CVIndependent

Sun06072020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Two quick notes before we launch into the day’s news (and, boy, there’s a lot of it):

• A plea to journalists and public officials who keep citing the number of reported COVID-19 cases, sans context: Please stop it.

Without knowing other data points—such as the number of total tests, with which we can determine the positivity rate—knowing the number of cases (aka positive COVID-19 tests) doesn’t tell us much.

Locally, given the much larger number of testing sites now—run by the county, the state, CVS, local health organizations, etc—we should expect the number of cases to rise somewhat. More testing means finding more cases (including asymptomatic ones).

When looking at data reports, look for the positivity rate and the number of hospitalizations; that information is much more useful. (By the way, both are on the rise, locally and in Riverside County, and THAT tells us something—specifically, that the pandemic is nowhere near over, and we all need to take precautions.)

Thank you. End of mini-rant. 

• A mental-health shout-out to all of you out there who also deal with depression and/or anxiety: If this has been a tough couple of weeks for you, please know that you’re not alone.

This is, simply put, a bonkers time. The reopening process, the continuing pandemic, the civil unrest … it’s a lot.

Please, hang in there. Do what you can—and nothing more. Realize it’s OK to feel anxious and sad. Remember to live in the now, and take care of yourself.

OK? OK!

Now, for the news:

• We’ll lead with the COVID-19 news today, most notably that summer camps, bars, gyms, hotels, museums, zoos and more in approved counties could reopen as soon as next Friday. The state guidance for all of these sectors is being posted toward the bottom of the page here, if you want to check it out. As for what didn’t make the cut yet: Nail salons, tattoo parlors, movie theaters, live theater, nightclubs and more.

• Key question: Will Riverside County be one of the counties to move further into the reopening process next week? Right now, we’re one of the approved counties, but we’re right on the cusp of the positivity rate criteria from the state, and hospitalizations are on the rise, too. Next week’s gonna be interesting.

The city of Palm Springs is cracking down on the mask requirement: As of today, all businesses must “post signage at entrances advising of the face covering and social distancing requirements.” Get the details here.

• More promising vaccine news: Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca could have vaccines available as soon as September or October—with up to 2 billion doses available by early 2021. There’s only one problem: While signs are encouraging, nobody knows for sure if it’ll work; manufacturing and testing will take place simultaneously.

• Take this one with that figurative grain of salt we keep talking about, and in this case, the grain should be the size of a house: A 10-person study showed that famotidine—aka Pepcid—helped people with COVID-19 recover. This comes on the heels of other encouraging science. So, here’s a tentative “Yay!” with crossed fingers.

• CNBC’s Jim Cramer—yeah, the guy with the buttons and whistles who shouts a lot—says that the pandemic has led to “one of the greatest wealth transfers in history,” thanks to the fact that the bulk of government aid has gone to big business, not us little folk. Grrrrr.

• Oh, great. In addition to COVID-19, fires, earthquakes and the heat, now the Coachella Valley gets to deal with West Nile virus, too.

Lowe’s has announced it’s ponying up $25 million in grants to help minority-owned businesses reopen.

• If you’ve gone to a protest, or plan on going to a protest, not only should you wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer and social distance as much as possible; after a few days, you should also go and get tested for COVID-19.

• If you can get past the occasionally incoherent verbiage, you can read here that Supervisor V. Manuel Perez will introduce a resolution next week to ask Sheriff Chad Bianco to review his agencies policies and report what he finds. Uh … OK, sure. We’ll see what’s in the actual resolution on Tuesday, but this sounds pretty weak, at least at first glance.

• Meanwhile, the Legislature is going to consider clarifying when and how rubber bullets can be used. According to the Los Angeles Times, “although the legislation has not yet been drafted, comments by lawmakers indicated their goal is to curb the use of rubber bullets for crowd control against peaceful protesters and those breaking city-imposed curfews.” It seems strange we need to legislate that projectiles shouldn’t be used against PEACEFUL PROTESTERS, but here we are.

However, the state may very well do more than that. Gov. Newsom called today for more action, including restrictions on crowd-control techniques and “carotid holds.”

• From the Independent: Our partners at CalMatters talked to four different protesters across the state about why they’re speaking out. What they had to say—and what they’ve experienced—is quite revealing.

• If you’re going to the protest in Palm Springs tomorrow—starting at 9 a.m. at Ruth Hardy Park—wear a mask; wear sunscreen; bring water; and be safe, please.

• Finally: I heard from some people that they had problems with the link to the Palm Springs ShortFest info we had in yesterday’s Daily Digest. As far as I can figure, the link was correct, but the extra stuff that the email system puts in for tracking purposes didn’t jibe with the Film Fest’s website. As a work-around, Google “Palm Springs ShortFest” and click on the first link. My apologies for the snafu.

That’s all for today. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Fight injustice. If you like what we do, and can afford to help us continue producing quality local journalism that’s free to all, consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back on Monday, if not before—and watch CVIndependent.com over the weekend.

Published in Daily Digest

Viewers of the local news on NBC Palm Springs may have recently caught a short segment on all of the wonderful things Amazon is doing during the pandemic.

“Millions of Americans staying at home are relying on Amazon,” the piece begins, before going on to talk about how “the company is keeping its employees safe and healthy,” and giving its oh-so-safe employees more than $800 million in increased wages and overtime pay.

Unfortunately, this segment is slanted at best—and dangerously misleading at worst.

Oh, and this segment wasn’t news. It was produced by Amazon, and sent to TV news stations around the country via a PR wire service.

Most TV-news reporters ignored it; a few actually called out Amazon for sending out this piece of packaged crap in the first place.

But at least 11 TV stations, according to Courier Newsroom, took the piece and ran with it … including NBC Palm Springs.

And now the truth that NBC Palm Springs “report” was lacking: Amazon is having its annual shareholder meeting tomorrow—and some of those shareholders want to know more about what Amazon actually is doing to protect its employees, because so far, it hasn’t been enough. According to CNBC:

Tensions have been growing between Amazon and warehouse workers nationwide, as the numbers of confirmed cases and deaths at its facilities have climbed. Warehouse workers have called for the company to put in place greater safety protections, including providing paid sick leave and closing down facilities where there are positive cases for additional cleaning.

Amazon has repeatedly declined to disclose how many warehouse employees have died from the coronavirus, but has confirmed eight deaths as they were reported by various media outlets. The company also hasn’t provided a total number of workers who have fallen ill from the virus, though one estimate from Jana Jumpp, an Amazon worker in Indiana, pegs the total number of cases at 900 employees nationwide.

I reached out to Bob McCauley, NBC Palm Springs’ senior vice president, as well as Gino LaMont, listed on the NBC Palm Springs website as the news department contact, to ask them how this happened. As of this writing, I have not yet gotten a response.

So much stuff that’s presented as “news” or “journalism” these days is, well, NOT. Numerous local publications run press releases from various organizations without disclosing that’s what they are, and some even sell stories to groups and businesses without disclosing to readers that they’re actually paid ads. None of that, of course, is right … but that’s how they do it.

But this is unconscionable. At least eight Amazon workers have died.

NBC Palm Springs, you really need to serve your viewers better, and you have some explaining to do.

Today’s links:

• The big news today: Gov. Newsom surprised the heck out of a lot of people when he announced that barbers and hair salons could reopen in counties—including Riverside County—that have moved into the second part of Phase 2. However, other businesses listed in Stage 3—including nail salons—remain closed. 

• Palm Springs business owners, take note: The city will be holding a webinar at 9 a.m., Thursday. May 28, titled “Restaurant, Retail, Hair Salon & Barbershop Re-Opening Guidance for Business Owners.” Get all the information here.

• Other Palm Springs news: The library is opening for curbside pickup. Learn more at the Facebook page.

• Hey, Apple Store fans: The El Paseo location is reopening this weektomorrow, to be specific.

• When full-on Stage 3 comes—which is anticipated to happen sometime in June, but who in the hell knows at this point—that will include theme parks, so says the state.

• Speaking of who in the hell knows … The Washington Post today broke down how truly little we still know about SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.

All sorts of people and businesses are suing Gov. Newsom over the shutdown orders. The latest: Patioworld is suing the state, because … uh, outdoor furniture showrooms are essential? Anyway, if you’re so inclined, bookmark this helpful lawsuit tracker, from our partners at CalMatters.

Another stimulus bill is coming at some point in the future, probably, maybe? After waffling, Mitch McConnell now says it’s likely.

• For the first time ever, Twitter has fact-checked something Trump tweeted. The president, of course, reacted to this news in a restrained and reasonable manner. (*Snort*)

• Sad but not surprising: The number of Americans dealing with anxiety or depression has skyrocketed since the pandemic hit.

• Local company Ernie Ball makes strings for guitars and all sorts of other musical equipment—and when COVID-19 arrived, the company started making masks, too. Now, Ernie Ball is making those masks available for free to everyone in the Coachella Valley.

• A whole lot of people who purchased travel insurance have been horrified to learn that pandemics are a common travel-insurance exclusion. The Los Angeles Times looks at the issue—and explains which companies are doing right by their customers, and which ones are not.

That’s all for today. If you’re a fan of our print version, the June edition is hitting streets this week—or if you want it mailed to you for a nominal fee, we can have that arranged. If you value good, honest, doesn’t-run-lying-crap-from-Amazon journalism, and you can afford it, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

For my friend Matt, it was the permanent closure of Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes—a restaurant where he had his first job—that made him fully realize the world we knew in early March was gone forever.

“I actually cried a few times yesterday, and it’s not just over big-chunk chicken-noodle soup and focaccia bread,” Matt wrote on Twitter. “It’s the realization that our lives will not ever ‘go back to normal.’ Our world is rapidly changing, and change is inevitable. I just didn’t expect it to be this fast.”

So many places, institutions and businesses are going to be wiped out by the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn—which may very well qualify as a depression by the time all is said and done. We are going to see a lot of closed-for-good announcements in the coming weeks and months—like the one we got today, from Cathedral City’s Desert Ice Castle. Many of the places, institutions and businesses that do survive may be changed drastically, too.

However … not all of these changes will be bad.

For example, the Seattle Times is reporting that 20 miles of streets in that city—initially closed to make it easier for people to be socially distant—will now forever be closed to traffic, changing them into permanent places for people to walk and bike safely.

Closer to home, I have been hearing that Palm Springs and other cities are looking into the possibility of closing down some streets and parking lots so they can be used by bars and restaurants. If the science continues to show that the virus doesn’t nearly spread as well outdoors, then this would be a perfect way for businesses to reopen in a safer and more-delightful way.

It’s up to all of us to speak out, advocate and do whatever we can to make sure our “new normals”—both during the fight against COVID-19 and afterward—are the best possible “normals” we can have.

So … let’s get to work!

Today’s news:

I was the guest on today’s edition of the Los Angeles Times’ Coronavirus in California podcast. I talked with my friend Gustavo Arellano a couple weeks ago about the state of local media today—and how completely jarring it was for April in the Coachella Valley to be so darned quiet.

• As of this writing, the county meeting regarding Dr. Cameron Kaiser’s health orders was still going. Will the county Board of Supervisors side with the good doctor or the impatient business community? Watch this link, from the Riverside Press-Enterprise, to find out.

• Gov. Newsom announced today that all California voters will be asked to vote by mail in November—although some polling places will remain open for those who insist on voting in person.

• How long will it be until we can get haircuts again? Mid-June, perhaps? This is what Gov. Newsom had to say about that today: “Phase 3 (which includes the opening of hair salons and barbers) is not a year away. It’s not six months away. It’s not even three months away; it may not even be more than a month away. We just want to make sure that we have a protocol in place to secure customer safety, employee safety and allow the businesses to thrive in a way that is sustainable.”

• OK, OK, maybe mid-July for that haircut? A Los Angeles Times analysis reveals that per Gov. Newsom’s stated criteria, almost all California counties are nowhere near being able to properly move to Phase 3.

• Eisenhower Medical Center has started releasing Coachella Valley-specific hospitalization numbers. The takeaway—we’ve flattened the curve here—but it remains flat, and we’re not on the downside yet.

Yet another person within the White House’s inner circle has the virusKatie Miller, who is Mike Pence’s press secretary, and Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller’s wife.

• From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: Counties and cities in California are facing massive, unprecedented budget deficits. Expect horrible cuts and yet more layoffs to come.

• Good news: After a public outcry and a whole lot of negative media attention, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey decided to let the COVID-19 modelers at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University keep doing their work after all.

• The country is heading for a rental crisis, according to this sobering article from Politico.

• From the “We Are Not Making This Up” files: We have verified this TMZ report that 2020 U.S. quarters feature … a bat. Yes, really.

• As predicted, the federal government’s distribution method for promising COVID-19 drug remdesivir has become a fustercluck, or something like that.

• If your iPhone has been acting stupid lately, we have some good news: Apple Store locations are starting to reopen. Aaaand the bad news: The ones in California remain closed indefinitely.

• Even though we’re not sure how this would work in 108-degree weather, we implore the good folks at the Palm Springs Cultural Center and D’Place Entertainment to look into the fact that the coronavirus has made drive-in movie theaters a thing again.

That’s all for today! Please buy our Coloring Book, because it’s 1) awesome, and 2) sales benefit the Independent AND the Create Center for the Arts’ efforts to make PPE items AND local artists. Also, please consider supporting independent local journalism if you can spare a buck or three. Barring anything huge, the Daily Digest will take the weekend off, and we’ll be back Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to play the exciting game that is most definitely NOT sweeping the nation: Six Degrees of Separation: Whackadoo Conspiracy Theory Edition!

However, Kevin Bacon was not available, so we will be seeing how many degrees of separation you—YES YOU!!!—are from the newest conspiracy star in all the pandemic-stricken land!

We’ll start off with Judy Mikovits, Ph.D. She’s the star of that new documentary you’ve likely seen some of your friends posting on social media, even though they really should know better. In an effort to be fair and open-minded, I actually tracked it down and watched it today. My Impression: The documentary is 1) well-crafted and slick, 2) undeniably interesting and 3) completely packed with easily refutable and deeply-harmful-if-believed nonsense! I’ll never get that almost-half-hour of my life back! Is it time for a cocktail yet?

First degree of separation: Judy Mikovits, before she became a celebrity on the anti-vaccination circuit, worked at the Whittemore Peterson Institute, a nonprofit based in Reno, Nev., that does research into myalgic encephalomyelitis (aka chronic fatigue syndrome) and other neuroimmune diseases. I won’t go into all the details of Mikovits’ work there, other than to say that 1) one of the studies she published while there wound up being so shoddy that the digest which published it had to later retract it, and 2) she was arrested and accused of stealing materials from the lab after she was fired by the institute. What fun! Anyhow, one the founders of the Whittemore Peterson Institute is Harvey Whittemore, a Reno attorney who was once one of the most powerful lobbyists in the state of Nevada. (Then he was convicted of three felonies and sent to prison for a couple of years for violating campaign-contribution laws. Oops!)

Second degree of separation: Harvey Whittemore has five kids, one of whom is DJ Whittemore, a perfectly nice guy who is a collegiate baseball coach. He graduated from Earl Wooster High School in 1993.

Third degree of separation: Jimmy Boegle, the editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent, and the humble scribe of this Daily Digest, is also a member of the Earl Wooster High School class of 1993. What a small and sometimes horrifying world!

Fourth degree of separation: YOU are reading this Daily Digest, written by Jimmy Boegle.

Congratulations! You are a mere four degrees of separation from Judy Mikovits! I am so very sorry about that!

Today’s links:

• The big state news of the day: Gov. Newsom offered more information on which businesses can begin to reopen as early tomorrow. He was actually rather light on the specifics, according to the Los Angeles Times.

• The other big state news: As expected, the state is facing a massive budget deficit—far bigger than anything the state faced during the great recession. That means some deep cuts are coming.

• The big national news: The Trump administration has decided not to follow the reopening guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because, you know who needs science and knowledge and experts and stuff?

• The other big national news: The Justice Department is dropping the case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. This line, from The New York Times, earns the Understatement of the Day Award: “The decision for the government to throw out a case after a defendant had already pleaded guilty was … highly unusual.

• I, per usual, took part in the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast today. Hear what the knowledgeable Dr. Laura Rush has to say about the coronavirus in the Coachella Valley.

One of the president’s personal valets has tested positive for the virus. The president says he has tested negative, however, and will continue to get tested daily.

More than 12,000 Catholic churches (out of 17,000) in the U.S. received federal Paycheck Protection Plan loans that were supposedly meant for small businesses. Wait, what?!

• Also from the “Wait, what?!” files: Frontier Airlines is making people pay extra to be socially distanced.

• The California Restaurant Association has sent to Gov. Newsom a proposed plan on how to reopen the state’s restaurants. Get more details, via The Associated Press, here.

A group of hair salons is getting ready to sue Gov. Newsom over the fact that they have not been allowed to reopen yet. (Search for hair salon after clicking the link.)

• Finally, some good news: While nothing is sure yet, there’s increasing evidence that almost all people who recover from COVID-19 indeed have antibodies—and that MIGHT mean they have at least temporary immunity.

• Oh, and there’s increasing evidence blood thinners may help some people who get critically sick from COVID-19.

• The Wheels Are Coming Off, Chapter 96: Some Southern California churches are starting to have in-person services, the law (and possible spread of the virus) be damned.

Coronavirus survivors will be disqualified from joining the military. Yes, really.

The DMV is opening 25 offices—including the one in Palm Desert—for in-person service tomorrow. However, you’ll need an appointment.

• Could lasers soon be used to test for COVID-19—and other diseases, too? The Conversation breaks down how that is a possibility.

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Wear your mask. Don’t spread easily disproven conspiracy theories. Buy our amazing Coloring Book. Chip in a few bucks, if you can afford to do so, to help us continue doing what we’re doing. Back tomorrow!

Published in Daily Digest

Gov. Gavin Newsom last week announced that eligible seniors throughout California could immediately get three free restaurant meals per day delivered to their door.

Yet a week later, not a single meal has been delivered, and tens of thousands of Californians who have tried to sign up have been left disappointed, confused and maybe even hungry.

During his press conference last Friday, Newsom said counties and cities were ready—but in reality, most were caught off-guard: Most didn’t know that such a program was under consideration. Now they are scrambling to identify restaurants and eligible seniors before federal funding runs out on May 10.

It’s the latest example of how Newsom has announced an ambitious coronavirus response plan before details were hammered out—and in this case, even before the agencies recruited to carry it out were notified.

Under the governor’s plan, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse 75 percent of the cost of the meals, which would cost up to $66 per person for three meals per day. The state will cover another 18.75 percent. That leaves about six cents out of every dollar to be paid by cities and counties. 

Of California’s 5.7 million seniors, about 2.4 million might qualify for the program, according to UCLA’s California Health Interview Survey. If half of them enrolled, the total federal, state and local costs could reach more than $2 billion per month.

To be eligible for the free meals, seniors 65 and older have to meet certain income qualifications. People between 60 and 65 also qualify if they are at high risk or provide proof they were exposed.

Cities contacted by CalMatters, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, declined to say when they will be able to start the deliveries to seniors.


Cash-Strapped Cities and Counties

In cash-strapped cities and counties, officials said they are reluctant to sign up without knowing how soon they’ll be reimbursed, and whether funding will last past May 10.

Mariposa County Human Services Department Director Chevon Kothari learned about the program for the first time while watching Newsom’s press conference a week ago. Now her county, on track to burn through 70 percent of budget reserves by July with hotel and sales tax revenue from Yosemite Valley ground to a halt, is leaning against offering the meals to seniors. At least two other rural counties are in the same situation, Kothari said.

“This may be a really good thing for communities who can afford to front the costs and risk not getting that reimbursement, but for communities who don’t have the wiggle room to part with those funds, it could be too much risk,” said Kothari. She added that her agency is meeting the food needs of seniors in other ways.

If a city or county has, for instance, 10,000 seniors participating, the local government’s portion of the cost of the meals would exceed $1.2 million per month.

Los Angeles County has about 712,000 seniors who may be eligible for the free meals—so its portion could be $88 million per month. For the state and federal government, that cost could reach $1.3 billion per month.

Some representatives of cities and counties across the state, who learned about the program at the same time as their residents, expressed frustration that Newsom saddled local governments with immediately delivering on his big promises to hungry seniors, but provided little guidance.

But they were hesitant to publicly criticize the governor in light of their cries for help from the state to address looming budget deficits driven by the epidemic that have already led to employee furloughs.

One representative from a statewide association of local agencies called this Newsom’s “modus operandi” during the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are these great ideas about starting different initiatives, whether it be this program or others, and it seems like the governor always announced it before it probably should be talked about or before the details are worked out,” said the representative, who asked not to be identified, because the organization wanted to stay in the administration’s good graces.


‘Absolutely a Good Thing’

However, state and county leaders commended Newsom for paying attention to the need for food assistance among vulnerable seniors who fall through the cracks of other programs.

“It’s absolutely a good thing,” said Frank Mecca, executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association. “We expect to engage post haste with the administration about the specifics for launching.”

During his Facebook Live announcement, Newsom said “this program goes into effect immediately,” and he urged seniors to call 211 to sign up.

And they took him up on it. Operators at Interface Children and Family Services, which fields 211 calls from 40 counties that cover almost half of Californians, said more than 7,000 people called right after Newsom’s announcement—a spike from the weekly average of 10,000 calls.

“We were telling them we didn’t have further information,” said Kelly Brown, director of the call center. “That’s what we’re continuing to do now.”


A Win-Win-Win, Newsom Says

Here’s how the meal program is supposed to work:

Local governments pay restaurants up to $66 to cook and deliver three nutritious meals per day to eligible seniors. Those seniors must live alone or with another qualifying senior. They can’t already receive other federal-nutrition programs like food stamps or Meals on Wheels, and they must earn less than $74,940 for a household of one, or $101,460 for a household of two.

“Even if it’s hundreds of thousands that take advantage of this, just in weeks, you’ll see millions and millions of meals part of this program,” Newsom said.

Newsom touted it as a win-win-win, sending much-needed dollars to struggling restaurants, filling an urgent need to feed people scared to leave their homes, and generating tax revenue for cities.

Newsom said he expected that the sales tax that the cities will collect from the meals will “should more than offset the local costs.” 

Restaurants are eager to jump on board, said Jot Condie, president and CEO of the California Restaurant Association.

“As soon as the governor announced this creative new program, we received a flood of emails and phone calls from restaurateurs wanting to take part,” Condie said.

Several large cities expressed enthusiasm. San Francisco has already contracted with a food-truck network to cook 10,000 meals for people under medical quarantine and has begun to recruit more restaurants, said a spokeswoman. The Los Angeles County Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services said it is “ramping up quickly.”

Locally, the Riverside County on Aging has launched an interest form for both interested restaurants and seniors via its website.


Funding Questions Could Be Deal-Breaker

Newsom called the program “a real opportunity for rural California as well.”

But small and rural counties facing precipitous drops in revenue may find it difficult to muster even the 6 percent—let alone fronting 100 percent and waiting to be reimbursed, said Paul Smith, vice president of governmental affairs for Rural County Representatives of California.

After several recent disasters in Mariposa, Kothari said she’s learned that FEMA often takes 12 to 24 months to reimburse, if at all.

“If you don’t document (spending) just in the way they (FEMA) need it documented … you could risk not getting that back,” Kothari said. That’s not a risk many localities can take, she said, especially given the administrative burden for counties with small staff and vulnerable residents so spread out that they might live an hour away from the nearest restaurant.

Asked about the timeline for reimbursement and the local costs, Newsom acknowledged that the program could be “anxiety-inducing” for cities and counties. But, he said, as “a former mayor, it would have been music to my ears to hear a program costing about 6 cents” for every dollar.

Expedited reimbursement for half of the federal funding may be available upfront for localities that apply for it, said Governor’s Office of Emergency Services spokesman Brian Ferguson.

“If we can put food in the belly of even one vulnerable person, it’s something worth doing,” Ferguson said. 

Another red flag for some localities: the meal program funding will expire soon, unless FEMA grants an extension.

According to a state document for local officials, the funding runs out on May 10, “unless the public health need ends sooner or an extension is granted by FEMA. … While it is anticipated that, upon successful program execution, the State will request an extension, there is no guarantee it will be granted.”

Newsom did not respond to a CalMatters’ question at his Wednesday press conference about the May 10 deadline.

“By the time I get this set up and start to provide services and socialize it with my community … is the program going to come to an end?” Kothari asked.

Jackie Botts is a reporter with CalMatters. This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.

Published in Local Issues

It’s been yet another busy news day—in fact, there are links to more than 20 interesting stories below. But before we get into the news of the day, I wanted to share a link to my editor’s note (tweaked ever so slightly for online publication) from the Independent’s May print edition.

It covers all sorts of stuff I’ve already covered in this space (our coloring book, our Facebook grant, etc.), but if you want a recap of how things are going with your local independent newspaper, here’s a good place to start.

I’ll discuss the May print edition a little more tomorrow. But in the meantime … here are today’s links:

• The big news of the day: Preliminary study results now show that Gilead Sciences’ drug remdesivir can help a statistically significant number of people battling COVID-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci said this is a big deal—because it shows drugs can indeed fight this thing.

• I found this piece 1) gross, 2) fascinating and 3) oddly reassuring: Wanna know how scientists are watching for signs of an uptick in coronavirus infections? By studying sewage.

• This is evil and awful: You know how some states are starting the reopening process—even though the vast majority of the experts say that’s a terrible, terrible idea? Well, one “benefit” for the states is it forces people to go back to work—and gets them off of unemployment. But what if you work at a business that’s reopening, and you feel that it’s unsafe to go back? Well, in Iowa, at least, you have no choice.

• This is now the worst economy, like, ever (or at least since the government has been keeping track). So says Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell.

• Here’s a long read that is, for the most part, a good read, from The Atlantic, covering what we do and do not know about SARS-CoV-2.

• Good for Costco: Starting Monday, store hours are going back to normal—and masks will be mandatory.

• Keep your fingers crossed again: If all goes well (and a LOT will have to go well, but …) another vaccine candidate could be ready for emergency use by the fall.

• The vice president continues to receive criticism for his maskless trip to the Mayo Clinic. And the clinic’s getting flak for letting him get away with it.

The Bay Area is loosening restrictions on some businesses and industries juuust a little bit.

• Did Donald Trump suggest this? (Kidding!) (At least we think we are!) The first graph from this BBC News piece: “Authorities in a Spanish coastal resort have apologised after spraying a beach with bleach in an attempt to protect children from coronavirus.”

• Contact tracing is often cited as being a key element in helping us reopen before we have a vaccine. NPR recently surveyed all 50 states regarding their current contact-tracing capacity. Spoiler alert: Unless you live in North Dakota, your state doesn’t have enough.

• Well, Elon Musk is being an ass again.

• Late last week, we mentioned that the governor had announced a plan for the state to help pay for restaurants to prepare food for seniors and high-risk people in need. Well, Riverside County has started the signup process for both interested restaurants and people who may want to get food deliveries.

• Oh, great. Rashes and other weird skin issues can be a symptom of this damned virus, too.

AMC Theaters has banned Universal Pictures from its screens—and Regal Cinemas is threatening to take similar action—after the studio moved Trolls World Tour to a digital-exclusive release.

• You know times are weird when The Wall Street Journal, of all publications, publishes a piece on how to negotiate with creditors to lower or delay payments on bills.

• As long as they don’t become artificially intelligent and take over, robots may be able help prevent the spread of the coronavirus by cleaning places with UV light.

• The Los Angeles Times brings us yet another piece on the devastating effects the shutdown is having on the work of scientists who aren’t directly involved with the battle against COVID-19.

• Miss the museum? Check out the Palm Springs Art Museum’s online exhibit of the photography of Stephen H. Willard (1894-1966).

• Pro tip: If you’re going to do a news report from your home, and you decide to eschew pants, make sure that viewers can’t see that.

That’s all for today. Wash your hands. Buy our amazing Coloring Book. And if you can spare a few bucks, please consider becoming a supporter of the Independent; it costs a lot of money to do quality journalism and make it available for free to all. Thanks again for reading. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

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.

Published in Daily Digest

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!

Published in Daily Digest

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!

Published in Daily Digest

Today is Jackie Robinson Day, the anniversary of Robinson taking the field in a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947—shattering the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

Robinson’s uniform number, 42, was retired throughout Major League Baseball back in 1997, with one exception: On April 15, every player wears the No. 42.

For all sorts of reasons, Jackie Robinson Day means a lot to me. Robinson is the main reason I became a baseball fan (and a Dodgers fan); at one point in elementary school, I was assigned to read a biography, and somehow, I wound up with Jackie Robinson. I was inspired—and Jackie Robinson has been a hero of mine ever since. In fact, a poster with Jackie’s photo, with the definition of the word “courage,” hangs just to the right of the unbelievably cluttered desk at my home office.

cour•age n. 1. The mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. 2. Valor.

Of course, Jackie Robinson Day can be celebrated only virtually today, because there is no baseball in this country on this April 15.

Please forgive me for feeling a bit sad right now. I am keeping things in proper mental perspective. Take, for example, what Jackie Robinson had to endure on a daily basis back in 1947, when he was literally risking his life to play baseball—and carrying the burden of knowing that if he failed, either on the field or off, he could potentially set back a whole movement. Me? I merely have to stay at home for a while, wear a mask when I have to go somewhere, and tighten the budget belt for a bit.

That’s what my mind says. But my heart aches due to the fact that there’s no baseball on Jackie Robinson Day, nor will there be anytime in the immediate future. (The same goes for a lot of things, of course.)

For now, I’ll suck it up, maybe cry a little, and remember that definition of courage: the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.

Here are today’s links:

• You know those antibody tests that are starting to appear? They’re not necessarily reliable right now. The nice way of putting it: “They’re a work in progress.”

• From the Independent: Anita Rufus points out that not only should you consider setting up an advance directive (living will) if you don’t have one; if you do have one, you may want to revisit it, given what we now know about COVID-19.

• Also from the Independent: Our Kevin Carlow encourages you to cut down on food waste by pickling or otherwise preserving vegetables before they go bad. And yes, you can even use the ends, stems and skins that you’d normally throw away.

• Speaking of vegetables, all of this uncertainty is leading people to start growing their own food.

• The state is taking better steps to get help to people who have not yet gotten their unemployment, plus independent contractors and undocumented immigrants, according to Gov. Newsom.

• The Washington Post reports on the strategy being developed by FEMA and the CDC to begin reopening the country. Take from it what you will.

• So … the president apparently insists on having his name on the physical stimulus checks being sent to people, even if it delays them being sent by a few days. Now, where did I put that bourbon?

Some government agencies are not being as open with information as they should be during this damned pandemic. This is a very bad thing.

• Now this, actually, would not be a bad thing, if 1) true and 2) it’s shown that most infected people have at least temporary immunity: One study suggests that there may be 10 times more COVID-19 cases in California than the number being reported. However, a lot of smart people don’t buy this conclusion.

• You know that thing going around on social media where people post their high school pics and say where and when they graduated, ostensibly to support current high school seniors who won’t get proper senior years and graduations? Uh, well, you probably shouldn’t do that.

• Rolling Stone looks in depth at the deep damage the pandemic is doing to the live-music world.

• Damn, the lockdown is even driving Martha Stewart to get hammered.

• The city of Palm Springs has set up a hotline for people to report violations of various COVID-19-related rules.

• OK, let’s get to some happier stuff, shall we? For starters, the Los Angeles Times offers up this list of 13 things you can do to stay sane during this highly annoying time.

• Jake Tapper has a Twitter-thread story that starts awful, but has a hopeful, happy ending.

• Finally, I find this oddly reassuring, even though they never, ever should have budged on “over” being an OK substitute for “more than”: The Associated Press Stylebook now has guidance on COVID-19.

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Submit your virtual events to our online calendar. Please help us continue to do local, quality journalism, free to all, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you have the means to do so. Wear a mask when you must go out in public—if not because it’s the right thing to do, then because someone may call the city of Palm Springs and report your irresponsible self. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

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