CVIndependent

Fri12042020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Jimmy Boegle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s horrifying that a lot of high-powered Republicans are—without any evidence whatsoever—making allegations of widespread election fraud.

However … these flailing attempts to mount a legal challenge to the election led to one of the most bonkers events in the history of this great nation—a hilarious event for which I will be forever grateful—and that’s what I’d like to discuss with you today.

By now, you’ve probably heard of Four Seasons Total Landscaping. If you somehow haven’t, strap yourself in, because we’re going on one hell of a ride.

Four Seasons Total Landscaping is the place in suburban Philadelphia where Rudy Giuliani and some other Trump representatives held a press conference on Saturday morning. Their goal was to garner publicity for their so-far baseless claims of election fraud. What they did, instead, was this:

• They caused a great deal of confusion about the venue. President Trump tweeted on Saturday: “Lawyers News Conference Four Seasons, Philadelphia, 11 a.m.” This understandably led people to assume the president meant the Four Seasons hotel. (Apparently, that’s where Trump initially thought the press conference was going to be held.) However, minutes later, he deleted that Tweet and clarified that the conference would actually be at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, as this absolutely must-read piece from The Philadelphia Inquirer explains.

• The confusion led the poor folks at the Four Seasons hotel to tweet out that, no, the press conference was NOT being held there. Meanwhile, speculation began running rampant that perhaps Trump’s team meant to book the hotel but instead booked the landscaping biz by accident; however, that aforementioned Inquirer piece makes it clear that the team booked Four Seasons Total Landscaping on purpose, so it would “take place in a section of Philadelphia where they might receive a more welcomed reception than at the raucous celebrations of Joe Biden’s victory going on in Center City.”

• As for that section of Philadelphia: It turns out that Four Seasons Total Landscaping’s neighbors include a sex-toy shop and a crematorium.

• Moments before Giuliani started speaking, the networks called the race for Joe Biden—something that Giuliani apparently didn’t know had happened. As the Daily Mail explains: “Taking a question from a reporter, the former New York City Mayor initially looked confused about ‘the call’ before asking, ‘Who was it called by?’ When he heard ‘all the networks’ had awarded Biden Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral college votes, he quickly regained his composure, taking on a sarcastic tone and looking around to his team saying ‘oh my goodness!’ He repeated that the Trump campaign would continue to fight the result as he said: ‘Networks don't get to decide elections, courts do.’” Courts do?!

• It was later revealed that one of Giuliani’s star witnesses of alleged fraud who spoke at the press conference is apparently a sex offender.

• In the aftermath of this press conference, Four Seasons Total Landscaping is milking it for all it’s worth—and selling merch!

• Buzzfeed has this interesting post-press conference tidbit: “Now, (Four Seasons Total Landscaping) exists in virtual reality—complete with weathered detailing and a last-minute Trump 2020 podium. And rejoicing furries.”

• If you don’t know furries are, um, well, uh, here’s a Wikipedia article.

• Finally, I want to yet again tip my hat to that Philadelphia Inquirer article, which reveals that the whole shebang apparently ticked off Four Seasons Total Landscaping’s neighbors. Key quote: “The 78-year-old employee manning the counter at the Fantasy Island sex shop, who declined to give his name, said the phone had been ringing off the hook since Saturday with callers asking: ‘Is Rudy Giuliani there?’”

God bless America.

Today’s news:

• The big—and very encouraging—news of the day: Pfizer announced that early analysis shows its vaccine appears to be more than 90 percent effective at preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections. This could be a huge freaking deal.

• Related: CNBC looks at where all of the leading vaccine candidates stand as of now.

As the pandemic continues setting alarming records across the country, President-elect Joe Biden announced a 13-member coronavirus task force, to help his administration battle the pandemic once he takes office on Jan. 20.

At least three people who were at Trump’s Election Night party at the White House now have COVID-19, including Dr. Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development.

The head of the General Services Administration is so far refusing to acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect. What does this mean? According to NBC News: “More than 48 hours after media outlets projected that Joe Biden had defeated Trump to win the White House, GSA chief Emily Murphy has yet to sign the letter of ‘ascertainment’ a previously mostly noncontroversial process since the passage of the Presidential Transition Act of 1963. Signing that paperwork when a new president is elected triggers the release of millions of dollars in transition funding and allows an incoming administration access to current government officials.”

A huge spike in coronavirus cases in Utah has led the governor to, at long last, issue a mask mandate. According to The Washington Post: “In a video posted to Twitter late on Sunday—which Utah residents were alerted to watch via an emergency cellphone alert—(Gov. Gary) Herbert also declared a two-week state of emergency and announced a spate of other restrictions aimed to curb infections, which the governor noted are ‘growing at an alarming rate.’”

• Related-ish: Two experts tell MedPage Today that staffing and PPE shortages could haunt nursing homes as the pandemic rages through the winter.

President Trump today fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Key quote, from CNN: “Esper's firing has raised concerns that other top national security officials who have earned Trump's wrath may be next in the line of fire.”

Our partners at CalMatters point out that COVID-19 cases are starting to increase here in California, too.

• Also from CalMatters: Who could take Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ place in the U.S. Senate? Here are some possibilities.

What does the election of Joe Biden mean for the economy? An expert from Texas State University, writing for The Conversation, points out: “Historical data suggests that those who are concerned with the economy have reason to be fairly satisfied with the election results: The economy generally fares better under Democratic presidents.

Now this is a sad, horrifying headline, from NBC News: “Lawyers can't find the parents of 666 migrant kids, a higher number than previously reported.” Sigh.

• From the Independent: The year 2020 has been a year with a lot of death. Our Valerie-Jean (V.J.) Hume lost her husband to cancer earlier this year—and learned that grief can literally break someone’s heart. She tells the story of how she learned about the medical condition called broken heart syndrome—and how she’s now hopefully on the mend.

The final episode of Jeopardy! hosted by the late, great Alex Trebek will air on Christmas Day.

• Finally … a lot of people (myself included) were making fun of Nevada for its less-than-speedy ballot counting last week. Well, it’s now time to tip your hat to the Silver State—because voters there overwhelmingly made it the first state in the U.S. to protect same-sex marriage in its Constitution.

Happy Monday, everyone. Stay safe, and wear a mask when you’re around others, please. If you have the financial means to do so, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent to help continue to produce quality, independent local journalism. The Daily Digest will be back Wednesday.

Hi. My name is Jimmy, and I am here to remind you that while many of us are distracted as we watch for presidential-election results to come in, we’re still in the midst of a crippling pandemic.

A pandemic that’s worse than ever.

Consider:

More than 120,000 COVID-19 cases were reported in the U.S. yesterday—more than ever before. And that could be just the tip of the iceberg. As Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner, told CNBC: “Remember 120,000 cases aren’t 120,000 cases. We’re probably, at best, diagnosing 1 in 5 cases right now, maybe a little bit less than that, so this is at least half a million cases a day, probably more in terms of actual numbers of infection.”

Hospitalizations are soaring in many communities in the U.S. According to CNN: “In the first five days of November—as the country has focused on elections—22 states reported at least one record-high day of Covid-19 hospitalizations, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project. The states are: Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.”

Meanwhile, somehow, N95 masks are in short supply again. Sigh.

• Are you a sports fan who was looking to the much-delayed start of the Pac-12 Conference football season? Well, as of now, two of the six Pac-12 games slated for this opening week have been cancelled due to COVID-19 cases. ESPN has the details.

While California is still doing MUCH better than most of the rest of the country, cases are starting to tick up here, too.

• In Europe, things are getting bad—and all of the minks in Denmark will be culled (translation: killed) “after a mutated form of coronavirus that can spread to humans was found on mink farms,” according to BBC News. Yikes.

• Finally, even if you have been distracted from the pandemic by all of the political coverage … if you watch MSNBC, you won’t be watching Rachel Maddow this evening—because she’s quarantining after being in close contact with someone who has tested positive. (She has tested negative so far.)

I could go on and on and on with the bleak COVID-19 news, but you get the point: We’re in the thick of it, folks, as a nation and as a planet.

We need your support to keep doing what we do here at the Independent, so please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you have a few bucks to spare.

More of today’s news:

• Related to all of the above: Counties with the worst coronavirus surges voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. You may draw your own conclusions.

Should people be paid to take the COVID-19 vaccine? Some experts say that such a move would lead to a greater societal good, according to MedPage Today.

A “nontoxic and stable” nasal spray blocked ferrets from getting the coronavirus, according to a small study released yesterday. The New York Times talked to experts about what this may or may not mean.

• Here’s an infuriating headline, compliments of NPR: “CDC Report: Officials Knew Coronavirus Test Was Flawed But Released It Anyway.” Ugh. Key quote: “The lab designed and built the diagnostic test in record time, and the little vials that contained necessary reagents to identify the virus were boxed up and ready to go. But NPR has learned the results of that final quality control test suggested something troubling — it said the kit could fail 33% of the time.”

• Back to politics: Early in the morning on Wednesday, the president said he’d have the U.S. Supreme Court intervene in the election if he felt the need. However, could that actually happen? Both Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute and a University of Memphis law professor say it’s unlikely.

• Some history has been made in L.A.: After this election, the entire Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will be female. https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-11-04/l-a-county-makes-history-with-all-female-board-of-supervisors

Some 4.3 million (!) ballots have yet to be counted in California. What could this mean for the various ballot measures? Our partners at CalMatters explain.

• Will hurricane season ever end? After devastating Nicaragua, Hurricane Eta appears to be heading toward Florida.

• From the Independent: Kevin Fitzgerald talks to some of the people behind new nonprofit Palm to Pines Parasports, the goal of which is to enrich the lives of disabled Riverside County residents via athletics. Key quote, from founder Michael Rosenkrantz: “The idea is that we use sports as an entry point to leading a full life. So we want to create a lot of sports opportunities to get people with physical disabilities more active, both physically and emotionally.”

• Because why the heck not, our beer columnist looks at the weird and wild history of the “40,” aka a large bottle of malt liquor—and it is fascinating. Key quote: “Years later, in the ’60s, the 40-ounce bottle seems to have made its debut. Beer was often sold in quarts (32 ounces) and even half-gallon (64 ounces) sizes for the purpose of serving at parties—but as weird as 40 ounces sounds as a package, it’s simply a 25 percent increase from the quart. It was meant to allow the purchaser to save money while serving ‘friends’ at a soirée (presumably ‘friends’ the purchaser disliked). It was often sold based on its resemblance to champagne.”

• Finally, while I think Buzzfeed listacles are one of the key reasons for the downfall of our society, I feel compelled to share this one, titled “21 Tweets About MSNBC's Steve Kornacki Because He's The Internet's New Hero.”

That’s enough for the week. Stay safe, everyone—and as always, thanks for reading.

So, uh, hello there. Let’s start off today by looking at the numbers … the COVID-19 numbers, that is.

The state today released its weekly county-by-county tier stats—delayed a day due to Election Day—and, alas, Riverside County is headed in the wrong direction.

While our positivity rate (5.9 percent) and health-equity quartile positivity rate (a measure of the rate in underserved populations; 7.8 percent) would qualify Riverside County to be in the less-restrictive “substantial” tier, our 11.5 cases per 100,000 are well above the allowed 7 per 100,000.

However, the news is not all bad. For the first time, the state did not adjust the county’s case-per-100,000 number upward—meaning we’re finally doing a state-average amount of testing. Also, on a local level, according to this week’s District 4 report, the Coachella Valley’s positivity rate is 5.6 percent—up a wee bit from last week’s 5.2 percent, but still the second-best number we’ve had here in months. Meanwhile, the valley’s hospitalization numbers remain steady—but two of our neighbors lost their lives due to COVID-19 during the week ending Nov. 1.

What does all this all mean? We are, thank goodness, thus far avoiding the huge spikes being seen almost everywhere else in the country. However, it also means that indoor dining, gyms and movie theaters won’t be happening again here for quite some time.

Today’s links:

• As for the national election stuff … it’s a debacle, and we really have nothing to add—except to say there are bits of good news to be found: More LGBTQ candidates ran for office in 2020 than ever beforeand some have earned some historic wins

• On the local level: More than 400,000 ballots have yet to be counted in Riverside County, with the next batch of results coming at 6 p.m. tonight (Wednesday). However:

— Independent Chad Mayes has a substantial lead over Republican challenger Andrew Kotyuk in Assembly District 42.

— Democrat Eduardo Garcia is way ahead of Republican America Figueroa in Assembly District 56.

— While a lot of votes in Cathedral City have yet to be counted, Rita Lamb has a large lead over Alan Carvalho in District 1, while Nancy Ross has more than twice the number of votes as JR Corrales in District 2.

— The races in Coachella are too close to call. Incumbent Steven Hernandez has 2,835 votes to Lesly Figueroa’s 2,430 in the mayoral race, while Denise Delgado (2,473) and Emmanuel Martinez (1,946) are in the lead for two City Council seats over Neftali Galarza (1,897) and Philip “Felipe” Bautista (955).

Scott Matas has a large lead (2,208 to 1,217) over Adam Sanchez in the DHS mayoral race, while Russell Betts has a commanding lead over the field for one of two City Council seats; the second seat remains very much up in the air.

— Incumbents Glenn Miller and Lupe Ramos Amith have large leads in their respective Indio City Council races.

Karina Quintanilla (932) leads incumbent Susan Marie Weber (589) in the brand-new Palm Desert City Council District 1 race, while incumbents Gina Nestande and Kathleen Kelly lead in District 2.

— Incumbent Christy Holstege (1,812) has a big lead over Mike McCulloch (915) and Dian Torres (380) in the Palm Springs City Council District 4 contest.

For up to date results, and for results on other contests in the county, go to the county results website.

• Our partners at CalMatters have all the details on the statewide ballot questions. The big news: Prop 22 passed, meaning drivers for Lyft, Uber and the other apps will remain independent contractors.

• Late on Monday, a judge issued a preliminary ruling that Gov. Gavin Newsom has been overstepping his bounds with COVID-19 orders. According to The Associated Press via SFGate: “Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman tentatively ruled that one of the dozens of executive orders Newsom has issued overstepped his authority and was ‘an unconstitutional exercise of legislative power.’ She more broadly barred him ‘from exercising any power under the California Emergency Services Act which amends, alters, or changes existing statutory law or makes new statutory law or legislative policy.’” The effects of this ruling remain to be seen—but could be substantial.

• In other court news: The U.S. Supreme Court—including newest member Amy Coney Barrett—heard a big LGBT rights case today. According to The New York Times: “In an argument marked by sharp exchanges on the sweep of its 2015 decision establishing a right to same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court on Wednesday considered whether Philadelphia may bar a Catholic agency that refuses to work with same-sex couples from screening potential foster parents.”

• Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, joined the growing chorus of voices pleading with the Trump administration to take action as COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket. She said, according to The Washington Post: “We are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic … leading to increasing mortality. This is not about lockdowns—it hasn’t been about lockdowns since March or April. It’s about an aggressive balanced approach that is not being implemented.

• The New York Times looks at the kick-ass job college newspapers are doing at covering coronavirus outbreaks on campuses all across the country.

• Finally, if you have an extra $2.25 million sitting around, you can buy Jerry Lewis’ old Palm Springs digs.

Given the news overload most of us have endured over the last 24 hours … I think that’s enough for the day. Please consider clicking here to become a Supporter of the Independent; we offer our local journalism free to all, but it costs a lot to produce. As always, thanks for reading—and please stay safe.

Nov. 3—a day most of us have long been looking forward to, with a mixture of anticipation and dread—is just hours away.

I have been an anxious mess, I will admit, all day—in large part because no matter what happens, a whole lot of people are going to be angry.

As for tomorrow: The Independent won’t be covering the results as they come in, as we don’t have the proper staffing to do that well—and we don’t do things we can’t do well. We’ll have PLENTY of coverage post-election on what everything means, but for Election Day and the immediate aftermath, here are the sources I recommend.

For local results: Follow the county’s election page here. This is where you can see the city and other local results as they come in.

For state results: I recommend following the fantastic coverage of our partners at CalMatters. You can also view the live results as they come in at the secretary of state’s page. Finally, the Los Angeles Times is the closest thing the state has to a newspaper of record, so it’s worth a watch.

For national results: Well, take your pick of all the big media sources. I recommend a big-newspaper website like The New York Times or The Washington Post, or one of the original four (ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS) networks’ news sites over any of the cable-news sites. Also, if you want an interesting foreign perspective, BBC News is worth a look.

Take a deep breath. Stay calm. And hang in there.

News from the day, much of it related, as you’d expect:

• The Associated Press has published a lengthy explainer on how the organization “calls” each race. Find that here.

• Remember that on the national level, there is not just one election; there are actually 50 separate elections taking place, all of which are done a little differently—and that’s REALLY important to remember this year. In some states, all of the early/received mail-in votes will be counted and released first (and those, according to polling, may tend to favor Biden); in other states, it’s the exact opposite. The New York Times has published a fantastic chart explaining when we can expect each state to report what results here.

Nate Silver, of FiveThirtyEight, says Trump has about a 10 percent chance of winning—and 10 percent is NOT nothing. His piece, “I’m Here To Remind You That Trump Can Still Win,” is worth a read, to better understand the vagaries of polling and whatnot.

• Sigh. The president today signed an executive order creating a “1776 Commission.” According to Politico, the goal of the commission is “to promote ‘patriotic education’ and counter lessons that he says divide Americans on race and slavery and teach students to ‘hate their own country.’” This is some scary stuff.

• Meanwhile, the White House is being surrounded by “non-scalable” fencing in anticipation of protests.

• Aaand in some states, last-minute attack ads with a decidedly anti-LGBTQ slant are popping up. According to NBC News, an example: “Omar Leos, a candidate for the San Antonio School Board, has been happily married to his husband since 2013, but he did not expect his relationship to be an issue in the campaign. However, Texas Family Action, a political action committee affiliated with the conservative San Antonio Family Association, sent a mailer to voters in Leos’ district describing him as being ‘“married” to same-sex man’ and noting he has ‘no children’ in the school district.” 

• Now for some good news: A federal judge—known for a conservative bent—rejected an attempt by Republicans to get 127,000 votes thrown out in Texasbecause they were cast via drive-through voting. Thank goodness.

• The big local news of the day: The 2021 Palm Springs International Film Festival has been cancelled. While not surprising at all, it is very sad. A quote from the news release: “As we reach the end of the year, it is clear that we will not be able to present the film festival the way we have over the past 31 years. This is not an easy choice but we have made the decision to skip the 2021 edition. Rest assured we plan to be back in 2022 when we can hopefully be together safely again in theaters. We are still planning to celebrate and honor the best in cinema with our Film Awards Presentation on February 25, 2021 and plans for our annual short film festival scheduled for June 22-28, 2021 remain intact.”

• Back to national news: Over the weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci told The Washington Post that the status of the pandemic in the United States is dire: He said: “We’re in for a whole lot of hurt. It’s not a good situation. All the stars are aligned in the wrong place as you go into the fall and winter season, with people congregating at home indoors. You could not possibly be positioned more poorly.”

• You can probably guess what happened next, but anyway: This assessment really ticked off the president and his supporters—so much so that Trump told a crowd that he might fire Fauci after the election.

• Sort of related: Dr. Scott Atlas, the man who apparently has Trump’s ear over Fauci these days regarding the coronavirus, doesn’t know what RT is. According to The New York Times: “Dr. Scott W. Atlas, the White House coronavirus adviser, apologized on Sunday for appearing on a Russian state-sponsored news show that has been instrumental in an effort by the Russian government to spread false health information during the pandemic. Dr. Atlas did not, however, apologize for the content of the interview, where he continued a pattern as Mr. Trump’s adviser of downplaying the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as asserting without evidence that lockdown measures used to contain the virus are ‘killing people.’

• Our partners at CalMatters created a map/chart showing where donations to the two main presidential candidates came from in California, broken down by zip code. By that measure, some parts of the Coachella Valley prefer Biden; others prefer Trump.

The conclusions of a recent Stanford study: “We investigate the effects of large group meetings on the spread of COVID-19 by studying the impact of 18 Trump campaign rallies. … We conclude that these 18 rallies ultimately resulted in more than 30,000 incremental confirmed cases of COVID-19. Applying county-specific post-event death rates, we conclude that the rallies likely led to more than 700 deaths (not necessarily among attendees).”

• Related, I fear, is this headline from Slate: “Trump Plans to Hold an Election Night Party Inside White House With 400 Guests.”

• OK, and now a little more good news: A small study out of the U.K. shows that people who had mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 cases still had cellular immunity six months later, “suggesting they might have some level of protection for at least that time.”

• Also good: A judge has told the U.S. Postal Service to get its crap together: “The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) must remind senior managers they must follow its ‘extraordinary measures’ policy and use its Express Mail Network to expedite ballots ahead of Tuesday’s presidential election, under an order signed by a U.S. judge.”

• Finally, there’s a word in Mexico, “zozobra,” that defines a concept that heretofore was unfamiliar to many Americans: “The word ‘zozobra’ is an ordinary Spanish term for ‘anxiety’ but with connotations that call to mind the wobbling of a ship about to capsize. The term emerged as a key concept among Mexican intellectuals in the early 20th century to describe the sense of having no stable ground and feeling out of place in the world.” Read more, from The Conversation, on how to handle zozobra—something many of us are experiencing right now.

Well, here we go. Stay safe, and go vote if you have not done so already. The Daily Digest will be back on Wednesday, the good Lord willing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palm Springs Pride has played an important role in the Independent’s history.

The 18th story published at CVIndependent.com, eight years ago now, was a brief photo piece about the 2012 festival—published when the website was still in beta, and we were more concerned about having content to build the site around than people actually seeing what we produced.

The 2013 festival was the first major event at which the Independent had a presence. We gave out logo reusable grocery bags—along with copies of our first Pride Issue, which was our fourth print edition overall.

In the years since, the Independent has had a booth at every Palm Springs Pride festival, as the celebration moved from Palm Springs Stadium, to the streets of downtown Palm Springs, to that odd area sort of in front of the Palm Springs Art Museum, back to the streets of downtown Palm Springs. We’ve given out logo frisbees, refrigerator magnets, fidget spinners, chip-bag clips, Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week shot glasses, and thousands of copies of each year’s Pride Issue.

This year, however, that won’t be happening. While both Palm Springs Pride, largely in a virtual format, and our annual Pride Issue are still here, we can’t currently gather because of this damned pandemic.

Sigh.

It’s often said that change is the only constant in life, and a lot of things have certainly changed in 2020—and who knows what the last two months of this year will bring?

I do know that the end of 2020 will be bringing some exciting changes to the Independent. I’m proud to announce that in mid-December, if all goes according to plan, we’ll be launching a brand-new, state-of-the-art, beautiful website. We’ll also be making some design tweaks to the print edition, starting with the January 2021 edition.

But before all of that happens, we’ll be announcing our amazing slate of Best of Coachella Valley winners—online on Monday, Nov. 23, and in our December print edition. But again, there will be change there as well: We can’t have our winners’ party like we always have in the past, so we’re looking at doing either a virtual celebration or perhaps a drive-in party. Watch for details on that as we figure them out.

While we here at the Independent are certainly embracing change, I really hope that in November 2021, we’re all back on Palm Canyon Drive for the Palm Springs Pride festival, gathering joyously like before.

As always, thanks for reading—and be sure to pick up our November 2020 print edition, our special Pride Issue.

In this space back on April 2, I was feeling sad, in part due to the fact that—other than bad ’80s music—most of my normal coping mechanisms were gone due to the lockdown:

On days like this during “normal” times, there are a handful of things I know I can do to get my head into a happier, more-productive frame of mind. Watching or listening to baseball, for example. A quick dip in the apartment hot tub helps. For some reason, a quick Aldi run does the trick. Yes, I am weird: Grocery shopping normally clears my head.

But … there’s no baseball. The apartment hot tub is closed, per state orders. And grocery shopping is daunting these days, and should only be done when absolutely necessary.

Today, as October prepares to make way for November, the apartment complex’s hot tub is open again. Grocery-store runs are less daunting (with plenty of toilet paper and hand sanitizer!). And then there’s baseball: If you’d have told me on back on April 2 that on Oct. 28, I’d be celebrating my Los Angeles Dodgers’ first World Series win since 1988, I’d have been euphoric—because at that point, I didn’t think there would be a 2020 baseball season at all.

This brings us to the nauseating peculiarities of last night’s World Series Game 6, during which the Dodgers won their elusive championship.

At the beginning of the eighth inning, the Dodgers’ star third baseman, Justin Turner, was mysteriously removed from the game; the announcers speculated that he may have suffered some sort of injury. Fortunately, Turner’s absence didn’t cost the Dodgers; they went on to win, 3-1, clinching the series, four games to two.

I stood in my living room, close to tears, as I watched it all unfold. I was so grateful that we got baseball this year. And I was elated that my team had won it all, after years of near misses, for the first time since my middle school years.

And then came the announcement: Justin Turner had been removed from the game because he’d tested positive for COVID-19.

Had the Rays won that game, there almost certainly would not have been a deciding Game 7 tonight; it would have been postponed, like so many other sports contests have been postponed as this virus continues to spread. If other players subsequently tested positive—as of this writing, no other positive tests have been announced, thank goodness—it’s possible Game 7 could have been delayed for up to a week, and possibly even cancelled.

To make matters even crazier, Turner decided to leave the area to which he’d been quarantined to join his teammates on the field during the latter portion of the post-game celebration. And it’s since been revealed that Turner was allowed to stay in the game after the league learned, apparently during the second inning, that Turner had received an “inconclusive” test result. According to league protocols, he should have been removed from the game right then and there.

In other words, even though baseball made it through the season, it barely did so—with plenty of questionable behavior all around. In typical 2020 fashion, we can’t even have a dramatic World Series win without a depressing subplot.

In terms of dealing with this damned pandemic, we’ve come a long way. But the full story of the World Series shows how far we’ve yet to go.

Today’s news:

Health-care workers at 11 Tenet-operated hospitals in California—including Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, JFK Memorial in Indio, and the High Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree—have voted to strike sometime soon. These members of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West say Tenet is not doing enough to keep both workers and patients safe during the pandemic. Read the strike announcement here; for more on the concerns the workers have, read the Independent’s coverage here.

Here’s this week’s Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. (District 4 includes the Coachella Valley and largely rural points eastward.) Our numbers here remain so-so: Cases are trending up slightly, while our weekly case-positivity rate remains OK (5.2 percent). Hospitalizations are also steady. (Ignore the weird Oct. 25 ICU spike; that didn’t actually happen and had to do with a data glitch.) Worst of all, five of our neighbors died from COVID-19 during the week ending Oct. 25.

• Related: COVID-19 is now the No. 3 cause of death in Riverside County, behind heart disease and cancer—and it continues to disproportionately kill Black and Latino residents, according to county Director of Public Health Kim Saruwatari. Key quote, from the Riverside Press-Enterprise: “Saruwatari also addressed the assertion by many pandemic skeptics that COVID-19 deaths are being inflated. ‘When we look at 2019 compared to 2020, cancer and heart disease, our leading causes of death, have increased in 2020, as did COVID,’ Saruwatari said. ‘So it’s not that we are detracting from our other leading causes of death and adding to COVID. We are seeing a true increase in death due to COVID.’

A statewide moratorium on water-service shutoffs remains in effect, to make sure people who can’t pay their water bills due to the economic downturn don’t lose this vital utility. The Independent’s Kevin Fitzgerald recently spoke to two of the largest valley water agencies regarding how the moratorium is affecting their finances; learn what they had to say here.

• Remember that anonymously written op-ed that appeared in The New York Times back in 2018, in which a senior official in the Trump administration claimed a lot of White House employees were working hard to counter the president’s “misguided impulses”? Well, the author revealed himself today—and it’s Miles Taylor, a former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security. Who in the heck is Miles Taylor, you ask? The Los Angeles Times explains.

• So … why in the world did the president and other members of his administration spill the beans so extensively to Bob Woodward, of all people, earlier this year? The latest stunner to come out of those conversations came out of the mouth of Jared Kushner, per CNN: “In a taped interview on April 18, Kushner told legendary journalist Bob Woodward that Trump was ‘getting the country back from the doctors’ in what he called a ‘negotiated settlement.’ Kushner also proclaimed that the US was moving swiftly through the ‘panic phase’ and ‘pain phase’ of the pandemic and that the country was at the ‘beginning of the comeback phase.’” What?! 

• Cases in Europe are surging—and governments there are locking down again. However, at least in Germany, there’s a key difference compared to what’s happening here, per The New York Times: “(German Chancellor Angela) Merkel conceded that the restrictions are ‘burdensome’ for a public that has grown increasingly weary of—and rebellious toward—limitations. But she stressed that they were necessary. German hospitals have seen the number of patients double in the past 10 days. The government will compensate small and midsize businesses affected by the monthlong closures with up to 75 percent of losses, the chancellor said. Financial aid for affected business will be worth up to 10 billion euros.”

• Related: The former commissioner of the FDA says the U.S. is about three weeks behind Europe in terms of the coronavirus surge. Key quote, from CNBC: “‘The density of the epidemic underway in European countries like France, Italy and the U.K. right now far exceeds what’s under way in the United States,’ he said. ‘For the most part, it’s a little bad everywhere in the United States. It’s not really, really bad anywhere with the exception of maybe Wisconsin, the Dakotas, Utah.’” Gulp.

• From The Conversation: Donald Trump’s support among evangelicals is beginning to slip … but just a little. Key quote: “What appears to have changed of late is that some politically conservative evangelicals—those who prioritize abortion restrictions, opposition to same-sex marriage and religious freedom—agree less than they did in 2016 that Trump deserves their vote. While President Trump may not be ‘pastor-in-chief,’ many evangelical leaders are reminding their fellow Christians that they should not view the office of president as somehow exempt from what they perceive as biblical standards of leadership.

A recent Axios-Ipsos poll shows that most Americans are taking the pandemic seriously, and exercising necessary precautions. Key quote: “A majority of Americans remain extremely or very concerned about the coronavirus, and about the possibility of cases rising in their area this fall and winter. However, there continues to be a significant difference in levels of concern by party affiliation.

• And finally: While things in many ways are terrible right now, at least we have this re-creation of that Access Hollywood interview of Trump by Billy Bush, compliments of Sarah Cooper and Helen Mirren.

As always, thanks for reading. Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you’re able; advertising remains way down due to the pandemic, so we’re depending on reader support more than ever before. Be safe, please; the Daily Digest will return Friday.

Happy (?) Monday, everyone.

If you have not yet voted in our Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll … well, now’s your last chance. Voting is slated to end tonight (Monday night). However, I know a lot of you don’t read the Daily Digest until the morning after we send it—so we’re going to extend voting until noon on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Unlike the other publications’ reader polls, we only ask each reader to vote once. That’s because unlike, say, that desperate daily’s poll, the goal of our Best of Coachella Valley poll is not to boost our web traffic; our goal is to get a strong, comprehensive slate of winners and finalists.

Thanks to all of you who already have voted! And for those of you who haven’t, click here!

Today’s news:

• The wind that’s wreaked minor havoc here in the last 24 hours is helping fuel a nasty wildfire in Orange County that, as of this writing, has forced 60,000 people to evacuate in Irvine. Two firefighters have also been badly injured, according to the Los Angeles Times: “The firefighters, 26 and 31, were both intubated after one of them suffered second and third degree burns over 65% of their body and the other suffered burns over 50% of their body.

The winds plus fire dangers have caused PG&E to cut power to 361,000 Northern Californians.

• By the time you read this, there’s a very good chance that Amy Coney Barrett will have been confirmed as the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

NASA announced today that there is now definitive evidence that there’s water on the moon. The Washington Post explains one reason why this matters: “Moon water has been eyed as a potential resource by NASA, which created a program named Artemis in 2019 to send American astronauts back to the moon this decade. Launching water to space costs thousands of dollars per gallon. Future explorers may be able to use lunar water not only to quench their own thirst but to refuel their rockets.”

I recently spoke with Mike Thompson, the CEO of the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert, about the construction currently under way at the Center’s building—which has been closed since March because of, well, you know. We also discussed what changes COVID-19 will lead to when the Center reopens—and Thompson teased possible expansion plans, but wouldn’t spill the beans. Key quote: “I was on (a virtual Center program) last week with a small group of people, and one of the gentlemen was older, and he said, ‘I’ve been able to do more since the pandemic than I was prior, because my physical condition just didn’t allow me to do so many things. Now, I feel more connected than I did before, because I can sit in on a new number of things virtually.’ So I think we have to be mindful that ‘connection’ means different things to different people.” 

• Now THIS is a 2020 news-story lede: “Eight days out from a presidential election, the president of Fox News and key members of the network’s election team have been told to quarantine after they were exposed to someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. … The infected person was on a flight chartered to transport Fox News employees returning to New York from the Thursday night presidential debate in Nashville. The person tested negative before departing Nashville and positive after returning.

• We’ve linked to stories that basically say the same thing before, and I am pretty sure we’ll link to stories that basically say the same thing again … and if you want to be really horrified, read to the end of this quote, from MedPage Today: “If 95% of people in the U.S. wore masks, about 130,000 fewer Americans would die through February 2021 compared to current reference data, reported the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) COVID-19 Forecasting Team, based at the University of Washington in Seattle. At 85% adherence, almost 96,000 lives could be saved in the U.S., the authors wrote in Nature Medicine. Otherwise, the model projects a cumulative death toll of about 511,000 people in the U.S. by the end of February.” Sigh.

• The White House chief of staff made a remark over the weekend that raised a LOT of eyebrows—because it implied that the Trump administration is, more or less, conceding the battle against the virus’ spread. According to CNN: “White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Sunday that the US is ‘not going to control’ the coronavirus pandemic, as cases surge across the country and nearly 225,000 Americans have died from the virus. ‘We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas,’ Meadows told CNN's Jake Tapper on State of the Union.

• An immunologist, writing for The Conversation, explains one of the reasons why COVID-19 can be so deadly: It appears that in some people, the disease causes their immune systems to turn against them: “Of great concern has been the sporadic identification of so-called autoreactive antibodies that, instead of targeting disease causing microbes, target the tissues of individuals suffering from severe cases of COVID-19.

• Wait … COVID-19 causes HAIR LOSS in some people?! Yep, according to NBC News.

Our partners at CalMatters took a look at some of those glossy mailers we’re all being inundated with … and discovers, surprise surprise, that they’re often rather deceptive.

• The New York Times published a powerful piece on Charles Adams, a Black police officer and football coach in Minneapolis—who feared for both his life and the lives of his students when protests broke out there following the death of George Floyd. Key quote: “He was a 20-year veteran of the police force, an African-American officer who tried to effect change from the inside. He was also the coach of a state championship football team in a poor, Black neighborhood, and a steadfast shepherd for his players. As the sky darkened, he feared for them. Where were they? Were they safe? He feared for himself. His uniform made him a target. The face shield and gas mask hid his identity from the angry crowds, obscuring the beloved figure he has been across large swaths of the city.”

• Well, this is depressing: Buzzfeed talks to some health-care workers who were forced to turn to online sex work to make ends meet after SARS-CoV-2 arrived: “Stories of young women paying their way through school with sex work are nothing new, but in the seven months since the WHO declared the coronavirus to be a pandemic, online sex work—often left out of discussions of ride-hailing and food delivery apps—has become an increasingly mainstream facet of the gig economy, and people like Clara (who lost work at a university hospital as a patient care assistant) say the risks are worth it to keep themselves afloat.”

And finally … vandalism of campaign signs is a common occurrence across the country, alas. But Florida—of COURSE it’s Florida—takes things to a whole new level: NBC News reports that a man named James Blight decided to commandeer a backhoe to attack Biden-Harris signs. Key quote: “’Blight told police that he had been drinking whiskey all day and did not remember most of the day,’ (Haines City Police Public Information Officer Mike) Ferguson wrote. ‘He said that he couldn’t help but hit the Joe Biden signs and acknowledged to taking down a fence in the process. Blight said he did not know how to operate the equipment.’”

Try to have a good week, everyone—but expect craziness, because, well, it’s eight days before Election Day, and it’s 2020. The Daily Digest will be back Wednesday—and please help us out, if you can, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent, because, well, we have bills to pay, and we give out our content for free, because that’s how we roll. As always, thanks for reading.

In November 2016, Mike Thompson, the CEO of the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert, joined his staff and the organization’s board of directors to officially welcome the public to the Center’s new home—the McDonald/Wright Building, located at 1301 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs.

“The Center has a big vision to truly be a community center for LGBT people living in the Coachella Valley,” Thompson told the Independent in 2015, when the purchase of the building on behalf of the Center, by John McDonald and Rob Wright, was announced. “We’ve already outgrown the space we’re in.”

In the years that followed, the Center and its supporters spent millions of dollars turning the building into a true community hub for the Coachella Valley’s LGBTQ residents—so much so that the Center needed to recently embark on more construction, to expand the usable spaces within the building.

Then came COVID-19. Four years after that triumphant ribbon-cutting, the Center’s doors have now been closed to the public for more than seven months.

I recently spoke to Thompson about the sudden and shocking conversion he and his staff had to make from operating a physical community center, to running a largely virtual, online community center. We also talked about the building’s ongoing construction; preparations to eventually reopen; and the Center’s efforts to bolster its offerings to LGBTQ residents valley-wide—especially in the eastern Coachella Valley.

The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert has put a lot of time and effort, justifiably so, into this big, beautiful building. However, since March, you’ve had this big, beautiful building that people can’t go into. Talk to me about the task of taking the Center from physical to virtual.

We like to say that while our doors are closed, our hearts are open. We understand that we have a responsibility in caring for our community, and we will be slow in reopening our physical doors. So we’re taking this time when our doors are closed to prepare the space for when it can be reopened.

What does that actually mean? We’re fitting all our community rooms to be able to accommodate both in-person participants and virtual participants. In every community room, there will be two monitors. One monitor is on the facilitator, and then other is projecting back the in-person participants. So anyone that joins remotely can feel that he, she or they is part of the physical space.

We’re reallocating how the space is used, because we are moving our Behavioral Health Clinic from 750 square feet to 2,800 square feet on our second floor. It’s going from four therapy offices to 10 therapy offices, plus two group-therapy spaces. That frees up a space on our third floor that will be a conference room. … We found ourselves competing with our own programming for space use, because everybody was using the Center—which is what it was designed for. … We’re making sure we’re able to accommodate people, both in person and virtually, because we know when we do reopen, there will be reduced capacity.

We’re undergoing an extensive construction project where people couldn’t even access the building if they wanted to. So, actually, if there’s any silver lining in this downtime, it’s that it has allowed us to really focus on all the construction without the interference of risking the safety of our staff or guests with our doors being open.

How much of this was planned before COVID, and how much of this has been planned since COVID?

The entire reconstruction was planned pre-COVID. In fact, we were beginning about the time that the shutdown began. Now, how we plan for the future—that’s all a result of COVID. We’re putting UV lighting in our (heating and cooling) system, to make sure the air that is circulated through the Center is as clean and healthy as possible, so that when people come here, their risk is mitigated. We’re trying to eliminate as many touchpoints as possible. Urinals and water fountains—all that stuff is going to be new and touchless. We’re even going to a QR code. … When you come in, you scan your QR code that lets us know that you’re here, but only after you’ve come up to a body-temperature kiosk.

So, let’s say you want to come to this Eisenhower presentation on a Wednesday night (after we reopen). We’re only going to let X number of people into the space, so we’ll ask you to go online and fill out a form; it will reserve your spot. Once we’ve identified that the physical spaces are allocated, we’ll then direct people to sign up for the virtual participation. … So, after people come in and use their QR code, if something were to happen during your time here, we can now track everybody that’s been here during a particular time of day.

So that could be used for COVID-19 contact tracing, for example?

Exactly.

When do you anticipate the construction being completed?

We’re saying the end of January, but actually, in the second-floor clinic, they’re painting the baseboards, so the second-floor project is almost done. … New elevators are going in at the beginning of the year as well.

Let’s say Feb. 1 is the date that construction is done. Do you anticipate being able to open your doors by then? I know I’m asking you to predict the future.

Given that the majority of our members and clients are in groups that are most vulnerable (to COVID-19), we want to make sure that we’re not too quick out of the gate. We’re going to follow our health-care professionals and city officials about when they believe it is safe to reopen. … We talk about how there’s our physical well-being that we need to care for—and follow protocols and precautions—and then there’s also our mental health and well-being. What’s the balance? How do we meaningfully create opportunities for people to connect?

Do you worry that the formalities—the temperature-check kiosk, the QR codes, the distancing, the fact that fewer people might be able to come to the Center for that Eisenhower lecture on a Wednesday night—could hinder the “community” part of the community center?

I hope not. I’m encouraged because on these virtual programs that we have going, people are able to join us from any number of places. We’ve got people from Seattle, and Chicago, and Wisconsin, and Northern California who are joining. I was on one last week with a small group of people, and one of the gentlemen was older, and he said, “I’ve been able to do more since the pandemic than I was prior, because my physical condition just didn’t allow me to do so many things. Now, I feel more connected than I did before, because I can sit in on a new number of things virtually.” So I think we have to be mindful that “connection” means different things to different people.

So how do we create the most meaningful opportunities possible? The thing that I’ve heard people miss the most is the monthly Center Social. … You can’t re-create that virtually. I don’t know that there is a replacement for that.

Let’s talk about the financial aspect of this. Your two big fundraising events this year, Red Dress/Dress Red and Center Stage, have been cancelled. First, are they going to come back? Are they going to be different? Second, talk about the financial impact the cancellations have had.

The only event that we are going to do virtually is our Wreath Auction. We didn’t want to do Center Stage in a virtual format, because we wanted to maintain the integrity of that event for when we bring it back. Certainly, we want to do the same with the Red Dress Party, because you can’t replicate that in a different format. … So rather than think about events in the short term, we’re focusing on individual philanthropy. We’ve got a broad and deep donor base, and the majority of our fundraising right now is all targeted individual fundraising. We’ve got our Ocotillo Club, which is our annual and monthly sustaining donor group. They have been consistently generous and faithful, which has been great. In fact, we’ve had a number of new Ocotillo Club donors step in. We’ve also had Ocotillo Club donors increase their level of giving because they had the capacity to do so.

As a community center, we wanted to be really careful. We’ve not publicly had our hand out since the pandemic, because we wanted to make sure that people feel safe and secure first. Now we will be asking for money at points along the way, but we’re going to be doing it differently. Certainly, programs like our Community Food Bank have gotten a big increase in support, (and we’ve gotten) gifts targeted or earmarked for our Behavioral Health Clinic, because those are two things that people know there’s a demand for during this time.

So financially, the Center is doing OK?

We’re in a good, stable place. Even with this construction project, it was paid for before we even started the project. I don’t feel vulnerable at this point. We don’t know what the future is going to hold, but today, I’m comfortable with the decisions that we’ve made, how we’re doing fundraising, and how the community responded.

Tell me about some of the lessons you’ve learned from this pandemic, and how those lessons might lead to better things in the future.

We have said all along that our work has to be relationship-focused … and we’re constantly reminding each other that nobody’s more important than the person in front of us right now. We made a format change in our weekly newsletter; we’re looking at that as an opportunity to engage people just by the questions that we’re asking. At one point early in the pandemic, we were asking people: Do they have access to food? If they said no, then we made sure that they became a client at our Food Bank if they could benefit from that. If they needed people to bring them food—if they couldn’t get to the grocery store for whatever reason—we would make sure that people could get it to them.

The one question that we asked that broke my heart was: Do you have somebody to talk to everyday? The people who responded “no”—that auto-generated an email that said, “Would you like somebody to call you?” So those people who then said “yes,” I personally called. My shortest phone call was probably 25 minutes. They averaged 40 to 45 minutes.

That’s awesome and heartbreaking at the same time.

It is. I still get emotional. … We already had this program ready to launch before the pandemic; we’d been kind of massaging it, but the pandemic accelerated our … buddy program.

That whole idea is: How do we get personal with people? These 7,000-plus people that get our newsletter every week—how do we talk to them in a way where it feels personal, that whatever their need is, they feel they can reach out to us and ask us for help? So that’s, I think, our biggest lesson here—not to get distracted by a building project. We need to be innovative in the way we do programs and to remember that, at the core, it is about relationships.

I know the Center in recent years has been making an effort to reach out further into the Coachella Valley’s LGBTQ community—especially in the east valley. What steps has the Center has made to keep reaching out to the east valley?

We’ll be making more announcements about that soon, but I can say this for now: We recently announced our domain name has changed to TheCenterCV.org to better represent the scope of our work across the Coachella Valley; before, it had been TheCenterPS.org. Not only is that representative of our current work, but our future work, because we’ve got our eye across the valley to make sure that queer people, wherever they are in the Coachella Valley, have access to our programs and services.