CVIndependent

Tue12012020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Hello there. My name is Matt King. I’m 19 years old, and I have COVID-19.

I’ve been writing about music and the arts for the Independent for a year and a half now, but this piece is not about either of those topics. Instead, it’s about how I managed to get this terrible disease, despite an excess of caution.

Here’s how it all started … I think: My grandfather passed away shortly after my 19th birthday, and I was left with one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever faced: Should I travel to Mississippi for his services, despite the pandemic?

I chose to go. My brother and I decided we would feel safer driving rather than enduring the compressed-air experience of flying—but it’s a long way from Coachella to Mississippi, so the funeral trip turned into a weeklong excursion. From mountains to miles of sand, from heat to snow, from six hours of driving through Texas to another six hours of driving through Texas, my brother and I saw it all—and we made sure we sanitized every bathroom, hotel room and gas pump we stopped at along the way. It was a great trip for my brother and me, and was certainly one of the highlights of my 2020.

The funeral allowed me to say goodbye to my grandfather, who showed me nothing but love and compassion throughout my life. My mask was on constantly—but I can’t say the same about others there. I kept my distance and then some, and I tried to be both respectful and sanitary. It was nice to see family members I had not seen a while—while remaining socially distant.

My brother and I made it home a few days after the funeral, and all seemed well. My entire family got tested the day after we got back—all quarantining at home until we got our negative results—before returning to what passes for the “normal” world now.

On Friday the 13th, I went to work; I took my girlfriend to work; I went back to work; and I ran some errands that night. It was on the way home from those errands that my throat began hurting. After I got home, my sinuses and head started throbbing. I hoped it all was just a result of having a busy day after two chill days, which came after a stressful week. I took some medicine and went to bed.

The next morning, Saturday the 14th, I felt awful. I had a fever, and weird dreams woke me up all night. I felt really weak; everything I did, even turning my head, was painful. I texted back and forth with my girlfriend, and she suggested I get tested again. I managed to book an appointment for a test in Indio just 30 minutes later.

It’s hard to function when you have a fever. The streets of Indio were like a maze, and I’m surprised I made it to the testing center. I must have turned the air conditioner on and off about 10 times while waiting in line. This was my fourth COVID test—the first came after a potential exposure at work, while the second was just out of curiosity—and I soon learned that COVID tests suck so much more when you are sick. As the nurse stuck the swab in my nose, she told me to breathe through my mouth. That was easier said than done.

Another quarantine period began. While I was concerned, I really thought there was a good chance this was “just” the flu. After all, I’ve been taking this thing very seriously. I have asthma, a condition that makes people more susceptible to COVID-19, and I have been taking every precaution necessary while working, shopping, etc. I owe it to myself and to my family to keep myself safe. I also have seen the unpredictable nature of this virus—how it can turn the healthy into the dead.

I woke up on Tuesday the 17th, still feeling terrible, to an email with my results: I had tested positive for COVID-19. I printed them out via Bluetooth, so my mom, in the other room, would see them.

In the week since, it’s been all masks, all the time, with her or other family members. They all got tested again, and so far, all the results have been negative. Everyone has continued feeling well, other than my dad, who has felt a little unwell at times, although it’s been nothing serious. My mother has been such a saint: She has cleaned every surface I’ve touched while risking her own well-being to check up on me, bring me medicine and food, and make sure I’m not going insane while being stuck in my room.

The most baffling thing to me, although I am grateful for it, is the fact that my brother has continued to be healthy and test negative. We were together for our entire trip; we had our masks on and off at the same time—and I got it, but he apparently didn’t. Yet another mystery of the virus.

I am also grateful for the fact that Alyssa, my girlfriend, has continued to be healthy and test negative, after that car ride together just before I started feeling sick.

Thankfully, I have so far retained my sense of smell and taste. However, my other symptoms have been dreadful and shitty—a revolving door of sickness. I am weak and constantly out of breath. Anytime I get up for more than a few minutes, I feel as if I’ve just ran a mile. One day, I will have a headache; the next day, my sinuses will ache. As I’m writing this, I’ve been coughing like a smoker all day. Everything just hurts. However, the worst feeling comes from knowing that at any moment, I could pass this onto a family member. Sure, we’re all taking precautions, but precautions didn’t keep me from getting sick.

I’ve talked to a lot of people about how this pandemic may spark an artistic renaissance. Well, despite not feeling well, I’ve been able to create a lot of music and art, and do a lot of work, while confined to my room all day. (Just don’t try to sing with COVID … that was a really bad idea.)

I’ve learned a lot, too. My doctor told me that my first test after my trip was taken too quickly—because it can take up to two weeks, or even longer, after exposure to the coronavirus for symptoms to show up.

Many people have misconceptions about this virus—including one that people my age aren’t at risk. I am here to tell you that’s wrong. I did everything right, and yet I haven’t been out of bed for more than 15 minutes at a time in more than a week.

Please wear your mask. I have no idea how I contracted the virus, but I do know one thing: Masks help.

Thank you to everyone who has checked up on me, cared for me, and loved me during this time. I love you so much, Mom; thank you for all that you do, and all that you continue to do for me. Thank you, Alyssa, for keeping me company over the phone, and playing video games with me online. I love you a lot, and I can’t wait to see you again. A special thanks to my editor, who has checked in every day, and has recommended some things to help me get through this time—like writing this article. I hold my family, friends and my girlfriend very close to my heart. I can’t wait to get through this and get back to life again.

Published in Community Voices

Happy Monday, everyone!

Last week in this space, we linked to an article in which many experts were quoted as saying that curfews—like the one most of the state is under now—don’t help much when it comes to the spread of COVID-19.

Well, uh, here’s an article from the Los Angeles Times that says the opposite:

It should be no surprise, as acting state public health officer Dr. Erica Pan outlined in her health order, that late-night activities are often related to social gatherings where there’s “reduced inhibition and and reduced likelihood” of wearing masks and staying distanced from friends and family.

“It’s because bad behavior goes up in the evening, at least as I recall from college,” Dr. George Rutherford, epidemiologist and infectious diseases expert at UC San Francisco, said at a campus town hall meeting last week.

So … curfews are helpful, unless they’re not. Got that? Good.

In other news: While small private gatherings can obviously lead to COVID-19 spread, they aren’t driving the spike we’re seeing around the country, according to this New York Times piece:

Household gatherings have “become a major vector of disease spread,” the Health and Human Services secretary, Alex Azar, said in an interview with CNN in late October.

But many epidemiologists are far less certain, saying there is little evidence to suggest that household gatherings were the source of the majority of infections since the summer. Indeed, it has become much harder to pinpoint any source of any outbreak, now that the virus is so widespread and Americans may be exposed in so many ways.

“Somebody says something, and somebody else says it, and then it just becomes truth,” said Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard University. “I worry about this narrative that doesn’t yet seem to be data-based.”

Meanwhile, The Washington Post today interviewed Dr. Anthony Fauci. And what did he have to say?

Until a vaccine is widely available, he said, people must remain vigilant about following public-health guidelines such as maintaining social distance from others. Infections are increasingly spreading through small gatherings of five to 15 people, he said.

Sigh.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s crazy how little we know about this disease, eight-plus months into the height of the pandemic.

Today’s news:

• Finally: The formal transition process has begun. According to CNN: “The General Services Administration has informed President-elect Joe Biden that the Trump administration is ready to begin the formal transition process, according to a letter from Administrator Emily Murphy sent Monday afternoon and obtained by CNN. The letter is the first step the administration has taken to acknowledge President Donald Trump's defeat, more than two weeks after Biden was declared the winner in the election.” This news capped a busy day of transition news—including the announcement of several of Biden’s cabinet picks.

In Los Angeles County, officials are shutting down outdoor dining for at least three weeks—and say that a complete stay-at-home order could be put in place very soon if the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise. As a result, many restaurant owners are wondering if their businesses can survive.

• Another week, another vaccine-maker releases positive trial results. As The Washington Post explains: “AstraZeneca on Monday became the third pharmaceutical company to announce positive results from late-stage trials of a coronavirus vaccine, saying that its candidate, developed by Oxford University, is up to 90 percent effective. Scientists and politicians alike hailed the third straight week of buoyant scientific news as a sign that, even as coronavirus cases surge to devastating levels in many countries, an end to the pandemic is in sight.”

• The results of the Independent’s seventh annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll are here! Congrats to all the winners and finalists.

California’s first family is under quarantine after three of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s kids were in contact with a California Highway Patrol officer who tested positive for the virus. “Thankfully, the entire family tested negative today. However, consistent with local guidance, we will be quarantining for 14 days,” Newsom tweeted. NPR has the details

The monoclonal antibody cocktail President Trump credited for helping him overcome the coronavirus has received emergency-use authorization from the FDA. MedPage Today explains: “The FDA authorized use of Regeneron's REGN-COV2 intravenous monoclonal antibody cocktail … for treating mild to moderate COVID-19 in patients at high risk of progressing to severe disease, the agency said late Saturday. … ‘Authorizing these monoclonal antibody therapies may help outpatients avoid hospitalization and alleviate the burden on our health care system,’ FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, said in announcing the EUA.” 

• General Motors had been siding with President Trump in his effort to remove California’s ability to demand more fuel-efficient vehicles. Well, the automaker has changed its tune. Per The New York Times: “The decision by Mary Barra, the General Motors chief executive, to withdraw her company’s support for Trump administration efforts to strip California of its ability to set its own fuel efficiency standards was a striking reversal. It was also a signal that corporate America is moving on from President Trump. More specifically, it was a sign that Mr. Biden may find the auto industry amenable as he tries to reinstitute and rebuild Obama-era climate change regulations that Mr. Trump systematically dismantled, at times with the help of industry.”

• While SARS-CoV-2 is running amok in the U.S., people in China are living relatively normal lives. A scholar in public health, writing for The Conversation, says China is doing much better at handling the virus because the country learned lessons from a previous pandemic. Key quote: “My research suggests that the control of the virus in China is not the result of authoritarian policy, but of a national prioritization of health. China learned a tough lesson with SARS, the first coronavirus pandemic of the 21st century.”

Yes, please. Reuters reports: “New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday she offered President-elect Joe Biden assistance with tackling the rampant outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States. During the first talks between the two since Biden was elected as the next U.S. president, Ardern said she offered access to New Zealand’s most senior health officials …  New Zealand has eliminated COVID-19 from the community twice, and currently has just 58 active cases of the virus, all in managed isolation facilities. In contrast, the United States over the weekend recorded its 12 millionth case.”

Our partners at CalMatters bring us this fascinating story about a dispute between two high-ranking Democratic state leaders: “The unpaid invoices piling up in Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office had climbed to more than $34.2 million. It was Nov. 2. Since early September, his staff had been wrangling with the staff of State Controller Betty Yee over whether Padilla’s office had the budgetary authority to pay for a $35 million contract it had awarded to public affairs firm SKDKnickerbocker to run a statewide voter education campaign called Vote Safe California. The secretary of state’s office maintained that it did have budgetary authority. The controller’s office, which approves payments, maintained that it did not.

This San Francisco Chronicle article examines why more employers aren’t offering their employees coronavirus testing. Key quote: “The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance to employers to include coronavirus testing, and it advised that people working in close quarters be tested periodically. However, the federal government does not require employers to offer those tests. But the board overseeing the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, on Thursday approved emergency safety rules that are soon likely to require the state’s employers to provide coronavirus testing to all workers exposed to an outbreak on the job at no cost to the employees. Testing must be repeated a week later, followed by periodic testing. California would be the first state to mandate this, though the regulation doesn’t apply to routine testing of employees. That is up to individual businesses.”

• We may soon learn a little bit more about dinosaurs due to the “Dueling Dinosaurs.” National Geographic explains: “For more than a decade, paleontologists have speculated about a single fossil that preserves skeletons of two of the world’s most famous dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops. Not only are the bones arranged as they once were in life, but the dinosaurs are practically intertwined. Each specimen is among the best of its kind ever found. Together, the pair—nicknamed the ‘Dueling Dinosaurs’—present a paleontological mystery: Did the beasts just happen to be entombed together by chance, perhaps as carcasses caught on the same river sandbar? Or had they been locked in mortal combat? Nobody has been able to study the fossil to find out. But that’s about to change.”

Finally, the producers of Jeopardy! have announced the new host … sort of. The Associated Press, via SFGate, reports: “’Jeopardy!’ record-holder Ken Jennings will be the first in a series of interim hosts replacing Alex Trebek when the show resumes production next Monday. Producers announced Monday that Jennings, who won 74 games in a row and claimed the show's ‘Greatest of All Time’ title in a competition last year, will host episodes that air in January. A long-term host for Trebek, who died of cancer on Nov. 8, will be named later.”

As always, thanks for reading the Daily Digest and the Coachella Valley Independent. Please click here to become a Supporter of the Independent if you want to help us be able to continue producing quality local journalism. Be safe, everyone.

Published in Daily Digest

I’ve been in a crabby mood.

The non-vaccine-related news has me down. I am bummed because I won’t be able to see my mom at Thanksgiving. I am in the middle of deadline hell on our December print edition.

Bleh.

However, I just read this article from The Washington Post—and it made me feel a little better. If you’re in need of a pick-me-up, you may want to read it, too.

You may or may not have heard that Dolly Parton gave $1 million to help fund the research into the Moderna vaccine. This story explains how that came to be—and how it was motivated, in part, by an unlikely friendship between Parton and Naji Abumrad, a physician and professor of surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which developed when Parton sought medical help after a 2013 car accident.

Here’s a taste:

Their friendship may seem unlikely, bonding a Lebanese-born physician and a cultural tour de force who ended up building an amusement park graced with her own name. But after the car crash, the pair found out they were once both poor, mountain kids trying to get by, though they were raised more than 6,000 miles apart. Abumrad said Parton became someone he could confide in.

“Our homes were almost identical where we grew up,” Abumrad told The Post.

The physician’s son, Jad Abumrad, at first didn’t believe his father whenever he talked about his friend Dolly. Even when the physician’s phone rang and the name that came up was “Dolly Parton,” he remained skeptical of his stoic father’s claim of having the famous friend.

The piece helped me get out of my own selfish doldrums—with a beautiful reminder that there is indeed true, genuine good in this world.

Today’s news:

• Remember back in March and April, when everyone was talking about the need for a vaccine to get us out of this pandemic—but a vaccine was a question of “if,” not “when,” and the “when” part was months and months away? Well, it’s official: We have a good vaccine, and the “when” part for the first recipients could be just days away. As The New York Times explains: “The drug maker Pfizer said on Wednesday that its coronavirus vaccine was 95 percent effective and had no serious side effects—the first set of complete results from a late-stage vaccine trial as COVID-19 cases skyrocket around the globe. … Pfizer, which developed the vaccine with its partner BioNTech, said the companies planned to apply to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization ‘within days,’ raising hopes that a working vaccine could soon become a reality.”

• The first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could be administered by the end of the year, but some states are saying they’ll need financial help from the federal government—which is not exactly functioning very well right now—to get it properly tracked and distributed. ABC News explains.

• Some more good news: A new, non-peer-reviewed study hints that coronavirus immunity could last for years. According to The New York Times: “Eight months after infection, most people who have recovered still have enough immune cells to fend off the virus and prevent illness, the new data show. A slow rate of decline in the short term suggests, happily, that these cells may persist in the body for a very, very long time to come.” As with all studies like this, the conclusions should be taken with a gargantuan grain of figurative salt—but the news is encouraging nonetheless.

Here’s this week’s Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. (A reminder: District 4 consists of the Coachella Valley and points eastward.) As we noted in this space on Monday: The local trendlines are not good. For the week ending Nov. 15, cases are up; hospitalizations are steady-ish but not great; the positivity rate is up to 7.9 percent; and two of our neighbors lost their lives due to COVID-19. We’re in MUCH better shape than most of the rest of the country, however … but we all need to do our part to make sure it stays that way (with, of course, the rest of the country improving as well).

• The FDA has approved the first COVID-19 test that you can administer yourself at home. Here’s the news release.

• Sort-of related: After a successful roll-out in the city of Riverside, the county is expanding the use of self-administered COVID-19 tests—although the details (like whether the Coachella Valley will have a site or two where they’re used) have not been worked out. According to the Press-Enterprise: “Unlike other coronavirus tests, which rely on a health care worker deeply probing a subject’s nose or throat, Curative’s tests are done by subjects, who swab their mouth gently before putting the swab in a test tube and sealing a plastic bag. Test results are reported by email or text message within 48 hours.”

The Los Angeles Times reports: “Desperately seeking to find a seemingly responsible way to hold dinner parties, some people have started to get tests for the coronavirus as a way to clear themselves to attend dinner parties without needing to wear masks or keep their distance. That’s absolutely the wrong thing to do, according to Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s director of public health.”

Los Angeles County has issued, more or less, a curfew for most businesses—something Gov. Newsom has hinted could come to the entire state: Restaurants and nonessential retail in L.A. now have to close by 10 p.m. 

Speaking of curfews: This here Vox article says that a whole lot of experts think they’re worthless. Key quote from that piece: “‘It seems like it’s spreading all over, but I’ve seen no evidence it helps anything,’ Tara Smith, a public health professor at Kent State University, told me over email. ‘I’ve not seen a single public health person recommend this as an intervention. I’m mystified at their popularity.’”

• And speaking of Gov. Newsom: He remains in increasingly hot water for that dinner he attended at the French Laundry earlier this monthalong with, it turns out, some California Medical Association (!) officials, Politico notes. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times points out that there are questions about exactly how “outdoor” that dinner was—and that, in related news, some legislators have jetted off to Maui, with the bill possibly being picked up by special-interest groups. The art of leading by example is dead, I guess?

• Damn, things are even getting bad (well, relatively) in parts of Australia regarding COVID-19.

• While—make no mistake—COVID-19 remains a deadly disease, the mortality rate has decreased a bit over time. MedPage Today talks to experts about the various reasons why that’s happened.

• Not that you needed evidence of how deadly COVID-19 remains: The U.S. topped a quarter-million deaths from the disease todayand the number of dead continues to rise at an alarming rate.

• Mixed-blessing alert (but not really): The fact the virus is running rampant around the country is helping vaccine researchers learn how effective the vaccines are at a faster rate. Yay?

• SFGate talked to some Bay Area restaurant workers about the closure of indoor diningand found out that a lot of them are quite relieved.

• CNN reports that a lot of former and current Trump officials are starting to reach out to President-elect Joe Bidenat the risk of angering the current president.

• Finally, Wonder Woman 1984 will indeed be released on Christmas day—both in theaters and on HBO Max.

That’s more than enough news for the day. Please be safe, and thanks for reading. If you’d like to help make sure the Independent makes it through these crazy times, click here to learn how you can become a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will return Friday.

Published in Daily Digest

You know that fall/winter COVID-19 spike the health experts have been warning us about? Well, it’s here—and I just don’t mean it’s here in the United States.

I mean it’s here in the Coachella Valley—and the steps we collectively take will determine how bad it gets.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced today that a whopping 40 of the state’s 58 counties are regressing by at least one tier—and that 41 counties, representing well more than 90 percent of the state’s population, are now in the purple, “widespread” tier. According to SFGate, that’s up from just nine three weeks ago.

“This is simply the fastest increase California has seen since the beginning of this pandemic,” Newsom said, according to the Los Angeles Times. As a result, Newsom said, counties’ tier statuses will be updated on an ongoing basis—not just once a week on Tuesdays, as it had been before. Counties will also be demoted faster than they had before.

As for Riverside County … eek. Last week, the state reported the county as having a 6.7 percent positivity rate, and an adjusted 13.9 new daily cases per 100,000 residents. The numbers released by the state today: an 8.4 percent positivity rate, and an adjusted 22.4 new daily cases per 100,000 residents. That’s a terrifying increase in just one week.

Since we’ve already been the state’s most-restrictive tier, nothing much will change locally—at least for now. However, the state could hand down further restrictions if things keep getting worse.

Newsom did add one further restriction, as explained by our partners at CalMatters: “Californians also must wear a mask whenever outside their home, with a few exceptions, in a strengthening of the state’s existing mask mandate, Newsom said.”

Folks, it’s up to us to turn this scary tide. As the Los Angeles Times says: “As the case count swells, officials stress that it’s essential for residents to follow infection-prevention protocols such as wearing a mask in public, regularly washing their hands and staying home when they’re sick, as well as keeping a physical distance from, and avoiding gatherings with, those outside their households.”

More of today’s news:

• More cause for hope: Moderna announced today that early data shows its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is 94.5 percent effective. Again, this is early, unreviewed data—but the news is encouraging. According to CNBC: “Dr. Scott Gottlieb (said) on Monday that the devastating coronavirus pandemic could ‘effectively’ be ended next year, following promising developments around Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. … ‘Once we get these vaccines in sufficient qualities heading into 2021, the combination of the fact that a lot of the population will have already had COVID, combined with the fact that we’ll be vaccinating the public with a highly effective vaccine, we could effectively end this pandemic in 2021 with our technology,’ (said) Gottlieb, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner in the Trump administration.”

• Another cause for hope: monoclonal antibodies. A professor of clinical and laboratory science from Texas State University, writing for The Conversation, explains what this Trump-touted treatment is: “A monoclonal antibody treatment mimics the body’s natural immune response and targets foreign agents, like a virus, that infect or harm people. There are also monoclonal antibodies that pharmaceutical companies have designed that target cancer cells. Monoclonal antibodies are one of most powerful types of medicine. In 2019 seven of the top 10 best-selling drugs were monoclonal antibodies.”

• Not all the vaccine news is good: Manufacturers and factories are preparing for a possible fight over who gets the doses first, and how many each country gets. According to NBC News: “The factory at the Serum Institute of India, a manufacturer of immunobiological drugs, appears ready to play a global role in the production of COVID-19 vaccines, once they are developed, because few manufacturers can match the scale of its facilities. As a leading supplier to the developing world, it is also in the forefront of efforts to combat ‘vaccine nationalism,’ where wealthy countries such as the United States pay to secure a massive number of doses to help their citizens first, while poor countries wait at the back of the line.”

• The nationwide surge has gotten so bad that Walmart is counting customers again. Key quote, from CNN: “We know from months of metering data in our stores that the vast majority of the time our stores didn’t reach our self-imposed 20 percent metering capacity,” said Kory Lundberg, a Walmart (WMT) spokesperson. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have resumed counting the number of people entering and leaving our stores.”

• The New York Times points out that some people have received some rather unpleasant and surprising bills for their COVID-19 tests—and offers some suggestions on how to avoid such a surprise. Key quote: “To avoid those extra charges, ask your provider what diseases they will screen for. It can be as simple as saying: ‘I understand I’m having a coronavirus test. Are there any other services you’ll bill me for?’ Having a better understanding of that up front can save you a headache later, and you can make an informed decision about what care is actually needed. If your providers can’t tell you what they’ll bill for, that may be a signal you want to seek care elsewhere.”

President-elect Joe Biden today called on Congress and President Trump to pass a new stimulus package—and urged the president to knock it off with the false claims that the election was rigged. According to The Washington Post: “Biden called on Congress to pass a large package approved by House Democrats earlier this year and said they cannot wait any longer to act. ‘Refusal of Democrats, Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a conscious decision. It’s a choice that we make. If we can decide not to cooperate, we could decide to cooperate.’”

• Related: Is there a correlation between stimulus efforts expiring, and COVID-19 cases spiking in the U.S.? Business Insider says there indeed is—although whether correlation means causation, in this case, remains a question.

• A scoop today from The Washington Post: Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, said he’s being pressured by fellow Republicans—including Sen. Lindsey Graham—to toss legally cast votes. Key quote: “In their conversation, Graham questioned Raffensperger about the state’s signature-matching law and whether political bias could have prompted poll workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures, according to Raffensperger. Graham also asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures, Raffensperger said.” My god!

• Sen. Chuck Schumer said today that he believed that Joe Biden could wipe out a whole lot of student debt after he takes office—simply by signing an executive order. “I have a proposal with Elizabeth Warren that the first $50,000 of debt be vanquished,” said Schumer, according to CNBC. “And we believe that Joe Biden can do that with the pen as opposed to legislation.

• From the Independent: County supervisors recently OK’d a massive development in the eastern Coachella Valley called the Thermal Beach Club—where homes will be $1 million or more, and a non-resident club membership will cost $175,000 a year. Our Kevin Fitzgerald reports: “Not surprisingly, some current residents of the Thermal and Oasis communities are dismayed by that prospect. … But proponents of the project—including six of the seven members of the Thermal-Oasis Community Council, as well as all five members of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors—view the buildout, in a disadvantaged region of Coachella Valley, as an opportunity that could jumpstart improvement in the area.”

• Yikes. This lede from the Los Angeles Times is just awful (the content, not the writing): “The Boy Scouts of America will face at least 88,500 claims of sexual abuse in a landmark bankruptcy that could reshape the future of one of the nation’s oldest and largest youth organizations, lawyers in the case said Monday as the filing deadline loomed.”

• Since we’re all supposed to be pretty much staying home as much as possible, this is good news: “A consortium of museums is doing their part to bring the work of one of the world's most famous artists to the global masses. Van Gogh Worldwide is a new project by a group of Dutch museums which presents a digital collection of over 1,000 of the artist’s masterpieces. Building off the digitized collection begun several years ago by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, almost half of the post-Impressionist works of this prolific artist are now available to view—with scholarly commentary—from the safety of your own home.”

• Finally: Denizens of the internet, god bless them, have created a Lego version of Rudy Giuliani’s whacked-out Four Seasons Total Landscaping press conference. It’s fantastic; be sure to click on the Flickr page.

That’s enough news for a Monday. Stay safe, everyone. If you’d like to help the Independent keep producing quality local journalism—and making it free to everyone, without subscription fees or annoying paywalls—please click here to become a Supporter of the Independent. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Published in Daily Digest

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.

Published in Daily Digest

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.

Published in Daily Digest

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.

Published in Daily Digest

Some thoughts on Riverside County’s descent into the purple, “Widespread” coronavirus tier:

• This will have a devastating impact on some local businesses. It means that within 72 hours, gyms and movie theaters must close all indoor operations. Places of worship can’t have indoor services. Restaurants can only operate outdoors—and, according to the county, it’ll be at LEAST three weeks before we can move back up into the red, “Substantial” tier. Make no mistake: This will result in some businesses closing for good.

• To those of you who look at this information and shout, “Lives are more important than businesses!” You need to realize that lives and businesses are inextricably intertwined. Business are life-long dreams, sources of income, sanity-maintaining distractions and so much more, to so many people.

• While sliding backwards is very bad, the news is not ALL bad. First, the local weather is getting less-scorching, which means that businesses that have the wherewithal to move operations outdoors will probably have better luck doing so than they would have back in August.

• Also, the county’s numbers are trending in the right direction. The county’s positivity rate (5.2 percent), adjusted daily cases per 100,000 (9.1) and health-equity metric (which tracks the positivity rate in disadvantaged neighborhoods; 6.9 percent) are all better this week than last, and two of those three numbers remain in the red, “Substantial” range. Unfortunately, the adjusted daily case rate is too high—and while the state gave Riverside County a reprieve last week, the state Department of Health declined to do so for a second week.

• While the purple, “Widespread” tier is the most restrictive, it’s actually not as restrictive as things once were: The state now allows hair and nail salons to remain open indoors in all of the tiers.

• We should ALL take this as a call to be as safe and responsible as possible. That means wearing masks around others, washing hands, cooperating with contact tracers, getting tested and, in general, behaving like responsible adults. Our numbers are not great, but they’re waaaay better than they were a couple of short months ago. While much of the rest of the country is surging, we are not—and we all need to work to keep it that way.

More news:

College of the Desert announced today that instruction would remain almost entirely online for the winter intersession and spring semester. Read the details here.

• The state has, at long last, announced reopening guidelines for theme parks—and Disney officials are NOT happy with them. As the Los Angeles Times explains: “The protocols announced Tuesday allow a large park to reopen once coronavirus transmission in its home county has fallen enough for the county to reach Tier 4—the state’s least restrictive designation. A small park, meanwhile, can welcome guests once its home county reaches Tier 3, the second-least-restrictive level.

The state also announced that a limited number of fans can attend live sporting events—but only at outdoor stadiums; only in counties in one of the two least-restrictive tiers; and only if local health officials give the OK. As the San Jose Mercury News explains, all of this means fans won’t be attending games in California anytime soon.

• Here’s the latest weekly Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. (District 4 includes the Coachella Valley and rural-ish points eastward.) The news is mostly decent, with cases and hospitalizations holding steady—and the weekly positivity rate is down to 4.7 percent. However, COVID-19 claimed the lives of two of our neighbors last week.

• I’ll let this lede from The New York Times explain the big national news of the day: “The Justice Department accused Google of illegally protecting its monopoly over search and search advertising in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, the government’s most significant legal challenge to a tech company’s market power in a generation.” Read more here.

People are voting early in record numbers. The Washington Post breaks it down.

• Some reassuring news: ProPublica is reporting that Dr. Anthony Fauci will play an important role in checking the results of various vaccine studiesalbeit with one big exception.

• Related and also reassuring: The state of California also plans on reviewing any vaccines before giving the OK for them to be distributed.

• Related and not reassuring: The president yesterday referred to Fauci as a “disaster” who “got it wrong” on the coronavirus.

• Sort of related and, well, sort of bonkers: Several media experts, writing for The Conversation, say that Russian media sources are starting to refer to President Trump in less-than-glowing language. Key quote: “Russian outlets tended to chastise Trump’s unwillingness to avoid large gatherings, practice social distancing or wear a mask, all of which violated his administration’s basic health guidelines. Likewise, Russian reports criticized Trump’s post-diagnosis behavior–like tweeting video messages while at the hospital and violating quarantine with his public appearances–as ‘publicity stunts’ that jeopardized the safety of his Secret Service detail and supporters.

A human challenge study—in which people are willingly exposed to SARS-CoV-2—is taking place in the United Kingdom. According to The Associated Press: “Imperial College London and a group of researchers said Tuesday that they are preparing to infect 90 healthy young volunteers with the virus, becoming the first to announce plans to use the technique to study COVID-19 and potentially speed up development of a vaccine that could help end the pandemic.

• As mentioned above, coronavirus cases are surging in much of the country—however, as The New York Times explains, the news is not all that dire. For starters, case numbers are up in part because testing is up, too—and deaths are holding fairly steady, in part, because we’re getting better at treating this darned disease.

Health departments across the Upper Midwest are reporting that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally played a rather large role in the surge in COVID-19 cases. Sigh.

Also sorta related comes this headline from CNN: “Minnesota traces outbreak of 20 COVID-19 cases to September Trump rally events.” Bleh.

• You may have heard about the New York Post’s big scoop regarding Hunter Biden’s hard drive. Well … the story’s principal writer refused to have his byline on the piece, because he had questions about its credibility, according to The New York Times.

• Yikes: Someone apparently set the contents of a ballot drop box in Los Angeles County ablaze Sunday night.

• From the Independent: A new Coachella Valley organization called Desert Support for Asylum Seekers is working to make sure refugees in the area—specifically LGBTQ refugees—get the help that they need. They’re focusing much of their efforts on people being detained at or released from the Imperial Regional Detention Center in Calexico. Key quote, from founder Ubaldo Boido: “The detention center was dropping people at the downtown Calexico Greyhound station. Even after the station was closed, (Border Patrol was) leaving them to fend for themselves. So we started this coordinator group to pick up people and get them on a bus, or get them here to Palm Springs where we could get them on a flight.

• Three scientists—who are increasingly getting the ear of the Trump administration—have been advocating against lockdowns in favor of herd immunity ever since the pandemic started. MedPage today looks at their backgrounds and their possible motivations.

• CNBC examines Joe Biden’s tax plan. Key quote: “While Americans earning less than $400,000 would, on average, receive tax cuts under Biden’s plan, the highest earners would face double-digit increases in their official tax rates, according to nonpartisan analyses. In California, New Jersey and New York City, taxpayers earning more than $400,000 a year could face combined state and local statutory income tax rates of more than 60 percent.” However, as the story explains, almost nobody winds up paying the statutory tax rate.

• So, uh, the phrase “Zoom dick” was trending on Twitter yesterday, because Jeffrey Toobin, of The New Yorker and CNN, apparently decided to have a wank in the middle of a Zoom call with colleagues. Read the sordid details here.

• And finally, because the news in outer space is far less horrifying than the news here on planet Earth, take a few moments to learn about what’s happening with a NASA mission called OSIRIS-Rex, which is attempting to gather “loose rubble” from an asteroid.

That’s enough for today. Be safe. Hang in there. Check in on a loved one. Oh, and please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you have the financial means, so we can keep producing quality journalism. The Daily Digest will be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

On this week's town-hall-style weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World brings us a special virus-themed episode of Donald J. Trump, Detective-in-Chief; Jen Sorensen wonders why Democrats want to "pack the courts"; The K Chronicles makes a pitch for Trump fans to vote for someone else; Red Meat recovers from a medical procedure; and Apoca Clips takes multiple coronavirus tests.

Published in Comics

It’s common practice for media organizations to prepare coverage of certain events before said events have actually happened.

Take obituaries, for example. The Associated Press, The New York Times and other large media organizations have files upon files of pre-written obituaries for prominent people. (Reporters once worked on them on what used to be called “slow news days,” a concept that the year 2020 has completely and totally obliterated.) This way, when a death does occur, all editors need to do is pull out the pre-written obit, add in a date and a cause of death, and perhaps update a few details before quickly publishing. This practice is sometimes called “preparedness.”

Sometimes, this preparedness can cause weirdness. The New York Times, for example, has a long and storied history of publishing bylined obituaries penned by writers who themselves have been dead for years.

Then there’s the problem of obituaries making their way to the wire or the internet before the subject has actually died. My favorite example of this happened back in 1998, when someone working for the AP hit the wrong button, more or less, and sent out Bob Hope’s obituary. The obit was clearly not complete—a bunch of x’s were in the places where Hope’s cause of death and his age would have been—but the story got the attention of an aide to then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey, which led to Hope’s death being announced on the House floor. Which led Reuters to report Hope’s death. Which led ABC Radio to report Hope’s death. And so on.

Hope would live five more years.

Today, in an effort to get things published online quickly after they happen, some news websites will pre-write stories, just in case something, which may or may not happen, actually happens. And this brings us to the big mistake Deadline made yesterday.

The background: Vice President Mike Pence cancelled an event scheduled for today in his home state. Even though a Pence spokesman said at the time that COVID-19 was NOT the reason for the change, the fact that the White House is now confirmed to have been the site of a super-spreader event led to all sorts of speculation—and apparently led Deadline to write up a piece announcing that Pence had tested positive for COVID-19, so it was ready to go in case that actually happened.

But then someone at Deadline actually published the piece. And then the piece was shared on Deadline’s Twitter page.

As with the AP’s premature Bob Hope obit, it was clear to anyone paying attention that the Deadline piece was published prematurely, given “PREP. DO NOT PUBLISH UNTIL THE NEWS CROSSES” was in the headline before the actual headline. But that didn’t stop people from jumping to erroneous conclusions —even though as of this writing, the vice president appears to be COVID-free.

Sigh. I miss slow news days.

Please, if you can, become a Supporter of the Independent by clicking here; we need help to continue producing quality local journalism.

Today’s news:

The second presidential debate is officially cancelled. The Commission on Presidential Debates wanted to make the scheduled Oct. 15 debate a virtual event, because one of the two participants was recently diagnosed with COVID-19. However, that participant refused to participate in a virtual event, so the debate was cancelled. As of now, the Oct. 22 debate remains on the schedule, but who in the hell knows what the 13 days between now and then will bring.

And then there’s this headline from The New York Times: “Trump plans to hold a rally for thousands on the White House lawn Saturday, raising new concerns over possible virus spread.” He also has a rally planned in Florida on Monday. Yes, really.

Related, from Reuters: “U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of President Donald Trump’s most powerful allies in Washington, has avoided visiting the White House for more than two months because of its handling of the coronavirus, he told reporters on Thursday.” Holy cow!

• Oh, and the White House last month blocked the CDC from requiring masks on all forms of public and commercial transportation, according to the Times. My god.

• Hey, who needs a drink? We’re only the intro plus three stories into this Digest, but I sure do … and a Manhattan sounds amazing! But did you know the sweet vermouth you use in a Manhattan is just as important as the whiskey? So here’s a Thrillist piece on some good sweet vermouths.

• Before we get to more despair, let’s share some good news on the COVID-19 battle. First: Two drug-makers have requested emergency-use authorizations for antibody therapies to battle SARS-CoV-2—including the one the president received. Per NBC News: “The announcements from drug manufacturers Regeneron and Eli Lilly came within hours of Trump making public pleas to drum up support and enthusiasm for the medicines—referring to the antibodies as a ‘cure,’ despite a lack of evidence backing up such a claim.” Still, the therapies show promise.

Fingers crossed regarding this CNBC lede: “Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday the U.S. could have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for every American as early as March, a more optimistic estimate than President Donald Trump has publicly said.”

Also from CNBC comes the news that the FDA has granted emergency authorization for a rapid test that can screen patients for both the flu and COVID-19—plus other viruses and bugs.

• Hey, another silver lining! COVID-19 is making us filthy Americans wash our disgusting hands more frequently.

The New York Times today published yet another piece regarding portions of President Trump’s taxes where the numbers don’t really add up. This story involves a mysterious $21 million in payments to Trump in 2016 that largely “went through a company called Trump Las Vegas Sales and Marketing that had little previous income, no clear business purpose and no employees.”

Yet another NFL team was in limbo today after a positive COVID-19 test. (It turned out that the test was apparently a false positive.) As CNBC points out, the NFL is likely to keep playing, no matter what—because too much money is at stake.

• Did you know that the rich have access to private firefighting crews? The Los Angeles Times points out that not only does this raise serious questions about societal inequities; “when private, for-profit groups come in and don’t follow protocol, they can confuse residents, get in the way of firefighting activities or even require assistance themselves.”

• Why in the world are rolling blackouts still a thing in 2020? According to our partners at CalMatters, the preliminary results of an investigation into the blackouts earlier this year show the state did a bad job at planning and preparing.

Also from CalMatters, via the Independent: Proposition 24 is one of the most confusing questions on the ballot this year. It’s supposed to protect citizens’ privacy on the internet … but leading privacy advocates disagree on whether the proposition would actually do that.

Happy Friday, everyone. We made it through another crazy week! Be safe, and have a great weekend. The Digest will return Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

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