CVIndependent

Fri12042020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Let the reopening begin! Again! Hopefully without a horrifying spike in COVID-19 cases this time!

Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced an all-new reopening plan—and gone is that state county watch list and all the various stages that, frankly, didn’t always make sense. In their place is a four-tiered system, with each county’s tier based on two major criteria: the number of new cases per 100,000 people, and the positivity rate. Counties will have to meet each tier’s criteria for at least two weeks before moving up.

What does this mean for us here in Riverside County? Even though we’re in the worst tier (like most of the rest of the state), it means more reopenings in the short-term: Hair salons, barber shops and malls will be able to reopen for some indoor business on Monday.

As for everything else … let’s just say the wider post-Labor Day reopenings the county was hoping for ain’t gonna happen.

According to the state: “At a minimum, counties must remain in a tier for at least three weeks before moving forward. Data is reviewed weekly and tiers are updated on Tuesdays. To move forward, a county must meet the next tier’s criteria for two consecutive weeks.

Translated: We are in the “Widespread” tier. The next-best tier is the “Substantial” tier; counties there can allow restaurants to reopen for indoor dining at 25 percent capacity, and gyms to open indoors at 10 percent capacity, among other things. But to get admitted into the “Substantial” tier, Riverside County would need to see fewer than seven new COVID-19 cases per day per 100,000 people, and get the positivity rate below 8 percent—and do so for at least two weeks.

As of now, according to the state, we’re seeing 10.4 cases per day per 100,000 people, with an 8.4 percent positivity rate.

All in all, this is a much clearer—and much stricter—set of guidelines. If they’re followed, it means we’re much, much less likely to run into another spike.

But it also means a whole lot of businesses are going to remain limited or closed altogether for a very long time. Take bars, for example: According to these new guidelines, they can’t reopen indoors without serving food until a county reaches the least-restrictive “Minimal” tier—when there’s less than one new case per day per 100,000 people, and the positivity rate is less than 2 percent. And even then, they can open only at half-capacity.

More news from the day below.

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• Related, sort of: The owners of theme parks are pushing for them to be allowed to reopen—although based on the guidelines issued today, that doesn’t seem likely. “Legoland California will host a news conference in Miniland U.S.A. on Friday, Aug. 28 with county and city officials who will call for the park and other San Diego County business to be allowed to open,” according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

• On Monday, we linked to a piece about a quick-turnaround, no-lab-needed COVID-19 test being used for employees and flight crews at San Francisco International Airport. Well, this latest potential pandemic “game-changer” just received emergency-use authorization from the FDA—and could come to a place near you within a couple months. Per CNN: “The antigen test, in which involves a nasal swab, uses the same type of technology as a flu test. Abbott says it anticipates producing 50 million BinaxNOW tests a month by October.

• Oh, and if you’re an investor in Abbott Labs’ stock, rejoice, because the feds announced yesterday that they’re spending $750 million to buy 150 million of these rapid tests.

• I am a little biased here, being a journalist and all, but I don’t think this has received as much attention as it should have: The Washington Post published a piece revealing that President Trump’s company has charged the federal government more than $900,000 for Secret Service hotel rooms and various other things. That’s a big deal in and of itself. But then there’s this—an authoritarian-style threat from a White House spokesman for exposing such malfeasance. “The Washington Post is blatantly interfering with the business relationships of the Trump Organization, and it must stop,” Deere wrote in his statement. “Please be advised that we are building up a very large ‘dossier’ on the many false David Fahrenthold and others stories as they are a disgrace to journalism and the American people.” Wow.

• The Washington Post also did a stunning piece showing that Trump’s insistence on public appearances is putting the Secret Service agents tasked with keeping him safe at risk: “In the past two months, dozens of Secret Service agents who worked to ensure the security of the president and Vice President Pence at public events have been sickened or sidelined because they were in direct contact with infected people, according to multiple people familiar with the episodes, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the incidents.

A whole lot of states are basically ignoring the CDC’s stunningly lax new testing guidelines. “California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Texas, New Jersey and New York all plan to continue to test asymptomatic people who have been exposed to COVID-19, despite new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggesting that such tests may not be needed,” according to Reuters.

• NBA playoff games are slated to resume tomorrow, and the protests that started in the NBA on Wednesday and spread to other sports are leading to some very good things. According to NPR: “The league has committed to create a social justice coalition, work with elections officials to convert NBA arenas into polling places for the 2020 election and create advertising spots to promote ‘greater civic engagement in national and local elections.’”

CNN posted a series of before-and-after satellite images showing the awful devastation Hurricane Laura has wrought in southwestern Louisiana. And NBC News examined fears that the evacuations forced by the hurricane could cause more spread of COVID-19. Similarly, The Conversation examined how the hurricane and California’s wildfires could make the pandemic worse.

• Sign No. 273,464 that this recession/depression is going to be lengthy and difficult: MGM Resorts is laying off 18,000 peopleabout a quarter of its employees in the U.S.

• As the California Legislature works feverishly on unfinished business before the session’s end on Monday, they’re doing so without most Senate Republicans being allowed in the Capitol—because they were exposed to a state senator who has COVID-19.

• I was again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week. Along with hosts John Taylor, Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr, I talked to Palm Springs Pride head Ron deHarte about the plans for a socially distant Pride in November, and Palm Springs City Councilmember Grace Garner about the controversial vote on the new downtown park.

• We’ve linked to stories in this space before regarding the possibility that sewage testing could stop coronavirus outbreaks early. Well, it appears that very thing happened at the University of Arizona, where two—but only two—people in a dorm were found to have COVID-19 after the virus was found in wastewater samples.

The delayed and much-changed Tour de France bicycle race starts tomorrow. Key quote, from The Associated Press: “Amid the pandemic, the usually boisterous celebration of cycling that for decades has drawn packed throngs of cheering roadside spectators promises to be a strange and more subdued affair, moved for the first time in its 117-year history out of its traditional July slot to a September month when many fans will be back at school or at work after summer vacations.

• CNET takes an in-depth look at the nasty battle taking place over California’s gig-worker laws—in which Lyft and Uber’s representatives are engaging in at-times nasty attacks against people who support the move to make the rideshare apps’ drivers employees rather than contractors.

• And finally, we’re just going to leave this quote from a New York Post article right here, and try very, very hard to forget all about it: “Scientists now say that the coronavirus may be able to spread throughout buildings, via toilets and drain pipes—an especially alarming prospect for apartment dwellers with suspect plumbing. The discovery was made in China, after researchers swabbed the “long vacant” apartment directly below a family of five who tested positive for COVID-19. Despite the fact that no one was living in the apartment below, the researchers found traces of the virus on the sink, faucet and shower handle.”

That’s enough news for what’s been a crazy news week. Wash your hands. Be kind, and enjoy your weekend. Please take the time to vote in our Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll! The Daily Digest will be back Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

We here at the Independent debated postponing our annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll this year.

Why? For one thing, the city magazine and the daily already do readers’ polls—and the timing of the daily’s poll overlaps with ours, which confuses the heck out of everyone.

For another thing … as you know, we’re in the middle of a raging pandemic, which has curtailed or shuttered many of the businesses and organizations that are featured in our poll.

However, upon further reflection, we decided not to postpone our poll … so here we go! First-round (nomination) voting will be open through Monday, Sept. 14. Go here to access the ballot, where you will fill in the blank in each category. (In other words, we have no pre-determined list of candidates.)

Why did we decide to press forward? Well, for one thing—and I say this with all due respect to the winners and everyone else otherwise involved—those other readers’ polls are kind of terrible.

For our Best of Coachella Valley poll, we ask each reader to vote only once per round, because our goal is to come up with a slate of truly excellent finalists and winners. The other polls have no such prohibition, because the goal of those polls is not to get a great slate of finalists and winners—the goal is for the publications to get as much web traffic as possible from readers visiting their websites over and over again to vote.

The other reason why we pressed forward: There’s never been a more important time to shine a light on the valley’s best businesses, individuals and organizations, because so many of us are struggling right now.

The top vote-getters in the first round of voting will advance to the final round, which will take place at CVIndependent.com starting Monday, Sept. 28. The Best of Coachella Valley results will be announced at CVIndependent.com on Monday, Nov. 23, and in our special December print edition.

Thanks in advance to all of you wonderful readers who take the time to vote!

Today’s news—and, boy oh boy, is there a lot of it:

Sigh. Here’s a lede from an NBC News story: “A Black man was shot in the back multiple times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday, a bystander's video showed, prompting community protests and widespread anger.” Thank god this time the victim lived: Jacob Blake, 29, is in serious but stable condition. Here’s what happened, according to Blake’s attorney: “Blake was helping to deescalate a domestic incident when police drew their weapons and tasered him. As he was walking away to check on his children, police fired their weapons several times into his back at point blank range. Blake’s three sons were only a few feet away and witnessed police shoot their father.”

This is why it’s not a good idea to have large gatherings of people, especially indoors, right now: “The number of COVID-19 cases connected to a wedding reception in Millinocket (Maine) continues to climb, with state health officials saying on Saturday that they could trace 53 confirmed cases of coronavirus to the reception. That’s up from 32 confirmed cases on Friday.”

• If you’ve ever doubted whether an absence of competent federal leadership can truly affect issues at the local level, this story will erase those dounts rather quickly: The Associated Press reports that distance-learning efforts are being hampered by a laptop shortage. Key quote: “The world’s three biggest computer companies, Lenovo, HP and Dell, have told school districts they have a shortage of nearly 5 million laptops, in some cases exacerbated by Trump administration sanctions on Chinese suppliers, according to interviews with over two dozen U.S. schools, districts in 15 states, suppliers, computer companies and industry analysts.”

• We’re only three stories in, and I need a drink. Or three. So here’s the Independent’s most recent cocktail column, in which Kevin Carlow offers guidance on how to make all the basic drinks. Cheers.

• Aaaand now back to the news, and this horrifying Business Insider headline: “Rats reported feeding on packages of rotted fruit and meat as postmaster general’s cutbacks unleash chaos at California's mail centers.” Sigh. And Ew.

• More bad news: It’s now been proven that a person can indeed get COVID-19 more than once. MedPage Today offers the damning details. But, no panicking! Key quote: “‘My hope is that while reinfection has been documented, it is a rare or uncommon occurrence,’ Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who was not involved in the research, told MedPage Today. ‘So far that seems to be the case, but we're still only a few months into this pandemic.’”

CBS News-YouGov just did a poll asking people about the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. … and sit down for this one: “57 percent of Republican respondents said the U.S. death toll for COVID-19 was ‘acceptable,’ while 43 percent said it was ‘unacceptable.’ Republicans were the only partisan group of which a majority of voters said the number of deaths was acceptable. Among Democrats, 10 percent said the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. was acceptable, while 90 percent said it was unacceptable. For independents, 33 percent labeled the death toll as acceptable, and 67 percent called it unacceptable.” For the record, that U.S. death toll is currently approaching 180,000.

The FDA on Sunday, after pressure and criticism from the president, decided to authorize the emergency use of convalescent plasma in COVID-19 patients. The move has been criticized by many experts—including those from the WHO, Reuters reports.

• OK, here’s some actual good news: California has been approved for the extra $300 in weekly unemployment funds. BUT it’s going to take several weeks to actually start happening, and there are all sorts of exclusions. Bleh. The San Jose Mercury News explains.

• More good news: It appears the number of coronavirus infections nationwide is decreasing—and, according to The New York Times, experts say that’s because various restrictions, like mask ordinances, are having an effect.

The New York attorney general is looking into possible corruption in the Trump Organization. Key quote: “The attorney general’s office said it began investigating after Trump’s former lawyer and ‘fixer,’ Michael Cohen, told Congress in February 2019 that Trump had used these statements to inflate his net worth to lenders. The filing said that Eric Trump had been scheduled to be interviewed in the investigation in late July, but abruptly canceled that interview. The filing says that Eric Trump is now refusing to be interviewed, with Eric Trump’s lawyers saying, ‘We cannot allow the requested interview to go forward … pursuant to those rights afforded to every individual under the Constitution.’” Hmm.

Two political science professors, writing for The Conversation, examine a negative aspect to mail-in voting you may not have thought of: secrecy, or a lack thereof. Key quote: “Mail-in voting still requires an official ballot, and can still be validated and counted anonymously. That eliminates what’s commonly known as voter fraud—where someone casts a ballot on behalf of someone else. But it doesn’t address outside forces influencing the authentic voter at the moment they make their decision. The voter marks the ballot outside the supervision of election monitors – often at home. It’s possible to do so in secret. But secrecy is no longer guaranteed, and for some it may actually be impossible.”

The weather is finally giving overwhelmed and tired firefighters a break in Northern California. But dry and dangerous conditions remain.

Another county has been removed from the state’s COVID-19 watch list, meaning some businesses and schools may begin to reopen soon there. Congratulations to … (checks notes) … Orange County!?

• OK, this is genuinely a very cool thing, because it shows the technology exists, and could be more widespread soon: The San Francisco International Airport has set up rapid COVID-19 testing for employees and flight crews (but not, as of yet, passengers). Key quote: “Technicians use an Abbott Labs device, about the size of a toaster oven, to analyze samples obtained using a nasal swab. Abbott Labs said the device ‘amplifies the RNA hundreds of millions of times to make the virus detectable—returning test results in 13 minutes or less.’

• The city of Palm Springs will soon be closing down part of Palm Canyon Drive to allow restaurants to expand. “The pilot program, which is expected to kick off within the next two weeks, would allow for a full closure of Palm Canyon Drive between Baristo Road and Tahquitz Canyon Way,” says the news release.

• Also Palm Springs downtown-related, from the Independent: The PS City Council agreed to cut $3 million in funding from the under-construction downtown park when it passed the new budget several months ago. However, on Aug. 6, in a 3-2 vote, full funding for the park was restored—a move that infuriated many within the local business community. Kevin Fitzgerald talks to the City Council and breaks it all down.

• This damn pandemic has claimed another local restaurant: Zobo and Meester’s announced today it will close for good on Sept. 9.

• Alt-country great Justin Townes Earle died last week at his Nashville home, at the age of 38. You can read his New York Times obituary here. He appeared at Stagecoach several times, and spoke to the Independent in advance of the 2017 festival. “Nobody should ever expect me to make the same record twice, or (for the records to) even to be in line with each other,” he said. “I’m a whimsical motherfucker.” RIP, Justin.

• We’re now entering the “Let’s Get Weird!” section: Jerry Falwell Jr. resigned from Liberty University today after the news broke that his wife—with Falwell’s knowledge and occasional from-a-distance participation—apparently had a long affair with a younger man who was a “pool attendant” when they met. From NPR: “Falwell's departure comes on the heels of an investigation by Reuters on Monday in which Falwell's former business partner, Giancarlo Granda, claimed he had a multiyear sexual relationship with Falwell's wife, Becki, which involved Falwell looking on while the pair engaged in sex acts.

Or maybe he isn’t resigning. Hmm.

KFC has temporarily dropped its “finger lickin’ good” slogan, because, you know, WE CAN’T LICK OURSELVES ANYMORE BECAUSE OF COVID. Wait. That’s not exactly what I meant … oh, never mind.

That’s a LOT of news for today. Be safe. Be careful. Be happy. Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, to help us keep doing quality local journalism. The Digest will return Wednesday.

Published in Daily Digest