CVIndependent

Fri12042020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Jimmy Boegle

Happy Monday, everyone. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get right to it:

The coronavirus is spreading locally. According to the just-released Riverside County District 4 report, the local positivity rate—the percentage of tests that come back positive for the virus—is a too-high 14 percent. (The state wants that number kept below 8 percent.)

The numbers of cases keep going up. At first glance, the recent case numbers always look deceptively low on this report, and here’s why: The dates reflect positive cases based on when the tests are taken, not when the results come back—and since test results can take 3-5 days to receive, sometimes longer, we don’t have a lot of results back yet from last week. Just look at the numbers from May 25 on, and you’ll see the mess that the Coachella Valley is in.

• COVID-19-related hospitalizations, after being somewhat stable for the last week, have gone up substantially in recent days. County-wide, as of the weekend, 98.7 percent of our hospitals’ ICU beds were taken. However … according to the Los Angeles Times, that’s not the big problem, believe it or not; apparently, even in non-pandemic times, local hospitals frequently run out of ICU beds (!). Even now, there’s enough space, and plenty of ventilators. The problem is the number of medical professionals. Key quote:

Michael Ditoro, chief operating officer at Desert Regional Medical Center, said the facility hit ICU-bed capacity “well prior to COVID. Year after year.” The medical center’s surge beds are equally equipped to treat patients as regular ICU beds, he said.

Bed capacity might not be their biggest challenge, Ditoro said. Instead, it’s scant staffing.

“You don’t really have a centralized area with the beds all around it where it’s really quick to get to them. Instead, you may be in a longer hall unit where you need staff closer to each room,” he said of the surge units.

• Because of the increasing numbers, Gov. Gavin Newsom over the weekend cracked down on 15 counties, either ordering that they close bars—or strongly suggesting they do so. As a result, bars here in Riverside County—many of which had already voluntarily closed—will need to shut their doors tonight. Loophole alert: Bars can remain open if they serve food, and mandate that customers purchase food with their drinks. It’s also worth noting that Newsom said more closings could be ordered if things don’t improve.

The county Board of Supervisors meeting will take place online tomorrow, and parts of the County Administrative Center were closed, because several county employees tested positive for the virus

Los Angeles County is closing beaches over the July 4 weekend, since we, as Americans, are collectively proving that we’re incapable of wearing masks and social distancing and simply being intelligent in general.

• Cocktail break! Here’s Alton Brown’s refreshing mint julep recipe. If you don’t partake in spirits, here’s a non-alcoholic recipe.

• In Arizona, one of the COVID-19 hotbeds in the United States, Gov. Doug Ducey today ordered that bars, gyms, movie theaters and water parks close for at least 30 days, starting this evening. He also pushed back the planned opening of schools there by a couple of weeks. Weirdly enough, there’s still NOT a statewide mask order in the Grand Canyon State.

All Broadway shows have been cancelled through the rest of 2020 due to the pandemic—which has also led Cirque du Soleil to file for bankruptcy.

• However, in some places, the show is going on. CBS News looks at how some smaller theater companies are planning on presenting socially distanced plays.

• Oh, great. There’s more evidence this damn virus has mutated to make it more contagious. Just great!

According to this BBC News lede: “A new strain of flu that has the potential to become a pandemic has been identified in China by scientists.” OH COME ON YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDING ME.

• I don’t think we’ve ever taken two cocktail breaks in a Daily Digest before, but it seems necessary today. So, compliments of Independent cocktail scribe Kevin Carlow, here’s the lowdown on the history of the mai tai—with delicious recipes included.

Gilead has set the prices for remdesivir—the one drug sorta proven to help really sick COVID-19 patients—and it’s definitely not cheap.

• Maybe good news: According to The Conversation, SARS-Co-V-2 attacks cells kind of like some types of cancers do—but that means some cancer drugs may help battle the virus, too.

• We’ve often warned in this space that stories on scientific studies need to be taken with massive figurative grains of salt. CNN’s Sanjay Gupta isn’t wild about what he calls science by press release.

As a result of a screwed-up prison transfer, more than 1,000 inmates at San Quentin State Prison—that’s a third of the prison population there—have COVID-19.

• “Screwed up” can also describe the state inspectors’ response to COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes, which have killed thousands of people in California alone. Key quote from this Los Angeles Times piece: “Time and again, inspectors sent to assess nursing homes’ ability to contain the new virus found no deficiencies at facilities that were in the midst of deadly outbreaks or about to endure one.

• Finally, after all of that crappy-ass news, take 3 1/2 minutes, and let Randy Rainbow offer you a laugh or two—because he’s back with a new, mask-related ditty.

I think you’ll agree that this is more than enough news for the day. Please, everyone, wash your hands. Wear a mask. Social distance. Be kind. If you have the ability, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep paying Kevin Carlow to write about mai tais. (And so we can do other quality local journalism, too.) The digest will be back on Wednesday, barring something humongous happening tomorrow. 

Today was one of the biggest COVID-19-related news days in quite a while, so let’s get right to the links:

Reopening processes around the country—and in some parts of California—are coming to a halt or being reversed, due to increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. In Texas and Florida, bars are being closed, and other business are being restricted.

San Francisco was planning on allowing hair salons, outdoor bars and other businesses to open on Monday. That move has been delayed indefinitely.

• And most worrisome locally: For the first time since the reopening process began, the state has told a county that it needs to re-impose a strict stay-at-home order—Imperial County, our neighbors to the southeast. And another neighboring county, San Bernardino, is close to running out of non-surge hospital beds

Riverside County is behind the curve at hiring contact tracers. The good news is that as of yesterday, the county was up to 220 of them, with 180 added in the last five weeks, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise. However, the state says we need around 375 of them.

• Dr. Anthony Fauci said the federal government is considering a new way of testing for SARS-CoV-2—pool testing. “The approach works this way: Samples from, say, 20 people are combined into a single pool,” reports The Washington Post. “One coronavirus test is used on the entire pool. If the test comes back negative, researchers know they can move on to another pool of samples. If it comes back positive, only then would each individual be tested.

A Tucson emergency room doctor penned a column for The New York Times with this headline: “I’m a Health Care Worker. You Need to Know How Close We Are to Breaking.”

• While the state-by-state numbers here are probably too small to take too seriously … a recent Axios/Ipsos poll shows that 64 percent of Californians wear masks whenever they go outthe second highest percentage behind New York.

• A JPMorgan study shows a correlation between restaurant spending and the spread of the coronavirus, according to CNBC—and, conversely, “higher spending at supermarkets predicts a slower spread of the virus.” However, experts point out that this doesn’t necessarily mean restaurants are to blame for the spread.

• Also according to CNBC: The number of homeowners delaying their monthly mortgage payments is on the rise again, after falling for several weeks.

Can you shop safely in a brick-and-mortar clothing store? Esquire talked to some experts to get answers. Key quote from Erin Bromage, associate professor of biology and immunology at the University of Massachusetts: “It comes down to how long you spend in the store and how many people are in the store. If you are only in there for a short period of time, and they’re restricting occupancy, then the risk is low.”

From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: University of California campuses are telling students to prepare for a fall semester that will mostly—but not entirely—take place online.

• We’re now moving to our WTF?! portion of the digest, starting with the news that American Airlines is going to stop keeping middle seats open, and resume booking flights to capacity.

• It’s not often that I’ve wanted to tip my hat to Dick Cheney, but here we are: He says that real men wear face masks.

• Did you know North Carolina has an anti-mask law? It’s true—and it’s caused no small degree of confusion. It turns out the law is a decades-old measure meant to crack down on the KKK—but thankfully, it’s been temporarily suspended, at least through Aug. 1.

• Finally, this story is particularly devastating news to those of us here at Independent World Headquarters: Costco has stopped making half-sheet cakes. DAMN YOU ’RONA! DAMN YOU!!!

• No … we take back that “finally”; we can’t end the week on that awful note. So here’s some good news: San Francisco’s Transgender District was “the first legally recognized district in the world dedicated to a historically transgender community.” The economic downturn almost forced the nonprofit to close—but then came the Black Lives Matter protests. Now, the Transgender District is on firmer footing, as “the two movements have converged in a kind of intersectional synchronicity that is bringing renewed attention to the realities of transgender people of color,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Readers, these are scary times. Please, take care of yourself this weekend. Wear a mask when you go out. Check in on neighbors and loved ones. Live in the now and enjoy life, because these days still count against the total number you have on this planet. Right? Oh, and help out the Independent, if you’re able, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will return Monday.

In response to yesterday’s Daily Digest, I received this email from a reader, verbatim:

You read so old lady at times, but the wearing of masks is important but some people cannot and you never say that?

Along with chiding the reader for his ageism and sexism with the “old lady” remark, I responded that the number of people who truly can’t wear masks is small, and that many of those people can wear other forms of a face coverings, like a shield.

The back and forth went another pointless round which I shan’t recap here. Nonetheless … you know what? This reader is right. There are some people who can’t wear face masks.

So, to those of you out there (aside from this cranky reader) who are unable to wear face masks, I’d like to ask: How do you handle this? Do other face coverings work? If you go out somewhere, how do you explain your situation? What steps, if any, do you take to protect yourself—and the people you’re around—from possibly spreading COVID-19?

I’d love to hear from you. Please email me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.); if you don’t want your name or identifying characteristics used, I won’t do so. I’ll recap the responses I get in an upcoming Daily Digest.

Thank you in advance for your time, and for helping us all learn.

Let’s get to the links:

• The big national news of the day: During a call with reporters today, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the agency believes that only a tenth of the coronavirus infections in the country are being reported. Says NBC News: “Currently, there are 2.3 million COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S. The CDC’s new estimate pushes the actual number of coronavirus cases up to at least 23 million.

• Don’t take this as a reason to panic; take this as a call to action: The Desert AIDS Project reports that in one week, the clinic there has seen more positive results that it had in the previous 10 weeks combined.

• I was once again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs Podcast, with hosts John Taylor, Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr, and all sorts of other amazing guests. We lead off by talking with Dr. Laura Rush about the local COVID-19 case increases. Be careful out there, folks.

• What kind of mask is best at preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2? FiveThirtyEight breaks it down.

• If you don’t mind dense scientific articles, this piece, from JAMA Psychiatry, is worth at least a quick skim. It recommends steps we can take, collectively and as individuals, to promote better health during these crazy times. Key quote—and keep in mind this is coming from a media outlet: “Limiting media exposure time is advisable. Graphic imagery and worrisome messages increase stress and anxiety, elevating the risk of long-term, lingering fear-related disorders. Although staying informed is essential, one should minimize exposure to media outlets.”

• For a less-dense scientific read, The Conversation examines how deforestation is a key driver in introducing new diseases to mankind. Sigh.

Texas has put a stop to its reopening process—and ordered hospitals to postpone elective procedures in four of the largest counties—because things there are getting pretty bad.

• Meanwhile, in Arizona, where things are almost as bad as they are in Texas, Gov. Doug Ducey held a press conference today and asked people to wear masks and stay home, but, as KTAR put it, “stopped short … of offering any additional formal action that would help slow the spread of the virus in Arizona.”

• Also in Arizona: Sick people are having problems getting tested there … and that problem is not limited to Arizona. According to The New York Times: “The United States’ coronavirus testing capacity has begun to strain as the pandemic continues to spread, with over 35,000 cases recorded Tuesday. Across the country, more than a dozen public laboratories say they are now ‘challenged’ to meet the demand.

This lede from The Sacramento Bee, via SFGate, should make your blood boil: “More than three months into the coronavirus pandemic, California officials say they still have no plans to collect and publish basic data about COVID-19 testing and outbreaks in local jails, frustrating advocates, families and even some members of the state’s own jail oversight board.”

MedPage Today recently spoke to Dr. Theodore Mazer, the former president of the California Medical Association, about the need for doctors to speak out in defense of public health officials. Key quote: “Public health officers and governments in general have always done things that restrict some activities for the public good. And I don’t mean to get down too deep into that, but we have laws against defecating in the streets. Is that infringing on somebody’s rights or is it a recognition that that brings about things like hepatitis outbreaks?”

• One of the drivers of the recent boost in local COVID-19 cases is believed to be people getting together with friends and family—and then letting down their guard. The Los Angeles Times examines what some health officials say about gatherings between friends and family, and how they can be done as safely as possible.

• Some people with all the usual COVID-19 symptoms still test negative for the disease. One possible reason: False negatives are still a problem.

I am going to present a quote from this Washington Post piece without comment (other than shaking my head, grumbling to myself privately and feeling utter despair): “In recent weeks, three studies have focused on conservative media’s role in fostering confusion about the seriousness of the coronavirus. Taken together, they paint a picture of a media ecosystem that amplifies misinformation, entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others.”

• And now your Disney news roundup: While the Downtown Disney District is still slated to reopen on July 9, the theme parks will NOT reopen on July 17, as was previously announced. Disney is blaming the delay on the fact the state has yet to issue guidelines—but the fact some of the company’s unions were pleading for a delay may (or may not) have been a factor.

• Disney’s Mulan is, as of now, scheduled on July 24 to be the first major film release since, well, you know. However, The Wall Street Journal says that may be delayed, too.

• OK, now, some good news: Riverside County on Monday will begin accepting applications from small businesses for a second round of grants of up to $10,000. This time, sole proprietors and businesses that received EIDL money (but NOT PPP money) will be eligible.

That’s today’s news. Wash your hands. Wear a mask (unless you can’t, in which case, please fill me in). Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you’re financially able, so we can keep producing quality local journalism—and making it available to everyone without pay walls or subscription fees. The Daily Digest will be back tomorrow.

Before we get to the links, I’d like to briefly discuss face coverings.

The COVID-19 projections by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) have been among the most lauded from the start of this whole mess—and the people behind the projections recently added a new metric: universal mask use.

And, boy, are the results stunning.

Here in California, as of today’s reports, 5,632 people have died from COVID-19. According to the IMHE models, that number—if we keep on our current track—will double, reach 11,631, by Oct. 1.

However, if California could get “95 percent mask usage in public in every location, reaching levels seen in Singapore,” the projections show 8,745 deaths by Oct. 1.

That’s a difference of 2,886 people.

Nationwide, the model is projecting 179,106 deaths by Oct. 1. With 95 percent mask usage, the number drops to 146,047—a difference of more than 33,000 people.

While I have a feeling I’m preaching to the choir here … if any of you out there are not yet onboard with wearing masks in public, please reconsider. Please. If these numbers are anywhere near correct, many thousands of lives will be saved if we all just wear face coverings in public. If not, well, you were slightly inconvenienced.

Wear a mask, people. Please. 

Today’s links:

• Gov. Gavin Newsom said today that if county governments don’t comply with things like the face-covering mandate, the state could withhold state and federal funding that comes through the state budget. Orange County (and, to a lesser extent, our own Riverside County) should take note. 

Nevada and North Carolina are the latest states to mandate that people wear face coverings in public. To repeat: Lives. Saved.

• As COVID-19 cases rise nationally, the federal government plans on ending support of coronavirus testing sites in five states at the end of the month. Sigh.

NPR reports that contract tracing is leading to some interesting conclusions—like, for example, in Washington state, protests haven’t led to a rise in cases—but parties and other private celebrations have.

• Related: News Channel 3 took a look at local contact-tracing efforts. The county currently has 250 contact tracers on the job, and more are coming.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are requiring that people traveling there from hotspot states self-quarantine for 14 days. As of now, the list of states from which people must quarantine does NOT include California; it does include Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Texas according to CNBC

• While testing capacity seems decent in the Coachella Valley, such is not the case in Los Angeles, where people are getting quite frustrated at how hard it is to make testing appointments, according to the Los Angeles Times.

• Also according to the Times: I don’t necessarily agree with the paper’s characterization of Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties as “suburban,” but the paper’s assertion that we have contributed to the statewide uptick in hospitalizations is unfortunately quite accurate.

• After you read this story in The New York Times, about the steps other countries are taking to keep COVID-19 at bay, you may shake your head and wonder what could be happening in the United States under competent federal leadership. Just sayin’.

• Affirmative action has been banned in California since 1996. In November, voters will get to choose whether to remove that ban, following steps taken today by the Legislature.

The Democratic National Convention will be dramatically scaled down come August, the party announced today: While there will still be some in-person events in Milwaukee, delegates and others will be asked to stay home.

• Finally, if the rising number of COVID-19 cases is worrying you, an epidemiologist from the University of Arizona, writing for The Conversation, suggests five things you can do right now. I, for one, need to work on No. 4.

That’s enough for today. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Fight injustice. If you can afford it, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, because all this quality news we’re providing, for free to all, costs money to produce. We’ll return tomorrow.

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Let’s get right to it:

The city of Palm Springs announced today that an employee has tested positive for the coronavirus, and that all employees who had direct contact with the employee are being tested and quarantined at home. My two cents: Don’t be concerned by announcements like this; take them as a good sign: We know the virus is out there, and diligent actions like this will help stop the spread.

The deadline to apply for $33 million in rental assistance—up to $3,500 per household—is just two days away. Get details and the application here.

• Meanwhile, some more shady counting is going down in Florida, as the Department of Health has told hospitals to decrease the numbers of COVID-19 patients they’re reporting in their ICUs. Here’s an explanation why.

Younger people are driving the increases in COVID-19 cases in some places seeing spikes, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci. “The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges that we're seeing in Florida, Texas and Arizona,” Fauci said.

• On a happier note, Fauci said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that there will be a vaccine available around the first of the year, which, if you’re keeping track, is about six months from now.

• Oh, and Fauci made it clear that, despite what the president says, nobody has asked him to slow down testing—and, in fact, he said the federal government is working on doing more testing.

• Public-health experts yesterday explained to a House committee that systemic racism is to blame for a disproportionately high number of COVID-19 cases in America’s Black communities.

A doctor with UCSF answers five questions you may have about asymptomatic carriers of SARS-CoV-2. Key quote: “Public health experts don’t know exactly how much spread is caused by asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic patients. But there are some telling hints that it is a major driver of this pandemic.”

• Because the United States is not exactly doing a bang-up job in flattening the curve, the European Union is considering barring Americans from visiting.

Washington state has become the latest place to require that people wear face coverings in public places. Lives. Saved.

• Remdesivir can currently only be administered intravenously, meaning someone pretty much has to be hospitalized to receive it. However, Gilead Sciences is working on an inhalable version—which means it could be given to people suffering from COVID-19 when they’re at home, before the disease can further progress. One doctor told the San Francisco Chronicle that’s a potential game-changer.

Square, used by a lot of small businesses to collect payments, is holding up to 30 percent of businesses’ payments all of a sudden. Square claims it’s to protect against possible refunds or risky transactions—but The New York Times found that to often be a lame excuse.

• Well, folks, it’s come to this: A new Apple Watch feature senses when a wearer is washing his or her hands—and is offering prompts to encourage said wearer to keep going for the recommended 20 seconds.

A Los Angeles doctor invented a machine seven years ago that could quickly disinfect an airplane using ultraviolet light. Nobody was very interested in the idea until, well, along came the pandemic.

• Recycling efforts have taken a serious beating due to the coronavirus. Two researchers, writing for The Conversation, say they “are concerned about challenges facing the recycling sector and growing distrust of communal and secondhand goods. The trends we see in the making and consuming of single-use goods, particularly plastic, could have lasting negative effects on the circular economy.

• Finally, a researcher on alternative media, also writing for The Conversation, looks at how important alternative newspaper coverage of the Stonewall Riots was at documenting what actually happened—while The New York Times was running headlines like “4 Policemen Hurt in ‘Village’ Raid.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Speak out against injustice. Please support independent alternative news sources, like the Independent, if you’re able. Thank you, and be safe.

Happy Monday, everyone.

I’d like to start off the week, to use that old cliché, by tooting our own horn and shining a spotlight on two recent Independent stories.

The first one, posted at CVIndependent.com earlier today, looks at the fact that thousands of Coachella Valley families lack reliable internet access—which presents big problems, especially in the middle of a pandemic, when students can’t go to physical schools.

“These are the families and the students who can least afford for their children not to be engaged, (which could) ultimately widen the achievement gap,” said local Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. “Someone called this a civil rights issue—because without (broadband), you are severely disadvantaged.”

In addition to Garcia, staff writer Kevin Fitzgerald talked to all three local school district superintendents, as well as a community-broadband expert, for the 2,200-word-plus piece. (One flaw: We didn’t talk to any students. Kevin was working on tracking down a student or two, but we ran out of time before our July print-edition deadline hit.)

The problem is especially pronounced in the east valley’s Coachella Valley Unified School District, which partnered with the city of Coachella to buy thousands of Verizon Wireless mobile hotspots to make some progress.

“We are trying to find ways to get more hotspots and more devices (for) our students,” said CVUSD Superintendent Dr. Maria Gandera. “We estimate that about 40 percent of the households in our district did not have connectivity. We could probably use double the amount (of hotspots)—and we still might have some issues with connecting.”

While Kevin talked to at least five people for his story, Independent music contributor Matt King only talked to two for his story, posted on Friday, about live music at restaurants in the era of COVID-19—because four restaurants we reached out to never returned our various messages.

California’s guidelines for bars and restaurant re-openings make it very clear that, for now, concerts and performances are a no-no. “Restaurants, bars and wineries must discontinue this type of entertainment until these types of activities are allowed to resume modified or full operation,” say the state guidelines.

Nonetheless, some local restaurants have brought live music back to their stages—while others are doing the right thing and following the guidelines, even if it affects their bottom line. Matt reached out to five restaurants that have touted live music on social media—and only Lana Ristich, the owner of Chef George’s Restaurant in Bermuda Dunes, got back to us.

“Virus is virus,” Ristich said. “I know it’s killing people, but people still have to live their life. If someone is sick, they are not going to go out. Older people should stay home, but younger generations with better immune systems might get sick from something worse by just staying home.”

Meanwhile, at The Hood Bar and Pizza—one of the valley’s foremost entertainment venues during “normal” times—owner Brad Guth is choosing to follow the guidelines.

“I take both my health and the health of my employees and customers very seriously,” Guth said. “The county is discouraging large crowds, and we are doing the same. We’ve cut hours and limited space, and we just want people to be safe.”

As always, if you have any thoughts on these stories, or anything else we do, drop me a line—and thanks for reading.

Today’s news links:

The latest countywide hospitalization stats are, well, still not great. It’s too early to call what’s happening a “spike,” and the county as a whole is tiptoeing close to the state’s watch-list metrics … but the trend isn’t good.

The latest District 4 report (including the Coachella Valley and points eastward), covering the week ending yesterday, is a mixed bag. I must admit I find these reports confusing, but here’s what it says: The weekly local positivity rate is a still-too-high 14.6 percent, but it’s down from the 16 percent reported the week before. The number of new local cases dropped significantly to 292 (from 771, 942 and 1,182 in previous weeks), with 6,073 new tests reported. So, there ya go.

As for local hospitalization numbers: They’re slowly but steadily rising. We went from 106 local confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, to 108 in Friday, 113 on Saturday, and 116 on Sunday. Not a “spike” but not good. Wear a damn mask.

The San Francisco Chronicle profiled eight people who got sick with COVID-19, but have recovered … at least somewhat. These stories show how this disease isn’t just a bad flu—instead, it’s unpredictable and often permanently damaging.

• The feared increase in coronavirus cases due to the Black Matters Lives protests has not yet materialized … yet. MedPage Today talks to some experts who explain what this all could mean. (Spoiler alert: Staying outside + wearing a mask = prevention?)

• Speaking of wearing face coverings … NPR looks at the science and the anecdotal data, and concludes that mask-wearing is somewhere between helpful and a pandemic game-changer

• Again speaking of wearing face coverings … the local convention and visitors bureau is pleading with local businesses to insist that customers wear masks and take other precautions—and is asking those local businesses to take the “Safer Together, Greater Together” pledge. The Independent has done so, for the record.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said today that more than a third of California’s COVID-19 cases have come in the last two weeks. While this is a big reminder that we’re still very much in the first wave of this pandemic, the news—at least on a statewide level—is not all bad.

Riverside County is going to contact 3,500 random residents and ask them to take part in an antibody study. “We are asking those who are contacted to strongly consider taking part in the study,” said Kim Saruwatari, director of Riverside County Public Health, in a news release. “It’s important to know the extent of the spread of the virus. … That information is vital as we move forward.” Get more details here.

• This is dense but important: A nonprofit called the Open Technology Fund acts as an intermediary between the U.S. government—specifically the US Agency for Global Media—and vitally important open-source tech tools. Well, it appears the Trump administration is attempting to steer funding away from that agency—and direct it toward closed-sourced (read: corporate) companies. As a result, the agency’s head has resigned, and a whole bunch of nonprofits are very worried.

• The state tourism bureau claims that California could lose more than $2 billion in revenue from travelers through mid-July who opt to go to more-open neighboring states like Nevada and Arizona.

The New York Times looks at the wildly varying costs of COVID-19 tests. Key quote, regarding how some unscrupulous companies are spending our tax dollars: “Insurers have paid Gibson Diagnostic Labs as much as $2,315 for individual coronavirus tests. In a couple of cases, the price rose as high as $6,946 when the lab said it mistakenly charged patients three times the base rate. The company has no special or different technology from, say, major diagnostic labs that charge $100. It is one of a small number of medical labs, hospitals and emergency rooms taking advantage of the way Congress has designed compensation for coronavirus tests and treatment.”

Also from The New York Times comes this head-shaker of a headline: “Coronavirus Attacks the Lungs. A Federal Agency Just Halted Funding for New Lung Treatments. The shift, quietly disclosed on a government website, highlights how the Trump administration is favoring development of vaccines over treatments for the sickest patients.”

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Fight injustice. And please, if you’re going to be anywhere near other people, wear a mask. If you’d like to support local, quality journalism—made free to all, never with paywalls—please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Happy Juneteenth, everyone.

Here’s today’s news:

• Gov Gavin Newsom said today that he intends for the statewide face-coverings order to be persuasive—but didn’t rule out punishment, via the Division of Occupational Safety and Health and the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. “We’re not looking to fine people. We’re looking to educate people, encourage people,” Newsom said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “And to the extent that people flaunt and abuse, which may be the exception, then we have many tools in the tool kit.”

• It’s a good thing the state is willing to find ways to enforce the ordinance if needed. Later in that article, the Orange County sheriff said he didn’t think it was the job of law enforcement to make sure people comply, and the Sacramento County sheriff said his agency would not enforce the law, “due to the minor nature of the offense, the potential for negative outcomes during enforcement encounters, and anticipating the various ways in which the order may be violated.”

There’s face-covering progress being made in Arizona, aka our neighbor to the east, aka the nation’s newest COVID-19 hot spot: Gov. Doug Ducey recently revoked an order forbidding local governments from issuing face-mask requirements stronger than the state’s (non-) requirements—and as a result, various cities, including Tucson and Phoenix, are now requiring face coverings. Lives. Being. Saved.

• Meanwhile, in Nebraska, Gov. Pete Ricketts is being a complete idiot: “He’s told counties that they won’t receive any of the $100 million in federal COVID-19 money if their ‘customers’ are required to wear masks,” according to the Omaha World-Herald.

• LG’s Prime Steakhouse is closing both of its locations for a couple of weeks after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus. Read the company’s statement here—and don’t be surprised to see more such announcements as the pandemic rolls on.

• Gov. Newsom has signed into law a bill requiring that every active voter get a mail-in ballot for November’s election.

• Disneyland is planning on reopening in several weeks. However, unions representing 17,000 Disneyland employees don’t think it’s safe to do so yet, and are asking Disney to delay

Remember that aircraft carrier captain who walked off his coronavirus-stricken ship to thunderous applause, when he was removed after expressing concerns about the outbreak? Well, his firing has been upheld.

The New York Times points out there was a lot of coronavirus business news today: Apple is closing stores in four states where cases are rising (but not here) (yet?); and AMC reversed course and said it’ll require customers to wear face coverings, after the CEO (stupidly) said yesterday the theater would not.

• Carnival Cruise Line had previously said it would start resuming some cruises on Aug. 1. However, that company—and all other major cruise lines—announced today that they’d voluntarily suspend operations until at least Sept. 15.

Medpage Today offers a fascinating if wonky look at a study in China of asymptomatic people with COVID-19. Remember that all studies these days need to be looked at skeptically and with that grain of salt we keep talking about, but takeaways include: “Asymptomatic individuals carrying SARS-CoV-2 shed the virus longer than those with COVID-19 symptoms,” and asymptomatic people were less likely to develop certain antibodies.

• Apparently, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth can help you battle viral infections. Who knew? A UCLA professor, writing for The Conversation, explains that it has to do with nitrous oxide.

• Are you worried about welcoming back housekeepers or other workers who come into your home? You’re not alone; The New York Times explains how to do so in the safest way possible for everyone.

• A bunch of big-name artists are calling on the federal government to help save our country’s independent music venues—which remain closed for the foreseeable future. Here’s hoping Congress heeds their call.

The Chinese government throws some serious shade at the president in this short, weird YouTube video.

The New York Times takes a wonderful look at the role of comedy in addressing police brutality—especially the comedy of the late, great Richard Pryor. Check it out.

• Finally, pray for Tulsa. Tomorrow very likely is going to be a dangerous day there, because the chief executive of the country has decided he doesn’t need to listen to experts anymore, and he wants to have a damn rally.

That’s enough for today. Please have a fantastic—and safe—weekend. Wear a mask. No, really, wear a mask. Wash your hands. If you appreciate quality local journalism, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will be back Monday.

It’s now the law: Californians must wear face coverings while they’re in public.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the mandate—something this newspaper called on the governor to do two days ago—earlier today, as confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.

More people are hospitalized in Riverside County—which rescinded a mask order on May 9—and the Coachella Valley with COVID-19 than ever before. The number of hospitalizations in Riverside County rose by almost 11 percent in one day, to 285, as of yesterday. In the Coachella Valley, also as of yesterday, the three hospitals reported 108 COVID-19 patients, up from a previous all-time high of 103 the day before.

The statewide order replaces a patchwork mess of local orders—some cities and counties required masks, while others didn’t, leading to a lot of confusion. It also takes the pressure off of beleaguered county health officials—at least seven of which have quit their jobs in recent weeks, in part because of angry reactions from the public.

The importance of the order is bolstered by an increasing amount of science indicating that the use of masks can make a huge difference in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

While some people’s minds won’t be changed by the new state law, others’ minds will be changed. Our partners at CalMatters, reporting on the news of the day, talked to a Sacramento woman, Wendy Valdez, who was not wearing a mask while she shopped at a grocery store. “Her reasoning: It wasn’t required at the time,” CalMatters reported. “But if it were, she said, she’d wear it. ‘I just got my hair done and they required it, so I wore one,’ she said.”

This face-covering order is a big deal. It’ll decrease the amount of time overwhelmed local business owners need to spend acting as the “mask police”—and it’ll save lives. To repeat what we said two days ago: California’s reopening process has a much better chance of succeeding now.

Thank you, Gov. Newsom.

Just a few more items from the day:

• I was on the I Love Gay Palm Springs Podcast today—you can hear me rant about the need for a statewide mask order before Newsom’s announcement—along with hosts John Taylor and Shann Carr, and guests Bryan Gallo, of NBC Palm Springs; Will Dean, of the Desert Healthcare District; LaShawn McGhee, co-founder of Revry TV; and actress Allie McCarthy, who stars in a Palm Springs International ShortFest film.

Airlines are beginning to crack down on the need for face coverings during flights. This has led, alas, to some drama.

• Speaking of face masks: While scientists virtually all agree that they’re effective, they’re arguing about how effective they are. Buzzfeed News looks at a letter more than 40 scientists sent to a journal, asking them to retract a paper written by Nobel Prize-winning chemist regarding their effectiveness.

Facebook today removed advertisements placed by the Trump campaign that, according to The New York Times, “prominently featured a symbol used by Nazis to classify political prisoners during World War II, saying the imagery violated company policy.” Wow.

We’ll be back tomorrow with an expanded Daily Digest. In the meantime, wash your hands; fight injustice; and wear a mask, because it’s the law. Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you have the means, and you value the quality local journalism that we do. Thank you.

In yesterday’s Daily Digest, I mentioned that I’d ask Riverside County officials about the alarmingly high COVID-19 positivity rate, as reported on the county’s latest weekly District 4 report. (District 4 consists of the Coachella Valley and extends over to Blythe.)

To repeat what I wrote yesterday: “The positivity rate is up to a disturbing 16 percent. However … if you divide the number of positives (345) by the number of tests (4,840), you get the positivity rate—and while the report explains that there’s a lag because tests results can take 3-5 days to come in, the difference between 345 divided by 4,840, or 7.1 percent, and 16 percent is so massive that it doesn’t seem possible for all these numbers to be correct; it’s also entirely possible I am misunderstanding something.”

Today, Jose Arballo Jr., the Riverside University Health System-Public Health’s information officer, responded to my query—and he confirmed that I am misunderstanding something: Arballo said he checked with the county’s epidemiologists, and they confirmed the 16 percent positivity rate was correct.

“They take their information based on the dates the tests are actually performed,” Arballo said.

Arballo asked if that made sense; I said it sort of did, but not really. He then kindly offered to have one of the experts call me; I thanked him, but said that wasn’t necessary.

The reason it wasn’t necessary: While I may be confused about how the positivity-rate number came to be, the larger point is crystal clear—the virus is here, and it’s spreading, and we all need to do what we can to slow the damn thing down.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have reached a new high in Riverside County. So, too, have Coachella Valley hospitalizations—up to 103, as of the latest numbers reported to the state.

Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Write the county Board of Supervisors and Gov. Newsom’s office to encourage them to make masks mandatory. Things are heading in the wrong direction—and lives are at stake. 

Today’s news:

• Well, Riverside County is officially on the state’s watch list due to “elevated disease transmission.” Read about what that means here.

• The big Coachella Valley news of the day: The downtown Palm Springs arena is officially on hold, thanks to the pandemic. The plan, apparently, is to get past COVID-19, and then figure things out from there.

• About 1,000 restaurants in Los Angeles County—or half of the restaurants the county health department visited last weekend—were not complying with rules aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, according to NBC4 Los Angeles.

Riverside County has created a mobile testing team. “The team, made up of nurses, emergency medical technicians and paramedics, set(s) up testing locations for one or two days as needed then quickly move(s) on to another site, said Kim Saruwatari, director of Riverside County Public Health.” Read more in the press release

• Tenet—the parent company of the Desert Care Network (aka Desert Regional, JFK Memorial and the Hi Desert Medical Center)—is being sued by four emergency-room nurses who were fired from a Detroit hospital. They claim they were fired because they spoke out about patient-safety matters during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Wall Street Journal yesterday did an interesting roundup of the latest science regarding COVID-19 transmission. Key quote: “The major culprit is close-up, person-to-person interactions for extended periods. Crowded events, poorly ventilated areas and places where people are talking loudly—or singing, in one famous case—maximize the risk.”

• If/when a vaccine does come, “vaccine nationalism”—a fight over which countries get the doses first and fastest—could be a real problem. A doctor, writing for The Conversation, explains.

This lede, from a CNN story, just made me sigh and want an adult beverage: “The federal government is stuck with 63 million doses of hydroxychloroquine now that the US Food and Drug Administration has revoked permission for the drug to be distributed to treat coronavirus patients.”

• There was talk at one point of moving the U.S. Open tennis tourney to Indian Wells. Well, that’s not gonna happen; instead, the plan for it is to stay in New Yorkand be played sans fans.

• ProPublica yesterday published an extensive piece on the death of Phillip Garcia, a 51-year-old in Riverside County Sheriff’s Department custody. The subheadline “Phillip Garcia was in psychiatric crisis. In jail and in the hospital, guards responded with force and restrained the 51-year-old inmate for almost 20 hours, until he died.” It’s a tough but important read.

• The CNBC headline: “Millions of Health Workers Are Exempt From Coronavirus Paid Sick Leave Law, Study Finds.” The problems: Not only does this create an enormous burden on workers; it means they’re more likely to come to work sick.

• From the Independent: We’re talking to three local protest organizers about their motivations; for the third piece, we talked to Areli Galvez, a member of the Young Justice Advocates who wowed the crowd with her speech at the group’s “Enough Is Enough” protest in Palm Springs. Key quote: “We go through the issues of racism and being racially profiled all the time. We got together, and we were like, ‘We’re tired of this; we need to change. We need to come together. We need to show that we are equal and deserve all the same rights as everyone else.’”

• Donald Trump and other conservative leaders keep talking about the dangers of ANTIFA causing problems during otherwise-peaceful protest. However, authorities say it’s actually a right-wing, white-supremacist movement that’s a threat, sometimes called the “boogaloo bois.” 

• Let’s end with a few tidbits of good news: The Boy Scouts of America are creating a “diversity and inclusion” badge that will be a requirement to reach Eagle Scout status.

• And finally, Facebook head honcho Mark Zuckerberg said users will be able to soon turn off political ads. Can we turn off the Russian bots, too?

That’s enough for today. If you value independent local journalism, and have the means to do so, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’re on print deadline here at Independent World Headquarters, so the Daily Digest may or may not be back tomorrow—but we’ll be back Friday for sure.

Areli Galvez began her speech by asking the crowd to imagine George Floyd’s final moments—without ever mentioning his name.

“Nothing is working,” she said, reading from her phone. “So you do what you do best when everything goes wrong: You call for your mom. You begin to yell, ‘Momma, Momma please!’ Yet you’re still stuck in the same position.”

The powerful four-minute talk by the 16-year-old La Quinta High School student was one of the key moments of the “Enough Is Enough” Black Lives Matter rally and protest, at Palm Springs’ Ruth Hardy Park on Saturday, June 6. Around 1,000 face-mask-wearing people attended the morning rally, which was organized by Galvez and several other young women—including Hina Malik, Jazlina Morgan and Sadie Reese—who took on the name Young Justice Advocates.

During a subsequent phone interview, Galvez explained how her group and the rally came to be.

“We came together with one of our friends, and she decided that we should start a protest,” Galvez said. “We were actually going to do it the first Saturday (after) George Floyd died, but we thought it was too soon. Then we started planning more.”

The group was originally going to have the event in front of the Starbucks Reserve on Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way, but they decided to move it when they realized how large the crowd could get. The group worked with the city and let the police know about their plans—collaborations which earned the Young Justice Advocates some criticism on social media. However, Galvez said the group never intended for the rally to be disdainful of all law enforcement, in any case.

“We spoke to (Palm Springs police) to ask for a couple of them to be there for our own safety—because we are minors,” she said. “We’re all underage. (Our goal was) being together and having unity. … To have them there just showed unity.”

The group made sure to get plenty of water, sunscreen and masks for people who showed up ill-prepared to march on the warm June day—as well as a proper sound system and a DJ to help with the atmosphere and the speeches.

“Since there were so many other protests before ours, we looked at the guidelines of what to have and what to prepare for,” she said. “We asked for donations. We said, ‘Hey, everyone, if you can, please donate water, snacks and sunscreen.’ … When we started, we weren’t expecting so many people to donate. Of course, we received so much water and so much sunscreen.”

After leading several chants, the young women led the crowd in a march around the park, with most participants holding signs and repeating those chants.

"No justice, no peace!"

"Hands up! Don’t shoot!"

"Black lives matter!"

"I can’t breathe!"

Later during the two-hour event came the speeches by Galvez, her fellow Young Justice Advocates and others. However, Galvez said her favorite moment of the day came when the DJ started playing music.

“Everyone got together and started dancing. It was just such a beautiful moment that really made me think, yes, we’re going to make a change,” she said. “This is all for a reason. It was just so amazing to see everyone dancing and singing and being together, united. We’re all equal—and we were all equal and united at that moment.”

However, Galvez said she isn’t always treated as an equal.

“I have a lot of experience with racism when it comes to my school environment,” she said. “If I were to get into an altercation, I would get more of a harsh punishment than someone else, because of the way I look. It’s happened multiple times.”

Galvez mentioned one incident in particular: During a basketball game, while Galvez went for a jump ball, the opposing player—a white girl—punched her in the face. While she did not retaliate, Galvez said, she was nonetheless punished.

“It was on a recording, so there was proof that I didn’t hit her, that I didn’t start it,” she said. “But right after she punched me, I got tackled by one of our staff members at the school and put into a separate room—as if I was some animal or something. Then they told me that I wasn’t allowed to go back out into the game, and I was suspended from school for three days, and couldn’t play in about five to six basketball games. I had to have my mom fight for me, because so many people were there and saw that I didn’t start the issue, and I didn’t hit her back, yet I was treated as if I was an aggressor, or as if I did something wrong.”

It’s experiences like that, Galvez said, that made her and her friends want to organize—and they don’t plan on stopping their work anytime soon. Galvez said they’re trying to organize a caravan protest so people at a higher risk of COVID-19 can make their voices heard, but first, the slightly renamed Young Justice Advocates will be holding a Juneteenth barbecue, at 5 p.m., Saturday, June 20, at Frances Stevens Park, at Palm Canyon Drive and Alejo Road, in downtown Palm Springs.

The reason for the slight name change: Due to “undisclosable reasons,” there are now two Young Justice Advocates groups. The other one is also planning a Juneteenth barbecue—at 1 p.m., Friday, June 19, at the Desert Highland Community Center, 480 W. Tramview Road, in Palm Springs.

Galvez said she and her fellow Young Justice Advocates of the Desert need to keep fighting for equality in the Coachella Valley.

“We are all mixed. None of us are actually white or Caucasian,” she said. “We go through the issues of racism and being racially profiled all the time. We got together, and we were like, ‘We’re tired of this; we need to change. We need to come together. We need to show that we are equal and deserve all the same rights as everyone else.’”

For more information on the Young Justice Advocates of the Desert, Galvez’s group, visit www.facebook.com/groups/252683602492267 or www.instagram.com/youngjusticeadvsofthedesert. For more information on the Young Justice Advocates, visit www.instagram.com/youngjusticeadvocates.