CVIndependent

Sat12052020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Happy Friday, all.

It’s been a busy day here at the Independent; we’ve been working hard on the December/Best of Coachella Valley print edition.

By the way, we’ll reveal all of those Best of Coachella Valley winners next Monday at 8 a.m. at CVIndependent.com—and in that aforementioned print edition, which will start hitting the streets on Monday.

And now, on with the news:

• On Wednesday in this space, we covered the fact that many experts don’t think curfews help much in the battle against COVID-19. Well … as of tomorrow (Saturday) night, the state will be under a month-long curfew anyway: From 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., non-essential businesses and personal gatherings will be a no-no. CBS News has the details.

• Let’s hope the curfew and other measures work, because the direction in which California is headed is not good. Per the Los Angeles Times: “Statewide, 13,422 new coronavirus cases were reported Thursday—breaking the single-day record for the second time this week. The previous high-water mark—13,412—was set Monday, according to an independent county-by-county tally conducted by the Times. California has now recorded four consecutive days with at least 10,600 newly confirmed coronavirus cases, a stretch unlike any in the pandemic. Over the last week, the state has averaged 10,529 new cases per day, a 117 percent increase from two weeks ago.”

However, if you’re in a part of Riverside County where the policing is provided by the sheriff, well, you can consider the curfew to be merely advisory. According to KESQ: ”(Sheriff Chad) Bianco wrote that the Sheriff’s Department will not respond to reports that are just non-compliance of public health orders. ‘To ensure constitutional rights are not violated and to limit potential negative interactions and exposure to our deputies, we will not be responding to calls for service based solely on non-compliance with the new order or social distancing and mask guidelines,’ Bianco (said).” Sigh.

• We missed this article on Wednesday, so we’re presenting it now: The city of Riverside was debating taking serious action against businesses that violate COVID-19 restrictions—like gyms that remain open for indoor business—including fines and possibly shutting off water and/or electric service. How did that idea go over? Well, according to the Press-Enterprise: “For more than three hours, the council listened to gym operators, restaurant owners and small-business owners opposed to the plan. Some speakers dismissed the pandemic as a hoax or an exaggerated threat to society. Others said COVID-19 is a deadly disease and real, but emphasized that people’s physical health—and mental health—also hinges on being able to exercise.”

Pfizer was slated to officially apply to the FDA for an emergency authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine today; Moderna is expected to do the same fairly soon. As a result, CNBC reports, the federal government is telling some employees that they could be receiving the vaccine within eight weeks: “Essential federal workers would be among the first group of Americans to get inoculated against the coronavirus after the nation’s health-care workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s vaccination program ‘interim playbook.’ The plan lists essential workers, along with the elderly and other highly vulnerable groups, in the first phase of its vaccine distribution plan, which hasn’t been finalized yet and could change.”

• A downside to the encouraging vaccine news: It’s causing some people currently in clinical trails to prematurely bail. According to NBC News: “(Dr. William) Hartman runs one of AstraZeneca's Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial sites, at UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin. But last week, a handful of trial volunteers either canceled or simply did not show up for their scheduled appointments. ‘People are asking if they can withdraw from the trial,’ Hartman said. Although he has been able to fill empty slots so far with people on the waiting list, he said he believes the reason for the slight setback may be the apparent success of two other vaccine candidates: those made by Pfizer and Moderna.” 

So … the vaccines are coming—but they were made in record time. Are they safe? A professor of medicine, writing for The Conversation, says … probably? Key quote: “Despite the vaccines’ relatively rapid development, the normal safety testing protocols are still in place.” 

• A downside to the race to create vaccines is that it’s creating problems for East Coast shore birds. Wait, what? How could that POSSIBLY make sense?! Audubon Magazine explains: “That’s because both the birds and the pharmaceutical companies depend on the same animal: the horseshoe crabs of the Delaware Bay. Horseshoe crab eggs are vital fuel during the Red Knots’ annual 9,000-mile migration from Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of South America, to the Canadian Arctic every spring. For the drugmakers, horseshoe crab blood is a vital component in vaccine production.” No, we are not making this up; read the article, which is rather fascinating, for a complete explanation. 

• Still planning to travel for Thanksgiving? Well, the CDC is advising that you change your plans. According to The Associated Press: “With the coronavirus surging out of control, the nation’s top public health agency pleaded with Americans on Thursday not to travel for Thanksgiving and not to spend the holiday with people from outside their household.”

• If you insist on having an indoor gathering for Thanksgiving—again, not advised—an expert on air quality, writing for The Conversation, offers some tips on how to do so in a way that’s a little safer. Key quote: “A safer home is one that constantly has lots of outside air replacing the stale air inside.”

• Back at the start of the pandemic, many workers at retail stores deemed essential (like supermarkets, etc.) were given a temporary wage boost. Now that the pandemic is worse than ever, will these workers again receive hazard pay? It seems unlikely, The New York Times reports

A World Health Organization panel yesterday recommended against doctors using remdesivir on COVID-19 patients—because there’s not enough evidence that it works. Key quote, via CNBC: “’After thoroughly reviewing this evidence, the WHO GDG expert panel, which includes experts from around the world including four patients who have had COVID-19, concluded that remdesivir has no meaningful effect on mortality or on other important outcomes for patients, such as the need for mechanical ventilation or time to clinical improvement,’ the group wrote in a press release.”

• Oops! The state has heretofore left a fairly major business sector without COVID-19 guidance: ski resorts. According to SFGate: “On Monday, the California Department of Public Health told SFGATE in an emailed statement that they are ‘constantly reviewing science, data and evidence and continually evaluating and updating guidance.’ The department will update its guidelines once information specific to ski resorts is available. In the meantime, the department stated that ’ski resorts are not permitted to operate.’ … And yet, ski resorts are already open and running, based on direction ski industry officials say they received from county health departments. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area opened last week.”

So it’s been a not-so-great day for the president. As this New York Times update page recaps: Georgia certified its election results, declaring Joe Biden to be the winner; Michigan legislators who were summoned to Washington, D.C., for a meeting with Trump said they have no plans to overturn the will of the voters; and Don Jr. has tested positive for the virus.

• And finally … good lord, the state unemployment system is a mess. The San Francisco Chronicle reports: “The California Employment Development Department has sent out at least 38 million pieces of mail containing unemployment applicants’ full Social Security numbers since the pandemic started, putting people at risk of identity fraud, California State Auditor Elaine Howle said in a harsh report issued Thursday.”

As always, thanks for reading. If you have the financial ability to do so, we kindly ask you to click here and consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can continue doing quality local journalism that’s made available for free to all. Have a good, safe weekend, everyone.

Published in Daily Digest

Really? We’re going to make a big deal out of the speaker of the House getting her hair done? This is where we’re at now?

Well, if this is indeed where we are at now, let’s break things down:

1. What Nancy Pelosi did was wrong, and insensitive; she should admit that and apologize. While salons in some parts of the state were indeed open for indoor business on Monday—the day when the Salon Visit That Will Live in Infamy took place—they weren’t open in San Francisco. They still aren’t, in fact. And this is something that a member of Congress should know about her district. For Pelosi to get an indoor salon service, in violation of San Francisco’s rules, is a slap in the face to both her constituents who can’t do so, and business owners who can’t allow in paying customers not named Nancy Pelosi. The fact that she is not recognizing this and apologizing is, well, not cool.

2. Pelosi claims she was set up. Given that the footage of Pelosi’s visit was promptly turned over to Fox News, she may be right.

3. You can pretty much throw Nos. 1 and 2 out the window, because this whole kerfuffle is a nit—a distraction from the real things that matter. Even if you assign the worst possible motives to Pelosi, it pales in comparison to the things the president, the Senate majority leader, the attorney general, etc. have done—and are doing.

Nancy Pelosi’s hair is nothing compared to the epically poor handling of a pandemic that has resulted in 185,000 deaths. Or a president disregarding a Black Lives Matter movement that is FINALLY drawing attention to the systemic racism in law enforcement and other institutions in our country. Or ignoring Russian bounties on American troops, or putting migrant kids in cages, or telling blatant lies about mail-in ballots and voter fraud. Or, as just happened today, the president actually encouraging North Carolina residents to vote twice in the November election.

It’s about where Nancy Pelosi got her damned hair done.

Today’s news links:

• From the Independent: Employees picketed at Tenet’s three local hospitals last week, demanding safer conditions for both themselves and the patients they’re treating. Key quote, from Gisella Thomas, a respiratory therapist at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs: “For 48 years, when I saw a patient where I needed protection—like gowns, gloves and a mask, a hat and shoe covers—I would put that stuff on before I went into the patient’s room. Then, when I finished doing what I had to with that patient, I’d come out of the room and take everything off. Then, for the next patient, I’d put on all fresh, clean, new PPE—gowns, gloves, the whole bit. Today, I’ll use the same N95 mask, with a surgical mask over it, for the 12 hours that I work.”

Here’s this week’s Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. (District 4, I will remind y’all, is basically the Coachella Valley and points eastward.) Same as the last few weeks: Cases are down; hospitalizations are at their lowest point since early in the summer; the positivity rate is still too freaking high.

• The COVID-19 picture from Eisenhower Health is much the same, albeit with a much lower positivity rate. This is encouraging.

• This lede from Politico? “As the presidential election fast approaches, the Department of Health and Human Services is bidding out a more than $250 million contract to a communications firm as it seeks to ‘defeat despair and inspire hope’ about the coronavirus pandemic, according to an internal HHS document.” There (*cough*) couldn’t POSSIBLY BE any political motivation behind this, right? (*Cough*)

• Meanwhile, at Los Angeles International Airport, a pilot on Sunday night reported flying past someone wearing a jet pack. The Los Angeles Times explains how this is even possible.

• This story broke today and has not gotten the attention it potentially deserves: The former boyfriend of Breonna Taylor—the EMT who was shot and killed by Louisville Police as she slept back in March—was offered a plea deal that would have made him say she was part of an “organized crime syndicate,” according to his attorney. NBC News explains: “The news of the plea offer raised the question of whether law enforcement officials were attempting to provide an incentive to (the former boyfriend) to help justify the raid that resulted in Taylor’s death.

• Related, sort of, alas: While a few notable reforms were passed, most police-reform efforts taken up by the California Legislature this year went nowhere. Our partners at CalMatters explain why.

• Meanwhile, in vaccine news from the hellscape that is 2020: The Trump administration refuses to join a worldwide effort to develop and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine, in part because the World Health Organization is involved.

The CDC is telling public health officials nationwide to be ready to distribute a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine as early as late October. The potential pre-election timing is raising some eyebrows.

Related-ish, from MedPage Today: “The first available vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 should be reserved for frontline healthcare workers and first responders, according to draft recommendations from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released Tuesday.”

The Trump administration announced yesterday that, as CNBC reports, “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will invoke its authority to halt evictions through the end of the year in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.” However, it’s quite unclear how this will work—if it will work at all.

• Three new studies indicate that commonly used steroids can save the lives of a significant number of COVID-19 patients. Key quote, from NPR: “Taken together, the publication of these studies ‘represents an important step forward in the treatment of patients with COVID-19,’ Drs. Hallie Prescott and Todd Rice wrote in a JAMA editorial. The results not only provide further support for the use of dexamethasone, they also back the use of another widely used steroid, hydrocortisone.”

A University of Maryland professor, writing for The Conversation, breaks down the pros and cons regarding BinaxNOW, the inexpensive and fast COVID-19 test that recently received emergency use authorization. Spoiler alert: The pros far outweigh the cons.

Yet more encouraging news: A study out of Iceland (because why not Iceland?) indicates COVID-19 antibodies generally last at least four months.

The New York Times brings us this alarming scenario: “What if early results in swing states on Nov. 3 show President Trump ahead, and he declares victory before heavily Democratic mail-in votes, which he has falsely linked with fraud, are fully counted?” As the story explains, this is looking increasingly likely to happen.

If you see me shopping at Old Navy, here’s why: I want to support them for paying employees to serve as poll workers on Election Day, which is a very, very cool thing.

• Finally, something charming and interesting: Our friends at Willamette Week bring us the story of the Clinton Street Treater in Portland, Ore., where The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been screened every Saturday night since April 1978. While the pandemic has closed the theater, the screening streak continues.

That’s the news of the day, or at least some of it. Before we go, we 1) ask you to take the time to vote in our Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll, if you haven’t already; and 2) ask you to please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, if you have the means to do so. Advertising revenue is still down around 50 percent due to the pandemic, but reader support has thus far allowed us to keep doing what we do—producing quality local journalism, made available for free to all. Thanks for your consideration—and, as always, thanks for reading.

Published in Daily Digest

If your anxiety and/or depression levels were high this weekend, you were not alone.

More than a handful of people have told me were out of sorts this weekend—something that I, too, experienced. I suspect the extreme heat and at-times apocalyptic-looking skies due to the fires had something to do with it.

Despite the bleakness … at least as far as the coronavirus goes, there are signs that we’re making progress at flattening that pesky, pain-in-the-ass curve once more.

Consider:

Eisenhower Medical Center posted on Friday: “We are seeing a sustained 14-day decline in our percent positivity rate, and a corresponding decline in hospitalizations.” Indeed, hospitalizations at all of the valley’s hospitals have been steadily decreasing.

• Other parts of Southern California are seeing improvements, too. Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles County public health director said today: “We’re cautiously optimistic that we’re getting back on track to slowing the spread of COVID-19. I want to emphasize the word ‘cautiously.’” 

The same goes for the state as a whole. “California Gov. Gavin Newsom said at his Monday press briefing more tests are being done, but the percentage of people testing positive is going down. The 14-day positivity rate is 7 percent compared to 7.5 percent a week ago,” according to SFGate.

We’re nowhere near the end of this thing … but it seems we’re heading in a better direction than we were a couple of weeks ago.

More news links:

Here’s the latest District 4 from the county. (District 4 includes the Coachella Valley, as well as points eastward.) Hospitalizations are down, as mentioned above, but the positivity rate remains too darned high. Worst of all: 20 of our neighbors died in the last week.

• There is an increasing amount of discussion about what will happen if a vaccine is ready to go. However, this positive comes with a big, honking negative: Nobody’s quite sure how a vaccine-distribution effort’s going to take place. The Washington Post today cited a number of people, from scientists to governors, who are concerned the federal government may not be up to the task. Key quote: “‘This is a slow-motion train wreck,’ said one state official who has been involved in planning efforts and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. The official pointed in particular to the administration’s botched rollout of remdesivir, an antiviral medication that is one of the only approved treatments for covid-19 patients. ‘There’s certainly a lot of concern, and not being able to plan creates a significant amount of confusion,’ the official said.”

• Related: The New York Times reported that more and more doctors are worried that the Trump administration may rush a vaccine—to make it available before Election Day—before it’s been proven to be safe and effective.

• And here’s another dose of cold, hard reality: The World Health Organization today reminded everyone that a great vaccine is no sure thing. Key quote, from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “A number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials, and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment—and there might never be.”

• In other parts of the country, schools are beginning to reopen—and things aren’t necessarily going well. The Associated Press headline: “Parents struggle as schools reopen amid coronavirus surge.

Four former commissioners of the Food and Drug Administration today co-wrote a piece for The Washington Post saying that the use of blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, according to the headline, “might be the treatment we need.” They wrote: “We need a concerted effort to collect blood plasma, along with clinical trials to determine when its benefits outweigh the risks so we can treat the right people at the right time. With that evidence in hand, we need to maintain a highly synchronized distribution system to get the plasma to the right health-care facilities in a timely and equitable way.”

• Sigh. The Center for Public Integrity reports that many businesses have been illegally denying paid sick leave to COVID-19-stricken workers: “Hundreds of U.S. businesses have been cited for illegally denying paid leave to workers during the pandemic, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. As of June 12, nearly 700 companies had violated the law’s paid-leave provisions and owed back wages to hundreds of employees, according to Labor Department records. Violators include six McDonald’s franchises and the franchise owners of a Comfort Suites, Courtyard by Marriott and Red Roof Inn.”

Eli Lilly announced today it’s starting a late-stage trial—among people who live in or work at nursing homes—on an experimental COVID-19 antibody treatment to see if it can prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

It’s time to check your hand sanitizers: The FDA now has a list of more than 100 types that need to be avoided—either because they’re dangerous, or they don’t include enough alcohol to be effective.

NBC News published a sobering story today about how systemic racism remains pervasive in the housing market.

The San Francisco Chronicle looked at the mess that is California’s unemployment system—officially known as the Employment Development Department—and what lawmakers are talking about doing to fix it. “More than a million jobless Californians are in limbo, desperately seeking unemployment benefits. That includes 889,000 who may be eligible for benefits with additional information, and 239,000 whose cases are pending resolution, according to a letter EDD Director Sharon Hilliard sent to her boss, Labor Secretary Julie Su, (last) Wednesday.” The Chronicle also included a list of 12 tips that may help people get the benefits they need.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise looked at how the county’s small-business grant awarding process was going; the application period for the $10,000 grants remains open through Aug. 31. Businesses must have 50 or fewer employees; they must have been harmed by the pandemic financially; and they can’t have received Paycheck Protection Act funding. (Full disclosure: We learned over the weekend that the Independent was awarded one of these grants.)

• The Apple Fire, which continues to threaten homes and is only 5 percent contained, was started by the exhaust of a malfunctioning diesel-fueled vehicle, CAL FIRE announced today.

• Depressingly related: Two Purdue University environmental engineers, writing for The Conversation, offer tips on what communities can do to protect themselves from drinking-water systems that become polluted in the aftermath of a wildfire—as happened following the terrible Northern California fires in 2017 and 2018.

• Is it safe to play college football this fall? A number of Pac-12 players issued a letter via The Players Tribune over the weekend, demanding more COVID-19 safety regulations. That’s not all; the players also said athletic programs should protect other sports programs by “reduc(ing) excessive pay” of coaches and administrators, and demanded that the league take steps to end racial injustice in college sports. If these steps aren’t taken, players may opt out of playing.

• Members of the local LGBTQ community, take note: Our friends at Gay Desert Guide are hosting a ton of virtual events during these dog days of summer, including comedy shows, scavenger hunts and speed-dating events. The first one is tomorrow at 7 p.m., when Shann Carr hosts Big Gay Trivia! A small fee ($10 or so) applies for most events; get all the details here.

That’s plenty for today. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. If you appreciate honest local journalism, and have a few bucks to spare, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Stay safe, everyone.

Published in Daily Digest

It’s July 13. Let’s check and see how things are going!

COVID-19 is running amok.

The state is locking down more businesses again—with gyms, hair salons and churches pretty much ordered to close today in most of the state (including here in Riverside County).

The federal budget deficit last month alone was $864 billion.

More and more small businesses, seeing no end of this mess in sight, are giving up and closing their doors.

• The COVID-19 testing effort nationwide is becoming more and more of a fustercluck by the day, it seems

The White House is openly trying to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Meanwhile, the president is retweeting former game-show host Chuck Woolery’s conspiracy theory that everyone, including doctors (!), is lying about COVID-19.

So … yeah. THAT’S how things are going. Anyway, how was YOUR weekend?

More news from the day:

• Regarding the state’s order that gyms, hair salons and the like in counties on the state watch list (which Riverside County is most definitely on) close: There’s a loophole—according to the county, these businesses can stay open if they move operations outdoors. Given that local highs for the foreseeable future will not fall below 106 degrees, I don’t see a lot of local gyms and barbershops moving outside—but it’s something to watch for regardless.

• While most schools around here will not be reopening for in-person classes for the fall, at least not initially, schools are reopening in Europe and other places—and they offer lessons for the U.S. if we ever get this damn virus somewhat in check.

• Sigh. Will the pandemic ever end? The World Health Organization is reporting that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may only last for a few months in some peoplemeaning people could potentially contract COVID-19 multiple times.

• Could an existing tuberculosis vaccine offer some protection against the coronavirus? CNN examines the evidence.

• Related-ish: The Washington Post looks at the mad dash by glass-makers to make sure they have enough vials ready if/when a vaccine is ever available.

The Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau has put together a short, cool little video called “Mayors Mask Up,” featuring the mayors from eight of the nine valley cities encouraging people to wear a darned mask. The interesting exception: The video features eight mayors plus Palm Desert City Councilwoman Jan Harnik—NOT Palm Desert Mayor Gina Nestande, who has a history of saying less-than-smart things about the pandemic. Good lord!

• Our partners at CalMatters take a look at the varying COVID-19 testing experiences across the state of California. To put it mildly, the experiences vary drastically depending on where one is.

The Conversation takes a look at the fact that there were maskholes, or COVIDiots, or whatever you want to call people who refuse to wear masks during the last pandemic, too.

A study out of UCSF indicates that young people who smoke or vape are at a higher risk for COVID-19.

• Esquire files a report from Rome, as the city slowly gets back to life after one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. Key quote: “While there is beauty to be found in the reopened city—in parks left untended, the grass has grown long and wild, and the landmarks are no longer congested with tourists—there is now a strangeness to everyday life. Bars serve drinks over tables wedged inside doorways, cashiers hide behind Perspex shields, and restaurants have become like hospitals, requiring customers to fill out long forms and disinfect themselves before entry.”

• Now that things are NOT going well in Riverside County regarding the pandemic, the Riverside Press-Enterprise asks: “Was lifting mask orders a mistake?” The answer seems obvious to me—but, hoo boy, the politicians have a lot of excuses.

• Finally … if you need a laugh after all of this, and you haven’t been turned on to the charms of comedian Sarah Cooper yet, please check out this InStyle piece she did about her viral popularity. Her lip-sync re-enactments of some of President Trump’s statements are true gems.

That’s the news of the day. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. If you appreciate what we do here at the Independent, help us continue producing local journalism, free to all, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Stay safe, everyone.

Published in Daily Digest

Testing shortages are getting worse, both in Southern California and across the country. San Bernardino County has had to decrease the number of appointments at county-run testing sites from from 400-500 to 170-180 per day, due to supply shortages, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise. This. Is. Very. Bad. 

• For months, the country’s coronavirus death rate has been steadily decreasing. While, that isn’t happening anymore. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/10/us/daily-virus-death-toll-rises-in-some-states.html

• Meanwhile, did you know there was a safe injection we could all get that would possibly protect us from SARS-CoV-2? The Los Angeles Times is reporting that “scientists have devised a way to use the antibody-rich blood plasma of COVID-19 survivors for an upper-arm injection that they say could inoculate people against the virus for months.” The problem is the federal government and the drug companies don’t seem too interested. Baffling and infuriating. 

• Keep in mind it’s Gilead that’s saying this, so serious skepticism is warranted, but this is fantastic news even if it’s partially true: The company says remdesivir reduces the risk of death for severely sick coronavirus patients by 62 percent. Fingers crossed.

• From the Independent: We take a look at the Great Plates Delivered program, which is feeding more than 1,000 local seniors three meals each day—and those meals are provided by 28 local restaurants that, as a result, are keeping more workers employed. Key quote, from Robb Wirt of Bongo Johnny’s: “Everyone has been so kind and appreciative—so many positive vibes. One guest says, ‘This 70-year-old retired teacher feels like a princess or like I have won the lottery, to experience your wonderful food. Thank you.’”

• Also from the Independent: The state has released last year’s figures on the number of Californians who used the End of Life Option Act (aka the dying with dignity law)—and almost all of the critically ill patients using the law are white. Key quote, from Patricia González-Portillo, the national Latino media and constituency director for Compassion and Choices: “I can tell you that Latinos refuse to engage in these conversations. … We (at Compassion and Choices) want to have people talk to their doctors, to have these conversations that are so important—especially now. This is critical during the pandemic.”

The virus is sweeping through yet another incarceration facility—the Monterey County Jail. “As of Friday, July 10, 67 inmates in a single housing unit—the B dorm—have tested positive for the virus, and the county Health Department is moving to test upwards of 700 inmates and 200 staff members, starting today, to determine how widespread the outbreak is,” according to the Monterey County Weekly

• Related: The numerous outbreaks at prisons are leading the state to release up to 8,000 inmates earlywith more than half of those releases anticipated by the end of the month, according to the Los Angeles Times.

• Finally: The World Health Organization yesterday finally admitted that, yes, the virus can be spread via airborne particles, especially indoors—something bunches of scientists have been saying for months now

• This is fascinating: Americans are paying off credit-card debt—not racking it up—during the pandemic-caused economic downturn, according to CNN. This is very different behavior than in past economic downturns.

• If you read only one article from this digest (other than the two Independent pieces above … yes, I am biased), I recommend making it this Wired interview with epidemiologist Larry Brilliant, some who helped eradicate small pox—and predicted that we’d see a pandemic like we are now. He’s blunt and critical—but he also points out a few things that are actually going right in the worldwide fight against SARS-CoV-2.

• The organizers of the Palm Springs International Film Festival are pushing back the start of the 2021 festivities to Feb. 25. Raise your hand if you’ll be dancing in the streets if that delayed date winds up being possible.

• The fact that COVID-19 is running increasingly amok has forced Riverside County to close almost all county offices again. Instead of doing county business in person, you’ll need to pick up the phone or get on the internet.

• Meanwhile, more than 80 children and staff members got the virus at a Missouri summer camp. Horrifying key quote: “The infected campers and employees have since returned to at least 10 states, as well as several Missouri counties, officials said.” Yeesh.

• Time magazine reports that some teachers, without an end to the pandemic in sight, are choosing to retire rather than return to the classroom.

• The San Francisco Chronicle says some big-name bands, like Green Day and Pearl Jam, received PPP loans from the feds

• Bands pay taxes, while churches generally don’t—which makes it vexing that the Catholic Church has received more than $1.4 billion, with a B, in federal loans during the pandemic.

• The New York Times today published a fascinating piece on what life will look like in the United States in 2022 (or whenever the pandemic is over). Writer David Leonhardt makes the case that the pandemic will dramatically shape the world that comes next, as much as World War II or the Great Depression did. The piece’s prediction about newspapers is especially alarming.

• Speaking of newspapers, The Ringer published a piece on alternative newspapers like the Independent, and how we’re all doing in these crazy times. The headline: “Alt-Weeklies Face Total Annihilation. But They’re Thriving in the Chaos.”

• Finally, Independent astronomy columnist Robert Victor sent this piece to me: It’s worth getting your butt out of bed around 4 a.m. right now to see NEOWISE, one of the brightest comets to visit our neck of the solar system in years.

That’s enough for the day. Make the most of this weekend—while taking precautions to keep yourself and others safe; as we’ve said before, these pandemic days count toward our total, after all. If you value local journalism, made available free to all in both print and pixels, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will return Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

A while back, a reader complained that I never discussed the plight of people who are unable to wear face masks—so I asked readers who deal with that plight to write in, and explain how they handle (or don’t handle) that dilemma.

Even though this Daily Digest is emailed to 4,000 people, and available to the entire world at CVIndependent.com, I received a grand total of … zero replies from people who say they won’t wear a mask.

I did, however, receive replies from some people who said they have difficulties wearing masks—but do so anyway.

“I have COPD, and it is VERY uncomfortable to wear a mask,” said one reader, who asked not to be identified. “It is hard to breathe through a paper or cloth mask.”

This reader mentioned mask and oxygen options that would help—but are out of the reader’s price range—before concluding: “Anyways, I do wear a mask when out in public and try to keep my breathing slow and steady which helps.”

I also received this from a reader: “Don’t like Newsom. Don’t like gay marriage. Don’t like anarchy. Don’t like looters. Don’t like Biden. Trump is stupid about masks, but he is better than Biden on the issues in my opinion. However, if I am within six feet of a person or going into any store, bar, etc. I will wear a mask.”

OK then!

I’ll conclude this non-debate with this advice from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, as stated in some of the agency’s news releases: “People with medical conditions that prevent safe use of a face covering are asked to wear a face shield.”

Translation: One way another, cover your gosh darned face. There’s no excuse not to.

Today’s links:

Here’s the latest District 4 report from Riverside County. (District 4 includes all of the Coachella Valley, plus the vastness between here and the state line to the east.) The numbers, simply put, are not good. Please note that the cases are presented here based on the testing date, NOT the report date, so the more-recent weeks’ numbers will always seem smaller than they actually are, given the length of time it takes to get test results back.

• However, I do want to point out one encouraging sign: For the third straight week, the weekly positivity rate has decreased. As of the week ending July 5, it’s 12.2 percent—still too high, as the state wants that number below 8 percent, and preferably much lower. However, that’s down from 14 percent as of the week ending June 28; 14.6 percent as of the week ending June 21; and 16 percent as of the week ending June 14. I am still waiting on an explanation from the county on how, exactly, this number is calculated—but lower numbers are always good, and I am crossing my fingers tightly that is evidence that the measures we’re taking locally are finally starting to slow down the COVID-19 spread.

• From the Independent: Kevin Fitzgerald recently spoke to Desert Healthcare District CEO Dr. Conrado Barzaga about his declaration that systemic racism is a public health crisisand we’re seeing that play out in the eastern Coachella Valley during the pandemic, as COVID-19 cases there are sky high compared to the rest of the valley.

• Sigh. Squabbles between Moderna Inc. and government scientists are responsible for the delay in one of the most-promising vaccine candidates, according to Reuters.

The Palm Springs Unified School district plans on starting the school year on Aug. 5 with all-online instruction, before moving to a hybrid model within a month or so, if the pandemic allows it. 

• Related and utterly unbelievable: The president is threatening to withhold funding from schools that don’t reopen for in-person classes in the fall, and his administration is forcing the CDC to issue weaker guidelines for school openings. Why?!

• The results are in regarding Sweden’s grand experiment to keep society mostly open and let the virus run its course: The death rate there is sky-high, and the country’s economy is no better off than the economies of its neighbors that did shut down.

Related: Is the cure worse than the disease? Experts writing for The Conversation crunched the numbers—and came to the conclusion that, no, shutdowns were better for society overall than letting the virus run amok.

Also from The Conversation: The feds’ plan to send home foreign college students if they can’t attend in-person classes would be very bad for the economy.

• Oh, great! Our partners at High Country News are looking at the possibility that North American bats could get SARS-CoV-2. Key quote, from the subheadline: “This is bad news for bats and humans.

• CNBC put a weird spin on this story: “Apple Maps driving activity is slowing again in warning sign for the economy.Yeah, but if more people are staying home, isn’t that a good sign for battling the coronavirus?

• The Washington Post has revealed that at the government-run Southeastern Veterans’ Center, in the Philadelphia area, patients received a “COVID cocktail” including hydroxychloroquine—which has some pretty terrible side effects. According to the Post: “Though precise estimates vary, the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs said about 30 residents received the drug. Several nursing home staff members placed the number higher. The Chester County coroner, who reviewed the medical records for some of those who died, said at least 11 residents who had received the hydroxychloroquine treatment had not been tested for COVID-19.” Yikes!

NBC News looks at what it’ll mean for the United States to pull out of the World Health Organization. Key quote: “Apart from the effect on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. exit from the WHO also puts at risk a polio vaccination program that has long been a priority for the U.S. across several administrations. Trump’s decision comes just as doctors believe polio is on the verge of being eradicated from the planet.”

• Equinox—which operates 23 gyms in Southern California—is asking some of its teachers to do a lot more for a lot less, with a lot more risk mixed in, according to BuzzFeed. Key quote: “Despite the risk, Equinox is asking its group fitness instructors to come back to the gym and teach classes at a discounted rate, keeping the teachers at their 75 percent pay, rather than restoring their pre-COVID-19 rates. Instructors have also been asked to help clean the group fitness studios after classes, without additional pay, as part of an effort to more frequently deep-clean the studios.”

• Finally, Randy Rainbow is back with another Trump parody video: “Poor Deplorable Troll.”

That’s today’s news. Please consider supporting honest independent local journalism by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Be safe. Be kind. Wear a mask. The Daily Digest will return on Friday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There are so many things that could be said right now, but instead, I am simply going to share some numbers with you, from our friends at FatalEncounters.org, which tracks people killed during interactions with law enforcement.

According to Fatal Encounters, as you can see in the graphic above, May 2020 is believed to be the first time—going back to 2000, when Fatal Encounters’ data set begins—that the number of deaths with police involvement cracked the 200 mark. And 863 people have died so far this year, which is a record-setting pace.

Something’s wrong here … and as we mentioned yesterday, it starts at the top.

More news:

• Maddenly related: More than 120 journalists covering the protests around the country have been attacked by police. Again, it starts at the top; after all, you know who keeps insisting journalists are the enemy of the people.

• Here’s more on police attacks on the media, courtesy of The New York Times.

From our partners at High Country News: This is #BlackBirdersWeek, which is designed to shed a light on racism in the birder community.

Twitter has removed accounts, supposedly by ANTIFA, that were actually tied to white supremacists. Yeesh.

Fantasy Springs opened its doors today, meaning Augustine is the only valley casino to remain closed.

• The fact that so many Americans are struggling financially will make it harder for the U.S. to keep COVID-19 contained, according to an expert writing for The Conversation.

• I find this encouraging, weird and frustrating all at once: A couple Italian doctors made international news recently by claiming the coronavirus was substantially weaker there than it had been before. The World Health Organization, however, vehemently disagrees.

• Here’s some of the latest news on the stunning, dictator-like move yesterday by the Trump administration to clear out peaceful protesters so the president could walk to a church and hold a bible while photos were taken. 

• A new grant program for small businesses—paid for by the stimulus bill and administered by the county—will begin taking applications tomorrow. However, there are some serious restrictions—including one saying businesses that received a EIDL or PPP loan are not eligible.

• The Red Barn, the Palm Desert bar at the center of all sorts of controversy due to its … uh, provocative roof signs and failed attempt to reopen, burned this morning.

• The editors and reporters at The Desert Sun are doing some amazing work during these trying times—despite being owned by a company that has, historically, been pretty awful. As evidence of this awfulness—and why rampant media consolidation can be terrible: The Washington Post examined why many Gannett papers (including The Desert Sun) did not lead with coverage of the George Floyd protests on Sunday.

• President Trump is bafflingly ordering West Point grads back to campus for a graduation speech on June 13. And, of course, some of the cadets who are graduating have tested positive for COVID-19.

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Be safe. Speak out against racism and injustice. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Back on May 1, we wrote: “Welcome to May 2020—which should be one of the most fascinating months in American history.”

Well, May sure lived up to that statement, didn’t it?

It’s now May 29. Here in the Coachella Valley, retail stores, restaurants, some casinos and—as of this afternoon—some vacation rentals are again open for business. So far … so OK, I guess.

Nationally, however, the country is in crisis—but not because of COVID-19, though the virus remains as deadly as ever. No, the culprit is good ol’ fashioned police brutality and racism.

As of this writing, protests are continuing to grow in cities including Atlanta; Washington, D.C., Chicago; San Jose; and beyond, after rough nights last night in Minneapolis, Louisville and other cities.

I am hoping—naively, perhaps—that some good may eventually come out of this. Derek Chauvin—the Minneapolis police officer who we’ve all seen pinning down George Floyd on that awful video—has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Meanwhile, police leadership around the country is speaking out, swiftly and strongly, in condemnation of what we all saw on that video.

These are gut-wrenching times, for so many reasons. We, as a country, need to fight to make sure we come out of this better—because we need to be better.

If you agree with that statement—and I sure hope you do—it’s time to ask yourself: What am *I* going to do be better?

Today’s news links:

• The big local news of the day, as mentioned above: Riverside County announced that short-term rentals can resume taking reservations immediatelyalbeit with restrictions. While some cities, like Rancho Mirage, are continuing to restrict them, the city of Palm Springs has clarified that they are, in fact, now allowed in P.S. This is a welcome boost to the economy. As for what it means for COVID-19 … we’ll just have to wait and see.

• And now for the bad-if-unsurprising local economic news of the day: The August edition of Splash House is officially cancelled.

CVS has opened free drive-through testing sites in Coachella, Palm Springs, La Quinta and Indio. Here’s the list and the details.

Los Angeles has been given the go-ahead for retail, restaurants and barber shops/salons to reopen.

• Gov. Newsom today defended the surprisingly fast reopening processes taking place in much of the state. Key quote: “Localism is determinative. We put out the how; counties decide the when."

• Another stimulus/relief bill is in the works. But Mitch McConnell says this’ll be the last one. NPR explains.

• Meanwhile, in the middle of the world’s worst pandemic in 102 years, the most prosperous country on the planet is completely pulling out of the World Health Organization. At least that’s what the president said today, because—as we keep saying—NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.

From Bloomberg News comes this astonishing lead: “One farm in Tennessee distributed COVID-19 tests to all of its workers after an employee came down with the virus. It turned out that every single one of its roughly 200 employees had been infected.”

• NBC News reports that during “the first media briefing from the CDC in more than two months”—and I will remind everyone that WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC—it was revealed that the coronavirus began its spread in the U.S. in late January, a month or so before anyone noticed.

• One of the keys to keeping the virus contained may be antigen tests. What are they, and how do they differ from the diagnostic tests you know about, and the antibody tests? The Conversation explains.

• Spending is way down, and savings is way up, according to CNBC: Americans who are fortunate enough to have cash are holding onto it.

That’s enough for the day! Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. Please consider helping us continue to do quality independent, local journalism by becoming a Supporter of the Independent, if you can afford to do so. We’ll be back Monday, at the latest.

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We here at Independent World Headquarters are careening toward the deadline for our packed-with-amazing-content 32-page May print edition.

However, even though we’re very busy here, the news doesn’t stop—and, in fact, a lot of really fascinating news broke today. So, here are today’s Daily Digest news links:

• The most fascinating story to come out today, at least to my eyes: Yet another preliminary antibody test shows a surprisingly high number of people may have already had COVID-19. This one is out of New York City, and showed that more than 20 percent of residents apparently have antibodies. There are a lot of “if’s” here—IF the antibody tests are accurate, IF the stats pan out, etc.—this is a big deal. On one hand, it means that the disease may be less deadly in terms of percentages than previously believed, and that we may be closer to herd immunity IF it’s proven that people infected with the virus can’t get sick from it again for some period of time. On the other, it means the virus—which is still very, very deadly—spreads rapidly and easily, IF these tests are accurate. It’ll be VERY interesting to see how this all plays out.

• Speaking of more evidence about how rapidly and easily this damn thing may spread: Researchers are openly speculating about whether the spread of the virus may have gotten a jump start at the Consumer Electronics Show, which took place between Jan. 7 and 10 in Las Vegas, and had 170,000 attendees—some from Wuhan, and a lot from Santa Clara County (i.e. Silicon Valley), where the first known COVID-19 victim in the United States lived.

• From the Independent: How does the Coachella Valley’s only free health clinic continue to help people in need during a pandemic—when those people can’t come in for an office visit? Kevin Fitzgerald talked to the board president of Indio’s Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine to find out.

• Also from the Independent: Here’s a quick, inspirational read on just a handful of local efforts our neighbors are making to help out our local medical professionals—and, yes, you can get involved if you have money or time.

Let’s tell a story: The World Health Organization mistakenly posts a report showing that one of the drugs everyone has their fingers crossed about—Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir—didn’t work on COVID-19 patients in China. The stock market freaks out. Gilead freaks out and says the results were inconclusive and that the WHO shouldn’t have posted the report. The WHO removes report. We all sigh and shake our heads and wave our fists at the sky.

• The New York Times in recent days has published a couple of completely gripping longer-form personal stories. First was this piece, by the great Joel Grey, now 88, about how badly he misses theater. Then came this story by Gabrielle Hamilton, the owner of Prune restaurant in Manhattan, about the heartbreak of closing the place she built up for 20 years—and her confusion over whether there will ever again be a place for Prune in the Manhattan of the future.

• Meanwhile, the more we learn about COVID-19 … the more we realize how truly little we know about it. Research out of New York shows that, among all sorts of surprising findings, some 70 percent of the people studied who were admitted to the hospital due to the coronavirus weren’t running a fever.

• A teeny, tiny step in California toward normalcy: Doctors may again perform non-emergency surgical procedures, as long as they’re deemed essential (i.e. not merely cosmetic).

• The more we learn about the first round of Paycheck Protection Program loan recipients, the more it appears that some really shady crap was going on. Thankfully, however, for the next round, the SBA has issued new guidelines that, at least in theory, should cut down on the shenanigans.

• From our partners at CalMatters: Gov. Newsom said today that the state will not allow debt collectors to seize stimulus payments, and that payments on many private student loans can be postponed for three months.

Could the pandemic revive the car hop restaurant? That’s what has happened, at least temporarily, at the Bob’s Big Boy down in Burbank.

• Related: Could the pandemic revive the drive-in movie theater? Some clever restaurants (with larger parking lots) are giving it a shot—with car-hop food service, of course.

OK. It’s time for us to get back to work on the dead-tree edition. If you want to support a local small business and the Independent, check out the deets on our Adopt a Small Business program. Oh, and buy our amazing Coloring Book! We hope to mail out the first batch over the weekend or early next week. Wash your hands, and wear a mask when you absolutely must go outside. Back tomorrow. Thanks, as always, for reading the Coachella Valley Independent.

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