CVIndependent

Wed07082020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

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.

Published in Daily Digest

Many local nonprofits depend on large signature events to raise a significant portion of the money they need.

However, large events are currently not safe—and won’t be until the COVID-19 pandemic is over, likely many months or even several years from now.

So what can nonprofits do in the meantime? The Desert AIDS Project hopes to get some answers to this question at 7 p.m., Friday, June 19, when the virtual event Voices of Hope takes place.

The free, online show is hosted by Scott Nevins, and will feature appearances and performances by Kristin Chenoweth, Betty Buckley, Ann Hampton Callaway, Erich Bergen, Matthew Morrison and others. Interested attendees can go to www.desertaidsproject.org/hope to register--and, if they so choose, donate. Registrants will then get sent details on how to “attend” the online event at home via Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

I recently spoke to Darrell Tucci, DAP’s chief development officer. (Full disclosure: The Independent is one of DAP’s media partners, and Tucci is a good friend of mine.) He said the hour-long event—which was originally scheduled on June 5, but delayed in acknowledgement of the Black Lives Matter protests—will serve as a fun time, a fundraiser and a test run for future virtual events.

Tell me a little bit about the idea for Voices of Hope.

The original idea was to do a virtual event. We weren’t quite sure what it would look like, but we wanted to accomplish a few things. The valley, like everywhere else, is hurting. We have even higher unemployment than the rest of the country due to being a resort area. We wanted to put on an event that would hopefully lift the spirits of the people around us, which is why it’s free to register. At the same time, we can (offer) people who are (financially able) an opportunity to consider funding our work in addressing COVID in the valley.

Can you recap what DAP has done since the crisis hit?

For 37 years, DAP has been on the front lines of addressing the HIV and AIDS pandemic—so we have had 37 years of lessons learned. You take that, combined with the fact that we have some of the best infectious-disease professionals and medical providers in the state, if not the country, and it was a very quick decision on behalf of the medical team and the leadership to move forward and open a COVID-19 triage clinic that would not only be able to test … but also fully triage patients, including flu tests and strep tests and a full health examination so that, if they were symptomatic, and COVID wasn’t the reason, we also could properly treat them for whatever else may be ailing them. We were also prepared to provide respiratory therapy as needed if someone was in a severe situation, until we can get them into a hospital.

From there, we then started having conversations with our longer-term clients, most of whom are 65 and older, and living with fragile immune systems, who couldn’t leave the house. (Some are) also low-income; they can’t afford things like Instacart to get groceries. So we started providing nutrition and essential packages of toiletries and packaged goods, delivered to their doors across the valley.

Realizing that it might be quite a while before our most-fragile folks could come out to see a doctor in person, needing a continuum of care, we implemented telehealth, so folks could get primary care and specialty care from the comfort of their home with our M.D.s and other medical professionals. Obviously, in the height of this crisis, health care, mental-health care and behavioral-health care are all key and important. So telemedicine was also implemented for that, as well as teledentistry.

Most recently, knowing the high rates of unemployment, we implemented what we call “One Call.” DAP is opening its doors to literally everyone—as we have been, but we are making it clearer—and then giving people one number that can be connected to an insurer, as well as to a doctor on our campus for their first scheduled appointment. If they need behavioral health care, they can be connected to that, too. Within an hour or so on the phone with our staff, the person who has never been in our care before could be connected to a government funding source or an insurer, have their appointments scheduled, and be ready to be brought into care.

What kind of financial challenges has the pandemic created for DAP?

The biggest were the mandated shutdowns of (our Revivals stores) and (our) dental (clinic). Obviously, we understand and we agree with the shut-down, but the loss of revenue from the retail business and the dental business caused an immediate financial crisis, alongside the immediate decrease in patient volumes when this started, because people were afraid to leave the house.

The implementation of the COVID clinic has cost about a half-million dollars … over about a three-month window. So our finances, like many others’ in the world, were turned upside-down. Fortunately, they are now in the middle of correcting themselves. The donors in this community have stepped up in big ways. Some foundations have stepped up in nice ways. Some government agencies have come through. As a Federally Qualified Health Center, we have gotten some money through the CARES Act. But we’re not out of the woods financially at all yet. We have a road ahead that’ll be challenging, but we also know that we are on a much better path than we were a month ago. … Also, Revivals has now reopened for retail sales. We’re thrilled to have our employees back off of layoffs and back off of furloughs and having them re-employed and part of the family again.

DAP knows how to put on events, but what has the learning curve been like to do a virtual event like Voices of Hope?

The learning curve was interesting. Part of it was learning what content we believe that people would want to tune in to—and what does that look like compared to an in-person event? We’ve already learned that when people have to look at a 12-inch iPad or even their television using YouTube, what they want to see is different than if they’re in-person. We started watching a lot of the organizations that (have already done) virtual events. We took some notes about what we thought was great and what we heard from others.

We talked to some of those other organizations about what technology they deployed, which was the other part of the learning curve. We’ve never needed to own software that allowed us to broadcast on three to five different social-media channels at the same time. So being able to shop those, learn which ones are better than others, and which ones would fit us best took some learning. Obviously, we will know after Friday how we did, when people tell us if we got the content piece right. On the tech side, we’re confident that we’ve got it moving in the right direction.

I’m also very grateful that most of the technology we needed is not terribly expensive. Friday night’s event was done on a very small budget, so almost everything we’ve raised will go right to our programmatic services.

Before the pandemic, had you ever thought of doing virtual events?

For DAP, it is only something we’ve truly considered, for fundraising purposes, since the reality of the pandemic set in. In my prior roles, before coming to the desert—where I worked for national organizations—we had contemplated them, because we had donors in every corner of the country, but we never got them off the ground. I’ve been here seven-plus years, and the technology really didn’t exist 10 or 12 years ago to do that well.

I’m hoping people will truly enjoy Voices of Hope. That’s my No. 1 goal. We’re living through difficult, dark times, and this will be a wonderful way, while giving a gift to the community, to build our skills and build our knowledge so that if we need to make our other events that are in our normal season virtual in some ways, we’ll have taken great strides in knowing what it’s going to take to make them happen successfully.

Are you looking at other possible virtual events if Voices of Hope goes well?

I am open to other virtual events. I don’t know necessarily that I want to produce 20 of them—but I do think the whole world needs to look at (regular, in-person) events in general. Events are labor-intensive, right? I think it makes sense to have them, because they bring people together, and there’s good mission-awareness-building around them, but at the same time, they’re labor-intensive, and they can get expensive in a hurry. So it’s really the right moment for all of us (in fundraising) to look at how we raise our money in the most cost-effective way possible. Adding other virtual events may be a great way of looking at things, and I don’t think people should assume that you should take your current in-person event and attempt to make it virtual. The right answer might be to build the proper virtual event and let go of what was the in-person event.

Do you think it’s possible that we could see a day when virtual events net as much in terms of revenue for a nonprofit as some of the big in-person events?

Anything is possible, but the answer to that lies with the donors and the community that supports any organization. The donors have to decide that is what they want, and what they’re willing to give their money to. Development professionals for hundreds of years have stepped up to the plate to raise money and do what is culturally competent in each market, for each organization. So if donors in any community are willing to write the checks for virtual events, then yeah. I wouldn’t say in an ideal world that one would replace all in-person events with virtual ones, because then you kind of lose the sense of community and togetherness. But more events could be done in that way, more cost-effectively. There’s a big question mark there—not just for the development professional, but for the philanthropists themselves.

Tell me a little bit about Voices of Hope and how it came together so quickly. Kristin Chenoweth, Matthew Morrison, Erich Bergen, Ann Hampton Callaway—these are some pretty big names.

Well, almost all of the credit for that goes to one person. The one part of the entertainment that was secured by DAP is Kristin Chenoweth. As a past honoree and this past year’s Steve Chase (Humanitarian Awards) headliner, she graciously agreed immediately. Then we called a friend of DAP, Scott Nevins, who’s a wonderful guy. Many people may know him from his podcast and TV work; we asked him if he’d help us. We knew he had lots of friends who are amazingly talented, and he immediately agreed. He got on the phone, and every other name on that list was secured by Scott. Every person on that list has generously donated their time, as has Scott. We couldn’t be more grateful. He really has done heroic work on our behalf.

For more information or to register for Voices of Hope, visit www.desertaidsproject.org/hope.

Published in Local Fun

Coachella Valley retail stores may now let customers in, and restaurants can reopen for dine-in service.

Earlier this afternoon, Riverside County became the 45th of California’s 58 counties to get the state go-ahead to move further into Stage 2. When that fact is combined with today’s reopening of Morongo, Spotlight 29 and the two Agua Caliente casinos … it’s safe to say this is the most significant day the Coachella Valley has experienced during the reopening process, by far.

However, it’s important to remember the news is not all positive. Riverside County announced another six deaths from COVID-19 had been reported in the last 24 hours; hospitalizations also ticked up in the last day. Within a week or so, total reported deaths in the United States from COVID-19 will cross the 100,000 mark. (And the real death count is likely much higher, experts say, despite certain presidents’ efforts to diminish the numbers.)

In other words, we’ve truly, genuinely flattened the curve here in the Coachella Valley. But SARS-Co-V-2 is still out there—as dangerous as ever.

However you choose to spend Memorial Day weekend, be safe. Wear a mask when you’re out and anywhere near others. Oh, and one more thing: Please be kind.

Thank you. Here are today’s news links:

• From the Independent: Our resident bartender, Kevin Carlow, doesn’t know when bars will be able to open again—and he doesn’t know what they’ll be like when they do. However, he does know one thing: Bars aren’t as important as lives—but they’re definitely important.

Should you get on an airplane yet? And if you must fly, there are steps you can take to make sure the experience is as safe as possible. The Conversation walks you through it all.

• Well, here’s a pants-wetting headline, courtesy of The Washington Post: “Study estimates 24 states still have uncontrolled coronavirus spread.” 

• Gov. Newsom opened the door for filming on shows and movies to resume as early as next week. However, some people in Hollywood say it’s not quite time yet for that to happen.

Donald Trump said today that governors needed to allow churches to reopen—and threatened to “override” governors who refuse. Politico examines the president’s possible motivations.

• In response to Trump’s demand, Newsom said he’d have plans to reopen churches on Monday.

• The New York Times has the latest on what is now called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, the COVID-19-related illness that’s threatening the lives of an increasing number of children.

• While masks must be worn inside stores in most of the Coachella Valley, such is not the case everywhere. In fact, some stores in the U.S. aren’t allowing to wear masks. Read about the gross stupidity here.

• OK, these are two honest-to-Pete headlines on the Los Angeles Times right now. See if you can find the contradiction in logic: 1. “Trump administration warns (Los Angeles Mayor) Garcetti against ‘heavy-handed’ stay-at-home orders.” 2. “White House concerned with coronavirus spread in L.A. area, asks CDC to investigate.

• Meanwhile, members of the Legislature—not necessarily without justification—feel like the governor has been keeping lawmakers out of the loop regarding pandemic spending.

Big Bear has decided the state orders don’t apply to them.

• Mark your calendars for two weeks from tonight: On Friday, June 5, at 7 p.m., the Desert AIDS Project is going to be holding one hell of an online fundraiser. The big names participating include Kristin Chenoweth, Matthew Morrison, Ann Hampton Callaway and a whole bunch of others. Get details here.

That’s the news for today. If you appreciate these Daily Digests, and can spare a buck or two, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Again, have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. Barring any huge news tomorrow or Sunday, we’ll be back Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

This has been one hell of a news day—one of the busiest news days since this whole mess started, I’d say—so let’s get right to it:

• Big news item No. 1: The state’s reopening process is slated to begin on Friday, with, for starters, retail stores allowed to open for pickup. Here are the details on Gov. Newsom’s announcement today, from our partners at CalMatters.

• Big news item No. 2: According to The New York Times, a Trump administration projection anticipates deaths from COVID-19 will skyrocket over the next month. Meanwhile, states—many of which are currently seeing a rise in cases—are continuing the reopening process. Meanwhile, nothing makes sense anymore, and I need a cocktail.

• Big news item No. 3: Arizona, aka our neighbors to the east, are pushing the accelerator on the reopening process, with salons able to open on Friday, and restaurants able to open for dine-in service a week from today.

• Big news item No. 4: The continuing debate over Riverside County supervisors’ possible move tomorrow to cancel the orders of its own health officer, in favor of aligning with the weaker state orders. Earlier today, local supervisor V. Manuel Perez released a Facebook video in which he explained his thinking. I listened to all 37-plus minutes of it, and as far as I can tell, he is leaning toward rescinding some of Dr. Cameron Kaiser’s orders (on school closures, for example), and keeping at least parts of others (on face coverings and short-term rentals). He also announced the county would be opening two new testing sites in our valley—in Mecca and Desert Hot Springs—and touched on plans for the county to mobilize 200 contact-tracers. After listening to the whole thing, I now need another cocktail.

• This just in: The Coachella Valley Economic Partnership just released a report on the economic damage being wrought locally by the pandemic. I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing yet, but, well, the news is pretty terrible. Read the report yourself here.

• From the Independent: Kevin Fitzgerald recently spoke to Allen Monroe, the CEO of The Living Desert, about where the Palm Desert zoo stands, and what the future holds. Interesting takeaway: The Living Desert had made emergency plans regarding earthquakes and fires—and that helped the zoo handle the pandemic, in some ways.

• There was a world summit today focusing on the effort to come up with a coronavirus vaccine. The U.S. didn’t take part.

• Testing on the rise: The Desert AIDS Project is now offering COVID-19 testing to anyone who wants it, even people who are asymptomatic. However, you need an appointment. Get the details here.

• OK, after all of that stuff, here, look! John Krasinski’s Some Good News is back with a new, graduation-themed episode.

• Feeling better? Good! Unfortunately, we now have to tell you that, according to this Washington Post headline: “The coronavirus pandemic is pushing America into a mental health crisis.”

• The Wheels Are Coming Off, Chapter 58: A security guard was shot and killed after telling a Family Dollar customer in Flint, Mich., to put on a face mask.

• The Wheels Are Coming Off, Chapter 59: Another restaurant—this one in Orange County—was packed after opening its doors this weekend.

• In other Orange County-related news, the governor decided to stop picking on them, and is allowing the beaches there to reopen.

• If you miss live music, and you’re not worried about the virus, Missouri is the place for you: Concerts can be held there now, as long as attendees are socially distanced.

Our friends at the Create Center for the Arts were burglarized recently. Sigh. However, they’re keeping up their efforts to make personal protective equipment for local medical professionals by using 3-D printers

• Do you find yourself at times needing to take a break from all the pandemic news? You’re most certainly not alone.

• According to The Conversation, if the world gets an effective vaccine, and vaccine-deniers refuse to take it, that could be very, very bad for all of us.

Donald Trump had an uncle who was legitimately a brilliant scientist. A friend of the late John G. Trump said he’d be horrified by his nephew’s antics.

More promising news on the drug front, this time regarding a flu drug called favipiravir, made by Japanese company Fujifilm.

• If you’re starting to look like a mountain man, or perhaps a Muppet (or, in my case, a Muppet mountain man), consider these self-care tips from Esquire.

That’s more than enough. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. Buy your coloring book. Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you can afford to do so, so we can continue doing quality local journalism. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Some days are OK. Other days, not so much.

That seems to be the experience most of us are going through as we approach the three-week mark of California’s stay-at-home order. (Yeah, the statewide order hasn’t even been in place for three weeks yet; it came down Thursday, March 19.)

Yesterday was an OK day for me. I got up and did some work. I took a nap. I did a little more work. I made a delicious dinner—shrimp-and-scallop ceviche, and London broil—and then the hubby and I watched Last Week Tonight With John Oliver and various cooking/food videos on YouTube. My mood throughout the day was, while not exactly exuberant, OK.

Today, not so much.

My funk started off with what should have been fantastic news: My orthopedic doctor cleared me to resume playing softball. I dislocated my right elbow almost nine weeks ago, and while my arm is not yet 100 percent, it’s stable and healthy enough to play, albeit with some restrictions and cautions.

Logically, this is wonderful. It means all the physical therapy and the at-home exercises and hard work I’ve put into my right arm has paid off. But emotionally, it was a stark reminder that there’s no softball anymore—or, well, anything else outside of the house anymore—at least not for the foreseeable future.

Then the news about Boris Johnson hit me. Now, I am not a fan of Boris Johnson. In fact, I think he’s kind of a putz. But the fact that a prominent world leader—the prime minister of Great Britain!—is fighting for his life in an ICU because of COVID-19, for some reason, smacked me upside the head. Again, I don’t know why it did. It just did.

Then I read this. In yesterday’s Daily Digest, I referred to a story about a tiger in a New York zoo that apparently got this damn virus from a zoo employee. Well, yesterday, the American Veterinary Medical Association—while making it clear there’s very little evidence pets can be threatened by, transmit or get ill from SARS-CoV-2—said this: “Out of an abundance of caution and until more is known about this virus, if you are ill with COVID-19 you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just as you would restrict your contact with other people.”

Dammit. That was it for me. The funk was solidified. F--- this damn virus.

I debated just saying screw it and going to bed. But I didn’t. Instead, I listened to more silly ’80s music, and then I watched a couple of videos that, while making me weepy, managed to make me feel a little better.

As for the first video, you may have seen it already, given it’s already gotten nearly 4.2 million YouTube videos in less than 24 hours: the second episode of John Krasinski’s Some Good News. It’s worth the not-quite 17 minutes of your time it’ll take to watch it, I promise.

The second is more personal. Here’s a 90-second video from a TV news station in Reno, Nevada. It’s about a family that gets dressed up in unicorn costumes and wanders around nearby neighborhoods every night—just to bring good cheer. The matriarch of the family, Jaunice, has been a friend of mine since middle school; her husband, Matt, has been a friend since we were in high school. I may have been the best man at their wedding. Anyway, at the -54 second mark, they visit a woman in a little maroon-colored house. That woman is my mom, and that visit came at the tail end of a scary illness, involving a lot of coughing, that my mom picked up a couple of weeks ago. (What was that illness? Dunno. She was never tested. I just know it scared the hell out of my family.) I requested that the Unicorn Squad make her a visit a while back, and they obliged. That visit made my mom’s month.

I hope these videos make your day—or at least make it a little better, as they did for my day.

And now, today’s links:

• Our beer columnist points out that there’s never been a better time to make your own beer at home. If you’re interested in homebrewing, here’s how to start.

• Want to know why it’s good to wear a mask, and why it may or may not be good to wear gloves, when you go to a store? A UC Riverside epidemiologist explains it all.

• Seen ads or news about an at-home COVID-19 test? They’re not really a thing, at least not yet, according to the Los Angeles Times.

• The Desert AIDS Project continues to help lead the way in the local battle against the effects of COVID-19. The latest move: DAP has started a support group for people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

• In related news, our friends at Wabi Sabi Japan Living have started a virtual food drive on the Desert AIDS Project’s behalf.

• Some good news: Gov. Newsom says the state has enough ventilators for now, so he’s loaning some to states, including New York, that currently don’t have enough.

• While we humans stay inside, animals keep on keepin’ on—including the mountain goats at The Living Desert. Meet one of the baby mountain goats that was just born.

• Here are more specifics on Palm Springs’ eviction moratorium. And this literally came in just as we were about to hit send: The state Judicial Council has halted evictions statewide.

• The California Desert Arts Council and the La Quinta Arts Foundation have created a $50,000 fund to help artists. It’s called Keep Art Alive.

• Because so few people are driving these days, Allstate insurance is giving $600 million back to its auto-insurance customers.

• First, Dr. Drew Pinsky made the TV rounds, dismissing COVID-19 as a threat. Now he’s trying to use copyright laws to erase videos of him making these dangerous and irresponsible comments from the internet.

A lot of people won’t get stimulus checks because of their tax status. NBC News explains.

• Rep. Raul Ruiz gets some love from The New York Times, in this piece about doctors and medical experts in Congress—and how some of them, if not all of them, have been speaking out.

• More video cheer: Randy Rainbow is back with another delightful song parody. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Andy!

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. If you’re an artist, send us art for our coloring book by Friday. If you can spare a buck or two, help us continue to do quality local journalism that’s free to all. Be safe. Reach out to an old friend and see how they’re doing. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Thank goodness I live in California.

Those are six words that I don’t always, well, feel. Don’t get me wrong; I love it here. This is the place I chose to live, after all. But there are times the state government can be a serious pain in the ass, as any, and I mean ANY, small-business owner will tell you.

But, man, when it comes to this pandemic, thank goodness I live in California. The leadership from the state has been fairly quick, decisive and competent … and such is not the case in other states.

Those six words—thank goodness I live in California—have been running through my head in a loop every time I read a tweet from my friend Donna Ladd. She’s the co-founder of the Jackson Free Press, the kick-ass alternative newspaper in Jackson, Mississippi—a state where things, basically, are a mess.

Why? Because Gov. Tate Reeves has made them that way.

For the full story, I’ll direct you to this just-published editorial, by Donna and her team. But here’s the four-sentence summary: Reeves declared a state of emergency, closed schools, expedited unemployment, etc. … which is good. He then issued an executive order closing or limiting businesses unless they’re deemed essential … which is painful, but good for public-health purposes. However, the order goes on to, in the words of the Free Press, “exempt pretty much all businesses” … which is bad. And finally, the order, again in the words of the Free Press, “contains specific, direct language saying that it overrides any efforts by other bodies—like local mayors—to order stronger distancing in their areas of Mississippi” … which is WTF-you-must-be-kidding-me heinous.

Props to Donna and her staff. Their work is a prime example of the importance of independent journalism—especially in crazy times like these.

Oh, and one more thing: Thank goodness I live in California.

And now, some news:

• If you want a copy of our April print edition delivered to you by mail, that is now an option. I’ll elaborate more on this and the Independent’s other plans moving forward tomorrow.

• From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: Here’s an update on the state’s efforts to house the homeless during the pandemic.

We’re No. 1. U.S.A. Sigh.

• Also from The New York Times: An interactive piece where you can see (admittedly rough and flawed, but still helpful and revealing) projections of the COVID-19 toll based on social distancing time and severity, seasonal factors and so on.

• I appeared again on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast—this time, with video (so you can see what my raggedy face looks like at 8 a.m. in the morning, and I am really sorry about that)—for a Q&A with Dr. Laura Rush.

• If you can give blood, please do so.

• From the city of Palm Springs: “A new hotline and email is now available for Palm Springs businesses and residents impacted by the spread of coronavirus. Anyone with questions such as how to apply for unemployment, a small business loan, unemployment, find information about recent city and state of California orders related to sheltering in place, parks, trails, golf courses, the moratorium on vacation rentals, homeshares, hotels and any other issue, can now call a hotline number at (760) 902-1155 or reach out via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Our goal is that city staff will respond to your call within one hour, Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.” Cool.

• You know that drug Donald Trump touted as a COVID-19 treatment? And a bunch of people said that was really stupid? And then someone took a bunch of it to self-treat himself and died? Here’s the nuanced truth on chloroquine, from the always-excellent The Conversation. (Spoiler alert: It was still really stupid for the president to say that.)

• James Dyson—the dude who makes that weird vacuum cleaner—designed and began producing a new kind of ventilator. In 10 days. He’s donating 5,000 of them to the worldwide fight against COVID-19. #badass

If you’re caring for someone dealing with dementia during this crazy time: 1) God bless you, and 2) Check out these tips from the Alzheimer’s Association.

• The Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce is lobbying the state insurance commissioner to make insurance carriers cover business interruptions—like, say, this pandemic—under existing policies.

• The Desert AIDS Project is seeking donations of personal protective equipment.

Chris Hemsworth is offering free virtual workouts for the next six weeks. Go Thor!

• Finally … a long read, but a good read—one so good that President Obama endorsed it via Tweet: From The Atlantic, “How the Pandemic Will End.”

That’s all for now. Wash your hands. For the full 20 seconds. Yeah, get the thumbs, and down your wrist, etc. There you go. Good job. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Understatement alert: Things are weird for all of us right now.

On a personal level, this fact really hit home for me when it was a relief and even a pleasure—a temporary return to normalcy, if you will—to spend two hours today editing/proofing 8,000 words of question responses by Rancho Mirage City Council candidates.

Yay, journalism!

Normally, an editor such as myself would find a task like this to be about as enjoyable as dental surgery without anesthesia. (No offense to the Rancho Mirage candidates; the case is the same with full Q&A interviews with candidates for each and every office. The responses are important and interesting, albeit a bit rambling in some cases, but the task of carefully proofing the text is, well, bleh.)

But today, it was … nice.

A hat tip to Kevin Fitzgerald, the Independent’s staff writer, who had to transcribe all of those 8,000 words. Buy him a drink the next time you see him out and about. Y’know, in a few months.

Sigh.

Anyway, on with the news:

• Yesterday was the first time in the Independent’s history that we’ve ever sent an email to our e-subscriber list that was not specifically related to Independent content. Instead, it was about the vitally important work the Desert AIDS Project is doing now—and the fact that the organization, due to a loss in revenue and a huge rise in expenses because it opened a whole, new clinic to respond to the COVID-19 crisis—really needs our help. Find that message here, and go here if you can help: https://desertaidsproject.salsalabs.org/covid19fund/p/coachellavalleyindependent/index.html

Eisenhower has put out a call for donations of personal protective equipment. Call 760-837-8988, or click here for details. 

The city of Palm Springs has clarified the temporary rules on short-term rental and hotel bookings. To paraphrase: They’re not allowed, save for some very specific exemptions.

• Some, but not all, of the big banks have agreed to a 90-day moratorium on mortgage payments if you’ve been affected by COVID-19. As of yet, alas, the state has yet to take firm steps to protect people who rent—but Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia and others are calling for action.

• However, the city of Rancho Mirage has already taken action by issuing a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions.

• Here’s more info on what the city of Rancho Mirage is doing to boost the takeout-offering restaurants in that city.

Confused about what’s an essential business, and what isn’t, and what this all means? The city of Palm Springs has posted this helpful breakdown regarding the state order means.

The Desert Healthcare District has allocated $1.3 million to help with various issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic locally.

• From the Independent: Coachella and Stagecoach have been moved to October this year. Our Kevin Carlow thinks that should be a permanent thing.

SunLine is offering free fixed-route rides during the pandemic. Just make sure you board in the back.

• Fox and iHeartRadio are teaming up for an all-star concert, hosted by Elton John. It’s called the Living Room Concert for America, and it airs this coming Sunday on Fox.

• The Conversation brings us this fascinating piece on the mad-dash effort to find existing drugs that will help patients suffering from COVID-19.

• Meanwhile, the FDA is allowing doctors to use the blood of people who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat people in the midst of the battle with the virus.

• The California Desert Arts Council has compiled a list of resources offering financial relief for artists and art organizations.

Stephen Colbert is the latest talk show to announce a return to the air—just with everyone working from home.

• Theater fans: The Tony Awards, to nobody’s surprise, have been postponed. In other, awful theater news, the coronavirus has claimed the life of the Tony Award-winning writer Terrence McNally.

• The Wall Street Journal suggests these home workouts you can do to keep yourself in shape.

• Remember that kid in that viral video who refused to stop partying, saying, “If I get corona, I get corona?” Well, he’s apologized.

• Some local restaurants including Jake’s and Dringk are starting a very cool thing: Selling food essentials in addition to prepared dishes.

• In related news, our friends at the Purple Room are offering an online virtual show tonight to go along with takeout food.

• Local treasure Joyce Perry—you may remember her as Joyce Bulifant, of Airplane! and Match Game fame—has posted this hilarious (if oddly violent video) of her son trying to show her how to use Tinder.

• DJ Galaxy—our readers’ pick in the Best of Coachella Valley as the Best Local DJ—made this video of shuttered spaces in Palm Springs and Cathedral City that are beloved by the LGBT community. I’ll admit: It made me cry.

That’s all for today. Wash your hands. Eat good food. Call someone you love. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

This new normal, alas, is going to last a while—and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Therefore, it’s downright crucial that we make the best of this shit show.

Personally, this has meant two things: First, I am trying to take good care of myself—yes, that means getting exercise (something I need to get better at even during “normal” times) and washing my hands a bazillion times a day, etc., but just as importantly, it means taking care of my mental health. That’s why yesterday’s (mostly) day off was amazing. I slept in. I mostly avoided the news. I ate yummy, healthy food. I watched Bojack Horseman. (Not familiar? Seriously, check it out. Yeah, I know there are animated talking animals. It’s so much more than that.)

Second: Not only am I trying to simply maintain myself; I am trying to better myself. Yeah, our lives have all been disrupted … but that doesn’t mean we should simply waste this time. If the brunt of this, say, lasts three months, it’s not like the universe is going to add an extra three months to our lives to make up for it, after all.

So, yeah. We need to make the most of this time, as crazy as it is.

In that vein, I’d like to highlight an article we just posted at CVIndependent.com. I asked Matt King, our fabulous and talented music writer, to compile a list of songs from local musicians people should get to know. Not only did he do just that; he actually made a playlist with these songs on Spotify and YouTube.

Question: How many of you out there like music? Raise your hands, please. Yeah … almost all of you. Great!

Second question: How many of you out there can name more than, say, five local bands? Hmm. I am not seeing a lot of hands going up in my mind’s eye.

If you’re one of the people whose hands didn’t figuratively go up for that last question, you really should go check out Matt’s Coachella Valley Quarantine playlist. Trust me: You’ll be blown away at the local talent you’ve never heard of. Not every song may be your cup of tea; heck, most of them may not be. But you’ll enjoy one or two or four of them.

When you do find a song you like, go listen to more of that band’s music. Follow them on social media. Send a message complimenting them. Buy their music. And when the bars and clubs open again—oh, what a glorious day that’ll be—go see them. If you throw a party, hire them, even.

If you actually do listen to the Coachella Valley Quarantine playlist today and find a new local band … hey, you bettered yourself, even if just a little. And that’s a very, very good thing.

Today’s news and links:

• Gov. Newsom has asked the National Guard to help make sure food is getting to people who need it. Here’s his office’s advice on how you can help. And if you need help, here’s a list of resources.

• We will be talking more in coming days about the mind-blowingly important work the Desert AIDS Project is doingthey created a whole new clinic to help people with COVID-19 in a matter of days, and revealed late Friday night that three of that clinic’s patients have so far tested positive for the coronavirus. Here is DAP’s regularly updated Q&A page on COVID-19.

• Rep. Raul Ruiz has created a list of federal and local resources for his constituents while we deal with all this craziness. 

• The San Francisco Chronicle has created a list of events you can stream from the Bay Area during this time. Know of local events? Drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

• This website, created by all sorts of smart people, shows state-by-state predictions on what’s going to happen with the COVID-19 spread. It’s kinda scary, but I found some hope in it—because if it’s right, California may be doing OK at #flatteningthecurve.

• The Los Angeles Times has a fascinating piece about the online diary of Fang Fang, a writer who lives in Wuhan, China. Again, kinda scary, but with some hope.

If you deal with anxiety like I do, this HuffPost piece has some great advice—nothing hugely revelatory, but lots of good reminders.

More tomorrow. Check in on a friend. Wash your hands … and try to make the most of this time.

Published in Daily Digest

For social media, it is the best of times; it is the worst of times.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, in these unsettling, frightening times, can be beautiful things. They offer us a way to share information, pool resources and, well, sort of be together at a time when we can’t actually be together.

However … Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, in these unsettling, frightening times, can also be heinous things, due to all the misinformation, ignorance and selfish stupidity spewed forth by certain individuals. Like the person who made this comment in some group the other day: “Imagine the possibilities and the happiness we could create if we just boycott the news.”

Sigh …

Comments like these—claims that all these COVID-19 precautions and closures taking place not because of the severe public threat, but instead because the media incited some sort of panic to “sell newspapers” or whatever—are offensive to me, because all of this isn’t “selling” newspapers; it’s killing them.

I belong to a couple of organizations of smaller, local independent media, and the overriding sentiments among the editors and publishers I know are 1) a push and desire to cover and serve our communities better than ever during this unprecedented time; and 2) complete fear over the fact that almost all our organizations are facing an existential threat right now.

Virtually overnight, the Independent lost about three-quarters of our advertising revenue, maybe more. I know of newspapers around the country that have suspended their print versions, because almost all the ads are gone. I know small online news publishers who work from home and are taking about not being able to pay their rent.

I say this not to complain, because a whole lot of others in varied businesses are in similar dire situations. However … those other varied businesses aren’t being blamed for causing this—hence my rant.

I’ll share more info with you in the coming days about the Independent’s plans, at least as they stand now. (I will tell you this, though: We are gonna be here serving this community. We aren’t going anywhere.)

Now, onto the news:

• Just announced: The city of Palm Springs has ordered all non-essential businesses to close. Don’t be surprised for the same thing to happen in our other valley cities here soon. They’re basically following San Francisco’s guidelines on what an essential business is; find the list of what’s exempted from that SF order here. Watch Councilwoman Christy Holstege’s page, among others, for updates.

• Two resources to share for you if you fear you may be sick: Call Eisenhower at 760-837-8988 or the Desert AIDS Project at 760-992-0407 before you go anywhere. More info on Eisenhower’s hotline is below.

• Just as we were about to post this, we received word that the Agua Caliente tribe is closing its two casinos, the Indian Canyons Golf Resort, Tahquitz Canyon and Indian Canyon. Employees will be paid for the time being. Watch http://www.aguacaliente-nsn.gov/ for updates.

Hey, freelancers and independent contractors: Check out this amazing “an aggregated list of FREE resources, opportunities, and financial relief options available to artists of all disciplines.

• Here’s a great to-do list on how to minimize risk while grocery shopping, from Consumer Reports.

• BusinessInsider.com has a great list of resources for restaurant workers and bartenders who need some help, including the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program. A toast to Jameson for donating $500,000 to it. 

The Desert Water Agency says there’s no need to hoard water.

• While we’re at it, stop hoarding toilet paper, you goons!

• You have an extra 90 days to pay your federal taxes.

AIDS/LifeCycle 2020 has been cancelled.

• Don’t forget to make sure your phone is as clean as possible

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands, and call up a loved one or three to see how they’re doing. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Last night, I met friends for drinks at a bar on Arenas Road, in downtown Palm Springs. I haven’t been out much this week, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

As we drove down Arenas, unsuccessfully looking for a spot, I was surprised to see that most of the bars appeared to be packed.

“I don’t know if I have ever had more mixed feelings about something in my life,” I told my husband.

On one hand … I was elated to see that all of these small, locally owned businesses were getting much-needed business. It was good to see the servers and bartenders making good money. I was proud to be part of that needed cash infusion.

On the other hand … I kept thinking: Should all of us be out and about like this?

After drinks, we wandered down Palm Canyon Drive and got dinner at a local restaurant. While the street wasn’t dead, it certainly was getting quieter as the night went on.

Again, mixed feelings.

After I hit send on this Daily Digest, I am going to get ready to head to CVRep in Cathedral City, to do a review of The City of Conversation—the only play currently running in the valley that has not yet been shuttered by the pandemic. (More on this below.) Then I am going to meet friends at a charity art event, and go to dinner at Lulu. I am going to savor it like it’s the last good night on the town I have for a while … because it might very well be.

I hope it’s not. But it might very well be.

Here’s today’s news.

• The Desert AIDS Project just announced something huge: It’s opening a COVID-19 triage clinic.

This just arrived in my inbox, from CEO David Brinkman:

“In the next 48 hours DAP will take a bold step and we ask you to please have our backs. Last week, we opened our new clinics for DAP’s day-to-day healthcare operations, leaving our original clinic temporarily vacant. Today, I worked with our infectious disease doctors to develop an emergency plan of action to ensure the health and well-being of all we serve. The original clinic will be transformed this weekend into a specialized COVID-19 triage clinic. This will allow our medical experts to screen patients demonstrating symptoms in a quarantined space, while also allowing our non-symptomatic patients to continue having their health needs met without potential exposure.

“This is no small undertaking. Desert AIDS Project is the healthcare home to 7,000 of our friends and neighbors, most of whom live at 200 percent of the federal poverty level or below. And, the majority of our patients are of an age with significantly increased risk. We already are seeing a dramatic increase in inquiries and we must be able to meet the need as it grows in the coming weeks.

“This new clinic will cost DAP $575,000 to operate over the coming months.”

Wow.

See the full announcement—and make a donation while there, if you can—here.

• As for those plays: Yesterday, we reported that Desert TheatreWorks, Palm Canyon Theatre and CVRep were moving forward with their productions. This morning, however, Desert TheatreWorks announced last night’s production of The Producers would be its last until April 10, while Palm Canyon Theatre announced it was cancelling the final two planned performances this weekend of The Pajama Game. As of now, PCT plans on proceeding with the rest of its season—Sordid Lives is slated to open Thursday, March 26—but noted that this is a “very fluid situation.” This makes CVRep the last theater company standing: As of this writing, The City of Conversation will continue at least through this weekend.

Read more about all of this tomorrow in the second Installment of the Independent’s Pandemic Stories series. Yeah, I said yesterday that story would be available today … and then things changed. It’ll be worth the wait, I promise.

• All schools in Riverside County are closed for the next three weeks, per county Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser. More info here.

• Good news: During the closure, kids in need within the Palm Springs Unified School District can still get free meals. School buses will be delivering them on normal morning routes, or they can be picked up at schools. Get the details hereDesert Sands and Coachella Valley Unified are also making meals available to kids at schools.

• The United Way of the Desert has launched a very good information page, chock full of resources and phone numbers people may need during this crisis. View it here

• This is amazingly cool: Yesterday, we reported that the Certified Farmers’ Markets had been suspended for the time being. Today, the organizers have started posting direct contact info for the various vendors (with their blessing) on the Certified Farmers’ Market Facebook page, so people can directly contact and buy from the vendors if they so choose. Get all the 411 here.

• The Palm Springs Art Museum has decided to close for the time being. More info here.

That’s all for now. Please, support local businesses. Be a good neighbor. Stop hoarding crap. Be smart and diligent and caring. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

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