CVIndependent

Wed11252020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Voters narrowly defeated Proposition 15, the tax measure that aimed to eliminate decades-long protections for commercial properties—dashing hopes of billions of dollars flowing into California’s cash-strapped public schools and community colleges in the coming years.

In the second-most-expensive ballot fight this election, Prop 15 supporters said the measure would help right what they viewed as a fundamental wrong in the state’s school-funding system by increasing the share of property-tax revenues going toward schools. Opponents characterized Prop 15 as harmful to small businesses and the state’s economy at a time when the pandemic has already strained or shuttered several local businesses.

“We’re the fifth-largest economy in the world,” said E. Toby Boyd, president of the California Teachers Association, the top benefactor for the Yes on 15 campaign, “and big corporations should be paying their fair share to invest in our students, our public schools, our families and our communities.”

The measure—backed by labor unions, community organizations and several of the state’s progressive leaders—challenged the state’s still-popular 1978 constitutional amendment, Prop13, and had been slightly trailing in the vote count since election night before the Associated Press called its defeat Tuesday by a 51.8 percent (no) to 48.2 percent (yes) margin.

What happens now?

Legislative analysts projected Prop 15 would have drawn between $6.5 billion and $11.5 billion in commercial property tax revenues, with 40 percent of the take going to K-12 schools and community colleges beginning in 2022-23.

So while the measure would have been a boon in the long term, any financial fruits coming from a Prop 15 win would not have arrived soon enough to address the immediate twin financial crises facing the state’s public schools: tense efforts to physically reopen campuses and the state education budget’s looming cliff.

California K-12 schools and community colleges, almost a decade removed from the steep Great Recession-era cuts that resulted in more than 30,000 teacher layoffs, were slated to receive a record $84 billion in state funding this year—up from $81.6 billion—before the pandemic cratered the state’s budget forecast.

Faced with a potential 10 percent cut to the state’s main school finance artery, the Local Control Funding Formula, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature protected school budgets this year by deferring $11 billion in state funding for schools. That move held schools’ funding flat by delaying payments to schools into the next fiscal year—some installments coming as late as seven months—but also means the state will have to confront a potentially taller school finance cliff starting next year.

“Yes, Prop 15 would’ve helped in the long run, but it wouldn’t have fixed this short-term problem that the Legislature’s going to face in the coming spring,” said Bruce Fuller, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education.

As state education funding increased over the latter part of the decade, so, too, have fixed costs such as employee pension contributions and support services for growing populations of students in the state who have special needs or are English learners.

Several communities across California with the state’s permission to reopen campuses are engaged in fraught debates among school leaders, teachers, parents and employee unions over when and how to do so. Among the sticking points has been whether schools have the resources to implement and sustain safety measures, such as surveillance coronavirus testing for employees. At a recent legislative hearing, state lawmakers acknowledged schools’ dearth of testing capacity was prolonging potential campus reopenings while noting that the state had little room in its budget to assist with local efforts.

State officials have suggested on several occasions schools tap into $5.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds allocated for schools this summer to purchase laptops and technology for remote learning, personal protective equipment and expand their coronavirus testing bandwidth.

“(This) is not magical money that can be stretched forever,” Troy Flint, spokesman for the California School Boards Association, said of the CARES Act funding, adding that schools are “in a very perilous position” financially.

“Anytime there’s a new expectation or the state imposes a new requirement, it keeps pointing to that same pot of money,” Flint said.

Prop 15 is the second education-related statewide measure to face defeat this year, in part, due to the tall shadow of the landmark measure commonly referred to as the third rail of state politics.

Voters also rejected in the March primary a $15 billion state bond for school construction that, because of the state’s sequential numbering requirements for ballot measures, shared the same name as the 1978 property-tax cut: Prop 13. Though some political observers pointed to the measure’s confusing name as a reason for its defeat, others also noted that its supporters failed to adequately communicate to voters the bond’s importance.

Despite Prop 15’s defeat, supporters were optimistic late election night when initial returns came in, saying that the closeness of the vote suggested an appetite from voters to invest more money in public services such as K-12 education.

At the local level, school measures across the state continued to receive broad support—another sign of voters’ support for education funding, according to advocates. About 80 percent of the 60 K-12 and community college bonds on local ballots, including a $7 billion bond in Los Angeles Unified, appeared headed toward approval at press time, according to results gathered by Michael Coleman, publisher of the California Local Government Finance Almanac. Nine out of 13 parcel taxes, which require two-thirds voter approval, appeared to pass, though the votes remained too close to call in two communities.

Another attempt at an education-related tax measure in the near future seems likely, though it’s too soon to predict how a future measure would be structured. Also unclear at the moment is whether education and community advocates would again mount their own effort, similar to Prop 15, or if the governor and Legislature would get involved.

Before the state’s budget crunch, researchers affiliated with Stanford University had calculated it would take an additional $25 billion in school funding for all of the state’s 6.1 million public-school students to meet its learning standards. In recent years, some state lawmakers have wanted to go even further. The pandemic has increased those needs, according to advocates.

Newsom endorsed Prop 15 in September, though he did not campaign for the measure. The governor also said recently that he would not support legislation calling for higher income taxes.

Whatever the course, the road to more schools funding will likely require broad support among state leaders, education unions, advocacy groups as well as a unified message, said Carrie Hahnel, an independent education researcher and fellow with the Berkeley-based Opportunity Institute.

Without federal or state intervention, Hahnel wrote in a recent Policy Analysis for California Education brief, schools are likely to face a downturn like the one they experienced nearly a decade ago. Because California’s public schools are heavily reliant on state income taxes, it makes them more susceptible to volatility amid the peaks and valleys of the state’s economy, Hahnel wrote.

In 2012, at the tail end of the recession as the state neared a similar school funding cliff, then-Gov. Jerry Brown campaigned aggressively for Proposition 30, a quarter-cent sales tax that aimed to prop up school funding. The message then was clear: Vote yes, or schools stood to lose $6 billion in cuts. It passed with 55.4 percent That kind of support from the governor might be what it takes to put a future ballot measure over the top.

“I think we need to start from scratch and get everybody together and say what we are trying to do and how we can build this thing even if it means some compromises, some shared pain,” Hahnel said. “It’s very hard to hit the business community alone.”

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.

Published in Local Issues

Indio calls itself as the “City of Festivals,” and is home to the Empire Polo Club, where every year since 2001—except this year—folks from around the world have flocked to the world-famous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

However, Indio is much more than the home of Coachella. It’s the Coachella Valley’s largest city by population, and has some of the area’s highest COVID-19 rates. It’s in the midst of a redevelopment effort, led by a new College of the Desert campus—but those efforts are being challenged by the economic downturn.

In other words, the winner of this year’s two contested City Council races will have a lot on their plates.

In District 1, incumbent and current Mayor Glenn Miller is facing challenger Erin Teran. The Independent recently spoke with them and asked each of them the same set of questions, covering issues from how can the city better curb the spread of COVID-19, to what can be done to decrease violent crime in the city. What follows below are their complete responses, edited only for style and clarity.

Glenn Miller, District 1 incumbent and current mayor; district director for State Sen. Melissa Melendez; landscape business owner

What is the No. 1 issue facing the city of Indio in 2021?

The No. 1 issue facing Indio now and in the coming year is how to come out of this COVID-19 pandemic with open businesses and an economic future for our community. Having a balanced budget for the city of Indio, with a healthy reserve that makes us able to continue with services, is the most vital issue facing the city in the coming years. We’re not exactly sure how the pandemic is going to affect us overall, but obviously it’s affected us with our concerts and our taxing base. But getting businesses back open, making sure that everybody’s back to work, and making sure, at the same time, that the city’s general fund is balanced and that our reserves are healthy, (will enable us to) continue to (provide) the quality of life and the services that residents expect.

The city of Indio has been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than any other city in the Coachella Valley. What can the city do better to reduce the infection rates among its residents?

What we have been doing: communication—networking with our businesses, our chamber of commerce and our residents to continue to make sure that we’re following what I call the four basic guidelines: Make sure you’re masked up; make sure you’re washing your hands; deep cleaning areas where there are multiple touches; and, obviously, social distancing, especially if you’re inside. This will continue to limit the spread of COVID-19. Our residents have done a good job with this. Our city has provided PPE (personal protective equipment) to our businesses and residents. We were just recently doing this with our senior citizens (to whom) we gave care packages that contained all the essential sanitary items they need to continue to be safe, including masks. So the city needs to continue to open businesses efficiently and safely, and I think what will help us is getting our communication network out to residents and businesses. The more that we open up, and the more interaction we have, the more chance we have of spreading COVID-19. Making sure that we take personal responsibility, and at the same time making sure that our residents and businesses are following those guidelines, will limit the spread—and, particularly, as we continue with social distancing, we have to make sure that we are personally responsible about what we do.

During 2019, incidents of violent crime in Indio increased over 2018. What can the city do to decrease those numbers moving forward?

What we have done is invest in our police department. We continue to bring new police officers up through our academy, and at the same time, we’ve deployed our Quality of Life Team officers throughout the city of Indio, along with any other units that are a part of the task force for Coachella Valley. We are looking for ways to interact with the community through our faith-based organizations, our businesses and our community as a whole, with outreach from our police department’s chief, Michael Washburn. We have a top-notch police department, and (top-notch) code enforcement and public safety overall, including our fire department. President Obama recognized us as one of only 15 police departments in the United States to be honored as one of the 21st century policing agencies, out of 18,000 (overall). We can do a better job, always, of communicating and looking (to see) what we can do with any kind of crime, but right now, our focus is on communication with our faith-based organizations, our businesses and the community to continue to work with them to reduce any opportunity for crime to be instigated here in the city of Indio. And, we’re working with other regional agencies to stop any crimes, if we’re able to, before they even occur. So, we have a great support unit with the local agencies, and that’s going to be the key to allowing us to provide more services and better public safety for our residents and businesses. We’re always here to support our police officers, and we’re in the middle of investing in more officers, having just hired six brand-new recruits, and we have four more in the pipeline who are working their way through the academy. That’s being paid for by the city of Indio, so that we make sure that they are able to study and go through the academy when they weren’t (otherwise) financially able to because they had to work at another job. So we’ve already invested in another 10 police officers.

Back in June, when the Indio City Council passed a budget for the fiscal year 2020-2021, some reserves were drawn upon to balance the budget. The new budget projects more than $135 million in revenues. Given the economic uncertainty, if those revenue numbers fall short, what cuts or new revenue opportunities would you propose that the city pursue?

Right now, we feel we have a balanced budget for the next two years, drawing either from our reserves, or our Measure X funding (a sales tax increase approved by voters in 2016), or from our revenue sources coming in. When I first got on City Council, we had a negative balance in our reserve fund. This is exactly what our reserve fund is for—to make sure that whenever we had any kind of uncertainty in our revenue sources and streams coming into the city, that we are able to utilize our reserve fund to make sure that services wouldn’t be cut.

I talked to the city manager, and his estimates on revenue coming in are a little higher. There’s quite a bit of sales tax (revenue) coming in, and our Auto Mall dealerships, which are our biggest source of revenue, are doing very well. So we’re going to get an update at our next meeting on Oct. 7 on exactly where we are, and where we’ll end up being. But in the last year or two, one of the great things that Indio has done is really push our economic development. We do it every year, but we actually doubled down with two new car dealerships coming in, and we also have a 37,000-square-foot Vallarta supermarket and a lot of other businesses opening. And we’re working with all of our existing businesses to get them open as well.

So, our revenue streams are a little better than we anticipated. If this pandemic continues, then we might have to make an adjustment, but we’ll do it wisely, and we’ll figure out where we can find savings now, and take it from the best opportunity that we have. But we won’t cut into any services or any protection that we have for our residents, to make sure that our quality of life stays like it is. We’re very confident we can do that.

What topic or issue impacting Indio should we have asked you about, and what are your thoughts on it?

I think the one thing you should have asked about is what else we’re doing to make our city’s quality of life better. It’s about working with our residents and our businesses to make sure that the quality of life in Indio is what they expect it to be. Over the last 12 years, that I’ve been on the council, we’ve worked very hard to continue to better the city with the new schools that we’ve brought in. Every one of our high schools is either brand new or has been rebuilt in the last 10 years. We have the new College of the Desert campus that is going to be expanded, and it was going ahead until COVID-19. Multiple businesses have come in, expanding economic opportunities. Obviously, the concerts which were cancelled this year, unfortunately, but we’re bringing in opportunities—not only to our downtown area and our new mall that’s going to be redeveloped, where the Indio Grand Marketplace is, but we now have every major homebuilder (working) in our city. So, the city of Indio is poised not only to be the City of Festivals, but also the City of Opportunity. We have a bright future in the city of Indio, and we’re looking forward to many years of efforts supported by the City Council and our residents, to make it the city that we all want it to be. We can always get better, but I can tell you that from talking to the residents on a continued basis, they are excited about where our future is going, from education up to business opportunities.

What has been your favorite “shelter-in-place” activity during the COVID-19 pandemic?

That’s tough. I’ve been dialing up our seniors and other individuals, just to have a chat and conversation to see how they are. The conversations that I’ve had with people, who I would never have met before or talked to before, have given people an opportunity to get off their devices and get on the phone, because they actually want to hear your voice. So it’s been a great opportunity to connect with some people who I probably would have never had the chance to.


Erin Teran, registered nurse

What is the No. 1 issue facing the city of Indio in 2021?

In 2021, I definitely think that unity is going to be very important. We’ve gone through some very difficult times, not only with this pandemic, but we’re seeing much of our country be so split and divided. So I think it’s going to be so important to take a stand in our own communities and be a voice of leadership to try to bring people together, to check on your neighbors and to take care of one another. As human beings, we’re all experiencing many of the same things. We have the same fears right now. We have this fear of getting sick, or getting our family members sick. The stress of having to go to work, and then not knowing if you might bring (the virus) home to your family, is so difficult for people. So many families are trying to do the new distance learning, and it’s so challenging. But I found that if we really work together, we can get through this and overcome it, and make things easier for each other.

The city of Indio has been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than any other city in the Coachella Valley. What can the city do better to reduce the infection rates among its residents?

Well, we do know that the city of Indio has the largest population and the largest workforce (of any valley city), and quite frankly, we have the essential workers living on the east end of the valley. So, I think that, No. 1, we need to be out in front of this, and speaking about it daily. We should be talking about things we can do to keep our residents safe, and keep our employees safe. I’ve talked to so many different people who either haven’t had the PPE that they need, or they haven’t had the training (in how to use it properly). The city’s done an excellent job in getting the PPE out there to the businesses, but I think we could be doing more. I’d really like to utilize some of the committees that we have currently, in order to see if we can designate a group of volunteers—either furloughed or retired health-care workers—who want to volunteer their time to go out there and train some of (the workers at) these businesses. I’ve walked into so many stores where people were wearing their mask beneath their nose. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of education on how to use a mask correctly, and why we need to wear it a certain way, and take it off a certain way.

I think that we need to have real strong leadership, and not wait to see what other cities are doing. In the beginning of the pandemic, Indio took two weeks to put that mask ordinance in place. I think that when it comes to a pandemic, two weeks is really a lifetime. We need to be on top of that. We’re starting to see that we’re moving up into a new tier (of reduced state-mandated COVID-19 restrictions), so our main focus should be keeping everyone safe, and keeping our businesses open. We see so many businesses, especially small businesses, that are struggling right now, and we need to provide resources to those business owners. We could be meeting with them intermittently to see what challenges they’re facing, and to see how we can resolve those issues.

During 2019, incidents of violent crime in Indio increased over 2018. What can the city do to decrease those numbers moving forward?

I definitely think that many people are struggling. I know we’re talking about 2019 numbers, but again, we’re looking at the (valley’s) most populated city. So when you have people who are struggling and may not be receiving the resources that they need, or even understanding that there are resources available (for them), there may be some desperate measures that are taken. Also, I think we’ve seen nationwide this divide between law enforcement and communities. So this year, we formed a group called We Are Indio, and we held a vigil. The purpose of the vigil was to focus on prevention. Not only does that relate to any kind of police brutality, but it also relates to crime and other things happening in our communities. So when you’re able to provide social resources, and you’re able to bring the community together and form better relationships with public-safety officers, I think we will see a drop in those numbers. Chief Washburn has been very committed to working with us to form that bond with the community, and I’m really excited about that. Having these difficult conversations is not always a comfortable thing to do. For instance, when we were planning our vigil, I had officers call, and one was someone I went to school with (in Indio). He had some concerns, but when I was able to explain to him that our purpose and intent was to make things better for everyone, then he seemed to understand, and it calmed some of his nervousness. Obviously, we want to make sure that the officers are safe, but we want to make sure that we’re preventing any future issues, too.

Back in June, when the Indio City Council passed a budget for the fiscal year 2020-2021, some reserves were drawn upon to balance the budget. The new budget projects more than $135 million in revenues. Given the economic uncertainty, if those revenue numbers fall short, what cuts or new revenue opportunities would you propose that the city pursue?

I was able to sit down with Mark Scott, our interim city manager, and he said we’re looking pretty good to get through the rest of this year. It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen next year. My understanding is that the festivals are planning to move forward next year, but it’s hard to say for sure. I always advocate that city reserves need to be utilized before we make any cuts that would affect any of our employees, because that’s their livelihood. I think it’s important to protect jobs. But we’re seeing so much growth in Indio that even through this pandemic, we’re building in Indio. I think we’ll be able to get through this by working together, but it will be very important for us to advocate strongly for additional funding. I looked at the numbers recently, and I think it was over 2,100 cities nationwide are facing budget shortfalls. So I think it’s time we start advocating to state and federal officials to bring more funds into our community.

What topic or issue impacting Indio should we have asked you about, and what are your thoughts on it?

One of the reasons why it was really important to me to run is that I’m a lifelong resident of Indio. I went to school here from kindergarten through 12th grade. My heart really is in Indio. I have a real passion, not only for what our city was, but for what it’s going to be, because I plan to live the rest of my life here. We’ve made a lot of changes, and obviously, we’ve had a lot of growth since I was a little girl. I just turned 40, and over the last 40 years, we’ve seen a lot of growth and change, but there are so many areas that have been left behind. So I feel a great connection to my community, but running for City Council has given me even more opportunities to speak with different community members and to understand the struggles that they face. For instance, I spoke with Pastor (Carl) McPeters recently. He has a church over in the John Nobles Ranch area, and for the Black community, it’s a very historic area. He was able to share how being displaced from that area (due) to expansion of the Indio mall affected his churchgoers. So I think it’s so important that we make sure our representatives are there to lead everyone, and to give equal access to all resources to every Indio resident.

What has been your favorite “shelter-in-place” activity during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Well, as a nurse, I didn’t have that much of an opportunity to shelter in place, because I was actually taking care of COVID-19 patients. But for me, it’s really been finding the silver linings in everything—and it’s really not one thing that I can say. Obviously, my daughter is disappointed that she has to be home from college, doing distance learning instead of living in her dorm, but the silver lining has been that I’ve had more time to spend with her. And while running this campaign, it’s been more challenging to actually meet with people. But the silver lining there is that when I got sick (with COVID-19), I was able to meet with people virtually, and I didn’t have to run all over town. So, I’d say it’s been finding the silver lining in so many things.

Published in Politics

The state of California’s response to the pandemic, as of late, has been a big mess.

First: The state’s COVID-19 data reporting is all messed up. According to the Los Angeles Times, the state is dealing with a backlog of up to 300,000 test results—and is in the process of developing a whole new tracking system, because the current one is not up to the admittedly massive task:

“(Dr. Mark Ghaly, the California Health and Human Services secretary) said the state would work through the backlog of records, which include COVID-19 tests and other health results, over the next 24 to 48 hours. He said state missteps compounded a problem that began with a server outage and promised a full investigation.

“The data failure set off alarm bells this week as total deaths surpassed 10,000 in California, a state that leads the nation in COVID-19 cases despite the undercount and has struggled to mitigate the virus. The delayed results could significantly increase the confirmed spread of COVID-19 from a total of 540,000 cases in the state as of early Friday.”

Sigh. Meanwhile, county health officials—already upset about the state’s arbitrary and odd reopening criteria—are being left in the figurative lurch without accurate data from the state.

Second: The state was tardy in issuing guidance to the state’s colleges and universities on how to handle student housing, in-person instruction and other important matters. Again, according to the Los Angeles Times: “Many campuses, including USC and Claremont McKenna, say the lack of clear and timely state guidance has caused them to spend enormous energy and money preparing for varying reopening scenarios—without knowing what will be allowed amid a surge of COVID-19 infections.

For the record, the state finally released that guidance today. Check it out here—if you’re bored, crazy or into dense 34-page lists of rules.

In the state’s defense, this pandemic and its effects are so huge, all-encompassing and unforeseen that mistakes and delays are not only understandable; they’re inevitable. But still … state officials need to do better than this.

Also worth noting: Gov. Gavin Newsom gave a news conference on Monday, when he touted the news of statewide COVID-19 case decreases—news that we now know may not have been accurate, because of the data mess, which people began learning about on Tuesday.

Newsom hasn’t given a news conference since. Not good, governor.

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More news links :

Here are some stats we can trust … we think: The COVID-19 stats at Eisenhower Medical Center are trending in the right direction.

The extra federal unemployment boost has ended. PPP loans are running out. And our federal government can’t agree on what to do about it. Sigh.

• Per usual, I was a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week, with hosts Shann Carr, John Taylor and Brad Fuhr. Hear me rant more about the state data fustercluck, as well as the crappiness of most talk radio!

• As more and more vaccine candidates get closer to what we all hope are successful finish lines, we’ve been bombarded with news about them—often spun by the profit-driven manufacturers themselves. Well, MedPage Today just published a nice, concise look at these vaccines, how they’re different, and what we do and do not know.

• The Washington Post today posted an excellent interactive piece examining what it will take for the United States to reach herd immunity, be it by letting the virus run its course, or via a successful vaccine. The piece also looks at where we are now regarding antibodies and possible immunity. Spoiler alert: If you’re someone who thinks we should adopt the Sweden 1.0 approach and just let the virus run amok … that’ll likely mean a million or more dead Americans.

• So after the vaccines (hopefully) arrive … then what? HuffPost asked some experts to predict what life in the U.S. will be like in the years that follow a successful vaccine. Hint: Don’t expect a return to a February-style “normal.”

• According to Desert Healthcare District CEO Conrado Barzaga, the district is focused on “strengthening our healthcare infrastructure, improving our community’s health, and providing protection to vulnerable populations while still fighting a pandemic.” If you are involved with an entity that can help do any of that, take note: The DHCD will be holding a webinar at 3 p.m., Monday, Aug. 10, via Zoom to introduce five new strategic funding areas, and to demonstrate how to apply for grants or mini-grants. You need to RSVP; get details here.

A partisan elected official is responsible for writing the wording of each ballot proposition … and, well, that partisanship often affects what is written. This leads to numerous lawsuits—but judges almost never step in to change what Attorney Xavier Becerra’s office has come up with. Our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent, look at this mess—and possible solutions.

More airlines are getting very serious about mask use. Hooray.

Two stories about this week’s devastating explosion in Beirut worth reading: A Los Angeles Times reporter writes about his experience surviving the explosion; he notes that he probably should be dead, but a motorcycle helmet saved his life. Meanwhile, for you science nerds out there: A blast-injury specialist examines the physics of the blast, and compares it to what we know about the only other comparable non-nuclear explosion on record, which happened in 1917 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

• Also from Wired: The magazine recently sat down for an interview with Bill Gates, who does not have nice things to say about the federal response to the pandemic. Beyond that, he has a lot of other revealing things to say. Key quote: “Now whenever we get this done, we will have lost many years in malaria and polio and HIV and the indebtedness of countries of all sizes and instability. It’ll take you years beyond that before you’d even get back to where you were at the start of 2020.

According to The Conversation, it’s becoming more and more apparent that wearable fitness devices may be able to let you know if you’re suffering from possible early coronavirus symptoms.

• Federal employees, including some who work at prisons, are suing the federal government. Why? They think they deserve hazard pay, according to NPR.

• Related: State prison employees are also taking legal action: Their union has filed a grievance claiming the state’s misdeeds have led to uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreaks in the state’s prison system.

• CNBC talked to experts regarding legitimate medical reasons people could possibly have to not wear a face mask while around other people. The conclusion? Unless you have a specific facial deformity or a “sensory processing disorder,” you should be masking up.

• Much has been written about Donald Trump’s … uh, baffling moves to ban TikTok. Well, as MarketWatch points out, his executive orders went well beyond TikTok—and could hamper everything from Tesla to streaming sports to the world’s most popular videogames.

Oregon voters will decide in November whether to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of all drugs.

• Barring a change of plans, the Mission Inn Festival of Lights in Riverside will indeed happen this year—albeit without the crowd-gathering events and parties.

The Apple Fire continues to burn, with some residents of Pioneertown and Morongo Valley being told to prepare to evacuate.

• And now for something completely different: Regular readers of the Independent have enjoyed Keith Knight’s comics, (Th)ink and The Chronicles, for years. Well, a new show based on his life is coming to Hulu on Sept. 9. Check out the trailer for Woke here—and congrats, Keef!

Have a safe and happy-as-possible weekend, everyone. Be safe. The Daily Digest will return Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

On this week's fresh and fruity weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorensen ponders the desires of Senate Republicans; The K Chronicles enjoys a quarantine dream about a frozen-foods empire; This Modern World looks at election reassurances from the Trump administration; Red Meat visits a mobile dermatologist; and Apoca Clips features Li'l Trumpy's musings on likability.

Published in Comics

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• Some of you said you didn’t know much about the Independent and/or the primary writer of this here Daily Digest. Well, here’s a quick primer I, Jimmy Boegle, wrote back in May. If you’re unfamiliar with our print version, here’s our entire archive—all 85 editions going back to our first one in April 2013. And, of course, all of our content going back to our first postings in October 2012 can be found at CVIndependent.com.

Thank you yet again to all of you who responded. If you have questions or concerns I didn’t address here, send me an email, and I’ll be happy to answer. And finally, to all of you. Thanks for reading. That’s why we do what we do.

Enough yammering about ourselves. Here’s the news of the day:

• I was again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week. I joined hosts Shann Carr, John Taylor and Brad Fuhr to talk to Dr. Laura Rush and Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors. Other guests joined the podcast as well; check it out!

• We previously mentioned that the city of Palm Springs had said that bars (serving food) and restaurants in the city (currently operating only outdoors) have to close at 11 p.m. for the time being. Well, after receiving some complaints, the city has extended that closure time to midnight.

RIP, Herman Cain. The former GOP presidential candidate and COVID-19/mask-wearing skeptic, who attended President Donald Trump’s infamous rally in Tulsa, died yesterday at the age of 74 due to the virus.

• It’s official: The national economy during the second quarter suffered from an unprecedented collapse due to the coronavirus and the resulting shutdowns.

• Wisconsin yesterday became the latest state to require that people wear face masks in public. However, Republicans in the state Legislature there seem determined to strike down Gov. Tony Evers’ order. Sigh.

Vanity Fair published something of a bombshell yesterday, saying that a team led by Jared Kushner had developed a comprehensive COVID-19 testing plan—but it was shelved, in part, because the coronavirus then was primarily hitting Democratic-led states.

• Please pay attention to this, folks, as it’s really important: U.S. Postal Service backlogs continue to amount, as the Trump administration attacks and starves the agency in multiple waysand this could cause huge problems with mail ballots during the election.

• Pay attention to this, too: The U.S. Census Bureau is being pressured by the Trump administration to wrap up the oh-so-important once-a-decade count earlysomething that has Democrats rather alarmed.

A sad milestone: For the first confirmed time, a Californian under the age of 18 has died from the coronavirus.

• Listen to the president! Yes, really, in this instance: On the heels of reports that the FDA is getting ready to allow a more-widespread use of convalescent blood plasma to treat COVID-19 patients, President Trump yesterday encouraged people who had recovered from COVID-19 to donate.

Got goggles? Dr. Anthony Fauci recommended wearing them in addition to a face covering, if possible, to offer more protection from this nasty virus.

• The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the first wave of lawsuits being filed against employers who allegedly did not do all they could to protect their employees from SARS-CoV-2.

An NPR investigation found that a multi-million dollar contract the Trump administration awarded to a company to collect COVID-19 data from hospitals—something the CDC had already been doing capably—raises a whole lot of alarming questions.

• The $600 in extra unemployment benefits from the federal government is expiring, in large part due to claims that it’s acted as a disincentive for people to go back to work. However, a new Yale study indicates that those claims are not based in reality.

• The government has 44 million N95 masks stockpiled, with another half-billion on order. However, those masks aren’t getting to the professionals who need them in a prompt manner. Key quote: “It’s like we’re in the middle of a hurricane here. They should not be stockpiling PPE,” said Bob Gibson, vice president of the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest such union in Florida. “It should be given to the frontline health workers. They have been in this fight for five months now, and they are exhausted.”

The U.S. Mint kindly requests that you spend the coins you have, because there aren’t enough of them in circulation right now.

• Remember that huge Twitter hack several weeks back that essentially shut down all verified accounts? Well, feds say they’ve arrested the mastermind … 17-year-old Graham Ivan Clark.

• If you’re a baseball fan like me … savor this weekend’s games, as things could get shut down as soon as Monday, according to the MLB commissioner.

Hong Kong is postponing legislative elections for a year due to the coronavirus—something that has pro-democracy folks quite alarmed. That couldn’t happen here. Right?

• Experts writing for The Conversation say that some 800,000 low-income households may have recently had their electricity disconnected. Blame the COVID-19-related shutdown—and lawmakers who aren’t doing enough to intervene.

• Also from The Conversation: Older, under-maintained schools in poorer areas were dangerous to begin with—and they’ll be even more dangerous if students are forced to return to them as the pandemic rages.

• We’ve talked in this space a LOT about the various vaccines being tested—but it’s likely that those vaccines, even if proven to be generally effective, won’t work on everyone. Well, MIT is using machine learning to design a vaccine that would cover a lot more people.

• Sweden has not done a whole lot to shut down its economy—and a lot of people have died there from COVID-19 as a result. Still … the curve is being flatted there. How and why? Will it last? MedPage Today looks into it.

An Arenas Road bar is poised to reopen (for outdoor dining) on Aug. 9, thanks to a brand-new kitchen. See what Chill Bar has planned.

• Finally, from the Independent: Get outside when temps are only in the 90s and check out what the skies have to offer in August—including the Perseids meteor shower

Folks, we’ve survived another month. Who knows what August will bring? Stay tuned to find out. Have a great weekend; the Daily Digest will be back Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

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

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

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

Happy Juneteenth, everyone.

Here’s today’s news:

• Gov Gavin Newsom said today that he intends for the statewide face-coverings order to be persuasive—but didn’t rule out punishment, via the Division of Occupational Safety and Health and the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. “We’re not looking to fine people. We’re looking to educate people, encourage people,” Newsom said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “And to the extent that people flaunt and abuse, which may be the exception, then we have many tools in the tool kit.”

• It’s a good thing the state is willing to find ways to enforce the ordinance if needed. Later in that article, the Orange County sheriff said he didn’t think it was the job of law enforcement to make sure people comply, and the Sacramento County sheriff said his agency would not enforce the law, “due to the minor nature of the offense, the potential for negative outcomes during enforcement encounters, and anticipating the various ways in which the order may be violated.”

There’s face-covering progress being made in Arizona, aka our neighbor to the east, aka the nation’s newest COVID-19 hot spot: Gov. Doug Ducey recently revoked an order forbidding local governments from issuing face-mask requirements stronger than the state’s (non-) requirements—and as a result, various cities, including Tucson and Phoenix, are now requiring face coverings. Lives. Being. Saved.

• Meanwhile, in Nebraska, Gov. Pete Ricketts is being a complete idiot: “He’s told counties that they won’t receive any of the $100 million in federal COVID-19 money if their ‘customers’ are required to wear masks,” according to the Omaha World-Herald.

• LG’s Prime Steakhouse is closing both of its locations for a couple of weeks after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus. Read the company’s statement here—and don’t be surprised to see more such announcements as the pandemic rolls on.

• Gov. Newsom has signed into law a bill requiring that every active voter get a mail-in ballot for November’s election.

• Disneyland is planning on reopening in several weeks. However, unions representing 17,000 Disneyland employees don’t think it’s safe to do so yet, and are asking Disney to delay

Remember that aircraft carrier captain who walked off his coronavirus-stricken ship to thunderous applause, when he was removed after expressing concerns about the outbreak? Well, his firing has been upheld.

The New York Times points out there was a lot of coronavirus business news today: Apple is closing stores in four states where cases are rising (but not here) (yet?); and AMC reversed course and said it’ll require customers to wear face coverings, after the CEO (stupidly) said yesterday the theater would not.

• Carnival Cruise Line had previously said it would start resuming some cruises on Aug. 1. However, that company—and all other major cruise lines—announced today that they’d voluntarily suspend operations until at least Sept. 15.

Medpage Today offers a fascinating if wonky look at a study in China of asymptomatic people with COVID-19. Remember that all studies these days need to be looked at skeptically and with that grain of salt we keep talking about, but takeaways include: “Asymptomatic individuals carrying SARS-CoV-2 shed the virus longer than those with COVID-19 symptoms,” and asymptomatic people were less likely to develop certain antibodies.

• Apparently, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth can help you battle viral infections. Who knew? A UCLA professor, writing for The Conversation, explains that it has to do with nitrous oxide.

• Are you worried about welcoming back housekeepers or other workers who come into your home? You’re not alone; The New York Times explains how to do so in the safest way possible for everyone.

• A bunch of big-name artists are calling on the federal government to help save our country’s independent music venues—which remain closed for the foreseeable future. Here’s hoping Congress heeds their call.

The Chinese government throws some serious shade at the president in this short, weird YouTube video.

The New York Times takes a wonderful look at the role of comedy in addressing police brutality—especially the comedy of the late, great Richard Pryor. Check it out.

• Finally, pray for Tulsa. Tomorrow very likely is going to be a dangerous day there, because the chief executive of the country has decided he doesn’t need to listen to experts anymore, and he wants to have a damn rally.

That’s enough for today. Please have a fantastic—and safe—weekend. Wear a mask. No, really, wear a mask. Wash your hands. If you appreciate quality local journalism, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will be back Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

It’s time for Gov. Gavin Newsom and, if possible, the California Legislature to make the usage of face masks mandatory.

It’s time. We see what’s happening in other states—most notably our neighbors to the east—where hospitalizations continue to skyrocket. We also keep seeing science come out showing how stunningly effective the use of simple face masks can be in slowing the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

What else are we seeing? We’re seeing concerning local upticks in hospitalizations. We’re seeing local business owners—trying so hard to do the right thing—upset after influxes of customers, many of whom are from out of town, wandering in without wearing masks, in violation of local mask mandates.

We’re seeing local health officials fleeing from their jobs due to public and political pushback—including death threats. And we don’t even have the words to describe the hostile insanity going on in Orange County.

The verdict is in: Masks work. Masks could potentially help society keep going without total calamity until we get a vaccine or otherwise get a handle on things. Masks can help retail, offices and restaurants keep their doors open. But due to horrific leadership from the top, misguided business lobbying and public intimidation, local mandates are being revoked or just not followed—if there are local mandates at all.

Since nothing’s ever going to happen at the federal level, that leaves the state.

In the seven-plus year history of the Independent, we’ve never written an endorsement or editorialized directly on policy. That is, until now: Gov. Newsom, it’s time to save lives and give California’s reopening process its best chance of success by enacting a statewide mask order.

Today’s links:

• Some of the most encouraging medical news since the pandemic began came out today: A commonly used steroid, called dexamethasone, has been shown by scientists at the University of Oxford to save the lives of many COVID-19 patients who require oxygen. According to The New York Times, “In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.” Now, this doesn’t solve the pandemic, and the study has yet to be peer reviewed, meaning we need to take the news with that massive grain of salt we keep talking about. Nonetheless, this could be a very big deal in terms of saving thousands of lives.

• Speaking of taking things with a grain of salt: The county released its weekly district reports today. Looking at the District 4 report—in other words, the Coachella Valley—the COVID-19 numbers look so-so. We’re holding steady, more or less, with one big exception: The positivity rate is up to a disturbing 16 percent. However … the numbers don’t add up. If you divide the number of positives (345) by the number of tests (4,840), you get the positivity rate—and while the report explains that there’s a lag because tests results can take 3-5 days to come in, the difference between 345 divided by 4,840, or 7.1 percent, and 16 percent is so massive that it doesn’t seem possible for all these numbers to be correct; it’s also entirely possible I am misunderstanding something. I have a message in to the county to get an explanation; I will report back when I get an answer.

• The Palm Springs Police Department today announced that an officer has tested positive for COVID-19. The city says that officers who were in contact with that officer have been quarantined—and all seem fine—and that any known members of the public who came in contact with the officer have been notified. Get the info here.

• If you’re eating, or will be eating soon, or are generally averse to things that are disgusting, skip to the next item. Otherwise, check out this story from The New York Times; as someone noted on Twitter, this headline gets more disturbing with each word: “Flushing the Toilet May Fling Coronavirus Aerosols All Over: A new study shows how turbulence from a toilet bowl can create a large plume that is potentially infectious to a bathroom’s next visitor.”

• The San Francisco Chronicle talked to the owner of a Napa restaurant who opened his doors—only to close them again, and go back to doing just takeout, a week later.

• As noted in this space, numerous large media organizations have faced reckonings regarding diversity ever since the Black Lives Matter protests began—including the Los Angeles Times, NPR reports.

• From the Independent: We’re talking to three local protest organizers about their motivations; for the second piece in our series, we chatted with Erin Teran, one of the organizers of the #NoMoreHashtags rally in Indio last week. Key quote: “Going to a protest or a rally is so very important, because we have to be able to assemble and have a voice—but young people have to understand that you need to have a voice at City Council meetings and Board of Supervisors meetings, too.”

• Federal law enforcement agencies have pledged to investigate the hanging deaths of two Black men in Southern California in recent weeks. Local authorities have said there are no signs of foul play—but family members of the two men aren’t buying it.

• Some members of Congress who received federal stimulus grants and/or loans are now opposing legislation to shine a light on where all that taxpayer money went. See a problem?

• A GOP congressman who refused to wear a mask on the House floor has now come down with COVID-19, as has his wife and son. Ugh.

That’s enough for today. Thanks to all of you who have become Supporters of the Independent; if you would like to join these people in supporting quality local journalism, made free to all with no paywalls, you can do so here. We’ll be back tomorrow.

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