CVIndependent

Mon05252020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

So, uh, hi. How’s the pandemic been treating you?

Here at the Independent, we’ve been working harder than we ever. I’ve been dividing time between looking for funding, getting out our new Daily Digests five or six times a week (sign up for them here), new projects, and doing the “normal” Independent work (writing, editing, posting stories, etc.).

Here’s how that’s going:

• Our staff and contributors have been doing amazing journalism. Want proof? Look at all of the content compiled in our May print edition. Even though we don’t have enough advertising support to justify it, we decided to bump up this issue to 32 pages so print readers could get all of the important news and information we covered in April—regarding everything from the struggles of our local senior centers and domestic-violence agencies, to news on how our schools are coping, to advice on how to cut down on food waste. I can’t thank our writers and designers enough for all the work they’re doing.

• I am proud to announce that the Coachella Valley Independent is one of 400 local newsrooms around North America that received a $5,000 grant from the Facebook Journalism Project, in partnership with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Local Media Association, to help us continue our reporting on the coronavirus crisis. We’re honored to be one of the recipients of this grant. Not only is it evidence of the quality work we're doing at the Independent; it’s a testament to all of the support and feedback we have received from you, our readers. I thank all of you who have reached out and offered a kind thought, or words of encouragement, or constructive criticism, in the last couple of months. This grant and your support will help us continue to do what we do—honest, local, ethical journalism, available for free to all.

• However … that $5,000 grant, while beyond helpful, doesn’t even cover one month of the losses in business we’ve had as a result of the pandemic. That’s why I am sooooo grateful to everyone who’s become a Supporter of the Independent in recent months. Dozens of readers have stepped up with amounts between $5 and $500—but again, it’s still not enough to make up for our other revenue losses due to the pandemic. If you’d like to join them and help us continue doing what we’re doing, visit our Supporters page.

• You can also support the Independent, the CREATE Center for the Arts and local artists by purchasing our local-art coloring-book project, Coloring the Coachella Valley Vol. 1. It features the work of local artists, as well as Independent file photos converted into coloring pages. All the proceeds will be split between the Independent, the CREATE Center and the artists whose work is inside. The 24-page book is available as both a digital download and as a printed 8.5 by 11 book, on quality paper, by the UPS Store. The digital downloads cost $20 each; both the digital download and the print version are available for $30 each (shipping included). Learn more and see a few sample pieces here.

• We know virtually every local small business is struggling right now—so we’ve started our new Adopt a Small Business program, an initiative designed to promote locally owned businesses AND support local journalism. You can help a favorite small business advertise in the Independent—at highly discounted rates: For $199, the small business will receive a quarter-page ad in a monthly print edition of the Independent; run-of-site ads in rotation for a month at CVIndependent.com; and at least one ad per week for a month in the Independent’s Daily Digest. The value of this package is more than $600. Find details here.

Thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent. Hang in there. Better days are coming.

—Jimmy Boegle,
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There was sooooo much interesting news today—from more on California’s reopening plans to the hubbub over Tupac Shakur’s unemployment (not joking!)—we shan’t delay in getting to the links:

• Today’s big news: Gov. Newsom today laid out more specifics on the reopening of California, in a four-stage process. Right now, we’re in Stage 1. (But you knew that already.) He also suggested that the state’s schools could open earlier than normal summer

• From the Independent: Kevin Allman talked to the owners of Dringk, Bongo Johnny’s and Eight4Nine, as well as the executive director of the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce, about the tough decisions restaurants have had to make during the pandemic.

• From the Independent: Matt King is a student at College of the Desert who comes from a family full of teachers—so he decided to talk to several of his teachers, current and past, about the challenges of being a teacher at a time when in-person classes cannot be.

• Two related stories: The Conversation brings us this piece, posted yesterday from a business-law expert, on one reason why meat plants may be closing—a concern over being prosecuted if they get blamed for spreading the virus. And then today comes the news that the president plans on ordering the plants to remain open—and possibly protecting them from liability—in an effort to keep the meat supply chain up and running.

A sad stats day: The U.S. crossed the 1 million line in terms of coronavirus cases—and the virus has now killed more Americans than the Vietnam War.

• Yet another piece of evidence showing that we’re living in the worst timeline: The feds are preparing to loan big business billions—with almost no strings whatsoever.

• NPR’s headline says it all: “Leaving Off Mask at Mayo Clinic, Pence Said He Wanted To Look Workers ‘in the Eye.’” Sigh.

• The Wall Street Journal yesterday posted this piece: “The Secret Group of Scientists and Billionaires Pushing a Manhattan Project for COVID-19.” While the story itself is interesting, I recommend skipping straight to the PDF report from the group

• For this one year only, films will not need to be released theatrically in order to be eligible for the Oscars.

• Best Buy today announced that it was allowing the Geek Squad to enter people’s homes again.

• Well, this is depressing: Some stores are running out of sympathy cards because of this damned virus.

The nation’s hotels, large and small, are getting ready to do things rather differently when travel again becomes a thing.

• As the great Dave Barry would say, we are not making this up: Scientists are examining the possibility that nicotine may keep COVID-19 at bay. Yes, really.

• I repeat, we are not making this up: If you’re having problems checking the status of your stimulus check on the IRS website, try typing things in all caps. Yes, really, again.

• Meanwhile, out of Kentucky comes this headline: “Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear apologizes to Tupac Shakur over coronavirus unemployment claim.” Yes, this headline is accurate, and no, we’re not smelling toast.

• Aaaand in the ever-weird and cutthroat world of British media, a newspaper has suspended a journalist after he allegedly snuck into a rival newspaper’s Zoom meeting.

• This is not directly related to the virus, but we need all the good news we can get, so here’s a just-released trailer for the Kimmy Schmidt special coming to Netflix in May.

That’s all for today. Buy our coloring book, dang it! Let us know if you want a copy of our May print edition sent to you. And if you can afford to support our journalism, please do so, because times are tough. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Is anyone else out there having problems watching TV shows and movies—because you’re constantly being reminded of things the pandemic has taken from us?

I’ve started often saying a new phrase (driving my hubby crazy in the process) while watching things from our comfy couch: Hey, remember when (insert word here) was a thing?

One recent night, we were watching Mean Girls. (I, somehow, had never seen it before.) The movie was cute and genuinely funny at times … but watching all these kids having their high school experiences (as messed up as some of them were) broke my heart, given that current students had their experiences ripped out from underneath them.

Remember when schools were a thing?

Another night, we watched the Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper version of A Star Is Born, and I was in a mood from the point, early on in the film, when Cooper’s character unwittingly wandered into a bar with a drag show (and, of course, one “real” woman singing in the form of Ms. Gaga).

Remember when bars were a thing? Remember when concerts were a thing?

Sigh.

Yeah, I know that one day, all of these will probably be things again. However, it’s gonna be a while—and while I am continuing to count my blessings, I’m also telling myself that it’s OK to mourn the losses we’re all facing.

There’s one other thing I am telling myself, that I’ll also say here: We’re likely in the worst of it now, and better times—not back-to-normal times, but better times—will be here soon, if we keep doing the right things …

• Before we get to today’s links, some Independent housekeeping ….

Today was a busy day of picking things up from the printers! First, our May print edition is here! As always, it will be available for free at locations across the valley, including Albertsons, Whole Foods, AM/PMs and all sorts of other essential businesses. However, if you’d like us to mail you a copy, we’d be happy to do that; get details here.

Second: Coloring the Coachella Valley, our fantastic coloring book project, is here! Digital downloads have been sent; we’ll mail out the first batch of physical copies tomorrow. Buy ’em here—and support the Independent, the CREATE Center for the Arts and local artists while doing so.

Today’s links:

• Good news: Gov. Newsom today said “we are just a few weeks away, not months away, from making measurable and meaningful changes to our stay-at-home order”—although he was none too pleased with reports of crowded beaches over the weekend Meanwhile, Bay Area counties have extended their orders through the end of May, with promises of “limited easing” as we go.

• More good news: IF it works, and IF things go well—both of which are HUGE ifs—a vaccine could be available in limited doses by September. IF IF IF.

Please no panicking … but meat may be harder to come by, and more expensive, due to various closures and problems in the supply chain.

• Related: Our friends at High Country News come to the Coachella Valley to tell the story of farmworkers seeing their hours drastically cut—and fears that a lot of food may go to waste.

• Schools may reopen in the fall. If they do, they may be run quite differently, according to The Washington Post.

• Missing baseball? ESPN’s Jeff Passan says there’ll be baseball at some point in 2020; it’s just a matter of when, where and how.

The SBA loan process continues to be a steaming dumpster fire.

• Warning: This is a difficult story to read. Out of Manhattan, the headline: “Top E.R. Doctor Who Treated Virus Patients Dies by Suicide.” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/27/nyregion/new-york-city-doctor-suicide-coronavirus.html?smid=fb-share

• Also a difficult read: The overall death rate is waaaaay up, even when cases attributed to COVID-19 are removed. This means that the coronavirus death toll is actually way higher than what’s being reported, for starters.

• Again, not fun: COVID-19 seems to be causing some younger victims to have deadly strokes. Yikes.

• Showing how little we know about this damned virus: The CDC has revised its list of COVID-19 symptoms.

On the footsteps of our interview with Dr. Rep. Raul Ruiz, The Wall Street Journal quotes him in a piece about the members of Congress who also just so happen to be doctors.

• OK … time for some levity! John Krasinski’s Some Good News is back with a potluck, of sorts.

• Elsewhere on YouTube, Randy Rainbow brings us “A Spoonful of Clorox.”

New to YouTube: The Palm Springs Library! Read more from NBC Palm Springs here.

• Already on YouTube, and planning a live-stream Swoon at the Moon event on April 30: Check out the Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory page!

That’s all for today. Wash your hands. Wear a mask when you must venture out. Be kind. Back tomorrow!

It was a fabulous party. My house was packed with people.

I decided I was hungry. I walked past a bunch of people and went into the kitchen. I opened the freezer, and a frozen-pot-pie box fell out; it skidded across the floor and came to rest under a bar stool. I jokingly chided my friend who was sitting on the stool about being a terrible goalie.

I retrieved the pot pie and put it back. I pondered heating up a frozen pizza but decided against it, and instead went over to talk to some friends who were standing in front of the stove. Brad Fuhr was biting into a slice of another pizza that he’d apparently just pulled out of the oven. He started to say something—and one of the slices on the plate he was holding fell on the floor. We laughed, and as he began to clean up the mess, I started talking to another friend, Daniel, about an NFL player, recently in the news, who we both thought was attractive.

The conversation was suddenly interrupted by the sound of my iPhone alarm.

I woke up, confused at first, as the dinner-party dream had been so vivid. Soon, however, reality set in. The party and the amazing time I was having—neither were real. And they won’t be real again for quite some time.

Feeling sad, I sat up. As I continued to awaken, I checked the social media on my phone. About every third post dealt with President Trump’s remarks during yesterday’s COVID-19 press briefing, when he suggested that the virus could be combated by people injecting disinfectants.

I sighed, got up, and headed toward my real kitchen to make coffee. I paused briefly, but did not stop, as I passed our bottles of liquor. Somewhere down the line, there will be real parties again, after all, and I want to be functional for those. And besides, I had work to do.

Today’s links:

• No, seriously, we really are living in the timeline in which we’re six weeks into a crippling pandemic, and Lysol and Clorox need to issue statements telling people to please not inject or ingest their products, because confused people are calling health hotlines after the president said something bonkers on live TV.

• Also in this timeline: Facing a recession that could be as bad as the Great Depression—hell, in some ways, it could be worse—and with the country facing mind-blowing spending deficits, we’re giving rich people and large companies yet another humongous tax break.

• OK! We’re not walking past the bar this time! If you drink, join me in having a classic Manhattan. If you don’t drink, a tip o’ the hat to you, and instead, here’s info on Disney’s just-released Dole Whip recipe.

• Now, back to the news, and this fascinating piece on how Australia and New Zealand’s leaders—about as politically far apart as two people can get—have each seemingly put politics aside to help their countries make great strides in battling COVID-19.

• From the Independent: Kevin Fitzgerald recently talked to Rep. Raul Ruiz about how he’s been able to combine two areas of expertise—medicine and politics—during the coronavirus crisis.

• News you can potentially use: Riverside County—Palm Springs included, in this case—is allowing HOA and apartment pools to reopen, but only one person can be in them at a time.

• The 10-cent charge for bags at grocery stores is a (temporary) thing of the past.

• Very interesting: Gov. Newsom today announced an effort to deliver seniors in need three meals per day—with the government hiring out-of-work restaurant employees to make those meals at restaurants.

• If you’re someone who’s having a hard time adjusting to working from home, you’re far from alone.

• You know all these “grassroots” protests popping up here and there to demand we reopen everything, virus be damned? The Conversation reveals that these protests aren’t so grassroots after all.

• Some people have jokingly referred to COVID-19 as “the plague.” Well, this piece—again from The Conversation—looks at a diary from the time of a severe bubonic plague outbreak in 1600s London, and reveals that there are some surprising similarities in terms of what we’re all going through.

Eisenhower is continuing its series of lectures and online classes—but now via Zoom, of course. Check out a calendar of events here.

• A cautionary tale that just so happens to come on the same day as Georgia is starting to reopen things: Here’s what happened when the Japanese island of Hokkaido lifted lockdown orders too soon.

What will it look like when schools finally reopen? Here’s NPR’s take.

That’s enough for today. Buy our awesome coloring book here. If you can afford to support the Independent, and can help us continue producing free-to-all, quality journalism for the Coachella Valley, please go here. Please stay safe. Wash your hands. Wear a mask when you go out. Be nice. Unless there’s major breaking news, or the president announces that COVID-19 can be cured by using weedwackers or something, we’re taking the weekend off, and we’ll be back Monday.

We here at Independent World Headquarters are careening toward the deadline for our packed-with-amazing-content 32-page May print edition.

However, even though we’re very busy here, the news doesn’t stop—and, in fact, a lot of really fascinating news broke today. So, here are today’s Daily Digest news links:

• The most fascinating story to come out today, at least to my eyes: Yet another preliminary antibody test shows a surprisingly high number of people may have already had COVID-19. This one is out of New York City, and showed that more than 20 percent of residents apparently have antibodies. There are a lot of “if’s” here—IF the antibody tests are accurate, IF the stats pan out, etc.—this is a big deal. On one hand, it means that the disease may be less deadly in terms of percentages than previously believed, and that we may be closer to herd immunity IF it’s proven that people infected with the virus can’t get sick from it again for some period of time. On the other, it means the virus—which is still very, very deadly—spreads rapidly and easily, IF these tests are accurate. It’ll be VERY interesting to see how this all plays out.

• Speaking of more evidence about how rapidly and easily this damn thing may spread: Researchers are openly speculating about whether the spread of the virus may have gotten a jump start at the Consumer Electronics Show, which took place between Jan. 7 and 10 in Las Vegas, and had 170,000 attendees—some from Wuhan, and a lot from Santa Clara County (i.e. Silicon Valley), where the first known COVID-19 victim in the United States lived.

• From the Independent: How does the Coachella Valley’s only free health clinic continue to help people in need during a pandemic—when those people can’t come in for an office visit? Kevin Fitzgerald talked to the board president of Indio’s Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine to find out.

• Also from the Independent: Here’s a quick, inspirational read on just a handful of local efforts our neighbors are making to help out our local medical professionals—and, yes, you can get involved if you have money or time.

Let’s tell a story: The World Health Organization mistakenly posts a report showing that one of the drugs everyone has their fingers crossed about—Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir—didn’t work on COVID-19 patients in China. The stock market freaks out. Gilead freaks out and says the results were inconclusive and that the WHO shouldn’t have posted the report. The WHO removes report. We all sigh and shake our heads and wave our fists at the sky.

• The New York Times in recent days has published a couple of completely gripping longer-form personal stories. First was this piece, by the great Joel Grey, now 88, about how badly he misses theater. Then came this story by Gabrielle Hamilton, the owner of Prune restaurant in Manhattan, about the heartbreak of closing the place she built up for 20 years—and her confusion over whether there will ever again be a place for Prune in the Manhattan of the future.

• Meanwhile, the more we learn about COVID-19 … the more we realize how truly little we know about it. Research out of New York shows that, among all sorts of surprising findings, some 70 percent of the people studied who were admitted to the hospital due to the coronavirus weren’t running a fever.

• A teeny, tiny step in California toward normalcy: Doctors may again perform non-emergency surgical procedures, as long as they’re deemed essential (i.e. not merely cosmetic).

• The more we learn about the first round of Paycheck Protection Program loan recipients, the more it appears that some really shady crap was going on. Thankfully, however, for the next round, the SBA has issued new guidelines that, at least in theory, should cut down on the shenanigans.

• From our partners at CalMatters: Gov. Newsom said today that the state will not allow debt collectors to seize stimulus payments, and that payments on many private student loans can be postponed for three months.

Could the pandemic revive the car hop restaurant? That’s what has happened, at least temporarily, at the Bob’s Big Boy down in Burbank.

• Related: Could the pandemic revive the drive-in movie theater? Some clever restaurants (with larger parking lots) are giving it a shot—with car-hop food service, of course.

OK. It’s time for us to get back to work on the dead-tree edition. If you want to support a local small business and the Independent, check out the deets on our Adopt a Small Business program. Oh, and buy our amazing Coloring Book! We hope to mail out the first batch over the weekend or early next week. Wash your hands, and wear a mask when you absolutely must go outside. Back tomorrow. Thanks, as always, for reading the Coachella Valley Independent.

I would like to officially welcome you all to the toasty portion of the Coachella Valley 2020: Pandemic Edition.

Starting tomorrow, and for the next week plus, we’re expected to hit triple-digits each and every day. And as far as sheltering in place, I am trying to decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

On the plus side: I won’t want to go outside as much during the day, and that’ll make staying at home less of an issue.

On the minus side: I looooove summer evenings here—you know the kind, where you walk outside and think, “Gee, this doesn’t seem that hot,” and then you look at the weather on your phone, and it’s still 103 degrees, and you start to wonder if perhaps the heat has fried portions of your brain. Love those evenings.

Also on the minus side: most local HOA and apartment pools are still closed. And wearing a mask out when it’s 103 is gonna be less than pleasant.

Sigh.

Today’s links—and there are a lot of ’em:

• Gov. Gavin Newsom today said the state is ramping up COVID-19 testing—something that needs to happen, he says, before we start reopening the state.

• Related: Kaiser Permanente is building a new lab in Berkeley that will be able to process 5,000 tests a day by the time it opens in early June.

• The Santa Clara County health officer says a woman who died in her home on Feb. 6 was a COVID-19 victim—meaning the virus was spreading in this country a lot earlier than previously known.

• Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors has assembled a “Palm Springs Business Transition and Re-Entry Task Force” to guide the city’s efforts when it’s time to start reopening.

Meanwhile, the news coming out of Washington, D.C., is completely weird, with the president now saying he disagrees with the Georgia governor’s move to start reopening that state. And the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (i.e. the government agency involved most with developing a vaccine) says he was forced out by the president because he spoke out against Trump’s touting of hydroxychloroquine.

• Oh, and Attorney General William Barr recently left open the possibility of legal action against states that go “too far” with keeping stay-at-home orders in place. Lovely.

• People who needed medical help to battle the coronavirus are now starting to get some large medical bills.

• A New York Times analysis of mortality data in 11 countries shows a lot more people are dying during this pandemic than official counts are reporting.

• The city of Indio offers this very cool video from local leaders, all of whom have one thing to say to all of the essential workers out there: Thank you.

• As a former resident of Las Vegas who still retains great affection for the city, I have a fun fact for you: Did you know that the vast majority of the Las Vegas Strip is not actually part of the city of Las Vegas? The city limits actually start at Sahara Avenue and go north, for the most part; everything south of that is just part of unincorporated Clark County. In other words, the mayor of Las Vegas doesn’t actually have anything to do with most of what people think of as Las Vegas. Keep this in mind when you hear this dumpster-fire of an interview Anderson Cooper had with Carolyn Goodman, that aforementioned mayor of Las Vegas.

• The headline of this piece from New York Magazine is, quite simply, “We Might Never Get a Good Coronavirus Vaccine.” I won’t comment further, because I don’t want to start whimpering.

• Oh, and here’s more depressing news: A number of COVID-19 victims will be dealing with the effects of the disease for the rest of their lives.

How do blood sugar levels affect COVID-19? The Conversation explains the science behind this question thus far.

• From the Independent: What happens when two bored, laid-off bartenders, who happen to be roommates, talk about cocktails, and then transcribe the whole thing? Find out here, especially if you’re a fan of pickled eggs.

• Also from the Independent: The McCallum Theatre has announced a fantastic 2020-2021 season. We talked to McCallum head Mitch Gershenfeld about it—while keeping our fingers crossed that the season actually comes to be.

• The state has launched a website where people who are able can sign up to volunteer with organizations that have a need. Check out the California Volunteers website

• This story made me laugh out loud, even though it probably shouldn’t have: The California Highway Patrol says they’re giving out waaaay more tickets to people traveling more than 100 miles per hour.

Coachella Valley Repertory is starting a series of free online classes/lectures. The first one is taking place tomorrow (Thursday), at 6 p.m.: “Broadway Musicals: Blockbusters From Gypsy to Hello, Dolly!” with Glenn Rosenblum.

That’s what we call a busy news day, and that’s enough for now. If you want to support a local small business and the Independent at the same time, please consider our Adopt a Small Business program. If you want to support the CREATE Center for the Arts, local artists and the Independent at the same time, buy our amazing Coloring Book! Wash your hands, and wear a mask when you absolutely must go outside. We’re on deadline for the May print edition tomorrow, so we may or may not have a Daily Digest for Thursday, depending on how that goes; in either case, we’ll be here Friday. Stay safe, and thanks for reading.

Mitch Gershenfeld has been booking shows at the McCallum Theatre for more than two decades now—and it’s a vast understatement to say he’s never experienced a season like this.

The longtime McCallum president and CEO retired—while keeping his booking duties—late last summer to make way for a new president and CEO, Terrence Dwyer. Three months later, Dwyer was let go, and Gershenfeld returned as the acting president.

Then came March 12—and the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were supposed to have Ricky Skaggs that night,” Gershenfeld said during a recent phone interview. “It was a sold-out show, but we shut everything down. The rest of the shows for the season were canceled.

“But we had a plan. We kept all of our full-time staff on, and we’re continuing to work from our homes. We’re using Zoom and having daily meetings. We’re working on all the various aspects of the business, and we’re working on ramping up to get the new season launched.”

Tickets for that 2020-2021 season went on sale earlier this week at www.mccallumtheatre.com. The season is slated to kick off on Oct. 10 with the Ninth Annual Family Fun Day, featuring a participatory performance of The Little Mermaid by The Panto Company USA. The season then kicks into high gear in November, starting with a Nov. 1 show by humorist Jeanne Robertson.

That is, of course, if theaters are allowed to operate by then.

“We’re certainly looking with optimism that by November, things may have returned to a point where people can gather again and go to the theater,” Gershenfeld said. “If that doesn’t happen, if shows get canceled, people will get their tickets refunded, as we refunded all the tickets for the shows that were canceled (in March and April). … But we feel optimistic, and that’s why we want to go ahead with the season. We certainly want to be there for people. We know that being in isolation is difficult for everyone. We know that human beings crave the human connection. They crave the live experience, and that’s what the McCallum is all about. We hope that we will see a day soon when we’re all able to gather again—and when that day comes, we want to be prepared to provide those kinds of performances.”

Gershenfeld said he’s proud of the 2020-2021 season that he and his team have assembled. In some ways, he said, it’s one of the McCallum’s best ever.

“I think it’s the best Broadway season we’ve had in 20 years. I really do,” he said. “We have Come From Away, which I think is an extraordinary musical.” The musical nabbed seven 2017 Tony Award nominations, earning a win for Best Direction of a Musical. It’s slated for eight performances Feb. 3-7, 2021.

“I think Come From Away actually is even more meaningful now,” Gershenfeld said. “It is the story of Sept. 11, when all the airplanes were suddenly unable to come to the United States. We closed our airspace, and they landed in this little town of Gander, in Canada. It’s a story of how people react in a crisis. It’s a story of how the people of this town took care of 7,000 people that were left in the dark. They didn’t know what was happening in the U.S. The airspace was closed; there was no communication, and it was a very, very trying time. To see how people can come together and take care of each other—given what’s going on now, this musical becomes even more meaningful.”

Other Broadway shows on the schedule include Blue Man Group (Nov. 27-29); Jersey Boys (Jan. 15-17); Summer: The Donna Summer Story (Jan. 19-20); Riverdance (Jan. 26-31); Hairspray (April 2-4); an encore of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (April 8-10); and Les Misérables (March 23-28)—returning to the McCallum for the first time since 1993.

“It’s got these beautiful new sets that they created a couple of years back with all these video screens and everything,” Gershenfeld said about the new Les Misérables. “When you see the death of Javert—well, I don’t want to give it all away, but it’s pretty amazing.”

The schedule features the divas (like Patti Lupone on Jan. 6), comedians (like Paula Poundstone on Nov. 20) and old-school favorites (like Neil Sedaka on Jan. 8 and 9) one would expect to see on the McCallum slate, as well as some true legends, like the great John Cleese, who is slated to return to the McCallum for two shows on Feb. 13.

“When I’m booking shows, what I’m thinking most about is: What will the McCallum audience enjoy? What will engage the McCallum audience?” Gershenfeld said. “With John Cleese, I just wanted to meet the guy. I’m a Monty Python fan; I’ve been for years, and I just wanted to see if he was a nice guy, or if he was kind of, sort of a curmudgeon. First of all, he’s a very nice guy. Second of all, his career has been phenomenal. It’s not just Monty Python; it’s Fawlty Towers, which was an amazing television series, and then movies like A Fish Called Wanda. … He talks about his career. He has film clips and images and things like that, and it’s a really fascinating presentation. It’s sort of a lecture and sort of a standup comedy set. He’s a fascinating, fascinating guy.”

The 2020-2021 season includes the return of series that McCallum audiences have come to love over the years, including Keyboard Confessions With Jeffrey Siegel, Mitch’s Picks—a slate of unheralded acts for which Gershenfeld personally vouches—and, for the third year, National Geographic Live!

“You’ve got these journalists and photographers from National Geographic, and they have these extraordinary images and videos that they go to all kinds of crazy lengths to get,” Gershenfeld said. “… They do a Q&A with the audience. This is a real family-oriented kind of program. It’s great for kids, and it’s always something interesting.”

All five performers in the Mitch’s Picks series are making their McCallum headlining debuts, starting with Harlem 100 Featuring Mwenso and The Shakes, a multi-media concert celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance, on Nov. 21; and concluding with … something called Puddles Pity Party on March 5.

Puddles Pity Party?

“He’s this 7-foot clown who has this amazing voice and does this really wonderful theatrical presentation,” Gershenfeld said. “He’ll sing opera but will also sing Ozzy Osborne songs. He’s a silent clown except when he sings. He doesn’t speak, but like the great silent clowns of the past, like Emmett Kelly and those, he will make a story arc out of his show. It becomes like a theatrical presentation.”

Dammit, coronavirus, back off. Palm Desert needs Puddles Pity Party next year!

For the complete McCallum Theatre 2020-2021 schedule, or to buy tickets, visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Gina Nestande is the mayor of Palm Desert. She wants Gov. Gavin Newsom to open things up and let us all get back to work. She expressed this opinion in a piece published online yesterday—a piece that has gotten a fair amount of attention since.

Sounds fairly straight forward, right? Nope. No no no no.

Let’s break things down a bit, shall we?

Before we get into the specifics of Ms. Nestande’s argument, I want to talk a little bit about the forum she used to make it. If you haven’t already, please, click on this link. Look around just a little. Take it all in.

I hadn’t heard much about FlashReport.org before this, and I must say, I have become an instant fan. I am not sure what my favorite part is. The the circa-2005 HTML design? The section unironically headlined “Oversight of Czar Newsom”? The tile ad toward the top left of the page for a state Assembly candidate … from 2016?

But I digress; let’s look at Nestande’s actual argument. In both the original piece and a subsequent TV interview, Nestande makes several fascinating points, including the fact that we could eliminate 40,000 car-accident deaths per year “if we mandated that cars be built with one-foot bumpers all around the outside and fitted with a roll bar cage on the inside, with a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour.”

And then there’s this: “We reacted to the ‘worst case” scenarios in which hospitals would run out of beds and ventilators, placing up to 2.2 million lives in jeopardy. In reality, as of April 18, there have been just over 38,000 deaths. The data is clear that this doomsday scenario is not taking place and it is time to pivot.” (Only one problem here: She fails to acknowledge the possibility that the doomsday scenario isn’t taking place because of shelter-in-place orders.)

The main crux of her argument, however, is that because of the Stanford study—the first one showing that, based on antibody tests, a lot more people may have already been infected with COVID-19 than initially believed—we now know the virus really is not that dangerous. You know, despite the overwhelmed hospitals in China and Italy and New York and etc.

“We now know that we can mitigate the disease by focusing on the elderly and those with obesity. Other populations can and should go back to work,” she writes, citing another study.

Ah, if only things were this simple.

First: Regular readers of this space know that all studies need to be taken, as the saying goes, with a gigantic grain of salt. That obesity study—while it is backed up by anecdotal evidence, and may very well be proven true—“is preliminary, and not peer reviewed,” according to The New York Times.

Second: That Stanford study Nestande speaks so glowingly about is also preliminary, and not peer reviewed—and so far, the reviews peers are giving it are NOT GOOD. A lot of stats nerds—I say that lovingly, being one (on an amateur basis) myself—are calling into question the figures and conclusions of the study.

Then there’s the interpretation of the results themselves, even if we assume they’re accurate. Check out this, from the San Jose Mercury News:

Santa Clara County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith remains steadfast in his interpretation of the study’s findings: It suggests that asymptomatic people spread the virus, and that more than 95% of the population remains susceptible to infection.

“That all means that there is more risk than we initially were aware of,” said Smith, lamenting how some are using the study to challenge Bay Area health officials’ unprecedented stay-home orders.

Look, I want things to be open again, safely, as much as anyone. But when Gina Nestande claims that we can open things back up again because, more or less, Stanford scientists said we could, she’s either being dumb, or she’s being disingenuous. You decide.

Today’s links:

The Los Angeles Times has done a fantastic yet sad piece on the conditions at the infamous Oasis Mobile Home Park in Thermal, where clean drinking water is hard to come by—and the farmworker residents are living in fear.

• The county has allowed golf courses to reopen for limited use. However, Palm Springs has not. The city will ponder the issue, and other issues involving outdoor activities, at a meeting on Thursday.

• I actually have mixed feelings about this one: Facebook has confirmed it is removing some posts regarding protests against stay-at-home orders.

• A new analysis shows that much of the loan money from the first stimulus bill went to publicly traded companies—NOT small businesses. Grrrrrr.

• This interesting opinion piece posted by NPR looks at the future of cities in a post-COVID-19 world.

The New York Times Magazine looks at efforts—past, present and future—to stop pandemics before they get started. One word on why we’re in the mess we’re in right now: Money.

• Local visual artists, take note: Desert X is offering grants of $1,000 to some Southern California artists in need.

• The city of La Quinta is offering $1.5 million in loans to small businesses.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has recommended against the drug combination—hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin—touted by the president.

• Please be careful when doing unusual things with bleach. Poison control calls are on the rise.

• And now for something completely different: The New York Post sets out to answer the question (via Australian doctors, because, why the hell not) that nobody was asking: Can the coronavirus be spread via farts?

• Enough of this nonsense. Let’s all go watch Stanley Tucci make a negroni.

That’s enough for today. If you want to take part in our Adopt a Small Business program, the deadline for our May print issue is Thursday morningOur Coloring Book is selling like (sanitarily packaged, takeout-ordered) hotcakes; get yours here. (We’ll be sending out the digital links tomorrow!) Wash your hands. Wear a mask when you absolutely must go out. More tomorrow.

All I can say is that I hope everything goes well with the various “reopening” maneuvers that are taking place around the country.

Really. I hope Texas’ plans to start reopening businesses this week is not met by a serious COVID-19 uptick. Same goes for Georgia’s plans. Closer to home, I hope Ventura County discovers everything is hunky dory after it allows some businesses to reopen, as well as groups of five or more to gather again. And here in the Coachella Valley, if golf courses are indeed allowed to reopen tomorrow, I hope that causes no ill effects.

Yes, and I really, really hope Dr. Anthony Fauci is wrong when he says all of this could backfire horribly.

Oh, one other thing: I hope all of these moves to quickly reopen aren’t being driven by the protests that have taken place in recent days … because these protesters really shouldn’t be given much attention.

While the protests have gotten a lot of ink, pixels and airtime in various media sources, they won’t here. Here’s why: They’re not worth the ink, pixels and airtime. God bless these protesters, who have every right to exercise their First Amendment rights (although depending on the locale, they could and perhaps should be ticketed for violating orders regarding masks and social distancing, but I digress). But their numbers have been small, for the most part—and they’re definitely not speaking for the majority of us.

As CNN points out, recent polls show that the vast majority of us—more than 80 percent of Americans—believe stay-at-home orders are a good idea. You know how hard it is to get 80 percent of the country to agree on ANYTHING these days? Yet here we are.

Still … I am being genuine when I say I hope that these tentative reopening steps go well. The sooner we open things back up safely, the better. However, the key word there is “safely.” And if these openings go well, it will be despite the experts’ warnings and overwhelming public option. In other words, it’ll be due to dumb luck.

But, hey, this country is due some dumb luck. Right?

Today’s links:

• From the Independent: The news out of most small businesses in the valley is dire—but such is not the case for a La Quinta record store, whose owner picked the perfect time to go online. In the latest piece in our Pandemic Stories series, get to know Matt Lehman of Finders Thrift and Vinyl/Spatula City Records.

• Yet another study, this one out of Los Angeles County, shows that if antibody tests are accurate, a stunning number of people have already been infected with COVID-19—and didn’t know it.

• New York Magazine examines the baffling battle between hospitals and the Trump administration for needed personal protective equipment.

• The New York Times talks to a bunch of experts about the country’s immediate-intermediate future. Warning: It’s alarming.

• OK, after that bit of horror, here’s a salve, also from the NYT: You can calm down, just a little, about the chance the coronavirus will get you by lurking on the surfaces of clothes, newspaper, mail and the like.

• If you’re not one of the 2 million-plus people who’ve seen it already, you should know the fourth episode of John Krasinski’s Some Good News puts on a prom.

• While you’re on YouTube: The valley’s very own Pom Squad offers up this video for people in assisted living or in nursing homes—or those of us of all ages who are stuck at home.

• Here’s the latest on the whole pets and COVID-19 matter, from The Conversation. The short version: Yes, pets can get the virus, but you probably don’t have much to worry about.

• Speaking of pets: Some dogs in the UK are being trained to test whether humans have COVID-19 by using their sense of smell. Yes, really.

• The local American Outreach Foundation has started a petition for the federal government to support health-care workers who die from COVID-19.

That’s all for today. Buy our Coloring Book—and support the Independent, the CREATE Center for the Arts and the participating artists themselves while doing so! Or consider adopting a small business and giving them the gift of some dirt-cheap yet extremely valuable Independent advertising! Wash your hands. Wear a mask when you must go out. Be safe. More tomorrow.

So … I was a little cranky yesterday, as regular readers of this Daily Digest know.

Today, well, I am still cranky. I’d explain why, but part of it involves a boring story about a loan application that was rejected, apparently due to a glitch on the lender’s end, and when I called to figure out what happened, after a half-hour of gibberish, I was told I needed to call the Small Business Administration, even though the SBA has nothing to do with glitches on the lender’s end.

It was right then and there that I almost started day-drinking. Almost.

Anyway, in an effort to improve my mood, and perhaps yours, I am going to focus on some truly positive news that came out today. But before I do, I must present the usual caveats: Remember, science/study news these days is coming out quickly, often before it’s vetted, peer reviewed, etc. So, don’t get too excited about any of these things, OK?

First: Early study results regarding one of the drugs being investigated as a possible COVID-19 treatment are really, really encouraging. About the drug remdesivir, made by California company Gilead Sciences, CNN reports: “The patients taking part in a clinical trial of the drug have all had severe respiratory symptoms and fever, but were able to leave the hospital after less than a week of treatment, STAT quoted the doctor leading the trial as saying.”

Second: We’ve heard over and over that it’s going to take at least a year—at least being the key words—for a vaccine to be available. While that will likely be the case for most of us, according to various news sources, it’s possible, just maybe, that one or more could be available in about six months or so—perhaps even sooner—at least for high-risk groups.

Third: Preliminary antibody studies are coming out indicating that a lot more people may have been infected with COVID-19 than previously believed. Now, this is more of a mixed bag than strictly good news. If true, on one hand, it means a huge number of people who have the virus—and, therefore, can spread the virus to others—never know it, and that creates all sorts of challenges. On the other hand, it means this disease is less lethal, percentage-wise, than previously believed. And if—IF—people who’ve had COVID-19 are immune for some period of time (which is something we do not know yet), that means we’re closer to some sort of herd immunity.

Fourth: Testing is becoming ever-more available in Riverside County. According to the county: “Riverside County residents who do not have symptoms but want to be tested for coronavirus will now be able to after health officials modified the guidelines for testing.” 

Fifth: What we’re doing now is working. Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors posted today: “Thank you to everyone, you have helped us begin to flatten the curve. In Riverside County, the doubling rate for new infections has slowed from every 4.7 days two weeks ago to every seven days. In Palm Springs, the doubling rate for new infections is now approximately every three weeks. This is a major change from the a few weeks ago when we were designated as a ‘hot spot.’”

So … as we head into the weekend, there are a lot of reasons for optimism.

Today’s links:

• More good news: Our partners at CalMatters bring us this story about the fact that many of us are looking out for each other during this crisis—perhaps more than ever before.

• Gov. Gavin Newsom has put together a task force with some big names to help California recover from this recession we suddenly find ourselves in.

Work continues to fix the complete mess that is the SBA loan situation.

• The Hill reports that one soon-to-be-published study indicates that social distancing is actually much, much better for our economy than more deaths would be.

• Our friends at Coachella Valley Sexual Assault Services asked us to share this info: “CVSAS has collaborated with Palm Desert Riverside County Sheriff's Department to host a First Responders/Healthcare Providers Appreciation Procession. This event is to acknowledge the heroes working on the front-lines during this global pandemic. We will be meeting in the Albertson's parking lot located in Country Club Village at: 40101 Monterrey Ave. Rancho Mirage, CA 92270 at 7 p.m. sharp on Tuesday, April 21. … We are asking that you bring a blue light to shine from your car in honor of them as we follow law enforcement through Eisenhower. We are still following all rules and regulations regarding wearing face masks. … Please RSVP via email by Monday, April 20, at noon to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..”

• A cautionary tale: An NFL player who has tested positive for COVID-19 swears he did everything right … and still caught the virus.

• Only in Florida, where some public officials are inexplicably reopening beaches, could surfing be considered an “essential activity.”

• Yes, real estate transactions are still taking place during the shutdown … but the whole home-buying/selling process has gone through some changes. Jeff Hammerberg of GayRealEstate.com offers this primer.

• You know how talk shows that normally have live audiences seem uncomfortably weird without laughter? The Conversation explains why a laugh track is important.

• I have never been a huge Guy Fieri fan, but these upcoming “takeout” versions of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” sound pretty gosh-darned cool.

• The Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert has launched “Discover at Home” activities on its social media … such as a gazpacho recipe for junior home cooks!

That’s all for today. Hey, our Coloring Book is officially on sale! We’ll start getting the books into hands, both physically and virtually next week; here are the details. If you can spare some cash, and value the independent local journalism this publication provides, for free to all, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Watch CVIndependent.com over the weekend for updates and more; the Daily Digest will return Monday. In the meantime, wash your hands; wear a mask when you absolutely must go out; and stay safe. We’re well on our way to the other side!