CVIndependent

Fri07102020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

I have a slight bone to pick with Dr. Cameron Kaiser.

I say “slight,” because overall, the public health officer for Riverside County has done a fantastic job of handling what is, most certainly, an unprecedented health crisis. He was quick to declare a public health emergency. He’s been ahead of the figurative game on many moves—like a mandate to wear masks when leaving home. And the county health system has been good about updating the COVID-19 case numbers on a daily basis, and even including city-by-city breakdowns—something that’s not being done in many places.

So, to repeat: He’s doing a fantastic job overall—but when it comes to keeping the public informed, in some ways, he and his staff could be doing better.

On April 7, his office released some information that was well, scary as hell: a projection that the county, at current capacity, would fill up all 131 ICI beds by April 14; we’d run out of hospital beds by April 23; and we’d run out of ventilators by April 26.

The county also projected that by early May, the county would need 3,000 ICU beds. Again, the county’s current capacity, 131.

Excuse my language … but holy shit! The graphic made it clear that the projections would change based on reported cases, bed availability and resources, but still, there’s a huge difference between 131 and 3,000.

As April 14 has come closer—that’s four days from now, AKA TUESDAY—I’ve been watching for an update to the information. But … there has been no update. Yes, the main counts have been updated daily, but not the pants-wetting ICU-bed projections. Given that we are hearing better things on both a Coachella Valley-specific level and a statewide level, I’d really like an update.

A footnote: It’s also worth noting that one of our writers reached out about a week ago to Dr. Kaiser’s office for an interview. Our writer received a two-sentence response: “I'm sorry. Dr. Kaiser is not available.”

I have no doubt that Dr. Kaiser is bonkers-busy right now. I can’t imagine how busy he is right now. I understand.

But there aren’t that many functional news operations these days in Riverside County—sad, but true—and all we need is 15 minutes, tops. So on Monday, I am going to personally call Dr. Cameron’s office and ask for an interview. I’ll let you know how that goes.

And hey, if Dr. Cameron or someone on his staff is reading this: Can we get an update on those ICU beds, please?

Today’s links:

• I have mixed feelings about this: According to The Verge: “Apple and Google announced a system for tracking the spread of the new coronavirus, allowing users to share data through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmissions and approved apps from health organizations.” At least there are fewer privacy concerns with this method than the methods used in other countries’ tracking apps.

• The Riverside County mobile app has been updated to allow people to report people and businesses who are not complying with health orders.

• Important, if you didn’t file taxes for 2018 or 2019, and/or you don’t receive various federal benefits: The IRS has set up a website for you to sign up to get your stimulus payments.

• One of the biggest unknowns in this pandemic: How many people may have had COVID-19, but never knew it? A test in Los Angeles County of 1,000 people will help us start to figure out how much the coronavirus has really spread.

• Remember the jackass biotech exec who was sent to prison after jacking up the costs of HIV/AIDS medications? Martin Shkreli wants to be furloughed from prison to help with the fight against COVID-19.

• Even though nursing homes have been the sites of some of the worst coronavirus outbreaks, the federal government isn’t doing a great job of tracking them. So NBC News did their best to fill that gap.

• The Greater Coachella Valley Chamber Commerce is having a call-in legislative and COVID-19 update with Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia at 11 a.m., Wednesday, April 15. Details here.

• KESQ News Channel 3 talked to Coyote StageWorks founder Chuck Yates about the financial havoc the pandemic is causing for local arts organizations. You can read about the week when local theater came to a halt in this Independent piece.

Confused about face coverings, and good practices when it comes to using them? Eisenhower Health has some answers.

• I found this piece fascinating: You know which groups are doing a fine job at combating the spread of the coronavirus around the world? Some militant and criminal gangs!

• The pandemic has ripped a hole in the budgets of many LGBT pride organizations. They’ve banded together to create a Pride Operational Support Fund—and they need donations.

• It’s undeniable: Some people have been hit harder than others by the pandemic and the resulting health and financial crises. But, as this Wall Street Journal piece eloquently points out, this has been hard on almost all of us, in some way.

• The Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center have joined other art-house theaters in offering a curated selection of indie films that you can purchase tickets for to watch at home! Not only can you watch great films; you can support the Palm Springs Cultural Center while doing so!

• Yesterday, we talked about the new Palm Springs Zoom backgrounds being offered by the local tourism bureau. Well, if those aren’t your cup of tea, Nickelodeon is offering some backgrounds that are a little more, well, cartoony.

• You know things are tough when the Hilton corporation, in a lovely gesture to help us feel better (if perhaps a bit fatter), releases what was heretofore a fiercely kept secret: The recipe for the famous DoubleTree chocolate-chip cookies.

• Wiping down food containers after going to the grocery store? Good idea. Washing your fruits and vegetables with soap? Not so much.

• Stressed? Well, calm down by getting together, for free, with the immortal Bob Ross, and paint some happy trees.

• By the way, if you wanted to submit art for our Coloring Book project, but haven’t gotten around to it yet, good news: A couple of artists asked us for more time, so we have extended the deadline to Tuesday, April 14. Get all the specs and details here.

That’s all for the traditional work week! Wash your hands. If you have a virtual event—a Facebook live concert, or a drag show, or a story time, or whatever—add it to our online virtual event calendar. Then go wash your hands again. Then if you value local, independent journalism, and are fortunate enough to have the means to do so, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep what we’re doing, and making it free to all—at a time when most of our advertisers have had to go on hiatus. Now make sure you’ve properly washed your mask, and make sure you wear it out in public. Tomorrow’s my sanity day off; we’ll return Sunday.

I’ll never forget the moment I turned off the Coachella Valley Independent’s online events calendar.

It was on March 17. A Tuesday. I’d taken a break from editing copy to apply for a grant application, and I went to our website to get a link I needed for the application. My eye went immediately to the calendar module.

All of the events listed there had had been cancelled.

Palm Springs had just followed San Francisco’s lead in issuing a shelter-in-place order; it was expected the state would soon follow suit. That’s when it truly sunk in for me that no in-person events—plays, concerts, library story times, etc.—would be happening in my beloved Coachella Valley anytime soon.

I’ve been in the newspaper biz for about 2 1/2 decades. I had my first byline in an alternative newspaper, my hometown Reno News & Review, in 1996. For much of my time in newspapers, our backbone has been the events calendar—something to which we’d dedicate many hours of time, and many pages of print, because people depended on our listings to plan their social lives.

Of course, Google, social media and other online options changed that. The calendar, as part of a newspaper, became less and less important—so much so that when we launched the Independent in late 2012, we didn’t even have a calendar at first, mostly because we didn’t have the resources we needed to do one properly.

However, I am an old-school newspaper soul, and I must admit the Independent never felt complete to me without an events calendar. That’s why several years in, I decided to sign up with the CitySpark events-calendar platform—giving the Independent a good online events calendar.

Then came that Tuesday, and the realization of the magnitude of what we were all facing. I’ll never forget the sickening weirdness I felt when I turned off the calendar—and even removed the calendar from the main menu.

Well, yesterday, I turned the Coachella Valley Independent’s events calendar back on, after a 22-day hiatus. This was not as momentous of an occasion as it was to turn it off; after all, we’re still weeks and probably months way from the return of in-person events. However, it did feel good, because the fact that I was able to turn it back on shows we’re adjusting to this new, temporary reality.

CitySpark changed the calendar software so it defaults to what are now called “virtual events,” aka online events—plays, concerts, library story times, etc. Right now, the only things listed are events originating from elsewhere—in part, because anyone can attend online events from anywhere, and in part, because our part of the calendar was shut off for three weeks.

So, Coachella Valley: If you have a “virtual event” taking place, please add it to the calendar. It can be a music show or a class or a support group or an ongoing art show or anything. It’s free and easy; just go to our calendar, and click on “Add Event.” I hope that, with your help, we can turn the calendar into an excellent resource for the local virtual events we’re doing via Facebook, Zoom, Twitter, etc.

Thank you for your help. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: We’re all in this together.

Today’s links:

• The latest installment in the Independent’s Pandemic Stories series doesn’t have directly to do with the virus; instead, it’s a fantastic, if bittersweet, story brought to us by Valerie-Jean Hume, about her husband, Ted—the only person she can do an in-person interview with right now. Here’s the tale of how the clarinet saved Ted Pethes’ life.

• I was again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast/zoom-videocast with John Taylor, Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr. Per usual, we checked in with the incredible Dr. Laura Rush about the status of COVID-19 in the Coachella Valley, before talking to Davey Wavey and David Powell.

• Yet another bit of frustrating evidence about the haphazard, sloppy federal effort to fight the spread of COVID-19: The federal government’s support for many coronavirus testing sites will end tomorrow. While the idea was that the states would take over these sites, that is not necessarily happening.

• Yet more evidence that many government systems, in general, are terrible: Are you an old-school computer programmer who knows COBOL? If so, states including New Jersey and Kansas need your help, because their mainframes still run on this language that was widely used in the ’60s through the’80s, and they are being overwhelmed by things like a whole lot of unemployment claims.

• The Los Angeles Times offers this good-news, bad-news update on California unemployment benefits. Bad news: It’s still hard to get through and apply due to the depressingly large number of people applying. Good news: Extra money is coming.

• Here’s an update from The New York Times on the efforts Zoom is making to fix security and privacy issues on its now-ubiquitous teleconferencing software.

• Speaking of Zoom: Even though Zoom meeting backgrounds are generally terrible things that don’t work very well, the Palm Springs tourism folks have created some locally themed Zoom backgrounds for your consideration.

• A sliver of hope: Dr. Fauci says summer vacations remain a possibility for Americans. Maybe.

• Like so many other awful things, COVID-19 is disproportionately harming Black and poor communities. The Conversation looks at the systemic problems that are making this happen.

• If you missed the city of Palm Springs’ COVID-19 webinar that took place earlier today, never fear; here’s the video of it on YouTube. (Pro tip: It doesn’t start, for some reason, until around the 9-minute mark.)

• The Greater Palm Springs Tourism Foundation has launched a fund to help families of people who work in tourism or hospitality. To contribute or to ask for help, head here.

• It’s good this is happening, but depressing that it needs to happen: A coalition of Asian-American and Pacific Islander groups have created an online portal where people can report COVID-19-related racist incidents.

Will Congress come to the aid of struggling newspapers and other local media? Some Democratic senators hope so.

• Eater offers an update on the big-name push to get the federal government to force (or help) insurance companies pay restaurants who have business-interruption insurance.

Saturday Night Live will be back on, duh, Saturday, with all the cast members working remotely. How in the heck will that work? We’ll just have to watch and see.

• Are you familiar with comedian Laura Clery’s “Help Helen Smash” videos? If not, you should know they’re crass and juvenile and definitely not safe for work, as her character, a square-faced Helen, tries to pick up a dude named Steven (Clery’s real-life husband). Well, Helen’s back with a coronavirus-themed series of pickup lines—and I will admit to laughing loudly.

• Healthcare workers: Please enjoy this … um … unique and certainly special tribute, presented in GIF form.

That’s plenty for today. Hey, the deadline for our special coloring book project is tomorrow; artists, get us your submissions! We’ve gotten some fantastic ones so far, but we need more! If you’re fortunate enough to have a few bucks to spare, and you value independent, quality local journalism, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Wash your hands. Wear a mask when you go out. #flattenthecurve. Back tomorrow!

I speak for the vast majority of local small-business owners when I say the last month has been pretty terrible.

(Yeah, I know I speak for the vast majority of everyone when I say that. But bear with me here.)

First, seemingly overnight, a good chunk (or, in some cases, all) of our business just evaporated. Then we went into survival mode—looking for new revenue opportunities if possible, researching grants, applying for grants, feverishly reading news on the stimulus bill and the aid it might provide, and then getting deeply confused and frustrated at the conflicting information we received after the bill passed, and then getting even MORE confused and frustrated when we started to actually apply for the PPP and/or the SBA Disaster Loan, or is it a grant, and should we apply for one, or both, and WHY IS THE BANK NOT TAKING APPLICATIONS YET, and what does “cost of goods sold” EVEN mean, and when will I hear back, and what in the holy bloody frick is happening, and I haven’t gotten any REAL work done between all the applications and Zoom meetings with well-meaning organizations, and AAAAAAAARRRGH?

Yeah. It’s been like that.

Anyway … I am proud to announce that, in our case, all of this lead to something very good: The Coachella Valley Independent is one of 400 local newsrooms around North America that has received a $5,000 grant from the Facebook Journalism Project, in partnership with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and Local Media Association, to help us continue our reporting on the coronavirus crisis. You can read the complete list of recipients here.

We’re honored to be one of the recipients of this grant—and not only is it evidence of the quality work we're doing at the Independent; it’s a testament to all of the support and feedback we have received from you, our readers. I can’t thank all of you who have reached out and offered a kind thought, or words of encouragement, or constructive criticism, in the last month or so. I also want to again thank the dozens of you who have become Supporters of the Independent in recent weeks. This grant and your support will help us continue to do what we do—honest, local, ethical journalism, available to all.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean I get to stop the survival-mode scramble. I’ll still be applying for other grants, and inquiring about the status of the Independent’s SBA Disaster Loan, and wondering if I should apply for the PPP thing, too—because the grant from Facebook, plus the reader support we’ve received (while fantastic and much-appreciated), will only make up for a small fraction of the business we’re going to lose in the months ahead.

And not only are we trying to tread water and keep doing what we’re doing here at the Independent; we want to do more. Our community needs good, local coverage more than ever, because … well, where else can people get it? The Desert Sun’s staff is going through what amounts to a 25 percent staffing decrease due to a loss in revenue, and other local media is suffering as well.

So far, none of my staffers or contributors here at the Independent have been furloughed or asked to take cuts. The goal is not to make any cuts—and, in fact, I have asked my contributors to do more pieces, for pay, if they can. (Hey, that reminds me: If you have writing and reporting skills, and want to help tell the Coachella Valley’s stories, drop me a line. The pay’s not great—but we do pay.)

Again, thank you to Facebook Journalism Project, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the Local Media Association and—most of all—you, our readers. It’s just going to take a while, so hang in there—but we’re gonna get through this, as long as we keep supporting each other.

Now, today’s links:

• The Independent’s Kevin Fitzgerald talked to the heads of three local senior centers about the challenges they’re facing while trying to provide services to the population that’s most at-risk during the pandemic. At a time when they can’t actually offer services in person. And with a sudden, unexpected loss in revenue. This isn’t always an easy read—but it’s a must-read, and it’s also, at times, an inspiring read.

• Yesterday, we painted a fairly positive picture about how we’re #flatteningthecurve locally. Therefore, I wanted to point out the numbers and projections that Riverside County issued today, which are, frankly, much more grim—starting with the projection that the county will run out of ICU beds in just six days. It’s important to note that the Coachella Valley has less than a fifth of Riverside County’s population, and what we’re hearing on the ground here is much less dire. The takeaway: Regardless, we need to keep staying at home, wearing masks when we do go out, and generally behaving like civic-minded adults.

• Oh, and we really need to stop flushing wipes! Even the ones that say they’re “flushable”! Just TP!

• This story is developing: After all but one employee didn’t show up to work, the 84 patients at Riverside’s Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center were moved to various locations, including a couple in the Coachella Valley. Just awful.

• If you were curious how national treasure Carol Burnett was handling the stay-at-home order, The Hollywood Reporter has this article for you.

• Have you been having weird dreams during this semi-quarantined existence? You’re certainly not alone.

Is it possible that COVID-19 came to California in the fall? Stanford researchers are looking into that definite possibility.

• Workers at supermarkets and other retail businesses that remain open are literally risking their lives to keep society up and running. God bless you.

• Well, the Independent made another list, of media organizations where “US journalists working across more than 1,000 local newspapers and other publications are facing cuts due to the economic hit their employers have taken on coronavirus.” Thankfully, the Independent has thus far avoided this list of newsroom layoffs, furloughs and closures.

• If you’re using beer, wine or spirits to cope with this mess … well, again, you’re not alone—and scientists worry all this extra drinking could have significant health costs down the line.

Will warm weather help calm the spread of COVID-19? We still don’t know for sure, but don’t count on it.

• Good news: For some diabetics, one drug-maker is capping the co-pay costs of insulin during the crisis.

• Journalism teachable moment: Always read past the headline. This Wall Street Journal headline is downright horrifying: “Nearly a Third of U.S. Apartment Renters Didn’t Pay April Rent.” First … these stats only take into account rents paid through April 5. Second, here’s the story’s third graph: “Only 69% of tenants paid any of their rent between April 1 and 5, compared with 81% in the first week of March and 82% in April 2019, the data show.” So … while 31 percent didn’t pay any of their rent before the April 5, that number represents a 12 percent difference from last year—which is still very revealing, but nowhere near as WTF?! as the headline implies. If I were the editor of The Wall Street Journal, the headline-writer for this piece would be in some deep shit right now.

• Former Independent contributor (and a friend) Baynard Woods writes this piece for The Washington Post about his bout with what he thinks was COVID-19. It shows how important it is to have a true quarantine plan, just in case.

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Only flush TP and … well, you know—BUT NOT ANY WIPES. If you’re an artist, you have not-quite two days left to get us your art for our very-cool coloring book projectIf you’re able, please support us so we can continue to cover the Coachella Valley—and even do more—during this unprecedented time. Now, wash your hands again. More tomorrow.

It’s been a crazy-busy day here at Independent World Headquarters in rainy downtown Palm Springs—for some very exciting reasons.

Because the day has been so busy, and because there’s so much news to get to—much, but alas, not all of it, good—I am going to keep this intro brief. And tomorrow, I’ll share the exciting news—I promise.

Today’s links:

• Regular readers know we don’t focus too much on the numbers and stats here, for two reasons: First, the numbers don’t always tell the full story; and two, you can get the numbers everywhere else. However, here are the countywide numbers. And now, the full story, courtesy of resident expert Dr. Laura Rush: “You all are doing great here in Coachella Valley so far. And we are coming up on eight days with no doubling of cases yet. No new cases in PS last 24 hours. … Keep it up; it’s working!” So, keep staying at home and wearing masks and #flatteningthecurve!

• From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: Gov. Newson has touted reliable COVID-19 antibody testing as a key to helping California get back to something resembling normal. However, that’s not as easy to accomplish as it sounds.

Eisenhower Health posted a fantastic update on Facebook yesterday, detailing all the numbers and information regarding how the hospital is faring during the COVID-19 crisis. While there are a lot of big numbers, there’s also a lot of encouraging news within.

• Excellent news: The Desert AIDS Project has started telephone and drive-up COVID-19 screening. Get the details here.

• Former Independent wine columnist (and good friend) Christine Soto has joined forces with all sorts of other amazing people to found Keep Shining Palm Springs, “a fund helping the hands that feed, imbibe and provide for us—small business in Palm Springs and beyond. Learn more about the fundraiser—which includes some really awesome apparel—here.

• The IRS is warning everyone about scammers emerging as the stimulus money starts to arrive in people’s bank accounts. Here’s what to be aware of, via the AARP.

• Speaking of shady dealings: The Conversation points out how government agencies are using the pandemic as an excuse to keep more things secret—and this is a very bad thing.

• And speaking of shady dealings and very bad things and government secrecy: The president has canned the person responsible for overseeing how the Trump administration spends the trillions of dollars in pandemic relief money.

• And speaking of … well, all that stuff above, this story from the Los Angeles Times explains how “the federal government is quietly seizing orders, leaving medical providers across the country in the dark about where the material is going and how they can get what they need to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.” Yikes!

• Your Women’s Circle, a fantastic local business group that connects lesbians to lesbian-owned businesses, has launched a hotline for local lesbians in need of assistance. Learn more here.

• The city of Palm Springs is holding a town hall webinar “for local residents impacted by COVID-19, featuring information on worker benefits and resources related to tenant rights, mortgage relief, evictions, unemployment benefits, utility relief, food and local volunteer resources,” at 9 a.m., Thursday, April 9. Register here.

• College of the Desert would like to remind you of its Partnership and Community Education program, where you can take relatively inexpensive online classes—and do some learnin’!

• Stay-at-home parents and guardians who are dealing with stressed-out kids, or who are struggling to explain what’s going on to their young ones: Check out this fantastic resource library from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Apps that anonymously track the spread of coronavirus have been used successfully in other countries—and could help us get back to normal here. But there are privacy concerns, as you may expect. NBC News explains.

• June’s Splash House, to nobody’s surprise, is cancelled. However, former Independent scribe Brian Blueskye explains in The Desert Sun that organizers are holding out hope for the two scheduled August weekends.

Lady Gaga is doing some cool things. Not only is she helping arrange a worldwide virtual music festival for April 18; she’s raised $35 million in a week for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

• We have reached the “Let’s get weird!” portion of the Daily Digest. First off, this headline from the Los Angeles Times: “How a Discovery That Brought Us Viagra Could Help Those Battling the Coronavirus.” (It’s actually a fascinating story on how nitric oxide is being used as an experimental COVID-19 treatment.)

• The hubby sent me this link with this comment: “Art Museum for Gerbils.” ‘Nuff said.

That’s it for today! Get us your submission for the Coachella Valley Independent coloring book project. If you’re able and appreciate what we do, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep doing what we do—honest, reliable local journalism. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. More tomorrow.

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

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

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

Today, not so much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now, today’s links:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I speak for all of us when I ask the question: How long is all of this going to going on?!

The only correct answer, of course, is that nobody knows. Nobody. We’ve never dealt with a worldwide crisis like this during the information age. We’ve never had so many smart, qualified people working on fixing a problem at the same time. And we’ve never before seen such rapid devastation—both in terms of health and the economy—strike the entire world, all at once.

Every day, there’s good news that offers hope—including hints that treating COVID-19 patients with plasma from people who have recovered may just help treat those who are still sick.

And every day, there’s news that’s alarming—such as today’s revelation that, good lord, tigers are getting it from humans now?!

Sigh.

Anyway … some news yesterday that has local implications regarding this question of “How damned long?” went a little under the radar. It all started with a call that President Trump had with representatives of most of the major sports leagues and operations in the country. Sources say Trump said he thought the NFL season should be able to start, with fans in stadiums, on time this year. What does on time mean? Pre-season games start in August, with the regular season starting Sept. 10.

Trump elaborated later yesterday during his daily briefing, according to ESPN: “I want fans back in the arenas. I think it’s ... whenever we’re ready. As soon as we can, obviously. And the fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out onto the golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful fresh air.”

Putting aside Trump’s, um, credibility problem (to put it mildly), I think we can all agree that we really, really want all of that, too, if it’s safe. But … will it be?

Later yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newsom was asked about Trump’s hopes that society could handle 80,000 people packed into a stadium in August or September. The first words out of his mouth were rather direct: “I'm not anticipating that happening in this state.”

Newsom then sort-of backtracked, but not really, by clarifying that decisions “will be determined by the facts, will be determined by the health experts,” and that he was focusing immediate concerns. Newsom also said he wanted California to avoid the fate of some Asian countries, which seemed to “return to normal” a bit too soon.

As for that local angle … well, our friends at Gay Desert Guide have done a fantastic job of listing the dates that the valley’s biggest events (not just the gay-themed ones) are now scheduled/rescheduled for, and … well, here’s the thing: If we are in a place by the start of September where we can have larger crowds at things, this valley could have one hell of a fall, in terms of an economic boost. Starting with the ANA Inspiration golf tourney (Sept. 10-13), and moving through Dinah Shore Weekend, Coachella’s two weekends, the Modernism Week Fall Preview, Stagecoach, the White Party and Palm Springs Pride (Nov. 6-8), we could see two fall months the likes of which the Coachella Valley has never seen.

But if Gov. Newsom’s right about September, and likely October and November … you get the point.

Even if Newsom is right, that doesn’t mean we won’t be a lot closer to “normal” by then. After all, one of the last things we’ll be able to do is let 80,000 people into a stadium together. Of course, the same goes for letting 125,000 people into the Empire Polo Club together.

To repeat one more time: We really don’t have any idea how long this is going to go on. And that may be one of the most frustrating aspects of the pandemic.

Today’s news:

• Hey, artists: Take part in our coloring book project—and earn a few bucks while doing so. The deadline is this coming Friday afternoon; get the full details here.

• The big news: Riverside County now says you can’t have any gatherings at all. And you have to wear a face mask when you go out.

• Gov. Newsom says California is making progress on its COVID-19 backlog—and he took responsibility, unlike some other leaders, for missteps.

• Hooray: Palm Springs has enacted an evictions moratorium.

• Making lemonade out of really awful lemons: All of this working from home has given the creators of The Office an idea for a new show.

• When students from different backgrounds get to a college campus, socioeconomic differences can seemingly melt away, when everyone’s living in the same dorms and eating the same food. But inequity can get magnified when all of the classes go online.

• CBS News got some advice from Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and George Takei on how to handle all of this pandemic stuff.

• A TV news station in Cleveland has introduced a helpful new feature for those of us who may be losing track of the days of the week.

• The Los Angeles Times brings us this sad but important story about the increase in calls to suicide hotlines. Sigh.

• You know times are tough when a rare address from the Queen of England is making me weepy.

That’s enough for now. If you have the means, and appreciate the free-to-all journalism the Independent does, both in print and pixels, please consider helping us to continue to do it. Thanks for reading. Oh, and wash your hands, and make the best of this coming week.

Debra Ann Mumm is one of my favorite people in the entire Coachella Valley.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Debra in a variety of ways over the years. Way back when we launched our monthly print edition in 2013, her then-store Venus Studio Art Supply sponsored our launch party, with Ryan Campbell creating a mural-sized artwork live. I served with her on the Desert Business Association board of directors. I’m also proud to call her my friend.

Today, Debra runs the CREATE Center for the Arts, a Palm Desert arts nonprofit that is doing amazing things. Despite the obvious challenges, the pandemic hasn’t stopped Debra and CREATE from doing amazing things; in fact, they’ve stepped up to fill a community need: The CREATE Center has mobilized its 3-D printing capabilities—and those of others—to make personal protective equipment for the local medical community.

Wow.

Anyway … a week or so ago, I was inspired by an idea that originated by the Chicago Reader and The Pitch newspaper in Kansas City. I called Debra and asked if she wanted to partner up to do it, and she agreed.

Ladies and gentleman: It’s time to announce the Coachella Valley Independent Coloring Book.

This is a quick turnaround project … and it’s going to be a whole lot of fun. We’re inviting local artists and designers to participate by drawing a page—locally themed, if possible--of the coloring book. The proceeds will be split between the Independent, the CREATE Center and the group of artists that participate.

Take note: The deadline for art is 1 p.m., Friday, April 10. That’s a week from today! The details can be found here. Enjoy!

And now, the news:

• Sad news: The Purple Room’s last night of takeout/curbside food and drink will be Saturday. Inspiring news: The space will be turned into two assembly lines for the CV Mask Project, which is trying to meet the need of 45,000 disposable gowns for Eisenhower Medical Center in the coming weeks. Good news: Michael Holmes and co. will continue doing their fantastic live shows via Facebook on Wednesday and Saturday. See Michael Holmes’ explanation here.

• From the Independent, via our partners at High Country News: It’s important to get outside during these trying times—but it’s important to do so ethically and responsibly.

The city of Palm Springs has told some businesses that have boarded up their windows that they need to take the boards down. This, understandably, has ticked off said business owners. Anyway, here’s the city’s explanation.

• Dammit, can’t we have ANYTHING nice right now? Turns out Zoom, the platform everyone’s using for online meetings and whatnot, is the subject of some nasty hacking—and an FBI warning.

• Some smart people from UC Riverside explain why stay-at-home orders need to last at least six weeks. Bleh.

• Depressingly related: Some countries that had made progress in fighting back COVID-19 are shutting some things down again as the virus makes a comeback.

• A group from Washington state is suing Fox News for calling the COVID-19 pandemic a hoax.

• In other lawsuit news, businesses around the country are suing local and state governments for shutting them down, because … freedom?

• So, are we going to war with Canada now, because the feds are trying to stop US companies from sending medical equipment there? (Just kidding about the war part … maybe?)

• If you don’t mind reading scientific writing, this piece from Nature Medicine explains why wearing a mask is a good idea.

• Goodness gracious, that’s a lot of depressing news. Let’s change gears to happier things, and talk about “Virtual Hugs,” thanks to the LGBT Center of the Desert and Destination PSP. It’s actually a fundraiser: Destination PSP is selling a line of “Virtual Hugs” T-shirts and caps, with the proceeds going to The Center and its vital work. Learn more here from The Center here, and buy the T-shirts here.

• Vulture.com did an amazingly wonderful thing: It asked more than 35 TV showrunners and writers what their famous characters would do in this pandemic. The results are splendid. My favorite: Veep’s Selina Meyer would have handled this crisis … brilliantly?

• The cancelled SXSW’s film festival portion will live on online, thanks to help from Amazon. 

• NASA has a wonderful resource packed with information and lessons for kids and families. It’s called NASA at Home.

• Wanna learn more about Japanese cooking? Our friends at Wabi Sabi Japan Living are offering the latest in their series of Facebook Live classes tomorrow.

• Google has developed a website with downloadable data on states and countries’ mobility trends during the pandemic, using anonymous location data.

Tomorrow’s my unplug-for-the-sake-of-sanity day, so we’ll be back Sunday. In the meantime, if you’re an artist, get us your coloring book submissions. Support our efforts to continue to do great local journalism if you can. Oh, and wash your hands.

Motoring

What’s your price for flight?

In finding mister right

You’ll be all right tonight …

Some days, you just don’t have it—and for me, today was one of those days. I had a long list of things to do, and … well, most of them didn’t happen.

On days like this during “normal” times, there are a handful of things I know I can do to get my head into a happier, more-productive frame of mind. Watching or listening to baseball, for example. A quick dip in the apartment hot tub helps. For some reason, a quick Aldi run does the trick. Yes, I am weird: Grocery shopping normally clears my head.

But … there’s no baseball. The apartment hot tub is closed, per state orders. And grocery shopping is daunting these days, and should only be done when absolutely necessary.

So, bleh.

Because many of my usual mental-reset techniques aren’t available, I’ve been seeking new ones … and I think I’ve found one: cheesy ’80s music.

Hey, don’t judge. We’re all just makin’ do here, OK?

In all seriousness: As embarrassed as I am to admit it, the ’80s on 8 channel on Sirius/XM saved my butt today, productivity-wise. The catchy sounds of songs like “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger, for some reason, help.

I know I am not the only one out there who had an off today. If you’re in the same boat … hang in there. We all have off days, even in good times … and they’re usually followed by better days, even in not-so-good times. Right?

Here are today’s links—and there is a whole lotta info here:

I was again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs Podcast today. I joined the usual hosts to talk to the amazing Dr. Laura Rush, as well as Daniel Vaillancourt—who has a daunting tale of going through the COVID-19 test process—and mask-maker Clay Sales.

• The new small-business-loan program that was passed as start of the stimulus package? Well, it’s a mess—so much so that some banks are refusing to start accepting applications until things get clarified.

• First there was a problem with an accessibility of COVID-19 tests (and there is still a big problem). Now there are increasing concerns about their accuracy, according to The Wall Street Journal.

• Now after that shitty news, take solace in the fact that serious progress is being made in developing a vaccine—faster than has ever been done before.

• The New York Times, using cellphone location data, has made a fascinating map showing which parts of the country have been staying home, and which parts have not.

• Eisenhower Health brings us this short hand-washing demonstration.

• Due to the coronavirus and resulting blood shortages, the FDA has made its restrictions on gay men donating blood slightly less stupid.

• The Conversation explains in detail how plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 may help treat people suffering from it.

• The Los Angeles Times tells the story of another group of people who are risking their safety by working through the pandemic: farmworkers.

• Cactus Hugs’ Casey Dolan speaks for all of us when he kindly requests that other people stay the hell away.

• Hey, fellow Dodgers fans: You can work out virtually with head trainer Brandon McDaniel twice a week

• A whole bunch of journalism professors have written to Rupert Murdoch, asking him to make his Fox News Channel stop spreading coronavirus misinformation.

• Time magazine looked at newspaper ads from the last pandemic, and they prove that the more things change, the more things stay the same.

• Bill Gates offers up his thoughts on what we can do to make up for lost time in quashing this pandemic.

• If you didn’t set up direct deposit with the feds for your tax refunds, it may take a while for your stimulus checks to arrive.

• Have time on your hands? Wanna learn an instrument? Well, Fender is offering free guitar, bass and ukulele lessons during the pandemic to 100,000 people.

• You know some of those “ventilators” Elon Musk donated to the cause? Well, they’re actually CPAP machines. Sigh.

• The fantastic folks at Rooster and the Pig are offering anyone who needs it with a free lunch.

• Greater Palm Springs’ Anndee Laskoe offers up this trip to some fantastic local places you can take from your couch.

• And finally, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark—you remember her, right?—offers us this important message from “Elvirus.”

If you value what we do, and can afford it, please support independent local journalism by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Also: If you’re so inclined, get mail delivery of our print edition here.

Stay safe. Hang in there. Wash your hands. More tomorrow.

It’s April 1, no’ foolin. That means one of the most insanely awful months in American history is finally behind us.

How long was March? The obvious, mathematical answer is 31 days. But, man, were those a looooong 31 days.

Here’s how long March was: Remember Pete Buttigieg? When March started, he was still a presidential candidate. Yep: He dropped out on March 1, two days before Joe Biden’s decisive Super Tuesday wins.

Back then, most of us had no idea what in the hell was coming—or if we had any clue, we couldn’t fathom what it all meant.

A story in the print version of the March 1 edition of The New York Times had the headline: “Readiness of U.S. for an Epidemic Raises Fears About Shortages.” It’s worth noting that this story, while on the front page, was below the fold.

The online version of the story had a more search-term-friendly headline and sub-headline: “How Prepared Is the U.S. for a Coronavirus Outbreak?” The subheadline: “The country is better positioned than most but could still face critical shortages of respirators and masks. Hospitals have triage plans in place. State and local governments have broad powers to quarantine.”

Uh … well … yep?

The local BNP Paribas Open was cancelled on March 8, the day before it was supposed to start in earnest. Coachella and Stagecoach were postponed on March 10. The NBA kept playing until a March 11, when a player tested positive, halting a game in Oklahoma City just before tip-off.

That was just three weeks ago. Yeesh.

Now, it’s April … and we’re looking down the barrel of a month virtually none of us could have imagined in our worst nightmares just 31 days ago.

Yet, there are reasons for optimism. We’ve linked to stories in previous days that indicate we’re having success in #flatteningthecurve here in California. And every day means we are one day closer to the end of this, whatever that may mean.

Stay home as much as possible. If you’re one of the “essential workers” who can’t stay at home, God bless you, and be as safe as you can. Enjoy this time, as bonkers as it is, as much as possible.

Oh, yeah, and 1) stop flushing wipes down the toilet, and 2) wash your hands.

On a personal note: Thank you so very much to the 30-plus people who became or maintained being Supporters of the Independent in March (plus today). Whether you gave us $10 or you gave us $500, your support means so much to us.

To Jill Arnold, Morgan James, Ken Alterwitz, Elizabeth McGarry, Alex McCune, Miho Suma, Gustavo Arellano, Howard Goldberg, Richard Fluechtling, Cactus Hugs/Casey Dolan, Debby Anspach, Scott Phipps, John Delaney, Leonard Woods, Michael Herzfeld, Kenneth Theriault, Lynn Hammond/Lynn Hammond Catering, Jeffrey Davied, Harvey Lewis, Vicky Harrison, Joanne Bosher, George Bullis, Joshua Friedman, Darrell Tucci, Scott Balson, Elizabeth Wexler, Deidre Pike, Marsha Pare, Jeffrey Norman, David Ponsar, Lea Goodsell, John de Dios and Anthony Gangloff … thanks for helping us continue to do what we do in these unbelievably tough times.

If you have the ability to join these generous people in helping us continue covering the Coachella Valley with quality journalism, go here for more details … and thank you.

Now, for today’s news links:

If you fear you may be sick: Call Eisenhower at 760-837-8988 or the Desert AIDS Project at 760-992-0407 before you go anywhere.

• I will again be joining Shann Carr, John Taylor and Brad Fuhr tomorrow on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast with Dr. Laura Rush. If you have any questions about this damn virus and whatnot for the good doctor, send them to me before 8 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday) at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

• If you need help, the amazing people at FIND Food Bank are heading to a local town near you to help with its mobile pantry. Get the details and the schedule here.

SiriusXM is offering free streaming through May 15.

• Independent TV columnist Bill Frost points out that a whole lot of the streaming services you normally need to pay for are offering programming for free right now—and he also has information on a dozen streaming services that are ALWAYS free.

• Also from the Independent: What better time is there to go outside and enjoy the stars and planets (as long as everyone is social distancing and stuff)? The Independent’s Robert Victor has the scoop on what to watch for in the heavens in April.

• Related: The Rancho Mirage Public Library and Observatory has moved its Swoon at the Moon program online, starting at 7:30 p.m. tonight!

• Yet another excellent scholarly article from The Conversation offers a silver lining in all of this: Could COVID-19 end the world’s illicit wildlife trade?

• In this era of Zoom meetings, be careful with the filters you have on your phone, lest you wind up becoming a potato.

Being a brand-new parent in the age of the coronavirus leads to a whole bunch of surprising worries, as this story from friend of the Independent Gustavo Arellano illustrates.

Why is Dolly Parton a national freaking treasure, besides, you know, the obvious? Is it because of her amazing generosity? Or is it because she’s going to start reading bedtime stories to us all every Thursday? You decide.

• Another, albeit very different national treasure, Samuel L. Jackson, encourages you to Stay the F**k at Home.

• Need some quick, relatable laughs? Make sure you’re following Leslie Jordan on Instagram.

• LGBT folks and allies, take note: A whole bunch of pride-festival organizers, including Greater Palm Springs Pride’s amazing Ron deHarte, will be hosting an online Global Pride on June 27.

That’s all for today. Wash your hands. Reach out to a loved one. Tomorrow’s a new day. Now go wash your hands again. More tomorrow.

Much of the news today was bleak.

The latest projected U.S. death numbers are downright horrifying. The city of Toronto has cancelled all major public events through June 30—which brings home the reality that a return to “normal” is months away, at least. The state just announced that schools will not reopen this school year. And county health officials are recommending we all start wearing face coverings in public; the federal government may soon follow suit.

I’d also like to point out the latest piece in the Independent’s Pandemic Stories series, by staff writer Kevin Fitzgerald, about the cutbacks in services made by the Coachella Valley’s agencies that help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. While they’re still doing all they can to help people, and that’s a lot—I need to make that very clear—the pandemic means that for now, a rep from Coachella Valley Sexual Assault Services can’t be there in person to comfort a rape victim as they begin to endure the trying process of a medical exam and dealing with law enforcement. That means that Shelter From the Storm can’t accept domestic-violence victims into their shelter right now—because they need to protect the health of the clients and staff already at the shelter.

This. Is. All. Awful.

Take a breath. Take a moment if you need to. And realize that despite all this awfulness, we are still blessed overall.

And now, the good news: There’s yet more evidence coming out that California’s (relatively) quick actions, most notably the shelter-in-place order, are truly, honestly working. By doing what you’re supposed to—keeping your ass at home—we’re making a real damn difference.

We should also take solace in the fact that our society—despite some real, systemic issues—is functional. I was hit by this fact earlier today when I read this fantastic article, from The Conversation, about what’s happening in Syria right now. Can you imagine dealing with COVID-19 and a nasty civil war at the same time? I sure as hell can’t.

We’re blessed. The vast majority of us are safe. And we’re making progress at beating this goddamned virus. Let’s keep it up.

Now, more news:

• People, listen up. We just received this plea from Katie Evans, the director of communications and conservation for the Coachella Valley Water District: “We are having a bit of a challenge. I thought you might be able to include in something—maybe as a brief or part of a roundup. With people increasing their use of wipes, we have getting a lot of wipes in the sewer system which can cause really significant damage to our pumps. We ran a campaign last year with the hashtag #nowipesinthepipes because even so-called ‘flushable’ wipes should not be flushed and can cause significant damage to our system. We really want to remind people that only human waste and toilet paper should go down the drain.” So … there. Got it? Stop flushing wipes!

• Our friends at Dig Boston have compiled yet another roundup of coverage of COVID-19 from alternative newspapers across the country. We ain’t dead yet!

• The city of Palm Springs has posted the slide deck from a recent presentation with Assemblyman Chad Mayes, Mayor Geoff Kors and some biz experts with details on the new loans being offered to small businesses during the pandemic. Everyone’s still figuring out all of the finer points of the loan programs included in the just-passed stimulus package, but this includes some very helpful info.

• As of tomorrow, Joshua Tree National Park is completely closed.

• Covered California asked us to remind you that they’re there to help you get health insurance. They write: “As job loss claims hit record-highs, more and more Californians will be dealing with a loss of income and their health insurance coverage. Covered California and Medi-Cal are providing a path to coverage for those affected by this pandemic. Covered California recently announced a special-enrollment period related to the crisis. Anyone who meets Covered California’s eligibility requirements, which are like those in place during the annual open-enrollment period, can sign up for coverage from now through June 30.” Get deets at www.coveredca.com.

• Finally, a tidbit out of Michigan that’s sad but fascinating: Health officials are reporting that one of the COVID-19 victims there passed away at the age of 107. That means that this person was 5-6 years old or so during the last pandemic of this magnitude—the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919.

Wow. Feel free to join me in raising a toast to that man or woman. What a run.

I’ll be back tomorrow with lots more—including the list of Supporters of the Independent I promised you yesterday. It makes more sense to include that in tomorrow’s Daily Digest; that way, I can include everyone who supported us during the month of March. If you want to be part of that list, and support amazing, free-to-all local journalism like Kevin’s story referenced above, please go here. Thank you.

And to March: Good freaking riddance!

Wash your hands. Count your blessings. #nowipesinthepipes. And keep up the fight, as our efforts seem to be working!