As of today, Dec. 14, the United States has a working COVID-19 vaccine that members of the public are receiving outside of a clinical trial.
The historic nature and the importance of this fact can’t be overstated: This is a day that all of us (well, except for the anti-vaxers and conspiracy theorists among us) have been waiting for—unsure whether it would actually come—since March.
According to Riverside County, vaccinations here will start Friday:
The first shipments of a much-anticipated vaccine for COVID-19 could arrive in Riverside County on Friday (Dec. 18), and local health officials are working with area hospitals to vaccinate thousands of first-line health care workers.
The recently approved vaccine is expected to arrive at several pre-selected hospitals and at Riverside University Health System (RUHS)-Public Health facilities, where they will be housed until transported to other medical locations. The total number of doses for Riverside County—both those transported directly to hospitals and RUHS-Public Health—is between 14,000 and 15,000.
“With so much grim news lately with the pandemic, it is great that we can give the public something so positive that we believe can turn this around,” said Kim Saruwatari, director of Public Health. “This is a turning point in the pandemic and we are looking forward to a time in the not-too-distant future when we can vaccinate tens of thousands of our neighbors against this virus.”
Alas, today was also historic on the pandemic front in other ways. On a national level, we crossed 300,000 deaths from this awful disease.
And on a local level … Riverside County is reporting that there are no ICU beds left here.
Better times are coming … but we have some awful, awful weeks between here and those better times.
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More news of the day:
• I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I WOULD GIVE ALMOST ANYTHING FOR A SLOW NEWS DAY. On top of the vaccine AND the 300,000 death milestone AND the 0.0 percent ICU bed availability in the county … today, on Dec. 14, the electoral college met and, as expected, confirmed Joseph Biden as the president-elect.
• Aaaand President Trump announced this afternoon that Attorney General Bill Barr will be leaving his job before Christmas.
• Oh, and the Russians apparently hacked the U.S. over the weekend: “The Trump administration acknowledged on Sunday that hackers acting on behalf of a foreign government — almost certainly a Russian intelligence agency, according to federal and private experts — broke into a range of key government networks, including in the Treasury and Commerce Departments, and had free access to their email systems,” according to The New York Times.
• As for the vaccine: Our partners at CalMatters explain a little more about the vaccine process in California: “With the state expected to receive around 2.1 million COVID-19 vaccines this month, everyone from farmworkers to grocers to teachers to Uber drivers is jostling to be next in line (after health care workers and nursing-home staff). But since California has more than 2 million health care workers alone and the vaccine requires two doses spaced three weeks apart, it will be months before there’s enough to go around.”
• Related: The chief pharmacy executive at University of California, San Francisco Health, writing for The Conversation, sheds some light on the nitty gritty of how the vaccination process will unfold, step by step. A taste of the fascinating details: “Pharmacists and technicians have to thaw the frozen liquid and then mix it into a solution of sterile, preservative-free saline. Each Pfizer vaccine vial contains five doses and is stable for only six hours at room temperature. The Moderna vaccine is supplied in liquid form with 10 doses per vial.”
• Also from our partners at CalMatters: “Attorney General Xavier Becerra is accusing Amazon of withholding information in California’s ongoing investigation into the company’s coronavirus protocols and COVID-19 cases at distribution facilities across the state. Becerra today filed a petition in the Sacramento County Superior Court asking the court to order the e-commerce giant to comply with outstanding investigative subpoenas from the California Department of Justice.”
• Well, this is concerning: BBC News is reporting that a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been identified as a possible, but far from confirmed, cause of increased spread in the U.K. However, Health Secretary Matt Hancock “said there was ‘nothing to suggest’ it caused worse disease or that vaccines would no longer work, but nobody knows anything for sure.” Still, eek.
• GoFundMe is tired of so many desperate families turning to the crowdfunding platform to raise money—and is calling in Congress to do something by widely sharing a story a day of a family in need. Key quote: “This immediate need is so great that GoFundMe created a new fundraising category, Food, Rent, and Monthly Bills, for individuals to rally their networks and the GoFundMe community for support. GoFundMe also launched Basic Necessities Cause, allowing donors to support people facing these urgent needs, as well as the charities driving long-term relief. Let’s be clear: There are significant consequences to inaction. Tonight, families will sit around the kitchen table wondering how they’ll feed their kids, pay the electric bill, or whether or not they’ll have enough money to make rent. It’s well past time to act.”
• Kelly Evans of CNBC talks about all of the big-tech outages that have taken place recently—including a Google/YouTube/Gmail outage this morning: “But what choice do we have, really? I don’t mean this so much in the ‘Google-is-an-evil-monopoly’ sense, but more as a recognition of how vital (Google)—along with Amazon Web Services, Apple’s iPhone, and Microsoft’s cloud and products—has become to how we live and work today.”
• Sort-of related: Google has extended its employees’ work-from-home period to Sept. 1, 2021. However, CNBC notes: “Other competitive tech companies, such as Twitter and Facebook, have said employees can work remotely ‘forever’ or over the next decade, allowing employees to move to other regions if they wanted to. … But the Dec. 14 memo suggests Google will have stricter requirements than these competitors. Employees in regions that aren’t at high risk levels will be expected to spend a minimum of three days in the office and two days at home or wherever they work best, (CEO Sundar) Pichai’s email states.”
• Small business owners, beware: As this NBC News headline states, “New Trump admin rules make it easier for lenders to charge small businesses super-high interest rates.”
• The Los Angeles Times reports on the fact that the state’s police departments don’t seem too concerned about racial-profiling complaints: “Police agencies across the state upheld just 49 racial profiling complaints from 2016 to 2019, less than 2% of the roughly 3,500 allegations filed, a Times analysis of California Department of Justice statistics found. Of the 250 law enforcement agencies that received at least one racial profiling complaint in that time frame, 92% of them upheld none of them, according to the analysis.” Sigh.
• Finally … while I tend to focus on heavier stuff here in the Daily Digest, I’d like to remind you that we’re constantly publishing compelling less-heavy pieces at CVIndependent.com. Here are just a few pieces we’ve posted recently: Theresa Sama’s column on the much-needed (and COVID-safe, if done right) social aspects of hiking; Andrew Smith’s feature on the recently “relaunched” Red Dog Saloon in Pioneertown; Bob Grimm’s short review of The Sound of Metal, which he thinks is one of the year’s best films; Matt King’s feature on local musician James Johnson, who just started a new solo electro-pop project; and Brett Newton’s look at Belgian beers, which he posits as a fine celebratory alternative to champagne.
That’s enough for the day. A scheduling note: The next Daily Digest is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 16 … which also happens to be the day we’re planning on switching over to an all-new website for the Independent. We’re still planning on doing a full, normal Daily Digest that day, but in the unlikely but possible event that we run into troubles with the switchover (which will include a new look for the Digest, too!), it could be delayed.
In any case, please be safe. Thanks for reading—and watch CVIndependent.com Wednesday afternoon to check out the fabulous new site!