CVIndependent

Wed09232020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Jimmy Boegle

Gyms, movie theaters, churches, nail salons and indoor dining at restaurants may now open—with limits, of course—in Riverside County.

The state of California earlier today announced that the county has officially been moved into the red, “Substantial” tier of the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” because we’ve had two straight weeks with less than 7 daily cases per 100,000 people, and a positivity rate less of than 8 percent.

This move out of the purple, “Widespread” tier means some big decisions will need to be made regarding schools. According to the state, after Riverside County has been in the “Substantial” tier for two weeks, schools can fully reopen for in-person instruction—if local school officials decide that’s what they want to do.

The move puts the county fairly close, reopenings-wise, to where we were back in June … and we all remember how that went: Cases spiked, and local hospital ICUs came close to maxing out. Let’s hope lessons were learned, and things go better this time.

As they say … stay tuned.

Some other news from the day:

• As of this writing, a marathon meeting of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors—regarding a proposal to defy the state and use a county reopening plan instead—was still ongoing. There are a lot of fascinating nuggets in Jeff Horseman’s coverage at the Riverside Press-Enterprise, like: “Speakers, some sobbing, others seething, spoke of missing weddings and funerals or feeling like they’re living in a totalitarian state. Others lamented those struggling with depression, isolation, substance abuse and unemployment. Pastors demanded that their churches be considered essential and for in-person worship to resume.” If the county voted to go along with this plan from Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, it would cause a huge mess, for a number of reasons, including the fact that Hewitt’s plan is oddly MORE restrictive in some cases (now that Riverside County has moved up a tier). Oh, and the state could decide to withhold funding from the county due to the defiance.

San Diego County will stay in the “Substantial” tier for at least another two weeks. After venturing into more-restrictive “Widespread” territory last week, the county’s case rate per 100,000 people eked down below 7 this week.

SFGate offers a nice, if slightly Bay Area-focused, summary of all the county tier movement across the state today. Lots of good news, as well as this: “In his update on the fourth week of the state’s new reopening plan, (Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark) Ghaly also announced nail salons will be allowed to open statewide, even if their county is in the most restrictive purple tier.” 

• And now some perspective: If the Coachella Valley were a separate county, we would not be moving into a less-restrictive tier. According to this week’s District 4 report from the county—District 4 consists of the Coachella Valley and mostly rural points eastward—our COVID-19 stats continue to head in the right direction. However, we still have a 10.3 percent weekly positivity rate. Also, the report offers a sobering reminder about how awful this disease is: Six more of our neighbors died over the last week as a result of this awful virus.

• On this day of reopening in Riverside County, the United States hit a milestone: A reported 200,000 people have died in the United States from COVID-19. CNBC offers perspective.

• While Riverside County and other parts of California are experiencing a decrease in COVID-19 cases, such is not the case in much of the rest of the country—and the world. From The Washington Post: “Twenty-seven states and Puerto Rico have shown an increase in the seven-day average of new confirmed cases since the final week of August, according to The Post’s analysis of public health data. Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Utah set record highs Monday for seven-day averages. The global picture has reaffirmed that COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is not about to fade away. Countries that had been successful early in the pandemic in driving down viral transmission—such as France, Spain and Israel—are struggling with new waves of cases and instituting new shutdowns. Most people remain susceptible to infection, and the virus is highly opportunistic.”

• STAT created a compelling theoretical “road map” for how the battle against the coronavirus may go over the next year plus. “In this project, STAT describes 30 key moments, possible turning points that could steer the pandemic onto a different course or barometers for how the virus is reshaping our lives, from rituals like Halloween and the Super Bowl, to what school could look like, to just how long we might be incorporating precautions into our routines. This road map is informed by insights from more than three dozen experts, including Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates, people on the frontlines at schools and hospitals, as well as STAT reporters. It largely focuses on the U.S.”

• Well this is interesting: SARS-CoV-2 may be able to block pain. This has some terrible health implications—but it creates some fascinating research opportunities, and opens the door to possible medical advancements regarding pain management. A professor of pharmacology for the University of Arizona, writing for The Conversation, explains.

According to the Los Angeles Times: “UC admitted 64 well-connected or rich students over more qualified ones, audit finds.” Sigh.

• And here’s another sigh-inducing bit of journalism, compliments of The Washington Post: “A $1 billion fund Congress gave the Pentagon in March to build up the country’s supplies of medical equipment has instead been mostly funneled to defense contractors and used to make things such as jet engine parts, body armor and dress uniforms.”

• College football remains a huge mess. On the heels of news that the Big 10 and Pac-12 conferences are taking steps to get back on the fields this fall comes this alarming news, from ESPN: “The Notre Dame-Wake Forest football game scheduled for Saturday has been postponed after the Irish announced 13 players are in isolation. In a statement Tuesday, Notre Dame said seven players tested positive for coronavirus out of 94 tests done Monday. Combined with testing results from last week, 13 players are in isolation, with 10 in quarantine. As a result, Notre Dame has paused all football-related activities. The two schools are working on a date to reschedule the game.”

Thanks for reading, and thank you to all the Supporters of the Independent out there; if you’d like to join them in helping us continue to produce quality local journalism without subscription fees or pay walls, find details here. Take care, and be safe, everybody.

Tomorrow’s going to be a fascinating day on the COVID-19 reopening front. Why? Well …

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors is slated to vote tomorrow on a proposal that would give a big middle finger to the state, and enact a county plan allowing businesses to open faster, with fewer restrictions. The proposal comes from District 5 Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, a Libertarian. According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise: “’The state’s lack of clear guidelines has left thousands of peoples (sic) uncertain about their abilities to pay bills and provide for their families,’ Hewitt, whose district includes the Pass, Moreno Valley, Perris and Menifee, wrote in a memo to colleagues. ‘ … We (will) feel the burden of these economic impacts for years to come, it is time for Riverside County to take responsibility for our own wellbeing.’”

We’ll also find out tomorrow if Riverside County continues to meet the requirements to move into the less-restrictive “Substantial” category. Per the state: “At a minimum, counties must remain in a tier for at least 3 weeks before moving forward.” The county has met the criteria for one week, according to the state’s weekly updates, issued every Tuesday. Since the last update, it appears cases have ticked up a bit in the county—but so has testing. So, yeah, stay tuned.

• In related news: Elemental recently published a nice primer on what we know about how COVID-19 is transmitted. Key quote: “Instead of obsessing over objects and surfaces, scientists now say the biggest infection risk comes from inhaling what someone else is exhaling, whether it’s a tiny aerosol or a larger droplet. And while a virus traveling through the air sounds terrifying, the good news is there is a safe, cheap, and effective way to stop the spread: wearing a mask.” It’s a fantastic, if long, read.

The state of California will not accept new unemployment claims for two weeks, because the current system is an overwhelmed fustercluck. The state plans on taking these two weeks to fix, update and streamline the system, Gov. Newsom announced today.

• Speaking of fusterclucks: Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the 2020 version of the CDC. So on Friday, the once-trusted government organization issued new guidance saying SARS-CoV-2 can spread through aerosols that can remain suspended in the air and travel farther than 6 feet. Today, the CDC took it back. Sigh.

• The Washington Post looks at the key role college newspapers have played in exposing a whole lot of news about COVID-19—and beyond. Key quote: “The contracting media industry has left few local outlets with dedicated higher-education reporters, leaving student journalists as ‘really the best watchdogs’ in this moment, said Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida. ‘They’re the ones who are going to get the invites to parties, and they’re the ones whose friends are going to be reporting symptoms, and they’re following all the right people on social media, so they know first when there’s an outbreak or when there are unsafe conditions.’”

• The New York Times examines at the mess surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine. In an effort to be more transparent, the company just released its trial blueprints. Why? “Experts have been particularly concerned about AstraZeneca’s vaccine trials, which began in April in Britain, because of the company’s refusal to provide details about serious neurological illnesses in two participants, both women, who received its experimental vaccine in Britain. Those cases spurred the company to halt its trials twice, the second time earlier this month. The studies have resumed in Britain, Brazil, India and South Africa, but are still on pause in the U.S. About 18,000 people worldwide have received AstraZeneca’s vaccine so far.” Eek.

• From the Independent: Much of what the Desert Recreation District normally does can’t be done right now, because … well, you know—so the organization has started operating distance-learning hubs, primarily in the eastern portion of the valley, for elementary schoolers. Key quote: “Students in kindergarten through the sixth-grade can participate, and they can be registered by the week, or for extended periods. At all locations, the program begins at 7:30 a.m. each weekday and runs until 5:30 p.m. No class will contain more than 10 students, with two adult educator supervisors.”

• Good news: The U.S. set a record for the largest number of COVID-19 tests given in a day. The bad news, per Reuters: We need to be doing at least six times that number of tests.

• As the politicking and maneuvering takes place over the fate of the U.S. Supreme Court seat formerly held by the late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg, The Conversation breaks down the four steps that need to be taken before a new justice can be seated.

• Soooo many businesses have been devastated by the pandemic—including hotels. Both the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times look at the “tsunami” of hotel closures that’s already under way.

• COVID-19 has led to numerous delays in the California State Bar exam—which is costing recent law-school graduates a lot of time and money. Key quote, from the San Francisco Chronicle: “The State Bar pushed the test normally scheduled in July back to September, then to October as it figured out the software and security issues around a new online format for the hours-long exam, which normally involves test takers crammed into conference rooms. … Results from the July bar exams normally come out in mid-November, at which time law students who do not pass can begin studying for the February exams, according to Daniel Schweitzer, a longtime bar exam tutor. With results from the delayed October test not slated to come out until mid-January, there will be almost no time for students who fail to begin studying for the February test unless it too gets delayed.

• Also from the Chronicle: An increasing number of people are ignoring wildfire evacuation orders. During the North Complex fire: “Firefighters rescued at least 100 people as the fire blew through communities including Berry Creek, Feather Falls and Brush Creek. Hundreds of homes burned, dozens of residents were injured and at least 15 people were killed. The disaster could have largely been avoided had residents listened to emergency workers when there was still time to get out, said Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff. The victims were among scores of people who have defied evacuation orders during the wildfires that have been raging across California, a distressing trend that officials say puts emergency workers at risk, hampers firefighting efforts and often ends in loss of life.”

• Dammit, now Sizzler is filing for bankruptcy. Eff you, 2020.

• Finally, a tip of the hat from those of us at the Independent to the people who worked for the press operation at The Desert Sun. Today was the press’ last day of operation—and the October print edition of the Independent was one of the last publications to roll off of it.

Before we started the print edition 7 1/2 years ago, I got print bids from presses around Southern California—and, by far, the best deal was offered by the Gannett-owned Desert Sun. While I hated—hated—to give my business to Gannett, a company that has not always been the best steward of the papers it has owned (that’s a gross understatement), we started (and continue to operate) the Independent on a very-shoestring budget, so I needed to go with the best deal.

Through 87 print editions, the press folks there did nothing but fantastic work on the Independent. They were professional; they were accommodating when I needed extra time due to various injuries (including my left elbow dislocation in 2018, and my right elbow dislocation seven months ago); and the print quality was consistently good.

From our November 2020 print edition on, the Independent will be printed—like The Desert Sun and some of the other commercial-print jobs that used to be done at the Gene Autry Trail building here—at the Gannett operation in Phoenix. They’ll have to work very hard in Arizona to match the quality and professionalism that was displayed by the operation here.

The Desert Sun did a nice feature over the weekend on the people who worked there. I recommend checking it out.

That’s enough for today. Please help us pay our print bill, and our writers, and for MailChimp, and etc. by becoming a Supporter of the Independent, if you’re able. Stay safe, and as always, thanks for reading.

Happy Friday, all. Let’s get straight to the news:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died. NPR’s Nina Totenberg sums it up: “Architect of the legal fight for women’s rights in the 1970s, Ginsburg subsequently served 27 years on the nation’s highest court, becoming its most prominent member. Her death will inevitably set in motion what promises to be a nasty and tumultuous political battle over who will succeed her, and it thrusts the Supreme Court vacancy into the spotlight of the presidential campaign.” Thank you for working so hard for so long, Justice Ginsburg.

• Fires remain the big news in the west. The Los Angeles Times offers news on the nearby Snow fire, which was sparked by a burning car and has forced evacuations; and shares the awful news that a firefighter has died battling the El Dorado firethe one that was sparked by that gender-reveal party down the road near Yucaipa.

• On latest episode of How the CDC Turns: Now the official government guidelines again say that if you’ve been in contact with someone who has the coronavirus, you should get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms. CNN explains the craziness.

The president today announced he’s banning TikTok and WeChat from mobile-app stores as of Sunday. As a result, China is ticked off—as is the American Civil Liberties Union

• Yet more Census shenanigans: The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that Census workers there were told their work was over—even though the entire city had not yet been surveyed. Key quote: “Several (workers) reported being offered counting jobs in Reno, Fort Bragg (Mendocino County) or the far reaches of the East Bay instead. But San Francisco, their supervisors told them, was fully counted even though statistics … showed that was far from the truth.” 

Also from the Chronicle comes this: “The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, managed by the University of California but federally funded, has suspended its employees’ diversity training program by order of the Trump administration, which recently called such programs ‘divisive, anti-American propaganda,’ The Chronicle has learned.” Sigh. 

The Public Policy Institute just released a new poll regarding Californians’ feelings on all sorts of things. Turns out Californians like Gavin Newsom and Joe Biden, but aren’t wild about the idea of bringing back affirmative action.

NBC News takes a look at the problems some people, who want to vote by mail, are having in other states. Key quote: “Mississippi and four other states—Indiana, Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee—continue to limit vote-by-mail access and don't consider the pandemic to be a valid reason for absentee voting. Each state faces numerous legal challenges to the stymied access. With less than two months until Election Day, many voters remain confused about whether and how they can vote by mail. The uncertainty has the potential to affect voter access and, therefore, the outcomes of the elections themselves.”

• While we’ve been making good progress at stemming the figurative tide of COVID-19 around these parts, the number of new cases has doubled in much of Europe in recent weeks. And they’re soaring in Israel as well.

• Two professors, writing for The Conversation, make the case that “humanity can leverage the internet to collaborate and share innovations toward solving pressing societal problems” like COVID-19. How would this work? Well, for starters, they think we should make taxpayer-funded health efforts, like vaccines, open-source.

• A smidgen of good news: There’s yet more evidence that efforts around the world to slow the spread of the coronavirus are also tamping down the flu. MedPage Today has the update.

Can wearing eyeglasses decrease your chances of getting COVID-19? Data out of China indicates it’s a possibility.

• From the Independent: Andrew Smith worked at Lord Fletcher’s, the legendary Rancho Mirage joint, famous for its prime rib, that was one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite places to hang out. The owner announced last month he was closing the restaurant and putting it up for sale; here’s Andrew’s remembrance. Key quote: “The portrait of Frank Sinatra, framed and mounted behind his favorite table, always attracted the most attention. Michael Fletcher has hundreds of stories to tell, but the most notable is about the night that Sinatra and Alan Shepard jumped behind the bar to perform a duet of ‘Fly Me to the Moon.’”

• According to The Hill: “Aria DiMezzo, a self-described ‘transsexual Satanist anarchist,’ won the Republican primary for sheriff in Cheshire County, N.H., last week.” Wait, what?

• I was again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week, where I discussed the reopening prospects for Riverside County, among other things. Check it out!

• The year 2020 has brought the world a lot of things, most of them terrible. However, it will also bring the world its first Lifetime Christmas movie with a gay storyline. I just don’t know what to think anymore.

• And finally, Gene Weingarten, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post, writes about what happened after a neighbor asked him for a tomato. Trust me when I say you’ll want to read this—and read it until the end.

That’s enough for today. I am going to get together with some friends, socially distanced in a friend’s backyard, to toast the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Digest will be back on Monday; have a great weekend despite all the chaos, everyone.

Riverside County businesses may soon be allowed to further reopen—and San Diego County businesses may soon be forced to further close.

Those are some of the takeaways from yesterday’s weekly update of the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” statuses.

To recap: Every county in the state has been placed in one of four “county risk levels,” depending on the COVID-19 test-positivity rate, and the case rate per 100,000 residents. Riverside County is currently in the most-restrictive “Widespread” category, for counties that have a positivity rate higher than 8 percent, and more than 7 new daily cases per 100,000 people. The next less-restrictive category, “Substantial”—San Diego County’s current tier—requires a positivity rate between 5 and 8 percent, and between 4 and 7 new daily cases per 100,000.

As of this week’s update, Riverside County’s positivity rate is listed as 6.4 percent, with 6.7 daily cases per 100,000—which would put us in less-restrictive “Substantial” territory. However, per the state: “At a minimum, counties must remain in a tier for at least 3 weeks before moving forward.” So … that means Riverside County could possibly move into the less-restrictive “Substantial” category as of Sept. 29.

San Diego County’s numbers, however, are moving in the opposite direction: As of yesterday’s update, the adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 was 8.1—higher than the “Substantial” threshold, even though the county’s positivity rate is a quite-good 4.5 percent. According to the state: “If a county’s metrics worsen for two consecutive weeks, it will be assigned a more restrictive tier. Public health officials are constantly monitoring data and can step in if necessary.”

Got all that? Good.

The difference in the tiers is quite substantial. That’s why in San Diego County—which, again, remains in the less-restrictive “Substantial” category for now—personal-care services (waxing, nails, etc.) can currently operate indoors. Churches can be open for indoor service at 25 percent capacity. Gyms can open indoors at 10 percent capacity. Movie theaters can open indoors at 25 percent capacity.

None of that can happen in Riverside County yet.

Meanwhile, county leaders in both places aren’t happy with the state’s criteria. San Diego County officials say their spike in numbers has to do with San Diego State University, and asked the state to not count the college’s numbers in their county metrics. The state said no to that request.

Here, local business leaders are clamoring for Riverside County to open faster, no matter what the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” metrics say. The state is very likely to say no to this request, too.

Stay tuned, folks.

Today’s news links:

• The big local news today: The arena that had been planned for downtown Palm Springs will now instead be built near Cook Street and Interstate 10. The Agua Caliente tribe is no longer involved; instead, the Oak View Group will partner with The H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation. From the news release: “The Seattle Kraken’s AHL Franchise, led by David Bonderman and OVG, will play in the new arena once construction is complete. Groundbreaking and construction are scheduled for 2021. The arena is expected to open in the last quarter of 2022.”

• It’s been a fascinating and completely insane couple of days for followers of college football. The Big 10 Conference today announced it would begin playing football this fall after all—as soon as Oct. 23. Then the Pac-12 Conference—the only remaining power conference not to announce plans to play in the fall—announced plans to play in the fall. All of this happened the day after LSU’s coach told the media that most of his team had contracted COVID-19 … amid increasing questions about the virus’ long-term effects on athletes. Repeat after me: Nothing makes sense anymore.

• In the aftermath of this week’s terrible shootings of two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, the actions of the department are raising a whole lot of concerns.

• Good lord, this is awful: A whistleblower has come forward with claims that detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody have been subjected to questionable hysterectomies. Key quote, from NPR: “The complaint says that several immigrant women expressed concerns to Project South about a high rate of hysterectomies and that (whistleblower Dawn) Wooten and other nurses at the facility questioned the number of women undergoing the procedure as well as their ability to fully understand and consent to it. According to the complaint, a detained immigrant told Project South that she talked to five women at the facility who received hysterectomies between October and December 2019 and said they “reacted confused when explaining why they had one done.” ICE officials have denied wrongdoing.

A group of gym owners is suing the state over COVID-19-mandated closures. According to The Associated Press: “The suit accuses state and Los Angeles County officials of requiring gyms to close without providing evidence that they contribute to virus outbreaks and at a time when staying healthy is critical to California’s residents. The prolonged closure is depriving millions of people the ability to exercise as temperatures soar and smoky air from wildfires blankets much of the state, said Francesca Schuler, a founding partner of the (California Fitness Alliance).

• According to Yelp, 60 percent of pandemic-related business closures are now permanent closures. CNBC explains.

• Some people who have been jobless since the first stay-at-home order are about to exhaust their 26 weeks of state unemployment. What’s next for them? The San Francisco Chronicle explains.

Don’t expect a widespread SARS-CoV-2 vaccine until the middle of next year. So said the CDC director today.

• The Los Angeles Times recently decided to test the speed of first-class USPS mail delivery. The verdict? It’s definitely slower these days.

Both climate change and forest management are responsible for the hellfire blanketing the West these days. A professor of history from the University of Oregon, writing for The Conversation, says: “Management policies have created tinderboxes in Western forests, and climate change has made it much more likely that those tinderboxes will erupt into destructive fires. A third factor is that development has expanded into once-wild areas, putting more people and property in harm’s way.”

• From the Independent: When Palm Springs Pride announced tentative plans for a car caravan as part of an otherwise primarily online celebration in November, some people freaked out—unjustifiably, perhaps. I recently spoke to Pride president and CEO Ron deHarte about what Palm Springs Pride 2020 will look like. Key quote from deHarte, regarding that caravan: “We’re not creating assembly points. … This is being made for TV. The idea is to really show people who are at home, not participating; they can tune into YouTube or the livestream on Facebook. There are not going to be things for people to see—but if somebody was to go sit alongside the road, there are going to be at least 10 miles of roadway where anyone who is conscious of what’s going on in society today can social distance themselves. … But we just don’t see (people gathering) happening. It hasn’t happened in the 17 cities that we’ve been modeling from.”

• Take rising interest rates off your list of things to worry about. Per CNBC: “Projections from individual members (of the Federal Reserve) also indicated that rates could stay anchored near zero through 2023. All but four members indicated they see zero rates through then. This was the first time the committee forecast its outlook for 2023.”

• NBC News looks at the influence YouTube is having on the presidential election this year. Key quote: “YouTube, founded in 2005, has often been overshadowed by the likes of Facebook and Twitter as a place where political campaigning happens online, but this year is shaping up differently, and the fall promises to test YouTube’s capacity to serve as a political referee.”

• Finally … I know I could use a drink, and wine actually sounds quite lovely right now. Here are some fall wine suggestions from Independent wine columnist and resident sommelier Katie Finn.

Happy Wednesday, all! Thanks to everyone from reading. Please help the Independent continue producing quality local journalism—and making it free to everyone, without paywalls or fees—by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will return on Friday.

On the weekend of Nov. 6-8, there will be no festival in downtown Palm Springs. There will be no parade. However, Greater Palm Springs Pride will go on—mostly online, like almost everything else has since COVID-19 reared its unbelievably ugly head in March.

However, there will be a few events with an in-person aspect … sort of. The Front Runners’ 5k run, a fundraiser for the LGBT Center of the Desert, will take place—but instead of everyone running together, the participants will pick their own time and route. Pride-themed movies will be screened at the Palm Springs Cultural Center—outside, on the newish drive-in screen, with attendees in their cars or socially distanced.

And then there’s the possible car caravan—which, when it was first announced, caused Palm Springs Pride president and CEO Ron deHarte no small amount of grief after certain locals, perhaps not understanding the concept, freaked out on social media.

We recently spoke to deHarte about the plans for 2020 Greater Palm Springs Pride.

Tell me a little bit about the re-imagined Pride this year.

So many cities have gone virtual for their pride events. What we’re trying to do is a combination of online activities that people can participate in from the comfort of their home, and true activities where you can be active, like the Front Runners’ 5k run, which is always very popular. But this year, instead of waking up on Saturday morning and joining 500 other people, you go and you do your 5k run or walk at your leisure, on your own. You’re still able to raise money; we can raise money for the Center. That’s one way where people are still able to get out of their house, and be a part of something bigger, but not have to sit and watch something that’s a livestream online.

The drive-in movie nights are another way where people can be safe and social distance, but come together and watch a couple of Pride-themed movies on Friday and Saturday night.

Then we have some more of the traditional things that people would see, but via livestream. The (Interfaith Pride Kabbalat) Shabbat will be livestreamed on Friday night. Our flag-raising ceremony—we traditionally have done a big media event as we unfurl the flag from the Stergios (building) tower (at Desert Regional Medical Center). Well, this year, we’re going to do a livestream so people can watch the flag unfurlings, not only at the Stergios tower, but downtown and at City Hall.

Let’s discuss the caravan, since that’s the thing everyone seems riled up about.

We have put forward an idea for the caravan. It’s not set in stone. We’ve watched what’s been done in 17 other cities; actually, Salt Lake City is organizing a really large one (on Oct. 11), so we’ll watch that very closely.

(The idea) is the old political protest—the caravan where people drive through the city and raise awareness and honk their horns and be visible, be heard and capture media attention. That’s the idea behind the car caravan: We could give people from the same household the opportunity to come out for a couple of hours; make a poster with their political statement on it, or a message of love; and they could maybe decorate their car a bit, and come and drive on our open roads. It would be a free event for people to participate in. We would do it during a scheduled time period and follow a scheduled route, giving people who don’t have a car or aren’t able to participate the ability to see what’s happening by staying home and watching a livestream. The idea is not in place for spectators. It’s on open roads. There’s no parade, no marching bands, no dancing queens—none of that. … It’s a solo experience, but at the end of the day, any caravan we organize in Palm Springs is going to get a lot of media attention—and that’s part of what this political protest caravan is all about. It’s raising awareness and getting attention.

What steps are you taking to make sure this doesn’t attract crowds?

First, I want to remind everyone that nothing is set in stone. This is still an idea that’s being worked on, and it’s not finalized that it’s going to happen. We will take it day by day, because if our COVID-positive numbers don’t get better, and the situation changes for us, we’re going to evaluate everything we’re doing. If there’s a slight chance that people are not going to be safe, then we will not go forward with whatever plan we’ve got in place.

We’ve been talking to the city, a special-event planning team, about the safety measures that need to be in place—like the possibility of not promoting the route. There are positives and negatives to that, but that’s definitely something that we’re looking at—to not promote it publicly, and only make it known when the participants arrive in the morning to get in their lineup. People have to register ahead of time, so they know that they’re not allowed to have party trucks, party buses or party limos. They’re agreeing that they are coming from the same households. They are agreeing that they will be wearing masks. They will agree that they’re not to come to the check-in, get out of their car and start to party. They’ll have an assigned parking space; they will go to their assigned parking space, and when it’s time to roll out at the step-off moment, cars will exit the parking-lot area in sequence.

On the route, there are no closed streets, with regular traffic signs and regular traffic signals; regular laws have to be followed along the route. We’ve asked for permission to end the route in front of City Hall. People will come in one entrance; they will hand off their poster or signs that they made. … That statement sign will be given to a team of three or four folks that are making a design that will be visible on the lawn of City Hall, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. This art installation (would be) a collected community statement. But once they hand off their poster, no one gets out of their cars. Again, there’s no speaking; there’s no entertainment. They just keep driving through and exit the other side of the parking lot at City Hall.

We’re not creating assembly points. … This is being made for TV. The idea is to really show people who are at home, not participating; they can tune into YouTube or the livestream on Facebook. There are not going to be things for people to see—but if somebody was to go sit alongside the road, there are going to be at least 10 miles of roadway where anyone who is conscious of what’s going on in society today can social distance themselves. … We’ve even proposed that we have additional police support that day to help discourage folks from gathering. But we just don’t see (people gathering) happening. It hasn’t happened in the 17 cities that we’ve been modeling from. It didn’t happen in Chula Vista, which is I think the closest model for us to follow.

Some people are concerned that because Palm Springs Pride is putting together a weekend slate of events, that will encourage people to come to Palm Springs and party—because, well, this is Palm Springs.

Well, there’s plenty that is happening in town today, where there are activities taking place. … I think other than the caravan, everything that we’re talking about is already happening right now in Palm Springs. We’re not proposing something that’s any different than what’s happening today in Palm Springs—and people are already coming to Palm Springs. Next weekend, they’re going to be here. The following weekend, they’re going to be here. We’re not promoting to Los Angeles, or San Diego, or Long Beach to come and celebrate Pride in Palm Springs, because we don’t have anything for them to come and physically celebrate. There are no parties. There are no pool events. Even our proposed tea dance is virtual—so you can go and dance in your home. … We just don’t see people driving here to participate in these virtual experiences.

For more information, visit apps.pspride.org.

Before we jump into the news links, I have two bits of Independent-related information I’d like to share:

1.If you see Kevin Fitzgerald out and about, I strongly encourage you to buy him a drink. (Not that he’ll be out and about, and not that you could buy him a drink unless he also got a meal, because, well, COVID-19. Bleh. But you get what I am saying.)

Why do we all owe Kevin a debt of gratitude? Because he has been, and will be, spending a lot of time interviewing local candidates for public office, and then transcribing those interviews, for our renowned Candidate Q&A series. And, well, let’s just say that some of these candidates are verbose.

The first three sets of interviews—with the candidates for the Palm Desert City Council’s two districts, and the contested Palm Springs City Council district—are now posted at CVIndependent.com. (That’s more than 16,000 words of interviews, by the way. So, yeah, make the imaginary drink for Kevin a double.)

Between now and Election Day, we’ll be talking to as many of the other candidates for the contested local city council races as we can. I’ll be honest: We may not get to all eight of the valley’s City Council contests taking place this November, but we’re going to do the best we can.

Maybe make that drink a triple?

2. If you have not yet voted in the first round of the Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll, you only have a few hours left (presuming you’re reading this Monday evening)—because voting ends tonight! Click here for details.

After voting ends, we’ll count all the ballots, and then announce all of the finalists on Sept. 28—at which time the final round of balloting will start.

Thanks to all of you who’ve voted already!

Today’s links:

• The president today came to California to talk about the wildfires. As The New York Times put it: “At a briefing in California, Trump and Gov. Gavin Newsom disagree, as politely as possible, on climate change.” CNN was more, uh, blunt: “Trump baselessly questions climate science during California wildfire briefing.” Key takeaway: The leader of the free world said the fires aren’t the fault of climate change, but of poor forest management by the states. Even though the feds own and control most of the forest land.

• Meanwhile, at least two dozen people have died as a result of California’s wildfires, according to the Los Angeles Times.

• Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were ambushed and shot in the head Saturday night—and amazingly, both are expected to survive. Thank goodness. The Los Angeles Times looks at the aftermath.

• Following the shooting, L.A. sheriff’s deputies shoved, arrested and then detained journalist Josie Huang, of NPR station KPCC, and charged her with obstructing justice. Per The Washington Post: “Police claimed Huang, who also reports for LAist, didn’t have credentials and ignored demands to leave the area. But those claims are contradicted by video Huang shared on Sunday showing her quickly backing away from police when ordered to do so and repeatedly identifying herself as a journalist. Huang said she also had a press badge around her neck.”

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria laid out a likely Election Day scenario for which we all must prepare: According to polling showing who’s likely to vote in person versus by mail, it’s quite likely Donald Trump will be ahead in many states as Election Night draws to a close—but that Biden will pull ahead as mail-in ballots are counted in subsequent days. The result of all of this could be a big, constitutional-crisis mess.

• Good news: The AstraZeneca vaccine trial has resumed. It had been paused for several days after a participant suffered a serious spinal ailment. As CNBC explains: “Illnesses often occur by chance in large trials but are investigated out of an abundance of caution.”

Here’s this week’s District 4 report of COVID-19 stats from the county. (District 4 includes the Coachella Valley and points eastward.) Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, but all the bad numbers continue to decline, which is good, but the weekly positivity rate (12.6 percent) remains too high.

• Yet more good news: The county has opened its business-assistance grants to yet another group of small businesses. During the first two rounds of grants, businesses that received PPP funding were ineligible—but during this third round, businesses that received $75,000 or less in PPP funds may apply. Get the details here.

• Could face masks possibly be helping with COVID-19 immunity? It’s possible, but it has not been proven. From The Telegraph: “The commentary, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, advances the unproven but promising theory that universal face mask wearing might be helping to reduce the severity of the virus and ensuring that a greater proportion of new infections are asymptomatic. If this hypothesis is borne out, the academics argue, then universal mask-wearing could become a form of variolation (inoculation) that would generate immunity and ‘thereby slow the spread of the virus in the United States and elsewhere’ as the world awaits a vaccine.”

• One of the biggest claims from people who try to minimize the health havoc from COVID-19 is that it isn’t killing young people. However, it is giving some of them heart issues. According to MedPage Today: “Of 26 competitive athletes at Ohio State University scanned with cardiac MRI (CMR) after asymptomatic or mild cases of COVID-19, four (15 percent) had findings suggestive of myocarditis. Two of these had pericardial effusion; two had shortness of breath, while the others had no symptoms of myocarditis.”

• Given what happened just down the road in Yucaipa, you completely understand why I felt the need to share with you this story, from The Conversation, with the headlineWhy gender reveals have spiraled out of control.”

There may be life on Venus. We know this, because scientists have detected phosphine molecules in the otherwise-nasty atmosphere. CBS News explains.

• Because of, well, 2020, it turns out a lot more of us our grinding our teeth. The Washington Post explains why, as if you didn’t know why already.

• Also from The Washington Post comes this comprehensive COVID-19 etiquette guide. It is surprisingly helpful, even answering the question: “How can I get off one of these never-ending (Zoom) calls?”

• And finally, because, well, again 2020, killer whales are all of a sudden “ramming and harassing sailboats traveling along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts,” and nobody knows why. According to Insider: “In one instance, a crew member on a 46-foot delivery boat described being surrounded by nine orcas off Cape Trafalgar in Spain. The crew member, Victoria Morris, said the whales, which can weigh up to 6 tons, rammed the boat continually for one hour, causing it to spin 180 degrees and the engine to shut down.” Yikes!

That’s enough for the day. If you like what the Independent does, please consider sending us a few bucks to support us. The Daily Digest will return on Wednesday. Thanks, as always, for reading.

There’s a lot of news on this Sept. 11, so let’s get right to it:

• The West Coast is on fire. The New York Times has started a live-updates page regarding the horrific blazes, the deadliest of which is near Portland, Ore., where dozens of people are either dead or missing, and half a million people face possible evacuation orders. Key quote: “‘We are preparing for a mass fatality incident based on what we know and the numbers of structures that have been lost,’ said Andrew Phelps, director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.”

• Our friends at Willamette Week, the Pulitzer-winning alternative newsweekly in Portland, are also doing fantastic coverage of the fires up there. Check it out.

• In Northern California, at least 10 are dead, with 16 reported missing, due to the North Complex fire in Butte County. According to the Los Angeles Times: “The collective scale of the infernos that have scarred the state over the last month is staggering: at least 20 fatalities, tens of thousands of structures destroyed and more than 3.1 million acres burned—the most recorded in a single year.”

• Of course, no tragedy these days can take place without conspiracy theories and misinformation popping up. The New York Times, via SFGate, looked at the insane and baseless claims, making their way around social media, that some of the West Coast wildfires were started by Antifa. Key quote: “Several law enforcement agencies in Oregon said they had been flooded with inquiries about rumors that activists were responsible. On Thursday, several journalists reporting on fires near the city of Molalla, Oregon, said they had been confronted by a group of armed people who were worried about unverified reports of arsonists in the area.”

• All the fires have created poor air quality throughout much of the west—and in Los Angeles, the smoky air prompted the county to shut down COVID-19 testing sites. Yikes.

• Related to the fires, here’s a speck of good news: Gov. Gavin Newsom today signed a bill that will make it easier for former inmates who served as volunteer firefighters to become badly needed professional firefighters. “For decades, thousands of inmate firefighters have battled wildfires across the state, working alongside professional firefighters in the scorching heat and smoke,” reports NBC News. “Yet the men and women prisoners who throw themselves in danger to help save lives and property often find it impossible to put their firefighting skills to use after their release, even in a state desperate for such labor.

• Related to COVID-19 testing: Riverside County is asking people, whether they’re symptomatic or not, to go get tested for COVID-19. In recent weeks, the number of county residents getting tested has fallen—to the point that it’s messing up the county’s hopes of moving into the next reopening tier. According to a news release: “Riverside County reached the positivity rate that will allow it to move to the red tier (7.8 percent), but the case rate remains higher than the state’s requirement. This week, the state began adjusting the case rate higher for counties that are not meeting the state’s daily average testing volume, which brought Riverside County’s case rate from 7.4 to 8.6. While Riverside County has the volume to test 4,000 people a day, only half that number have been getting tested at county and state testing sites in recent weeks.”

The Associated Press, via SFGate, reports that the testing backlog that was a huge problem in the state a month ago is gone, as the state increases testing capacity and fewer people get tested. “California's typical turnaround time for coronavirus tests has dropped to less than two days, state health officials said Thursday, a mark that allows for effective isolation and quarantine of those who are infected to limit the spread. Test results now are available from laboratories within 1.3 days on average, down from the five- to seven business days that officials commonly reported last month.”

• Regular readers know the Daily Digest rule about studies—they usually need to be taken with a massive grain of figurative salt. Well, such is the case with a new CDC study, which led to this alarming CNN headline: “Adults with Covid-19 about 'twice as likely' to say they have dined at a restaurant, CDC study suggests.” However, the study, of 314 people who were tested in July at 11 facilities around the country, has a massive flaw or two: “The study comes with some limitations, including … the question assessing dining at a restaurant did not distinguish between indoor versus outdoor dining.” That seems like a big distinction, no?!

• Well here’s something weird: Some researchers think the coronavirus may have been spreading in Los Angeles in December—before China even announced the outbreak in Wuhan. According to the Los Angeles Times: “The researchers didn’t conduct any diagnostic tests, so they can’t say with certainty when doctors first encountered anyone infected with the virus that came to be known as SARS-CoV-2. But if the coronavirus had indeed been spreading under the radar since around Christmas, the pattern of patient visits to UCLA facilities would have looked a lot like what actually happened, they wrote in a study published Thursday in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.”

• Related: A group of engineering professors, writing for The Conversation, take a look at the 6-foot coronavirus rule—and the limitations it has. They say to think about COVID-19 the way you’d think of cigarette smoke at a bar: “There is no safe distance in a poorly ventilated room, unfortunately. Good ventilation and filtration strategies that bring in fresh air are critical to reduce aerosol concentration levels, just as opening windows can clear out a smoke-filled room.”

• The New York Daily News reported today—on the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks—this: “The Trump administration has secretly siphoned nearly $4 million away from a program that tracks and treats FDNY firefighters and medics suffering from 9/11 related illnesses.” Key quote: “Here we have sick World Trade Center-exposed firefighters and EMS workers, at a time when the city is having difficult financial circumstances due to COVID-19, and we’re not getting the money we need to be able to treat these heroes,” said (Dr. David) Prezant, the FDNY’s Chief Medical Officer. “And for years, they wouldn’t even tell us—we never ever received a letter telling us this.

• It’s come to this: The Washington Post has started tracking the number of teachers who have died of COVID-19 this fall across the country. So far, the tally is six.

• Health Net and Carol’s Kitchen are offering a free flu-shot clinic, open to all Riverside County residents, on Monday, Sept. 14, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the James A. Venable Community Center, at 50390 Carmen Ave., up in Cabazon. If interested, get there early, as the supply of shots is limited.

The city of Palm Springs really wants you to participate in the 2020 Census! From the city: “On Wednesday, Sept. 16 the five members of the City Council will kick off a friendly competition to see whose district can get the highest Census response rate by hosting drive-by caravans throughout their respective districts to urge residents to respond. The caravans will kick off at 5:30 p.m. from the parking lot of the Palm Springs Public Library, 300 S. Sunrise Way, with several representatives from city departments, business, nonprofit and neighborhood organizations on hand.” Get details on that and more here. (Full disclosure: The city has paid for Census-outreach advertising at CVIndependent.com and in the Daily Digest; however, this item is not related to that purchase.)

The much-ballyhooed Virgin Hotel will not be built in Palm Springs after all. Per KESQ: “(Developer) Grit and Virgin also agreed to use the hotel site to instead build a 62-unit condominium complex instead of a hotel.” Hmm.

• I took this week off from the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast, but Shann, John, Brad and Dr. Laura were all there, as were The Standard’s Nino Eilets, event-producer Daniel Vaillancourt, and the fabulous Debra Ann Mumm, the founder of the Create Center for the Arts!

• And finally, after all of that, you may need a drink. Our beer writer, Brett Newton, thinks perhaps you should consider mead for that drink … even though mead isn’t a beer. Check out what he has to say.

Have a great weekend, everyone. If you haven’t yet voted in the first round of the Independent’s Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll, please do so by clicking here—voting closes on Monday! And you appreciate this Daily Digest and the other local journalism produced by the Independent, please consider financially helping out by clicking here and becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Be safe; the Daily Digest will return on Monday.

La Bonita’s Mexican Restaurant did a very stupid thing today—and I couldn’t be any sadder about it.

The owner of the small Palm Canyon Drive restaurant announced yesterday that, as a protest, La Bonita’s would open today for indoor dining, with masks and social distancing. Of course, indoor restaurant dining is not allowed; it will be, at limited capacity, whenever Riverside County graduates from the state’s “widespread” COVID-19 tier to the “substantial” tier. But we’re not there yet.

Walmart and other big corps can have 100’s of ppl inside but restaurants can’t? Enough is enough!!!” said the La Bonita’s social-media post.

La Bonita’s followed through with its plans—and the city promptly showed up and issued a $5,000 fine, according to The Desert Sun. Per the La Bonita’s Facebook page, the restaurant ended the protest after being “forced to comply.”

Again, this was a very stupid thing for La Bonita’s to do, and the comparison of indoor dining to shopping at Walmart is a red herring.

Now that we have that all established, I’d like to share this truly, truly sad quote from The Desert Sun story on the hubbub:

“‘I can’t survive with the current mandates,’ La Bonita's Palm Springs owner Alex Raei said, adding that he was visited by city code enforcement officers around lunch time and was informed of the fine. Raei, who spoke briefly with a Desert Sun reporter at his restaurant Wednesday, was overcome with emotion. In tears, he stopped the interview and walked into another part of his business.”

While I strongly disagree with Raei’s actions, I understand them. Trust me when I say that it sucks to have one’s business existentially threatened by this virus and the resulting restrictions. Most business owners sink blood, sweat, tears and incalculable amounts of time—not to mention retirement accounts and life savings—into their ventures, which are often culminations of lifelong dreams. Many owners also carry the burden of feeling responsible for their employees’ livelihoods.

Of course, all sorts of ignorant, un-empathetic and/or just-plain-terrible people took to social media to slam—not reasonably criticize, but slam and excoriate—Raei.

While I don’t condone it at all, I understand what Raei did. What I don’t understand is the lack of empathy so many people showed regarding Raei’s undeniably heartbreaking plight.

Before the news links: If you appreciate this Daily Digest and the other local journalism produced by the Independent, please consider financially helping out by clicking here and becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Oh, and if you haven’t yet voted in the first round of the Independent’s Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll, please do so by clicking here!

Today’s news:

• Another day, another Trump bombshell: According to The Washington Post, Donald Trump privately told Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward in February that COVID-19 would have dire effects on the United States—while publicly claiming the disease was no worse than the flu. And then there’s this: “Trump admitted to Woodward on March 19 that he deliberately minimized the danger. ‘I wanted to always play it down,’ the president said. ‘I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.’” That and more horrifying revelations—which are on tape!—will be revealed in Rage, a new book by Woodward.

• These revelations lead to a big, honking question about Woodward: Why in the world did he keep quiet about these TAPED TERRIBLE THINGS said by the president for months and months—until they came out in this book? According to The Associated Press: “On Twitter and elsewhere online, commentators accused Woodward of valuing book sales over public health. ‘Nearly 200,000 Americans have died because neither Donald Trump nor Bob Woodward wanted to risk anything substantial to keep the country informed,’ wrote Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce.”

Clinical trials for one of the most promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates were halted after one of the participants developed—eek!—a spinal cord injury. It’s as of yet unknown whether the injury had to do with the vaccine. According to NBC News: “‘Our standard review process was triggered and we voluntarily paused vaccination to allow review of safety data by an independent committee,’ AstraZeneca, which is developing the vaccine in partnership with the U.K.'s University of Oxford, said in a statement. ‘This is a routine action which has to happen whenever there is a potentially unexplained illness in one of the trials, while it is investigated, ensuring we maintain the integrity of the trials.’”

• Mother Jones reported that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally last month may have led to more than 250,000 coronavirus cases worldwide. Key quote: “According to a new study, which tracked anonymized cellphone data from the rally, over 250,000 coronavirus cases have now been tied to the 10-day event, one of the largest to be held since the start of the pandemic. It drew motorcycle enthusiasts from around the country, many of whom were seen without face coverings inside crowded bars, restaurants, and other indoor establishments. The explosion in cases, the study from the Germany-based IZA Institute of Labor Economics finds, is expected to reach $12 billion in public health costs.” Yeesh.

• In other mind-blowing national news, there’s this lede from The Washington Post: “A senior Department of Homeland Security official alleges that he was told to stop providing intelligence reports on the threat of Russian interference in the 2020 election, in part because it ‘made the President look bad,’ an instruction he believed would jeopardize national security.”

• And then there’s this: “The Justice Department on Tuesday intervened in the defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says President Trump raped her years ago, moving the matter to federal court and signaling it wants to make the U.S. government—rather than Trump himself—the defendant in the case.” Just … wow.

• Now let’s move to some state-level idiocy, succinctly explained by this SFGate headline on a story originally reported by The Washington Post: “California's GOP Senate leader was under quarantine. She spoke with no mask at a huge prayer event anyway.”

• We don’t link to a lot of crime stories, as they tend to get a ton of coverage elsewhere, but this story seems to be flying under the radar, showing just how depressingly desensitized we’ve come to mass murders: Seven people were killed on Monday at an illegal marijuana-growing operation in Aguanga, which is an hour’s drive or so southwest of the Coachella Valley. The Riverside Press-Enterprise has the details on the murders and how they’ve completely rocked the small community.

• Another thing the damned virus may take away this year: Halloween trick-or-treating. Los Angeles County public-health officials yesterday said trick-or-treating would be banned there, before slightly changing their tune today to say it was “not recommended.”

• Meanwhile, in horrifying local news, a new UC Riverside study comes to this conclusion: “Climate change will decimate Palm Springs, Coachella Valley tourism.” Sigh.

• From the Independent: Kevin Fitzgerald recently spoke to all six candidates running for City Council in Palm Desert. Read what the two candidates for the new District 1 seat had to say here, and check out what the four candidates for two District 2 seats had to say here.

• Here’s this week’s Riverside County COVID-19 District 4 report. (District 4 consists of the Coachella Valley and points eastward.) Our numbers are continuing to trend in the right direction, although the mysterious weekly positivity rate remains too high—although that’s finally coming down a bit, too.

• I’d never heard of Lewy body dementia before a couple of weeks ago. However, the disease is in the news all of a sudden following the death of baseball great Tom Seaver, and the release of a new documentary about the death of Robin Williams. It turns out the disease is quite common and often misdiagnosed; a professor of neurology, writing for The Conversation, explains what the disease is.

Also from The Conversation: A professor of engineering breaks down how ultraviolet light can—and can’t—be used to make indoor spaces safer from COVID-19.

I think that’s enough for today. Be safe. Wear a mask. Be empathetic. The Daily Digest will return Friday—and, as always, thanks for reading.

Now that Labor Day Weekend is in the figurative rearview mirror, a lot of people are starting to look toward the holidays—and with that, people will come to the realization that, as with everything else since February, things will be quite different this year.

My husband I have already started talking about our holiday plans. Our family gatherings are pretty small; most of our closest relatives have passed away, and the ones who are left are scattered across the country—except for my mom, and Garrett’s dad and stepmom, all of whom live in Reno. In recent years, we’ve spent Christmas with the three of them, either here or in Reno.

We’ve decided that we’ll likely do the same this year. We’ll probably all get COVID-19 tests before we get together to minimize the risk. There are only five of us, so it seems doable, if still perhaps a little scary.

Last year, the parents visited us in Palm Springs, and we all went to a large, chosen-family dinner on Christmas day at a friend’s house. There were 30 or so people there, and it was absolutely amazing. Such large family gatherings would be incredibly irresponsible this year—at least as things stand now.

Now, it is possible that there could be some sort of advancement between now and then; Christmas is still 3 1/2 months away, after all, and the arrival of inexpensive, speedy, no-lab-needed COVID-19 tests could make larger gatherings more feasible. Maybe.

Then again, there’s also talk of a fall-and-winter combination COVID and influenza surge.

Damn it, 2020.

Before we get to today’s news, two pleas. First: If you have the means, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep producing quality local journalism; click here to do so. Second: If you haven’t yet voted in the first round of the Independent’s Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll, please do so by clicking here. Thanks!

Today’s news:

• You’ve probably heard this already, but just in case you haven’t, brace yourself for epic stupidity: The El Dorado Fire, which has burned 7,000 acres so far near Yucaipa and is responsible for the choking smoke in the valley today, was started by morons using a pyrotechnic device at a gender-reveal party.

• Related: Due to the dry, convection-oven-like conditions ’round these parts, the U.S. Forest Service is closing access to Southern California’s national forests, because you never know when cretins may show up, even though it’s 110 degrees and as dry as a popcorn fart, TO SET OFF INCENDIARY DEVICES TO ANNOUNCE THE GENITALIA OF A YET-TO-BE-BORN CHILD. Arrrgh!

• OK, it’s time for a drink! I’ve been enjoying the Boulevardier recently. Unfamiliar? It’s like a Negroni, but with whiskey instead of gin. Here’s a recipe. They’re quite lovely, even if the trademark bitterness from the Campari takes some getting used to. From the Independent archives: Cocktail scribe Kevin Carlow suggests adding walnut to things to make the drink even more festive—far more festive and infinitely less dangerous than a fire-tinged gender-reveal party!

• OK, whew. Now that we’ve calmed down a bit, let’s get back to the fire-related news: More than 2 million acres have burned this year so far in Californiaand that’s a new record.

• Related: The Los Angeles Times looks at the massive toll the August Dome Fire took on the Joshua tree forest. Key quote: “Preserve botanist Drew Kaiser estimated that about a quarter of the sprawling Cima Dome Joshua tree forest—which extends beyond the preserve boundaries north of Interstate 15—was destroyed. But that quarter is a place that some desert lovers call one of their favorite spots on the planet.

The Washington Post over the weekend broke this story: “Louis DeJoy’s prolific campaign fundraising, which helped position him as a top Republican power broker in North Carolina and ultimately as head of the U.S. Postal Service, was bolstered for more than a decade by a practice that left many employees feeling pressured to make political contributions to GOP candidates—money DeJoy later reimbursed through bonuses, former employees say.” That, of course, is quite illegal.

• Some sort-of good news: Some Californians on unemployment will soon be seeing an extra $900 show up, following President Trump’s executive order.

• Here’s some not-so-good and certainly more bonkers news related to Trump: In response to a tweet claiming California has implemented the use of the 1619 Project in schools (which hasn’t happened), the president threatened to withhold funding from schools that do so. What’s the 1619 Project? It “teaches American history beginning with the arrival of slaves to Virginia in the year 1619 and focuses on the contributions of Black Americans.” Sigh.

• Back to some good news: The Wall Street Journal looks at the fantastic success of an initiative to recruit poll workers, thanks to large companies giving employees paid time off to volunteer. Key quote: “Power the Polls, an initiative to recruit low-risk poll workers to staff in-person voting locations on Election Day and during early voting in October, has joined with more than 70 companies, including Starbucks Corp. and Patagonia, to connect people who want to volunteer during the election with counties that offer training. Last week the Civic Alliance, the group behind the campaign, said it surpassed its goal of recruiting 250,000 volunteer poll workers through its corporate partnerships and now has more than 350,000 people signed on to help with the election.”

A federal judge will hear arguments regarding the Trump administration’s plans to end U.S. Census work early. Key quote, from the San Francisco Chronicle: “(U.S. District Judge Lucy) Koh will hear arguments Sept. 17 on requests by the plaintiffs for an injunction that would reverse the one-month speedup. They sought an immediate restraining order after the Justice Department told Koh in a court filing that the Census Bureau ‘has already begun taking steps to conclude field operations,’ which ‘are scheduled to be wound down throughout September by geographic regions based on response rates within those regions.’”

• OK, I am just going to leave this New York Times headline right here, shake my head and walk away: “Trump Emerges as Inspiration for Germany’s Far Right: Among German conspiracy theorists, ultranationalists and neo-Nazis, the American president is surfacing as a rallying cry, or even as a potential ‘liberator.’

• While movie theaters aren’t yet open here, they’re open in about two-thirds of the country—and this weekend, Tenet became the first major release since … well, you know, to open only in theaters. The New York Times looks at how the film did at the box office—and what that means for other upcoming releases.

• Finally, as Labor Day 2020 comes to an end: A professor, writing for The Conversation, looks at the philosophy of Simone Weil, who helped change the way people look at work in the early 20th century. Key quote: “Work must be seen in its larger context, for if it isn’t, laborers may soon feel like cogs in a machine, winding a nut onto a bolt or moving papers from an inbox to an outbox. To do work well, people need to understand the context of work and how it makes a difference in the lives of others.

Be safe. Be kind. Wear a mask around others. Wash your hands. Thanks for reading; the Daily Digest will be back Wednesday.

Hey, everyone. Let’s start off on a happy note from our friends at Eisenhower Health, posted earlier today on Facebook, and slightly edited to remove hashtags and whatnot: 

As of today, there are 12 COVID 19 patients in our hospital. The same number we had at the start of Memorial Day 2020.

At that time, California moved to an accelerated stage 2 opening—lifting mask requirements and allowing indoor dining, etc.

Within just three weeks, the number of our COVID-19 hospitalizations more than tripled. … Less than two months later, we reached a peak of nearly 90 COVID-19 patients hospitalized and a nearly full ICU.

So, please, for your health and the health of your loved ones … be safe this Labor Day Weekend.

Folks, we’re really making progress with this terrible disease—to repeat, there are 12 people hospitalized at EMC, where there were nearly 90 not long ago. That’s encouraging!

However, as the Eisenhower post mentions, those numbers spiked, in part, because people let their guard down on Memorial Day Weekend. People letting their guard down on Fourth of July made the spike even worse (spikier?).

So … this weekend, let’s not let our guard down.

Please, enjoy yourselves. But wear a mask. Wash your hands a lot. Keep gatherings outside (yes, I know it’s gonna be hot AF, but the coronavirus doesn’t care) and socially distanced and small.

OK? OK! Thank you.

And now, the news:

• The big news story of the week—and something that has the potential to become one of the biggest news stories of the year, depending on how things play out—was published yesterday by The Atlantic. The piece, by Jeffrey Goldberg, and based on interviews with numerous undisclosed sources, revealed that President Trump has repeatedly said horrible things about members of the U.S. military, calling them “suckers” and “losers.” The lead anecdote involves him cancelling a planned visit to honor American war dead at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 because the cemetery was “filled with losers.” And that’s just the beginning.

• While Trump and many allies have issued full-throated denials, numerous news sources have confirmed parts of The Atlantic piece, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, and even, sort of, Fox News.

• Related-ish: USA Today broke the news today that Stars and Stripes, the military’s independent newspaper since the Civil War, was being shut down by Trump’s Department of Defense by end of the month. After a more-than-justified outcry, Trump tweeted this afternoon that the newspaper would continue to be funded. We’ve said it before, and we will say it again: Nothing makes sense anymore.

One of the big local-news items of the last couple days: Southwest Airlines has announced it intends to begin flying in and out of Palm Springs later this year.

• Dammit, September’s supposed to bring cooler temperatures! But that’s not happening yet—and in fact, Gov. Newsom has declared a state of emergency regarding the extreme heat California faces over the weekend. Everyone is being asked to conserve energy, and rolling blackouts are possible.

• MedPage Today looks at the ongoing discussions over which groups will get first access to a COVID-19 vaccine if/when it’s ready. Key quote: “In addition to race/ethnicity, experts advocated for priority vaccine access for a larger population of older people, other healthcare workers beyond the medical setting, such as pharmacists and dentists, and public service workers.

• Related: A group of scientists, writing for The Conversation, say they disagree with a lot of other experts in that they believe younger people should move toward the front of the vaccination line, only after essential workers. Why? Because they’re “superspreaders.”

• Also related: The co-chief of the Operation Warp Speed vaccine effort said yesterday that it was “possible but very unlikely” a vaccine would be ready to go before the election. Earlier this week, the CDC had told health officials nationwide to be ready to distribute a vaccine as early as Nov. 1, i.e. just before Election Day—raising concerns that such a move could be politically motivated. Key quote, from Moncef Slaoui: “I think it’s extremely unlikely but not impossible, and therefore it’s the right thing to do to be prepared, in case.

• As noted in this space, the CDC is banning some evictions through the end of the year, on public-health grounds. A professor from the University of Memphis explains via The Conversation what this will mean for tenants and landlords.

• This is horrifying: More than 410,000 Americans will have died from COVID-19 by the end of the year, if a new forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is correct. That’s more than double the current tally—and the numbers could be even worse if too many restrictions are eased. CNBC explains.

• Related: A Los Angeles Times investigation found that a lot more people are dying at home than normal—and COVID-19 is to blame, even if those deaths aren’t often attributed to the coronavirus.

• Our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent, explain how much extra money and effort California’s school districts are needing to spend to get ready for the return of students to in-person learning. Key quote, from San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten: “When the funding’s not there, we will have to stop (reopening). When you reopen and you can’t put the appropriate nursing and counseling and distancing in place, and physical changes that need to happen, you slow it down, or you don’t do it as safely.”

• Prisons are a deadly place when it comes to the coronavirus. According to the San Francisco Chronicle: “The death rate nationwide from COVID-19 is higher inside prison walls than outside and more than twice as high in California prisons, according to a study released Wednesday. The study by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, a nonprofit with bipartisan leadership, comes while inmate advocates are calling for more releases from overcrowded prisons, where cleaning supplies and protective equipment are sometimes limited, and social distancing is nearly impossible.”

Here’s a CNBC headline: “As small U.S. farms face crisis, Trump’s trade aid flowed to corporations.” Sigh … 

• I was again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week, joining hosts Shann Carr, John Taylor and Brad Fuhr to discuss the news of the week—including, alas, Nancy Pelosi’s infamous salon visit. Check it out.

Have an amazing Labor Day Weekend, all! Please vote in our Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll, if you haven’t already—and if you have voted, THANK YOU! Also, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, because it costs a lot to do this Daily Digest and the other journalism the Independent produces, and makes available free to all. Because the news never stops, the Daily Digest will be back on Monday.

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