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.
• 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.