Happy Friday, all. We’re in Day 5 (of at least 21) of the Regional Stay at Home Order. The virus continues to spread at an alarming pace.
On a personal level: I have been battling anxiety all damned week, thanks to the pandemic, work stresses, scary news and whatnot. I know a lot of you out there have been fighting similar battles, too.
So … here is a reminder—and I am typing this as much for myself as much I am for y’all—to breathe, and to live in the now. For most of us, for the vast majority of the time, things right now are just fine.
Folks: Despite the news we’ll be linking to here shortly, much of which is disconcerting, there’s every reason to believe that better times are coming. We know these orders, as painful as they are, will eventually help us get this virus under relative control. We know that some people will be getting a vaccine that has been proven to be effective, starting within days. A new slate of leaders that will take the pandemic more seriously will soon be in charge of the federal executive branch.
Breathe. Live in the now.
And now, for that aforementioned news:
• Now is a really, really good time to stay home when you can—and take as many precautions as possible. Some really alarming news was shared at last night’s Palm Springs City Council meeting, which The Desert Sun explains: “The amount of COVID-19 virus measured in the Palm Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant increased by more than 700% throughout November, according to new data published by the city. And samples collected this week suggest that about 5,800 people in Palm Springs could currently be infected with the virus.” The graph that accompanies this story is terrifying.
• Because 2020 can’t help but keep being 2020, even the truly joyous, historic news that a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is getting approved carries some serious taint. As reported by The Washington Post: “White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Friday told Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, to submit his resignation if the agency does not clear the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine by day’s end, according to people familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss what happened. The threat came on the same day that President Trump tweeted that the FDA is ‘a big, old, slow turtle’ in its handling of vaccines, while exhorting Commissioner Stephen Hahn to ‘get the dam vaccines out NOW.’ He added: ‘Stop playing games and start saving lives!!!’ … The White House actions once again inject politics into the vaccine race, potentially undermining public trust in one of the most crucial tools to end the pandemic that has killed more than 290,000 Americans.” Sigh.
• The Pfizer vaccine is likely to receive emergency-authorization approval today, with the Moderna-vaccine approval expected to follow soon. As a result, more and more groups are starting to campaign for earlier places in the figurative vaccine line: MedPage Today reports that the College of American Pathologists wants the people behind the scenes who handle COVID-19 tests to be toward the front of the line, while Quill (published by the Society of Professional Journalists) notes that more than a dozen journalism orgs have written a letter to the CDC asking that reporters who are covering the pandemic in the field be toward the front.
• As more people get the vaccine, Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute warns: “Blaming the COVID-19 vaccine for unrelated health issues will be the next thing.” He points to the example of a Texas woman named Patricia, who participated in the Pfizer trial and developed foot sores: “Patricia’s foot became an internet meme when a family member launched a GoFundMe account to help pay for doctor bills. … In an unusual move for a drug trial, Pfizer opened the books to see whether Patricia got the vaccine or the saline shot with no vaccine. She got the placebo. Whatever caused her foot sores, it was not the COVID-19 shot. But by then, a full-blown conspiracy was rolling.”
• The Los Angeles Times and the Voice of San Diego both tackle the ongoing debate over the state’s closure of outdoor dining. As the Los Angeles Times lays out: “When fewer people were contagious, the risk could be compared to the relatively minimal possibility of getting wet when there’s only a light sprinkle. But now, with possibly around 1 in 100 people in L.A. County contagious, that makes dining outside, and doing other activities that interact with other people, far riskier. ‘If it’s a downpour—because the whole community has widespread transmission—if you’re going to be outside, you’re going to get wet. You could get the virus,” (said epidemiologist Dr. Robert) Kim-Farley.
• If you somehow still believe that our nation’s health-care system isn’t an inequitable mess, read this piece from ABC News, and see if you still agree: “President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani received exceptional treatment for coronavirus over the past week, including, he said, advice from the White House chief doctor. Giuliani, who was hospitalized on Sunday after contracting COVID-19, was transparent about the reality that he was treated like a ‘celebrity,’ like Trump and other close allies who have received access average Americans would not get.”
• Our partners at CalMatters note that as COVID-19 case counts soar, wait times for testing results are getting longer and longer: “The average turnaround time for test results has risen by 30% from the first week in November to the last week, or from 1.3 days to 1.7 days, according to state public health data. That may not sound like much, but public health experts say it’s critical for COVID-19 test results to be reported within one to two days, because longer delays mean that infected people may unknowingly spread the disease to others before they can isolate at home.”
• And for some really depressing news, The Washington Post is reporting this: “Shoplifting is up markedly since the pandemic began in the spring and at higher levels than in past economic downturns, according to interviews with more than a dozen retailers, security experts and police departments across the country. But what’s distinctive about this trend, experts say, is what’s being taken—more staples like bread, pasta and baby formula.”
• Presumably related: “In a wide-ranging new survey of attitudes toward the economy, 6 in 10 residents said they expect California’s children to be worse off financially than their parents,” the Los Angeles Times reports about a new Public Policy Institute of California poll. “More than two-thirds said California’s gap between the rich and poor is widening. And nearly 6 in 10 anticipate ‘mostly periods of widespread unemployment or depression’ during the next five years.”
• The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to consider the nutso attempt by the Texas attorney general to overturn the election results. As NBC News reports: “While the suit attracted President Trump’s support and was endorsed by many Republicans in Congress, it suffered from several legal and factual shortcomings.”
• The New Yorker yesterday published a humdinger of a piece calling into question the mental fitness of Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “Some former Feinstein aides insist that rumors of her cognitive decline have been exaggerated, and that video clips taken out of context can make almost anyone look foolish. … But many others familiar with Feinstein’s situation describe her as seriously struggling, and say it has been evident for several years. Speaking on background, and with respect for her accomplished career, they say her short-term memory has grown so poor that she often forgets she has been briefed on a topic, accusing her staff of failing to do so just after they have.”
• The San Francisco Chronicle and The Imprint partnered on a big investigative piece with this horrifying reveal: “California sent thousands of vulnerable children to out-of-state facilities run by a for-profit company. Reports of rampant abuse followed. Now, confronted with a Chronicle and Imprint investigation, the state is bringing every child home.” Hooray for the power of journalism.
• Here’s a fascinating read from SFGate (with an accompanying video) about the fact that a three-man team has finally cracked the code of a cipher sent 54 years ago by the Zodiac killer.
• An alert from the Palm Springs Police Department: “The Palm Springs Police Department will hold a DUI checkpoint today, Friday, Dec. 11, from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. at an undisclosed location within the city limits.” Consider yourself alerted.
• Finally, if you’re a Disney/Marvel/Star Wars etc. fan, and you somehow missed yesterday’s news, sit down and try not to piddle yourself while you read this.
As always, thanks for reading. If you’re fortunate enough to have a few bucks to share, and you value the quality local journalism done by the Independent, please consider clicking here and becoming a Supporter. Please have a safe, enjoyable weekend, despite all the weirdness.