had tested positive for COVID-19, so it was ready to go in case that actually happened.

But then someone at Deadline actually published the piece. And then the piece was shared on Deadline’s Twitter page.

As with the AP’s premature Bob Hope obit, it was clear to anyone paying attention that the Deadline piece was published prematurely, given “PREP. DO NOT PUBLISH UNTIL THE NEWS CROSSES” was in the headline before the actual headline. But that didn’t stop people from jumping to erroneous conclusions —even though as of this writing, the vice president appears to be COVID-free.

Sigh. I miss slow news days.

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Today’s news:

The second presidential debate is officially cancelled. The Commission on Presidential Debates wanted to make the scheduled Oct. 15 debate a virtual event, because one of the two participants was recently diagnosed with COVID-19. However, that participant refused to participate in a virtual event, so the debate was cancelled. As of now, the Oct. 22 debate remains on the schedule, but who in the hell knows what the 13 days between now and then will bring.

And then there’s this headline from The New York Times: “Trump plans to hold a rally for thousands on the White House lawn Saturday, raising new concerns over possible virus spread.” He also has a rally planned in Florida on Monday. Yes, really.

Related, from Reuters: “U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of President Donald Trump’s most powerful allies in Washington, has avoided visiting the White House for more than two months because of its handling of the coronavirus, he told reporters on Thursday.” Holy cow!

• Oh, and the White House last month blocked the CDC from requiring masks on all forms of public and commercial transportation, according to the Times. My god.

• Hey, who needs a drink? We’re only the intro plus three stories into this Digest, but I sure do … and a Manhattan sounds amazing! But did you know the sweet vermouth you use in a Manhattan is just as important as the whiskey? So here’s a Thrillist piece on some good sweet vermouths.

• Before we get to more despair, let’s share some good news on the COVID-19 battle. First: Two drug-makers have requested emergency-use authorizations for antibody therapies to battle SARS-CoV-2—including the one the president received. Per NBC News: “The announcements from drug manufacturers Regeneron and Eli Lilly came within hours of Trump making public pleas to drum up support and enthusiasm for the medicines—referring to the antibodies as a ‘cure,’ despite a lack of evidence backing up such a claim.” Still, the therapies show promise.

Fingers crossed regarding this CNBC lede: “Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday the U.S. could have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for every American as early as March, a more optimistic estimate than President Donald Trump has publicly said.”

Also from CNBC comes the news that the FDA has granted emergency authorization for a rapid test that can screen patients for both the flu and COVID-19—plus other viruses and bugs.

• Hey, another silver lining! COVID-19 is making us filthy Americans wash our disgusting hands more frequently.

The New York Times today published yet another piece regarding portions of President Trump’s taxes where the numbers don’t really add up. This story involves a mysterious $21 million in payments to Trump in 2016 that largely “went through a company called Trump Las Vegas Sales and Marketing that had little previous income, no clear business purpose and no employees.”

Yet another NFL team was in limbo today after a positive COVID-19 test. (It turned out that the test was apparently a false positive.) As CNBC points out, the NFL is likely to keep playing, no matter what—because too much money is at stake.

• Did you know that the rich have access to private firefighting crews? The Los Angeles Times points out that not only does this raise serious questions about societal inequities; “when private, for-profit groups come in and don’t follow protocol, they can confuse residents, get in the way of firefighting activities or even require assistance themselves.”

• Why in the world are rolling blackouts still a thing in 2020? According to our partners at CalMatters, the preliminary results of an investigation into the blackouts earlier this year show the state did a bad job at planning and preparing.

Also from CalMatters, via the Independent: Proposition 24 is one of the most confusing questions on the ballot this year. It’s supposed to protect citizens’ privacy on the internet … but leading privacy advocates disagree on whether the proposition would actually do that.

Happy Friday, everyone. We made it through another crazy week! Be safe, and have a great weekend. The Digest will return Monday.

Published in Daily Digest