CVIndependent

Fri12042020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Jimmy Boegle

Is it possible—just possible—that the coronavirus has peaked, at least for now, in the Coachella Valley?

Maybe. Maybe not. But maybe.

The county’s just-released District 4 report—District 4 includes the Coachella Valley and points eastward to the state line—shows that hospitalizations, case numbers and the weekly positivity rate are all inching downward.

This is very good news … but don’t break out the party hats just yet.

First: The weekly positivity rate is still 12.8 percent, which, while lower than last week’s rate, is still too high. The state’s overall rate is below 8 percent, and in order for things to reopen open, the county would need to get its rate below 8 percent.

Second: We lost 24 of our neighbors to COVID-19 last week. That’s simply awful.

We need to keep up the fight, folks. We need to wear masks and wash our hands and avoid crowds. If a contact tracer contacts you, for crying out loud, work with them. (More on that below.) If you think you might be sick, STAY HOME. Please.

Today’s news:

• The state shut down “indoor operations” of salons and barber shops last week—a distinction which confused the heck out of some shop owners, because outdoor operations are largely prohibited anyway. Well, Gov. Newsom today clarified things, and explained that under new rules, salons and barbershops can indeed operate outside if they follow certain rules. Now, if it just weren’t 109 degrees outside …

More good news on the vaccine front was announced today, this time coming from the joint effort by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca: Early testing showed the vaccine “increased levels of both protective neutralizing antibodies and immune T-cells that target the virus” in human test subjects, according to Bloomberg News via SFGate. Keep your fingers crossed …

However, Bloomberg News also threw a little cold water on vaccine hopes, in a piece pointing out that the leading vaccine candidates—the aforementioned Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and the Moderna Inc. vaccine—may wind up requiring two doses. This, of course, makes it harder to make sure as many people are vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Yet more encouraging-but-take-it-with-a-massive-grain-of-salt news, courtesy of The New York Times: “A British drug company said Monday that an inhaled form of a commonly used medicine could slash the odds of COVID-19 patients becoming severely ill, a sliver of good news in the race to find treatments that was met by scientists with equal measures of caution and cheer. The drug, based on interferon beta, a protein naturally produced by the body to orchestrate its response to viruses, has become the focus of intensifying efforts in Britain, China and the United States to treat Covid-19 patients.”

Delta Air Lines is keeping middle seats open, while most of its competitors are not. Is it because Delta Air Lines “cares” more? No, it’s because it’s good business, posits this ZDNet article. Key quote: “Why this sudden decency? Because, (CEO Ed) Bastian explained, those empty middle seats are the ‘No. 1 reason’ travelers are booking with Delta.”

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino announced today that all concerts in its Special Events Center slated for 2020 are being postponed.

• Modernism Week today said that its Fall Preview series of in-person events, scheduled for Oct. 15-18, will not take place. Instead, according to a news release: “The Modernism Week team is developing unique virtual programs to be offered online during Fall Preview. Tickets for these virtual events are planned to be released by October 1.” Watch the Modernism Week website for details.

Also announced today, by the California Interscholastic Federation: The start of high school sports in the state will be delayed until at least December or January.

• From the Independent: How will the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the economic downturn effect the local results on Election Day? We crunched the numbers in terms of recent voter-registrations—and it appears the Democratic Party is on the upswing. Kevin Fitzgerald also talked to local party leaders and some others regarding what they’re seeing on the ground.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise published a piece on the problems contact tracers are having in Riverside County—and specifically in Riverside County, where, for some reason, more than half of the people being contacted aren’t cooperating. Key quote: “San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties also have teams of tracers in the field but haven’t had as many problems.” Sigh.

This New York Times interview with freelance journalist Robert Evans is a couple of days old, but it’s worth a read if you want to better understand what in the heck is going on in Portland, Ore. After more than 50 nights of mostly peaceful protests in a small part of the city, the federal government has swooped in with a mysterious force—a force that Portland officials and state of Oregon don’t want there. 

• After seven months of existing with SARS-CoV-2, scientists are still trying to determine the true fatality rate of the virus. Two experts, writing for The Conversation, explain the process—and offer their best estimates based on the data so far.

Also from The Conversation: A University of Oregon journalism professor writes about the devastation the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn have wrought on the country’s newsrooms. Key quote: “COVID-19 has ripped through the industry. In the United States alone, over 36,000 journalists have lost their jobs, been furloughed or had their pay cut.”

As previously reported in the Independent, live music events have been against state rules since the shutdown began—although some restaurants have gone ahead with them anyway. Well, Riverside County is beginning to crack down.

Last night’s episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, now available on YouTube, broke down why conspiracy theories always pop up around major events (like, say, a certain society-crippling pandemic).

• Because of a testing-supplies shortage, the federal government is encouraging pool testing—where samples from multiple people are combined. If the combined test comes back negative, that’s great; if it comes back positive, then the individual samples get tested to figure out who had the positive results. However, Politico makes the case that this strategy simply won’t work. Key quote: “But the U.S. outbreak is now so out of control that health experts and testing labs say it won’t work here. In areas where the virus is widespread, many pools would test positive—requiring additional tests of each person in those pools.”

CNET helpfully (and depressingly) reminds us that flu season is approaching—and “consulted Dr. Nate Favini, medical lead at Forward to help shed some light on what you need to know about both viruses and what to do if you get sick.” Bleh. Is it time for a cocktail yet?

That’s a lot—I think, you’ll agree, it’s enough for today. Please, if you can, consider throwing a few bucks our way by becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep doing what we do—quality local journalism. Stay safe, everyone.

Happy Friday! Here’s the latest:

• First, a little good news: Local hospitalizations are beginning to finally move downward, after consistently rising for weeks. You can see Eisenhower Medical Center’s stats here. Now, whether this is a blip or a trend remains to be seen. A key quote from a Facebook post from Eisenhower yesterday: “Today we have only 56 COVID inpatients; a couple of weeks ago we had a high of 85, so a promising sign. We also have 1,533 positive patients that are at home in isolation because they did not need to be in the hospital. We are very worried that they might be spreading the virus to family and friends.”

• After rumblings that some counties where cases are spiking could try to send kids back to school in fall, Gov. Newsom stepped in today and said that, no, that’s not going to happen in counties on the state’s watch list. The Los Angeles Times explains. Key quote: “We all prefer in-classroom instructions for all the obvious reasons—social, and emotional foundationally. But only, only if it can be done safely,” Newsom said.

• From the Independent: The shutdown forced the McCallum Theatre this year to cancel its annual Open Call shows, which showcase amazing local talent. Well, the show must go on—so the theater is showing off these talents in a half-hour show, recorded near The Living Desert, airing tomorrow night on KESQ. Matt King has the details.

• Related and maddening: The White House is blocking officials from the CDC from testifying in front of a House committee next week regarding school reopenings. Why?!

• Similarly horrifying: Federal agents, without agency IDs, have started tear-gassing, shooting (non-lethal ammunition) and detaining protesters in Portland, Ore.—even though city and state officials do not want the federal agents there. According to The New York Times: “The aggressive federal posture has complicated the mission of the Department of Homeland Security, an agency that has spent much of its history focused on foreign terrorism threats and is supposed to build collaborative relationships with local law enforcement partners. And it raises questions of whether it is appropriate for federal authorities to take up the policing of an American city against the wishes of local leaders.” (Spoiler alert: It’s not appropriate.) 

• This weird story broke yesterday: A group associated with Russian intelligence has tried to hack into vaccine-research efforts in the United States, Great Britain and Canada. Needless to say, intelligence agencies in those countries aren’t happy.

Some alarming news out of the Desert AIDS Project: They’re seeing a spike in HIV infections, as well as sexually transmitted infections. “Steadily rising rates of HIV, syphilis, and chlamydia in the Coachella Valley are showing that the last five months of living in the “new normal” has interfered with people taking care of their sexual health,” the organization says.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced today that she’s getting chemotherapy after a recurrence of cancer. Keep the Supreme Court justice in your thoughts, please.

• If you have type-A blood like yours truly, you can breathe a sigh of relief: Further research into whether one’s blood type affects susceptibility to COVID-19 shows a weak link, at best, according to The New York Times.

• I returned this week to the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast/videocast, with hosts John Taylor, Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr, to talk with Dr. Laura Rush about the fustercluck that is the state of the coronavirus in the Coachella Valley.

• Several days ago, we mentioned that the results from Moderna’s small vaccine trial were encouraging. But how encouraging are they, when put in the proper context? An infectious-disease expert from Vanderbilt University, writing for The Conversation, breaks it down. Key quote: “So they are good results; they are promising results; but they are pretty early in the game, so to speak.

• Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said today that he’s in favor of forgiving up to ALL Paycheck Protection Program loans—and that businesses may not even need to verify how the money was spent. Flexibility is good … but this may go a bit too far.

Is fighting the coronavirus as simple as shutting down indoor bars and getting people to wearing masks? That’s what Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health, said yesterday. Per CNBC: “Being indoors, in close quarters, over long periods of time, is just a recipe for spread,” he said, adding that outdoor seating for restaurants and bars is “probably really safe.”

• Related: Dr. Anthony Fauci has a message for local and state governments: “Be as forceful as possible in getting your citizenry to wear masks.

• Related and good news: The nation’s top nine retailers all now require masks, according to The Washington Post.

The Trump administration appears to be ignoring a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling by rejecting new applicants for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

• Major League Baseball appears to be ready to start its delayed, no-fans-in-stands, 60-game season next week, after its latest round of testing revealed few players had the virus. Meanwhile, NFL players want financial guarantees and all preseason games to be cancelled before their season is scheduled to start in September.

That’s enough news for what’s been a crazy week. Wear a mask! Be safe. Check in with a loved one and see how they’re doing. Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep doing what we do—offering quality local journalism, free to all. The digest will return Monday; have a great weekend, everybody.

Make no mistake: SARS CoV-2 is ravaging the Coachella Valley, with highs in cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

In fact, hospitalizations are so high in the Coachella Valley that a federal medical team has arrived at Eisenhower Medical Center to ease the burden on the hospital’s overwhelmed staff.

Now is the time to take action: Stay home if you can. Wear a mask when you can’t. And wash your hands.

We’ll get through this (again?) (still?); really, we will. But it’s bad right now. So take care of yourself, OK?

More news:

• After that depressing introduction, let’s start off with some good news: More testing facilities are coming—specifically, to RiteAid, including Coachella Valley locations in Indio, Coachella and Desert Hot Springs.

• More good news: After multiple lawsuits and furious university officials spoke out, the Trump administration reversed a mandate that foreign students must return to their home countries if their schools are only holding classes online.

• Yet more good news: The county is reopening applications for its rental-assistance program. Residents who have been unable to pay their rent can receive up to $3,500. Learn more from KESQ, or just head straight to the application website; the deadline for this round is July 25.

Even more good news: Some common antiviral drugs used to treat people with hepatitis C may help patients with COVID-19.

• Let’s keep the good news coming: A scientist writing for The Washington Post offers up these six reasons for optimism as we battle COVID-19.

• And here’s some more: Moderna says its vaccine produced strong antibodies in all—yes, ALL—of the patients who received it. We’re only talking about 45 people—but the news could not be any more encouraging.

• Related and also good: Oxford’s vaccine candidate is ahead of all others, schedule-wiseand, in fact, it could be through human trials by September.

• And more: Walmart is making masks mandatory in its stores. This should have been done three months ago or so, but hey, we’ll take it.

• Oh, and so is Best Buy.

• And more good news! The Palm Springs Cultural Center is now scheduling drive-in movies for Fridays, Saturdays and some Sundays for the foreseeable future. Get the schedule here.

• From the Independent: Our resident cocktail columnist thinks y’all should be cut off after packing bars and causing them to close again so soon—so here are some tips and tricks on how to use fresh herbs and spices to make delicious and even healthy non-alcoholic drinks at home. (Editor’s note: I ain’t cutting myself off, and you should know fresh herbs and spices are yummy in boozy drinks, too.)

Wear. A. Mask. The evidence keeps coming in showing that this one thing, if people did it, could stomp down this pandemic.

More on testing, from our partners at CalMatters: Due to supply shortages, California yesterday announced new guidelines for testing, giving priority to the vulnerable and people with symptoms. The fact testing has come to this is NOT good!

How effective will a vaccine need to be to stop this damn pandemic—considering a disturbing number of anti-vax Americans say they will refuse to be vaccinated? The Conversation crunched the numbers, and here’s what they found.

The possible implications of this are horrifying: The Trump administration has ordered hospitals to stop sending COVID-19 patient info to the CDC—and has told them to instead send it to a Health and Human Services Database.

For the first time since World War II, the New Year’s Day spectacle/tradition that is the Rose Parade has been cancelled.

• If you ever needed more proof that journalism is important: The Washington Post looked at the cases of eight people who were blinded in one eye during the Black Lives Matter protests on May 30—and videos of the incidents often contradict police accounts of what happened. Same goes for The New York Times, which just published an online package proving that even though the NYPD says it used restraint during the protests, it often did not.

Much of Twitter is down as of this writing, after a whole bunch of big-name Twitter accounts were hacked—indicating that the social-media company has a serious security flaw.

Methane levels in the atmosphere are at an all-time high. Great. Just great.

The pandemic has helped revive the market for single-use plastics—which, of course, is bad news for the environment. The Conversation examines whether or not this trend will continue.

At a time when dependable, inexpensive mail delivery is more important than ever (because, you know, we’re all broke and stuck at home), the Trump administration is making yet more moves to hobble the post office. Sigh.

• Another sigh: The Wall Street Journal reports on large companies that are making employees return to the office—even if that may not exactly be the safest thing to do.

• A first, and not a good one: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has become the first governor to announce he has COVID-19. Key quote: “He resisted calls to roll back Oklahoma’s reopening plans, which are being tested by a viral resurgence.” Ugh.

The federal government is offering up to 13 weeks of extra unemployment once state benefits run out—but people may need to reapply to receive them, according to this CNBC report.

American Airlines has given 25,000 employees a heads-up that job cuts may be coming.

Apple just released a six-minute sorta-comedy video about what it’s like to work from home these days. It’s … amusing, if you don’t mind product placement.

Seeing as there are more than 30 links in this Daily Digest, that’s enough for the day. If you value this digest and the other things the Independent does, and you’re fortunate enough to have a buck or two to spare, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Stay safe, all!

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

COVID-19 is running amok.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More news from the day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK then!

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

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

Today’s links:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Fourth of July weekend, y’all.

Those of us here at Independent World Headquarters are planning on basically staying at home this weekend. We’ll support some of our fave restaurants by getting takeout and cocktails; have a Zoom happy hour or two with friends; and catch up on some much-needed rest.

If you do decide to venture out this weekend, I recommend taking the advice of this Los Angeles Times article: Assume everyone you’re around has the virus. Positivity and hospitalization rates are on the upswing, after all.

I’d like to take this chance to thank all of you who have supported the Independent’s work over these last several trying months. I can’t tell you how much all of the emails, social-media messages and phone calls have meant to us. I’d also like to thank the dozens of you who have opened your wallets to support us financially by becoming Supporters of the Independent—and I ask those of you who haven’t done so already to join them. Find details on how to do that here.

Stay safe. Wear a mask. And keep making the Coachella Valley the amazing place that is.

Here’s the news:

• Some interesting drug news out of Spain: Some HIV-positive patients on anti-viral medications seem to be less at risk for COVID-19 than the general population. Could drugs that helped slow the AIDS pandemic help slow the coronavirus pandemic?

The late-stage trial for one of the more promising vaccine candidates has been delayed by several weeks.

• Recent unemployment numbers have not been as dire as many had forecasted. However, the economy’s still going to take a while to recover, and it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. (Spoiler alert: The coronavirus surge isn’t helping.) The Washington Post explains.

• One other thing that may keep the economy down: While a lot of workers have kept their jobs (at least for now), they’ve had to accept sometimes-drastic pay cuts.

NBC News looks at the latest research into whether people infected with COVID-19 will have immunity—and there’s “some encouraging early evidence of possible protection against reinfection.” 

• Things have gotten rather dire in Arizona—you know, our neighbors to the east. The state this week became the first in the nation to enact crisis standards of care—which, to oversimplify things, means overwhelmed doctors there may begin determining which patients get treated, and which ones don’t, based on limited resources.

• Chicago is the latest to place to demand that people from California and other states experiencing a coronavirus surge quarantine for two weeks

• Oh, and Mexico has closed the Arizona border based on the spike in that state

• While more people than ever before are getting sick with COVID-19 in the United States, so far, the death rate has remained relatively low. The New York Times explains why that is—and why that may not remain the case for long.

• Hooray! It’s now easier to make SARS-Co-V-2 testing appointments at Riverside County-run sites; you can now make appointments online

The New York Times examines why fireworks are driving so many people crazy here in California.

• Good news: The state has extended unemployment benefits. Bad news: Some eligible people who filed months ago have yet to receive a dime.

California is doing about 85,000 coronavirus tests per day. However, Harvard says the state needs to do several times that to keep the virus in check

Amazon is facing yet more criticism for not taking proper care of its people; this time, workers with Amazon’s air service are making the complaints about unsafe environments

• In some places, contract tracers are using subpoenas to get people infected with COVID-19 to spill the beans on who they’ve been with, and where they’ve been

• The Conversation takes a deep dive into the history of Mexico City, where many water ways were destroyed to prevent illnesses—but that history has paved the way (pun not intended) for COVID-19 to run amok there.

Have great weekend. We’ll be back on Monday.

Happy (?) July, all. The news of the day:

The reopening process is moving further backward: Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced that restaurants, movie theaters, family-entertainment centers and other businesses in much of the state—including Riverside County—must shutter all indoor operations for at least three weeks. Bars must completely shut down, and parking lots at state beaches will close for the weekend.

• The governor is also imploring people NOT to have personal gatherings—and threatening to withhold some state funding from counties that disregard the state’s mandates and requests.

He also took a veiled swipe at casinos. The state does not have regulatory power over them, but he said the state is “in deep conversations and will be making public the fruits of those efforts to at least get a rationale of understanding between partners in our sovereign nations and the state of California.”

• The city of Palm Springs is tightening up the mask mandate, making them mandatory when someone is near any business or in any business district; at restaurants when servers or other employees are near a table; and while working out in gyms.

• While the state is rolling back the reopening process, it’s also no longer funding new testing sites, and is closing underutilized sites, according to the Los Angeles Times. What the hell, California?

Apple is temporarily closing another 30 stores, including a bunch in the L.A. area—but for now, the Palm Desert location is remaining open.

• News that a small trial study of one vaccine candidate yielded promising results got the stock market all excited this morning.

CNN took a look at the mess in Imperial County, where Americans who live in Mexico are crossing back over the border for COVID-19 care—and overwhelming the small county’s medical system.

• It’s official: The European Union is allowing travel again—but those of us from the U.S. aren’t allowed in.

• The coronavirus situation has gotten so dire at San Quentin State Prison—more than 1,100 inmates have the virus—that about 20 prisoners have gone on a hunger strike, according to The Appeal.

The virus is spreading among detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, too.

Along other guidelines, the FDA says a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine will need to be at least 50 percent more effective than a placebo in order to be approved for use.

A study at Stanford University is looking into the possibility that Apple Watches, Fitbits and other wearable technology could let people know that they may have the coronavirus before they start to feel sick.

• The Conversation looks at what went wrong in Texas—and what needs to happen for that state to get out of its current COVID-19 spike.

• The Seattle Times reports on yet more evidence that the widespread Black Lives Matter protests have NOT led to spikes in the diseaseoffering pretty convincing evidence that the disease does not spread well among people who are outside and wearing face coverings.

• One of the biggest mysteries of this damn virus: Most people don’t seem to spread it—but a select few REALLY spread it. The New York Times talks to experts who are trying to solve this mystery.

Autopsies are helping scientists better understand the damage being done by COVID-19—and that’s helping doctors and researchers develop better treatments.

• The fight between insurers and pissed-off business owners who want business-interruption payments are heading to the courts. The Wall Street Journal looks at hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed—and explains why some business owners may have precedents on their side.

United Airlines thinks people are in the mood to travel again—and as a result, it’s adding hundreds of flights to its August schedule.

I did not predict this side effect of the pandemic: Pissed-off otters are biting people.

• OK, now for some good news: The Palm Springs Cultural Center is launching a drive-in movie series—and kicking it off with free showings of Hamilton this weekend.

• One activity that’s free and will always be open: skywatching. Independent astronomy columnist Robert Victor explains what the heavens have in store for us this month.

Finally, we all have something to live for: New episodes of Beavis and Butt-head are coming.

That’s the news of the day. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. Become a Supporter of the Independent, please, if you have the funds and you value what we do. The Daily Digest will return on Friday.

As we move deeper into the toasty Coachella Valley summer during this ongoing pandemic, I ask all of you: Please, be careful, and take precautions.

On one hand, June was an exciting month: In many ways, our valley came back to life. Stores, restaurants and bars reopened. Traffic returned to the streets. Tourists are here again—in significant numbers.

On the other hand … June was terrifying. Riverside County and the Coachella Valley are both experiencing all-time highs in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Bars closed back up. The governor, thank goodness, has stepped in and instituted a statewide face-coverings order, because of increasing case numbers—and to give cover to beleaguered local health officials who were becoming the targets of insane anti-face-mask ire.

SARS-CoV-2 is very much still a danger. It continues to spread here in the Coachella Valley. It’s going to claim the lives of yet more of our neighbors. Meanwhile, the now-backtracking reopening process will succeed only if we all do our part: We need to wear face coverings whenever we’re near others. We need to wash our hands. We need to stay home and get tested if we feel ill—and perhaps we should get tested even if we feel fine, too.

Meanwhile, here at the Independent, we’ll continue doing what we do—quality local journalism—as best we can. If you haven’t already signed up for our Daily Digest to be emailed to you, please consider doing so here.

While the business climate remains challenging for the Independent and other newspapers around the country, we’re hanging in there—and we have three groups and entities to thank for that.

First: I’d like to thank our advertisers—new, resuming and continuing. Readers, please thank them yourselves, and give them as much business as you can.

Second: I’m proud to announce the Independent is a recipient of $5,000 from the Google News Initiative Journalism Emergency Relief Fund. Forgive me for tooting our own figurative horn here, but I’ll repeat what I said when we received $5,000 from the Facebook Journalism Project a couple of months ago: Not only is it evidence of the quality work we’re doing at the Independent; it’s a testament to all of the support and feedback we have received from you, our readers.

Third: Speaking of reader support: Nearly every day, we receive at least one payment from a reader who has become a Supporter of the Independent, sending us anywhere from $5 to $500. Thank you to all of you who have supported us; if you’re interested in joining them, go here. When the pandemic has passed, we’re going to all get together for a fantastic celebration—I promise.

As always, thanks for reading—and be sure to pick up the July 2020 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, now available in more than 300 locations across the valley.