CVIndependent

Thu05282020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

It was an insanely busy news day, so let’s get right to the links:

• First, a correction: In the emailed version of yesterday’s Daily Digest, I had the month portion of the date wrong for the city of Palm Springs’ “Restaurant, Retail, Hair Salon & Barbershop Re-Opening Guidance for Business Owners” webinar. As a few eagle-eyed readers pointed out: The webinar is taking place at 9 a.m., May 28—in other words, tomorrow. Get info here, and please accept my apologies for the mistake.

• Other Palm Springs news: The City Council voted yesterday to extend the eviction moratorium through June 30.

• While this news is certainly not surprising, it’s an economic bummer for sure: Goldenvoice is reaching out to artists slated to perform at the already-delayed Coachella festival, and trying to book them for 2021 instead. Translation: A Coachella cancellation announcement may be coming soon.

If you’re going to read only one piece from today’s Daily Digest, please make sure it’s this one. Yesterday, we talked about the appalling lack of journalistic integrity NBC Palm Springs showed by airing an unvetted fluff piece—multiple times—provided by Amazon talking about all the great things the company is doing to keep its workers safe. In reality … at least eight workers have died. Today, the Los Angeles Times brings us the story of one of those eight fallen workers. Grab a tissue before you get to know the story of Harry Sentoso.

• Gov. Newsom announced today that more information regarding gym/fitness center-reopening guidelines would be released next week, as the state moves further into Stage 3.

• The Coachella Valley Economic Partnership just released a new survey of local businesses regarding the impact of the pandemic … and the only word that comes to mind is “yikes.” One takeaway: 99 percent of businesses have experienced a reduction in revenue—and 56 percent of those declines were between 91 and 100 percent

• It’s well-known that a number of COVID-19 antibody tests are flawed, but now there are concerns about the accuracy of the diagnostic tests. NBC News looks into the matter.

• Well, this could be interesting: President Trump, angry that Twitter placed a fact-check notice on an obviously untrue statement of his, apparently plans on taking some sort of action against social media companies via executive order. Will tomorrow be the day our democratic republic comes to an end? Tune in tomorrow! 

• In Pennsylvania, Democratic lawmakers are accusing GOP lawmakers of covering up the fact that a lawmaker had tested positive for COVID-19—possibly exposing them in the process. Republicans say they followed all the proper protocols … but didn’t feel the need to tell Democrats about the positive test, because of privacy. Jeez. The barn-burning video of Rep. Brian Sims expressing his extreme displeasure is horrifying.

• From the Independent: While tattoo shops remain closed (at least legally) across the state, they may be allowed to reopen soon, as we move further into Stage 3. The Independent’s Kevin Allman spoke to Jay’e Jones, of Yucca Valley’s renowned Strata Tattoo Lab, about the steps she’s taking to get ready.

• An update on what’s happening in Imperial County, our neighbors to the southeast: A coronavirus outbreak in northern Mexico is causing American citizens who live there to cross the border for treatment—and overwhelming the small hospitals in the county. The Washington Post explains how this is happening, while KESQ reports that packed Imperial County hospitals are sending patients to Riverside County hospitals for care.

• Don’t let the headline freak you out, please, because it’s not as horrifying as it sounds, although it remains important and interesting: The “coronavirus may never go away, even with a vaccine,” explains The Washington Post.

Nevada casinos will begin coming back to life on June 4. The Los Angeles Times explains how Las Vegas is preparing for a tentative revival.

• Another business segment is also making plans to reopen in Nevada: brothels. The Reno Gazette-Journal explains how brothel owners are making their case to the state.

• Given that Santa Clara County health officer Dr. Sara Cody issued the nation’s first stay-at-home order, it’s 1) interesting and 2) not entirely surprising that she thinks California’s reopening process is moving too quickly.

• Some of us are naturally inclined to follow rules; some of us bristle at them. University of Maryland Professor Michele Gelfand, writing for The Conversation, explains how these primal mindsets are coming into play regarding masks and other pandemic matters.

The Trump administration is still separating migrant families—and often using the pandemic as an excuse to do so, explains the Los Angeles Times.

• The New York Times reports on the inevitable upcoming eviction crisis. Eff you, 2020.

Some Good News, John Krasinski’s feel-good YouTube series, has been sold to ViacomCBS. Here’s how and why that came about.

• Finally, here’s an update on increasing evidence that sewage testing may help governments stop new coronavirus outbreaks before they blow up.

That’s all today. I am going to now go raise a toast to the life of Harry Sentoso and the other 100,000-plus Americans this virus has claimed so far. Please join me if you can. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Viewers of the local news on NBC Palm Springs may have recently caught a short segment on all of the wonderful things Amazon is doing during the pandemic.

“Millions of Americans staying at home are relying on Amazon,” the piece begins, before going on to talk about how “the company is keeping its employees safe and healthy,” and giving its oh-so-safe employees more than $800 million in increased wages and overtime pay.

Unfortunately, this segment is slanted at best—and dangerously misleading at worst.

Oh, and this segment wasn’t news. It was produced by Amazon, and sent to TV news stations around the country via a PR wire service.

Most TV-news reporters ignored it; a few actually called out Amazon for sending out this piece of packaged crap in the first place.

But at least 11 TV stations, according to Courier Newsroom, took the piece and ran with it … including NBC Palm Springs.

And now the truth that NBC Palm Springs “report” was lacking: Amazon is having its annual shareholder meeting tomorrow—and some of those shareholders want to know more about what Amazon actually is doing to protect its employees, because so far, it hasn’t been enough. According to CNBC:

Tensions have been growing between Amazon and warehouse workers nationwide, as the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths at its facilities have climbed. Warehouse workers have called for the company to put in place greater safety protections, including providing paid sick leave and closing down facilities where there are positive cases for additional cleaning.

Amazon has repeatedly declined to disclose how many warehouse employees have died from the coronavirus, but has confirmed eight deaths as they were reported by various media outlets. The company also hasn’t provided a total number of workers who have fallen ill from the virus, though one estimate from Jana Jumpp, an Amazon worker in Indiana, pegs the total number of cases at 900 employees nationwide.

I reached out to Bob McCauley, NBC Palm Springs’ senior vice president, as well as Gino LaMont, listed on the NBC Palm Springs website as the news department contact, to ask them how this happened. As of this writing, I have not yet gotten a response.

So much stuff that’s presented as “news” or “journalism” these days is, well, NOT. Numerous local publications run press releases from various organizations without disclosing that’s what they are, and some even sell stories to groups and businesses without disclosing to readers that they’re actually paid ads. None of that, of course, is right … but that’s how they do it.

But this is unconscionable. At least eight Amazon workers have died.

NBC Palm Springs, you really need to serve your viewers better, and you have some explaining to do.

Today’s links:

• The big news today: Gov. Newsom surprised the heck out of a lot of people when he announced that barbers and hair salons could reopen in counties—including Riverside County—that have moved into the second part of Phase 2. However, other businesses listed in Stage 3—including nail salons—remain closed. 

• Palm Springs business owners, take note: The city will be holding a webinar at 9 a.m., Thursday. May 28, titled “Restaurant, Retail, Hair Salon & Barbershop Re-Opening Guidance for Business Owners.” Get all the information here.

• Other Palm Springs news: The library is opening for curbside pickup. Learn more at the Facebook page.

• Hey, Apple Store fans: The El Paseo location is reopening this weektomorrow, to be specific.

• When full-on Stage 3 comes—which is anticipated to happen sometime in June, but who in the hell knows at this point—that will include theme parks, so says the state.

• Speaking of who in the hell knows … The Washington Post today broke down how truly little we still know about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.

All sorts of people and businesses are suing Gov. Newsom over the shutdown orders. The latest: Patioworld is suing the state, because … uh, outdoor furniture showrooms are essential? Anyway, if you’re so inclined, bookmark this helpful lawsuit tracker, from our partners at CalMatters.

Another stimulus bill is coming at some point in the future, probably, maybe? After waffling, Mitch McConnell now says it’s likely.

• For the first time ever, Twitter has fact-checked something Trump tweeted. The president, of course, reacted to this news in a restrained and reasonable manner. (*Snort*)

• Sad but not surprising: The number of Americans dealing with anxiety or depression has skyrocketed since the pandemic hit.

• Local company Ernie Ball makes strings for guitars and all sorts of other musical equipment—and when COVID-19 arrived, the company started making masks, too. Now, Ernie Ball is making those masks available for free to everyone in the Coachella Valley.

• A whole lot of people who purchased travel insurance have been horrified to learn that pandemics are a common travel-insurance exclusion. The Los Angeles Times looks at the issue—and explains which companies are doing right by their customers, and which ones are not.

That’s all for today. If you’re a fan of our print version, the June edition is hitting streets this week—or if you want it mailed to you for a nominal fee, we can have that arranged. If you value good, honest, doesn’t-run-lying-crap-from-Amazon journalism, and you can afford it, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Hey, everybody. How was your long weekend?

I slept in. I made some pork chops with some amazing fruit I picked up Saturday at the Palm Springs Certified Farmers’ Market. I took a lovely, mask-on walk through downtown Palm Springs. I had drinks—socially distanced—with friends in a backyard. So, all in all, it was pretty good.

Well, except for the parts when I watched members of our community pointlessly tear each other to shreds on Facebook.

Look … I get it: We’re all facing down a series of interconnected threats that are truly life or death matters: The virus, the effects of the lockdown, livelihoods, etc. This is serious shit.

But … does going on social media and attacking each other really do anyone any good?

I personally find the reopening process to be scary and exciting and disturbing and wonderful all at once. I am scared that it may be happening too soon. I am excited to see out-of-work friends getting their jobs back. I find it disturbing to see pictures of throngs of people in close proximity without masks. I find it wonderful to drive through parts of our valley and see life again.

I’ve never had such mixed feelings before about anything. Really. I suspect a lot of you feel the same way.

Regardless: It would behoove us all to remember that, save a few psychopaths and ne’er-do-wells, all of us are on the same team. We all want to be able to get together again. We all want jobs and stores and concerts and gatherings back. All of us want the same things.

When we forget that we are on the same team and want the same things … well, not only are the resulting attacks causing angst and doing nobody any good; they’re playing right into the hands of the people who want to see us fail. According to Business Insider:

As parts of the U.S. have lifted shutdown orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, there's been a fierce argument online about the risks and benefits of reopening. New research suggests that bots have been dominating that debate.

Carnegie Mellon University researchers analyzed over 200 million tweets discussing COVID-19 and related issues since January and found that roughly half the accounts — including 62% of the 1,000 most influential retweeters—appeared to be bots, they said in a report published this week.

Wash your hands. Wear a mask. And be kind. Please. We really are on the same team here.

Today’s news:

• The big state headline: California will allow churches to reopen—with extreme restrictions, including a 25 percent cap on capacity for at least the first three weeks.

The Washington Post today published a major story on the U.S. meat industry … and it’s not pretty: More workers are getting sick, and shortages may get worse.

• From the Independent: Matt King talked to the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, the Coachella Valley History Museum and the Palm Springs Art Museum for an in-depth piece on what people can expect when they’re finally allowed to reopen. Two take-aways: Two of the three likely won’t reopen until the fall—and things will be quite different at all of them when their doors are open again.

• Protests demanding that the state reopen are, in some cases, getting larger—with a large dose of white supremacy thrown in, according to the Los Angeles Times.

• OK, let’s see here … the CDC has issued a new warning, and it’s says … holy crap, now we have to be on the lookout for hungry, aggressive rodents?!

The New York Times analyzed where people were dying of COVID-19, and how those places voted in the last presidential election. The results may surprise you—and they may help explain the political divide developing over the reopening processes around the country.

• I am just going to type this headline, shake my head, sigh and then go make myself a cocktail: “More than 40% of Republicans think Bill Gates will use COVID-19 vaccine to implant tracking chips, survey says.

• What will be in that cocktail, you ask? A mixture of Bulleit rye, a delightful shrub I made out of fresh strawberries, and a little bit of club soda. If you don’t know what a shrub is, Independent cocktail expert Kevin Carlow explains in this informative column from our archives.

• The Trump administration has announced its big testing plan: Leave it up to the states, pretty much!

• Fear of the virus is causing some people to skip needed medical procedures—up to and including forgoing needed organ transplants. The New York Times explains.

• NBC News reveals that the Trump administration is often awarding government contracts not based on merit, and with little to no oversight.

• Man, this pandemic is hurting sooo many businesses … including the drug cartels!

That’s enough for today. Join me, please, in a toast to the brave men and women who have died fighting for this country. Be safe. Wear a mask. If you can spare a buck or two to support fine local journalism like Matt’s museums piece, Kevin’s cocktail-shrub primer and this Daily Digest, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Oh, and one last thing: Please be kind! We’ll be back tomorrow.

Coachella Valley retail stores may now let customers in, and restaurants can reopen for dine-in service.

Earlier this afternoon, Riverside County became the 45th of California’s 58 counties to get the state go-ahead to move further into Stage 2. When that fact is combined with today’s reopening of Morongo, Spotlight 29 and the two Agua Caliente casinos … it’s safe to say this is the most significant day the Coachella Valley has experienced during the reopening process, by far.

However, it’s important to remember the news is not all positive. Riverside County announced another six deaths from COVID-19 had been reported in the last 24 hours; hospitalizations also ticked up in the last day. Within a week or so, total reported deaths in the United States from COVID-19 will cross the 100,000 mark. (And the real death count is likely much higher, experts say, despite certain presidents’ efforts to diminish the numbers.)

In other words, we’ve truly, genuinely flattened the curve here in the Coachella Valley. But SARS-Co-V-2 is still out there—as dangerous as ever.

However you choose to spend Memorial Day weekend, be safe. Wear a mask when you’re out and anywhere near others. Oh, and one more thing: Please be kind.

Thank you. Here are today’s news links:

• From the Independent: Our resident bartender, Kevin Carlow, doesn’t know when bars will be able to open again—and he doesn’t know what they’ll be like when they do. However, he does know one thing: Bars aren’t as important as lives—but they’re definitely important.

Should you get on an airplane yet? And if you must fly, there are steps you can take to make sure the experience is as safe as possible. The Conversation walks you through it all.

• Well, here’s a pants-wetting headline, courtesy of The Washington Post: “Study estimates 24 states still have uncontrolled coronavirus spread.” 

• Gov. Newsom opened the door for filming on shows and movies to resume as early as next week. However, some people in Hollywood say it’s not quite time yet for that to happen.

Donald Trump said today that governors needed to allow churches to reopen—and threatened to “override” governors who refuse. Politico examines the president’s possible motivations.

• In response to Trump’s demand, Newsom said he’d have plans to reopen churches on Monday.

• The New York Times has the latest on what is now called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, the COVID-19-related illness that’s threatening the lives of an increasing number of children.

• While masks must be worn inside stores in most of the Coachella Valley, such is not the case everywhere. In fact, some stores in the U.S. aren’t allowing to wear masks. Read about the gross stupidity here.

• OK, these are two honest-to-Pete headlines on the Los Angeles Times right now. See if you can find the contradiction in logic: 1. “Trump administration warns (Los Angeles Mayor) Garcetti against ‘heavy-handed’ stay-at-home orders.” 2. “White House concerned with coronavirus spread in L.A. area, asks CDC to investigate.

• Meanwhile, members of the Legislature—not necessarily without justification—feel like the governor has been keeping lawmakers out of the loop regarding pandemic spending.

Big Bear has decided the state orders don’t apply to them.

• Mark your calendars for two weeks from tonight: On Friday, June 5, at 7 p.m., the Desert AIDS Project is going to be holding one hell of an online fundraiser. The big names participating include Kristin Chenoweth, Matthew Morrison, Ann Hampton Callaway and a whole bunch of others. Get details here.

That’s the news for today. If you appreciate these Daily Digests, and can spare a buck or two, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Again, have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. Barring any huge news tomorrow or Sunday, we’ll be back Monday.

I have spent most of the last two days basically doing two things:

1. Getting everything ready to send the Independent’s June print edition to press.

2. Checking the state’s “Resilience Roadmap” page every 15 minutes for updates on the counties allowed to move further into Stage 2 of the reopening process—meaning stores can let customers inside, and restaurants can have dine-in customers.

As of 6:45 p.m., 43 of the state’s 58 counties have been given the go-ahead … and Riverside County is NOT one of them, even though the county posted the paperwork to move ahead last Friday.

This really could change at any time; San Joaquin County was added to the list since I started writing this, and about a half-dozen were added last night after business hours—including San Diego County.

Why is this such a big deal? Well, we are heading into Memorial Day weekend, and if Riverside County gets its blessing soon, some restaurants and stores could possibly allow customers inside—with restrictions and social distancing—by the time the weekend arrives. After all, some places are already open in San Diego after word came down late last night.

Also, whether or not you think we should be reopening this much already (and my feelings are beyond mixed), this whole process is undeniably fascinating.

We’ll keep watching and hitting the “refresh” button.

Today’s news:

• What if a second wave of COVID-19 washes across the country? The president said that even if that happens, he won’t close things down again (although, thankfully, it isn’t his call to make).

• A Catch-22, sort of: Educators say budget cuts caused by the pandemic will jeopardize their ability to safely reopen schools in the fall

• From the Independent: Missing concerts? Well, some people have started to do drive-in concerts—including a weekly Sunday show as the sun sets on 15 gorgeous acres in Yucca Valley. Matt King has the details.

• Consider yourself warned that this piece is depressing: According to Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom, a large portion of the jobs lost due to the pandemic are never coming back—even though as of now, employers intend on rehiring most of the people. “We know from the past that these aspirations often don’t turn out to be true,” he told The New York Times.

• Depressingly related: Mitch McConnell said the feds would not extend a boost in unemployment benefits when that increase expires.

• Why are people acting, well, so darn weird? Two psych experts, writing for The Conversation, say that when people are confronted with their own mortality, core beliefs—good and bad—get amplified. It’s a deeply interesting look at human psychology.

• While restaurants have been able to stay open to do takeout, and will be allowed to have customers inside in advanced Stage 2, bars have not, and will not. As the San Francisco Chronicle points out, a lot of bar owners think that’s decidedly unfair.

• Another primer on how numbers can be deceiving: Reported coronavirus cases have been sharply rising in California … while the infection rate has been heading downward. The reason? Significantly increased testing.

• Per usual, I took part in the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast/videocast today. The hosts and I chatted with the fantastic Dr. Laura Rush; events expert Hugh Hysell; and designer/retailer Christopher Kennedy.

• How weird it is to be a reliable media source these days! Readership is waaaaaay up—but revenue is waaaaaay down. The latest media company to announce layoffs: The Atlantic.

• The CDC now says that you don’t have to worry too much about catching the coronavirus from contaminated surfacesalthough perhaps you should still worry a little bit.

• ABC News and the Mayo Clinic teamed up to see how reliable the various antibody tests are. The results? Not so great.

• The Wheels Are Coming Off, Chapter 987: Some 1,200 pastors across the state say they’ll hold in-person church services on May 31, whether the state allows them or not.

Augustine Casino will not be joining the Agua Caliente properties and Morongo in reopening this weekend: General manager Jef Bauer says a mid-July reopening date is more likely for the Coachella property.

• Local small businesses impacted by the pandemic could get grants of up to $10,000 that do not need to be repaid, according to Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, thanks to the county receiving a big chunk of CARES Act money. Expect more details at the June 2 Board of Supervisors meeting.

Changes are coming to the airport-security process as a result of the virus, the Transportation Security Administration announced today.

Hollywood productions—for starters, all of your favorite TV shows—have been shut down, like most everything else, as a result of COVID-19. The Los Angeles Times looks at what it’s going to take to get things running again.

• What have Americans been spending their stimulus checks/deposits on? CNBC takes a look.

Please be safe. Please be kind. Please wear a mask when you’re out and anywhere near other people. If you like this Daily Digest, and want to support it and the other quality local journalism the Independent provides, think about becoming a Supporter of the Independent, if you’re able. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Let’s jump right into the news, some of which merits some discussion:

• Yesterday, we mentioned that Riverside County COVID-19 hospitalizations had gone up almost 6 percent from Friday (184) to Tuesday (195). This fact is important for all sorts of reasons, one of which is the fact that “stable hospitalizations of COVID individuals on a 7-day average of daily percent change of less than 5 percent,” whatever that means, is one of the new criteria for counties to move further into Stage 2 of the reopening process.

Well, according to today’s numbers, 189 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county—a drop of six yesterday. This means the county may meet this criterion. Although, seriously, I don’t know what “stable hospitalizations of COVID individuals on a 7-day average of daily percent change of less than 5 percent” means. Do you? Anyone?

Meanwhile, the county government is still waiting to hear from the governor office to see if the state will accept their attestation, sent Friday, that Riverside County is supposedly ready to move further into Stage 2 (which means retail stores and restaurants can have customers inside of them). No word on that yet. However …

• The state has, as of this writing, given 32 counties the go-ahead to move further into Stage 2—including the first Southern California county, Ventura County.

• Tulare County, which had not get gotten the go-ahead, has decided to skip the second part of Stage 2 and barrel into Stage 3—something the state called “hasty and careless.”

• Here in the valley, the Agua Caliente casino properties in Rancho Mirage and Palm Springs have announced they’ll be open for business come Friday. Read the details here

• While most Southern California casinos obviously didn’t heed Gov. Newsom’s plea to hold off on reopening, the Riverside Press-Enterprise is reporting that one has: San Diego County’s Casino Pauma will remain closed for now.

• Among all of the reopening news, a sobering note: According to the World Health Organization, more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported to the agency in the last daythe most since the pandemic began.

• An update: Hospitals in Imperial County (our neighbor to the southeast) are again taking COVID-19 patients, after being overwhelmed yesterday. Inewsource explains what happened.

• Here are more details on the Memorial Day weekend celebration downtown Palm Springs retailers are having—in a curbside-pickup, responsible manner, of course.

• A new Stanford study makes it clear that, no, you probably didn’t have the coronavirus back in the fall.

• From the Independent: The Coachella Valley Water District has obtained $3.3 million in state funds to extend water service to east valley areas that badly need it. While the funding seems secure for now … nothing is a sure thing in this COVID-19 world.

• Can you imagine dealing with a disaster in the middle of a pandemic? Keep the people dealing with a dam failure in Michigan, and a powerful cyclone in India and Bangladesh, in your thoughts.

• Meanwhile, in Florida, it appears the government may be trying to fudge the coronavirus numbers, which is a very bad thing. A similar but different thing is happening in Georgia, too.

• As testing becomes more wildly available … should everyone consider getting tested? A Los Angeles Times writer goes through the process—and talks to the experts.

• AAP—Food Samaritans lost its huge Evening Under the Stars fundraiser due to the shutdown—but the excellent nonprofit organization is holding a great online auction June 1-7. Check out the goods, or just contribute.

Prejudice and fear regarding people who have recovered from COVID-19 are real things. The New York Times explains.

• What is the pandemic like for people with multiple partners living in separate homes? Agence France-Press, via Yahoo! News, talks to some Muslim men in Kuwait dealing with this situation.

• Gosh darn it, now there’s a garlic shortage? Sigh.

• Shakespeare’s Globe theater is another possible casualty of the pandemic.

That’s today’s news. Buy our amazing coloring book! Please consider supporting local journalism, if you can afford to do so, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll return tomorrow.

Yesterday, we reported that Gov. Newsom had asked casinos to kindly reconsider their reopening plans.

The response? More casino reopening announcements—including word that Morongo and Spotlight 29 will be reopening their doors this Friday.

Meanwhile … that curve is not as flat as we’d all like it to be in parts of Southern California.

We mentioned yesterday that Gov. Newsom had revamped the state’s criteria for counties to move deeper into Stage 2—meaning retail stores could have customers inside of them, and restaurants could welcome dine-in customers. Riverside County representatives expressed optimism that we’d qualify. While the governor’s office made no announcements on that front today (at least as of our deadline) … one of the new criteria is: “stable hospitalizations of COVID individuals on a 7-day average of daily percent change of less than 5 percent OR no more than 20 COVID hospitalizations on any single day in the past 14 days.”

Well, here’s the stat line over the last three days in Riverside County for the number of reported COVID-19 hospitalizations:

Friday: 184

Monday: 186

Tuesday: 195

While there’s a lot these numbers don’t tell us, they do tell us that since Friday, the total number of hospitalizations is up by 11, or 5.978 percent. Which is more than 5 percent.

Not great. Even more alarming is this news out of Imperial County, our neighboring county to the Southwest, courtesy of Inewsource:

Imperial County’s two hospitals no longer are accepting additional COVID-19 patients after seeing a rise in cases overnight.

Adolphe Edward, CEO of the El Centro Regional Medical Center, announced Tuesday morning on Facebook Live that the county’s emergency rooms are on “divert”—meaning ambulances will take patients elsewhere if they have the coronavirus. Emergency rooms at the El Centro hospital and Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley remain open for walk-ins and illnesses other than the virus, he said.

“We want to make sure we don’t overwhelm either one of the hospitals and overwhelm the system with COVID patients to the point that we can’t take care of you,” Edward said on the Facebook video.

Yikes.

As the reopening process continues—and it’s continuing whether you think it should or not—we all need to take precautions, because COVID-19 remains a very real danger.

Today’s news:

Wear. A. Damn. Mask. Yet more research indicates that masks—surgical-grade, in this case, but still—can drastically cut down on coronavirus transmission.

• From the Independent: For the latest installment in our Pandemic Stories series, I spoke to three local restaurant-delivery-app drivers about what it’s like for them during this “new normal.” While access to bathrooms for these drivers is down, business is up. Unfortunately, so is racism.

• While this will be the quietest Memorial Day weekend in the Coachella Valley in decades, it won’t be completely dead. First: A bunch of downtown Palm Springs retailers have joined forces to celebrate their socially distanced, curbside-pickup reopenings this weekend—and they’re donating 10 percent of sales to the Palm Springs Animal Shelter.

• Second, downtown PS breakfast mainstay Cheeky’s is reopening for takeout on Saturday and Sunday, and they’re offering a pancake breakfast—with all the proceeds going to the great local businesses that are part of Keep Shining Palm Springs. Get the details here.

• The Trump administration plans on ending the deployments of more than 40,000 National Guard members who are helping with all sorts of pandemic-related tasks across the country, from stocking food banks to assisting at testing sites, on June 24. It turns out that’s the day before they’d qualify for GI Bill benefits. Yes, really.

• The pandemic has apparently killed off another already-teetering retail chain: So long, Pier 1.

• However, it’ll apparently take more than a pandemic to kill off buffet-chain mainstay Golden Corral. While there are no valley locations, a lot of us know about Golden Corral (for better or for worse)—and in places where they’re allowed to reopen, they’re reopening.

• As businesses reopen, one of the biggest obstacles to maintaining social distancing guidelines involves their bathrooms. The Washington Post explains.

• One of the biggest challenges for schools that want to reopen come fall: They need more space. The Conversation breaks it down.

• The Intercept reports that as scientists try to nail down concrete information on SARS-CoV-2’s origins—knowledge that could help us battle the damn virusthe Trump administration, shall we say, is being less than helpful.

• If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, the state wants you to donate your plasma.

The Oscars could be postponed or even cancelled in 2021. While Variety got the scoop, Esquire brings the snark regarding the matter.

• Did you know air traffic has increased a whopping 123 percent in the last month? Really, it has. However, that means it’s back to 9 percent of what it normally is. The New York Times points out that now more than ever, we need to be careful about how people try to spin statistics, because what we’re going through is so completely unprecedented.

• Interesting: A person who had the OG horrifying coronavirus—SARS—back in 2003 has antibodies that are battling the current coronavirus. Live Science explains what this may mean for treatments going forward.

• Finally, for your viewing pleasure, John Krasinski’s Some Good News is back with a final episode before it goes on hiatus.

• And Randy Rainbow is also back, this time with a chat with the president … and DISTRACTION!

That’s the news for the day. Wash your hands. Wear. A. Mask. If you own a local business, consider our $199 advertising special; the deadline for the June print edition is this week! If you can afford to support independent, local journalism, including this Daily Digest, please consider doing so; learn more about becoming a Supporter of the Independent here. Back tomorrow.

For one Uber Eats and Grubhub driver, the pandemic has led to more work—but she worries about health and cleanliness, because she can’t access many restaurant bathrooms.

Another Grubhub driver feels safer, thanks to the introduction of contactless delivery—while a DoorDash driver feels threatened by anti-Asian racism, stirred up by certain politicians based on the genesis of SARS-CoV-2.

The Independent recently talked to three Coachella Valley-based restaurant-delivery-app drivers about their jobs, and how things have changed since COVID-19 arrived. Here are their stories, in their own words, edited only for space and clarity.


Fabiana Bragagnolo

I drive for Uber Eats and Grubhub; I’ve been driving since December. I was new to the area, and everything was working really well.

With the pandemic, as soon as it started, I had more work. But then the whole dynamic changed because of the security measures. I used to wash my hands before deliveries. (Before), I was going to the restaurant restrooms, and they were very welcoming. Then all of a sudden, this stopped. It’s not in all the restaurants; some restaurants still have them open. But the majority, especially in Palm Springs—they’re completely locked. You cannot access them.

There two things: One, obviously, I cannot wash my hands. I initially made my own hand sanitizer with alcohol and essential oils, because I couldn’t find any. Second, we are in the desert; we’re supposed to drink a lot of water. We may have to use the restroom at some point. I have to be careful, because I tend to have kidney infections.

One day last week, my kidneys started hurting, and that obviously affected my whole day. I called one of the restaurants in Palm Springs before picking up food to see if I could use the restroom. To be honest, I was almost in tears, because I was in a lot of pain, and I was frustrated. The staff said, “No, let me ask the manager.” The manager said, “No, we’re not supposed to.” It was frustrating. I did that delivery, and then I went home. I live in Desert Hot Springs right now, and this job takes you wherever. It’s affecting me physically. It’s not safe for us; it’s not safe for the customers we deliver the food to, because there’s no washing our hands. Hand sanitizer is fine, but it’s better to wash your hands.

The other day, I went to KFC, and they said, “The restroom is closed.” When I looked at the Grubhub policies online, it says clearly that we are supposed to be using the restrooms. It’s under the COVID-19 guidelines. But Grubhub does not respond to my inquiries. Uber Eats hasn’t, either. It’s, “Sorry, we’ll investigate.” But they don’t. I was talking to a couple of other drivers the other day in Palm Springs; they said the same things. But these are two guys; for guys, it’s easier. They can stop (to use the bathroom) anywhere. (Laughs.) But they said it’s becoming a bit of an issue for them, too.

At times, there has been lot of work—especially early on. It got to the point that I refused jobs because it was too many. Lately, there’s been less work, and tips are a bit lower, too, but it’s all in waves.

Yesterday was a good day. I did only four deliveries, and the customers were very nice. A few people were thanking me for the job that we do. There was a kid in Desert Hot Springs with autism. He came out, and he was the happiest person. However, we don’t get to meet all of the customers anymore, because we have the option to leave an order contactless.

I really enjoy this job. It’s just becoming frustrating. Because I’m new to the area, it’s nice to see all these beautiful spaces. I’m Italian. I was in Detroit before. I lived in Los Angeles, and then I lived for three years in Detroit. I wanted to go back to L.A., but it’s so expensive; I can’t afford it. I’ve always loved this area, the Coachella Valley. I like art. I’m kind of an artist. I love the weather. It’s the landscape, the environment, and the views. So I drove down from Detroit in November. That’s why I do this job as well: I couldn’t find much work, and it’s pretty much paying the bills for now, so it’s good. You have your own hours, which is good, because I’m doing a degree online, so it fits well with my schedule.


Alex Callego

I currently just do Doordash, and I have been driving since December. Obviously, there’s been a huge increase in the demand. I drive here in the desert, and I sometimes drive in other places outside of the desert—in San Diego, particularly. Sometimes I’ll work out there for a week. The adherence to wearing masks and social distancing has been good, for the most part, out here in the desert. People tend to be OK with me asking for zero-contact delivery.

At the very beginning of the pandemic, people were a lot more generous. They knew how heavy this whole thing was, and how much of a burden it is on the economy. At least here in the desert, people were being generous. I was getting $20, $30, $40 tips. This was incredible to me. I was like, thank you. They see the risk that you’re taking when you’re driving and having to be in contact with people—although to be quite honest, delivery is probably the lowest amount of risk that anybody can take as far as anybody “essential.” You’re not having to be cooped up in a building with co-workers, where you’re not sure where they’ve been. I’m just by myself, and the most I have to do is walk into a restaurant and pick up the food.

As for the difference between driving in the desert versus San Diego: Obviously, different counties have different mandates for masks and sheltering in place. I believe that Palm Springs was one of the first places to require it. As far as masks are concerned … (early on in San Diego), I was always wearing masks, and I got these weird looks from people—even kind of mocking looks. It was almost culture shock to have these huge differences in how people were reacting. For me, I believe the more protected you are, the better, so why not take the precaution and be on the safe side? Wear a mask!

As far as the generosity goes—it’s like old money versus new money. A lot of elderly people, they’ve been through certain things, and they’ve seen hardship. For a lot of them, it feels right to reach out and be generous. … Also, here in the desert, we tend to understand (the importance of tipping), because most of us work in hospitality or have friends who work in hospitality, whereas a friend of mine who lives in San Diego made this comment: “Yeah, it’s the city of champagne dreams on beer money.” You see a lot of young people who have money, but they’re not willing to be generous. I had to do a delivery in La Jolla. I drove through all these hills, putting my car through the paces, and this house was overlooking the ocean. For a sandwich that cost the guy $12, from this mom-and-pop deli in University City, I was getting a delivery fee of $6. For a tip, he gave me nothing. … That’s a whole hour; I could have, here in the desert, made $20 in just 30 minutes. So it’s very defeating when you have that happen.

For the most part, I feel safe. There is still that slight anxiety where I feel that I have to keep constantly washing my hands. I have a spray bottle of liquid sanitizer where I can spray down my steering wheel and all of the surfaces that I touch. I even have a bar of soap in my car just in case I need to wash my hands somewhere, and I wear masks all the time. But most of my anxiety stems from the stigmas created by the coronavirus and its origin. For me, being Asian, seeing (discrimination) on the news and the media, and seeing all these physical attacks—I’m Filipino, but we get lumped in together, and it’s very unfair. It’s not fair for Chinese people to have that at all, either. Racism is not good. But that’s one of those things I always see. The president should be a person who denounces hatred and racism. Even though he says he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body, he has yet to denounce racism publicly.

I’ve noticed a lot of side eye. I’ve seen certain people (look at me strangely), especially working-class people, which is sad, because working-class areas are where most of the Asians are. I was at a Chipotle picking up an order, and I was going to my car. This other car pulled up; two guys were in there. The passenger got out and was going into Chipotle, but the driver was sitting in the car. He was looking at me, and there was definite disgust in his eyes. He was looking at me—with hatred, almost. I could feel it. And I was like, “I don’t even know you; why are you looking at me like this?” And he would not stop looking at me.

(The lack of bathroom access) has not really been a problem. Like I said, I always carry around sanitizer, so I feel pretty safe if I can’t wash my hands. When I go to a restaurant, if the restroom is available, I will use the restroom and wash my hands before I exit the building. If it’s not, I look for a sanitizing station and use that. And if they don’t have either of those, I immediately use my hand sanitizer. I don’t touch my face anymore. I even won’t eat in my car anymore.

DoorDash is being very conscientious about how they take care of drivers—making sure that their drivers have the proper personal protective equipment. You can order face masks; you can order gloves; you can order hand sanitizer, which is great. It’s very important that we’re protected, and I’m glad that DoorDash is making the effort. And as far as compensation goes, I’ve noticed a little bit of a bump up. They do these things called peak hours, and they’ll add an extra dollar or two. I’ve been pretty happy with how they’ve dealt with all of this, for the most part. I can’t speak about any other delivery companies. There are many of them now, but, yeah, I really hope that this is a wake-up call to all industries in general to treat people better.


Ricky Reidling

I currently work for Grubhub, but I’ve worked for most of the other ones as well: I’ve been doing this off and on for 3 1/2 or four years. Some of the apps are better than others, as far as how they are set up. With Grubhub, the people tend to tip better, versus some of the other ones. For me, it’s a better app.

(Since the pandemic began), well, it’s been quite interesting. I’m sure a lot of the drivers are nervous. For Grubhub, you get to go in and, if you’re lucky, pick shifts that you get to work every week. They would set a time—say, on Saturdays—when you would go in and pick shifts. Most of the time, by the time you got in to pick your shifts, there were no shifts available. Now, it’s literally shifts available every day, because I think there are a lot of drivers not wanting to drive right now.

(Grubhub) has made things easier, as far as no-contact delivery. They have it in the app now where you can request, or the customer can request, for you to leave the food outside the door. Some of the restaurants are doing curbside service, where they actually will bring the food out to you, or if you go in, they are all masked and gloved. Of course, we have to be masked to go into any of the restaurants as well.

As for tipping, it fluctuates. I’ve been lucky with a lot of customers, but I turned on the app today for just a little bit, and one of the customers didn’t even tip. When you look at some of these apps, (customers) want you to go drive a few miles to pick up their food for $3, and use your gas—and then for them to not even tip you, there’s really no advantage to accept an order like that, because it’s not worth it. It’s not worth the wear and tear on your car, the gas, the mileage or anything. … On some of the apps, you do know what you’re being tipped in advance. On Grubhub, you do know what you’re being tipped in advance. … Postmates, to me, is one of the worst, because you don’t even know what your tip is sometimes until a day or two later.

I feel rather safe, because I’m very cautious. I wear my mask when I’m out, and I wash my hands. Sanitizer is always in my car. Anytime I make a delivery, immediately, I sanitize my hands. I’m wiping down my phone constantly—and not having to make any contact with the customers, that makes it a lot easier.

(Regarding a lack of access to restaurant bathrooms): I never really had to come across that issue. I live in Palm Springs. It’s not that busy on the Grubhub app for me. I can go out and deal with (the delivery), come back, and it can be another 30 minutes, an hour or even longer before I get another delivery.

Like I said, (contactless delivery) makes driving a little bit safer—not having to deal with customers one-on-one. You never know what’s going to happen when somebody comes up and opens the door, you know? I like no-contact delivery. Even if COVID wasn’t going on, I’d like that idea. … I hope that the no-contact delivery sticks, because I don’t see any issue in leaving food at someone’s door. The app lets them know when we arrive, and then we also text them to say, “We just left the food at the door,” or we can call them. So, they’ve got all these great options to let customers know that their food is delivered, and it’s right at their front door.

It’s very good these delivery services are available right now. Let me tell you, there are a lot of people who will not go to the grocery store. I do shopping for a senior neighbor of mine; she won’t leave her house. Thank goodness these delivery services are here for people, so they can get food delivered to them. It’s a really good thing right now.

Riverside County seems poised to move into the second part of the state’s Stage 2 reopening process—meaning people may soon be able to shop in stores, and dine in at restaurants.

This news comes as a result of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement today that he’s revised the state’s somewhat odd reopening criteria—and that “roughly” 53 of the state’s 58 counties would soon qualify.

Of course, he did not announce which of the 53 or so counties qualify. So I checked the state’s county-variance website for updates throughout the afternoon to see if Riverside County had qualified, and I got excited when the page with the list of counties crashed for about an hour. I thought maybe it was being updated … but that was not the case. Boo!

Anyway, this afternoon, Supervisor V. Manuel Perez said in a Facebook video that he was confident the county would meet Newsom’s revised criteria. So … ready or not, here we probably go, maybe!

More news from the day:

Joshua Tree National Park reopened over the weekend. The Los Angeles Times has the details.

• The county has opened yet another free testing site in the Coachella Valley, this one at the Cathedral City Library.

• Some very, very promising news on the vaccine front: The volunteers who participated in a study for biotech company Moderna’s vaccine developed antibodies, and the vaccine caused no harm to the participants. You all know the rule about rushed studies these days—they need to be taken with that gigantic figurative grain of salt—but the news could not have been any more encouraging. CNN has the news on that.

More vaccine news, from the San Francisco Chronicle: One potential vaccine, being designed by a Northern California company, is actually administered via a patch. Science!

• Other news from Gov. Newsom from today and over the weekend: He’s asked the state’s casinos to reconsider their opening plans for now. And in something of a surprise, he said pro sports will probably be able to return to the state—in empty stadiums—come June. Also possibly coming in a couple of weeks: Haircuts!

Highly recommended: Fareed Zakaria’s “take” from his Sunday CNN show. He powerfully makes the case that the reopening debate has its roots in class and income. This is a must-watch—especially if you’re a college-educated person who is still employed and who has no doubts whatsoever that the reopening process is being rushed across the country.

Yes, we really are living in the worst timeline: So the president came out today and said he’s been taking a disproven, dangerous drug to prevent COVID-19. Then the speaker of the House criticized him for doing so, in part because the president is, in her words, “morbidly obese.” Ladies and gentlemen, your federal government!

• From the Independent: Our resident sommelier, Katie Finn, has been holding wine tastings via Zoom—and they’ve been a blessing. But they can’t replace the real thing.

What is the future of restaurants? The San Francisco Chronicle takes a multimedia look at what to expect when we’re allowed to finally dine in.

• If you want to break the rules, you rebel you, and see your friends despite the continuing stay-at-home order, the Los Angeles Times breaks down the risks you’ll be facing.

• NBC News looks at how COVID-19 patients are helping each other in ways that medical professionals cannot.

• NERDS! I say that with tons of love, even though we Stanford folks are trained to dislike anything UC Berkeley: After the college’s graduation ceremony was cancelled, students wound up replicating the campus and having a virtual ceremony via Minecraft.

• A unique idea from a Maryland bar to make sure customers maintain social distancing guidelines when it’s time to reopen: Everyone wears innertubes on wheels!

That’s certainly enough for today, no? Wash your hands. Wear a mask when you leave the house, because more and more science is coming out showing that it drastically cuts down on virus transmission. If you own a local business, or want to support a local business, check out our $199 advertising special. If you can afford to support local journalism, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow!

I’ve been asked several times why we don’t regularly post COVID-19 stats here in the Daily Digest, and the answer is simple: Statistics, when put in the proper context, are important and revealing. When they’re not, however … they can be confusing and misleading.

Take the total number of COVID-19 cases, for example. As of this writing, according to Riverside County, there have been 5,618 confirmed cases in the county. Since the start of April, that number has been increasing at a pretty steady pace—there have been a few peaks and valleys, sure, but overall, the pace has been pretty consistent for the last six weeks now.

So … what does this tell us? Well, it tells us SARS-CoV-2 is still a problem. But that’s about all it tells us.

One of the reasons the number has kept going up at this pace is that the county, and the medical organizations within it, have done a fine job of ramping up the amount of testing done in the county—and more tests means more positive results.

What about deaths? Alas, 242 people in Riverside County have died from the virus, according to the county. That’s 242 individuals who loved, were loved, and made some sort of a mark on our world. That number represents a lot of loss. But in terms of what the number of deaths tell us about the disease’s spread … deaths are a lagging indicator, reflecting what was happening two to six weeks ago … maybe more. Also, there’s increasing evidence a whole lot of deaths due to COVID-19 aren’t being reported properly anyway.

One of the best, most-contextual statistics out there—a number, alas, that is hard to find—is the R-naught number. It tells us how many people, on average, one person with COVID-19 is infecting in a certain place. If we keep that number below 1, progress is being made in stemming the virus’ spread. If it’s above 1, the virus’ spread is increasing. But, as the San Francisco Chronicle points out, even the R0 number has its limitations.

I’m not saying all of the stats being thrown at us by government officials or news sources should be disregarded or ignored. However, I am saying these numbers need to be looked at in the proper context—and they’re usually not.

Today’s news:

The Desert Sun talked to some local media types, including yours truly, about the struggles of the media in the Coachella Valley.

• From the Independent: Our beer writer points out a small positive that’s come about as a result of the stay-at-home order: It’s easier than ever for beer-lovers to get amazing craft beer from across the state.

• For the first-time ever, the House of Representatives has changed its rules to allow remote voting. Like almost everything else these days, the vote was along party lines.

A new survey of older men living with HIV, primarily in the Palm Springs area, by a UC Riverside researcher, has results that are both sad and frightening: Not only are many of these men anxious and depressed; it’s causing them to miss taking their medications.

Can we learn something from Georgia? The state started reopening three weeks ago now, and things so far … are going OK?

• Eisenhower Medical Center just released some new Coachella Valley-specific stats about COVID-19. The hospitalization numbers had not yet been updated as of this writing, but scroll down for other numbers, and you’ll see the valley is doing OK.

• Up in Anza, the new Cahuilla Casino Hotel plans on opening 12 days from today.

• Millions of Americans are still waiting on the unemployment benefits they need to survive, according to Bloomberg News.

Paycheck Protection Program loans could come back and bite a lot of businesses in the you-know-what, due to restrictions on spending, as well as reporting requirements. SFGate breaks it down.

• Good news! It’s been proven safe for people suffering from COVID-19 to receive plasma from people who have recovered—and early results on the practice’s effectiveness are encouraging.

• Bad news! The Navy is reporting that five sailors aboard the Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier have tested positive for the virus for a second time. Nobody’s quite sure what that means yet.

• Sad and scary news: A couple of Ralph’s employees in the Los Angeles area have died from COVID-19.

• Frustrating news: More and more government agencies are using the pandemic as an excuse to disregard public-information laws.

• Baffling news: No matter your politics, you have to admit some of President Trump’s recent statements about COVID-19 testing have been simply bonkers.

A study out of Berlin has recommendations on how orchestras can situate its members and safely play again.

Is a vaccine made with tobacco really going to save us all? A vaccine made from the stuff is heading to human trials, because—repeat after me—nothing makes any sense anymore.

• Finally, Sylvia Goldsholl is one of my new heroes. At 108 years old, she’s lived through two pandemics—and just beat COVID-19.

That’s all for the week! Buy our fantastic Coachella Valley Coloring Book. If you can afford to do so, please consider becoming a supporter of the Independent, and help us continue doing great local journalism without the annoying article limits or paywalls you find on other websites. Wash your hands. Be kind. Wear a mask when going out. The Daily Digest will be back on Monday, at the very latest—and we will be updating CVIndependent.com with great stories all weekend.

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