CVIndependent

Fri12042020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

The New York Times today published a fabulous piece by renowned science writer Donald G. McNeil Jr., headlined “The Long Darkness Before Dawn.” The story is a nice primer, of sorts, on where the United States stands regarding the coronavirus, and where the country is headed.

This is the sub-headline on the piece: “With vaccines and a new administration, the pandemic will be tamed. But experts say the coming months ‘are going to be just horrible.’”

I really, really hope the second half of that sub-headline is wrong … but, yikes, the current numbers are bad—on national, state AND local levels.

They’re so bad, in fact, that another stay-at-home order could be coming to the Coachella Valley within a matter of days. Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier today said that unless the state’s COVID-19 case-count increases don’t stop VERY soon, ICU capacity in some parts of the state could be overwhelmed by mid-December—so the state may soon make most counties lock down again.

As the Los Angeles Times explains:

“If these trends continue, we’re going to have to take much more dramatic—arguably drastic—actions,” (Newsom) said during a briefing.

Those include “the potential for a stay-at-home order” for areas in the strictest purple tier of California’s coronavirus reopening road map, he said. Of the state’s 58 counties, 51 are in the purple tier.

Officials have watched with growing alarm as a recent record-setting flood of new coronavirus cases has started to wash over the state’s hospital system.

There were 7,787 coronavirus patients hospitalized statewide as of Sunday, according to the latest available data. That’s the highest number recorded during the pandemic and an increase of roughly 89 percent from two weeks ago.

Here in Riverside County, 585 confirmed COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized—more than ever before.

Hang on, folks. December is going to be a weird, difficult month.

More news from the day:

• On a slightly brighter note, Gov. Newsom laid out plans the state has to help small businesses get through the increasingly ugly mess that we’re in. Included are tax credits, low-interest loans and a new grant program. Details are still being worked out, however.

Our partners at CalMatters published a piece today pointing out that yet another sad COVID-19 record has been set in California: “Inside California’s prisons, coronavirus cases have exploded, reaching 3,861 active cases last week—the highest so far. Yet the state has slowed its early releases of inmates, raising questions about overcrowding as the infections spread through the prisons.”

• In other scary-as-heck coronavirus news: Santa Clara County over the weekend instituted restrictions that, among other things, require anyone coming to the county from more than 150 miles away to quarantine for two weeks. Those restrictions also forced the San Francisco 49ers to find a new temporary home.

Los Angeles County instituted a lockdown order lowering capacities at—but not closing—most retail businesses, and banning all gatherings among people from different households.

The NFL is a mess. A massive COVID-19 outbreak among the Baltimore Ravens has led to multiple postponements of their scheduled game with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and lapses in protocols forced the Denver Broncos to play on Sunday without any of the quarterbacks on their roster. (That did not go so well.)

• Oh, and if you went to a larger gathering for Thanksgiving, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, kindly requests that you assume you’re infected and go into quarantine.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said this to CNBC today: “We’re going to probably have by the end of this year, 30% of the U.S. population infected. You look at states like North Dakota and South Dakota, it’s probably 30%, 35%. Maybe as high as 50%.”

CNN is reporting that Dr. Scott Atlas—a colleague of Birx’s who has been peddling discredited herd-immunity sorts of theorieshas resigned from the Trump administration.

• Good news: Moderna, as expected, today applied to the FDA for an emergency authorization for its vaccine, after a large-scale trial in which nobody who received the vaccine developed a serious COVID-19 illness.

• Bad news: NBC News reports that although Facebook recently banned some large anti-vax accounts from the platform, smaller yet influential groups continue to be a big problem: “While researchers of extremism and public health advocates see the removal of the largest anti-vaccination accounts as mostly positive, new research shows the bigger threat to public trust in a COVID-19 vaccine comes from smaller, better-connected Facebook groups that gravitated to anti-vaccination messaging in recent months.

The city of Rancho Mirage has launched drive-through, self-administered, no-cost testing via Curative. It takes place every Tuesday through Saturday at the Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory’s west parking lot starting tomorrow; details here.

The organizers of Modernism Week announced today that they’re delaying the in-person portions of the event from February to April. From the news release: “Modernism Week has decided to reschedule in-person events from February to April 8-18-2021. … In its place in February, the Modernism Week Online Experience will include a curated line-up of more than 20 new video programs created specifically for Modernism Week, and encore presentations of past programs available for purchase and on-demand streaming February 1-28, 2021 at modernismweek.com. Also online in February, Modernism Week will offer an online auction February 1-14 that will feature one-of-a-kind architectural experiences and unique, limited specialty items not normally available to the public. … ‘We are committed to the safety of our guests and we are monitoring daily health advisories,’ said William Kopelk, Modernism Week Chairman. ‘We realize that it will not be possible to provide in-person events during our annual February dates, however, we are optimistic that we will be able to provide safer and more enjoyable in-person tours and programs in April as conditions improve. We want to do what is best for our guests, as well as for our staff and volunteers.’” Watch modernismweek.com for updates.

The San Francisco Chronicle reminds people who have received unemployment this year that the money is subject to federal taxes: “State employment agencies, including the California Employment Development Department, give people the option of having 10% of their base unemployment payment withheld for federal taxes. But most people don’t, and even if they do, it might not be enough to cover what they actually owe if they have other income. California does not tax unemployment benefits, although some states do.”

• Well, after all that, I could use a drink … or maybe a break to read about drinks? Well, if you want to read up on boozy treats, our cocktail columnist offers up this list of books and other possible gifts for the drink-lover in your life.

Happy Monday, all. Please have a great week, despite all the darkness that swirls around. Please, if you can afford it, click here to learn more about supporting local journalism by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. As always, thanks for reading.

Published in Daily Digest

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.

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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