CVIndependent

Fri09182020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Good science journalism is hard to do. And SARS-CoV-2 is a tricky S.O.B.

Those are today’s lessons, brought to you by The New York Times and The Washington Post, two undeniably great newspapers, which today brought us these online headlines:

Can You Get Covid Again? It’s Very Unlikely, Experts Say.

Can you get coronavirus twice? Doctors are unsure even as anecdotal reports mount.

Yep: Here we have two stories, impeccably sourced and well-written, that on the surface come to two entirely different conclusions—on a question of utmost importance.

“While little is definitively known about the coronavirus, just seven months into the pandemic, the new virus is behaving like most others, (experts) said, lending credence to the belief that herd immunity can be achieved with a vaccine,” says the Times.

“As the United States marks its sixth month since the arrival of the virus, (WNBA player Sophie) Cunningham’s story is among a growing number of reports of people getting COVID-19, recovering and then falling sick again—assertions, that if proved, could complicate efforts to make a long-lasting vaccine, or to achieve herd immunity where most of the population has become immune to the virus.”

Sigh.

Anyway … if you dig a little deeper into the stories, you’ll find that the two entirely different sets of experts the writers spoke to indirectly come to the same conclusion: Nobody knows for sure whether or not someone can get COVID-19 twice. Various experts have different opinions, some stronger than others … but the figurative, hopefully-mask-wearing jury is still out.

Other news from the day:

• We’re No. 1. Crap! California today passed New York to become the state with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19. Meanwhile, the state is working to get more personal protective equipment, as complaints about shortages begin to mount.

• The city of Palm Springs is calling on the state to do a better job of distributing federal stimulus money. According to a news release by the city, “the largest 13 cities (in the state) are receiving between $85 and $174 per resident while cities like Palm Springs are receiving just $12.28 per resident” in federal funds. The city is asking Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assemblyman Chad Mayes, State Sen. Melissa Melendez and U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz to fix this inequity for those of us who live in cities of less than 300,000 people

• From the Independent: Can the show go on? The valley’s theater companies are in limbo, not knowing when they’ll be able to reopen—or, in some cases, if they’ll survive that long. In an effort to support each other, some—but not all—companies have banded together to form the brand-new Alliance of Desert Theatres. Here’s what people in the know have to say about the uncertain future of Coachella Valley theater.

• Also from the Independent: Anita Rufus’ Know Your Neighbors column introduces Michael “Mick” McGuire, an elder-law attorney—who’s quite upset about the nursing-home mess in the country, a mess that’s been exposed in horrific fashion by the coronavirus. Key quote: “It should be a red flag that out of all the developed countries in the world, we’re (the only one) without a plan. We can talk about it all academically, but when it’s your family member, the whole thing changes.”

More than 100,000 people have signed up to be vaccine test subjects so farsomething that makes Dr. Anthony Fauci happy, reports The Hill.

• Related-ish: Can states or employers force people to get a coronavirus vaccine? Surprisingly, according to a law professor writing for The Conversation, in a lot of cases, they can.

Another legal expert, also writing for The Conversation, says the same thing goes for mask requirements.

• More vaccine news: The federal government has agreed to pay Pfizer and its biotech partner nearly $2 billion for 100 million doses of its now-being-tested coronavirus vaccine—with delivery by the end of the year.

MIT scientists have designed a reusable face mask that’s just as effective of N95 masks, according to CNBC.

• After four deaths and more than 1,000 COVID-19 infections at the Lompoc prison complex, a U.S. District Court judge has demanded that the prison release medically vulnerable inmates to home confinement, according to the Los Angeles Times.

• The Washington Post declares: “The inflatable pool is the official symbol of America’s lost summer.” Has there ever been a sentence so wholesome and depressing at the same time?

• Finally, Randy Rainbow is back with another song parody: “Gee, Anthony Fauci!

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Enjoy yourself (safely, of course). If you value free-to-all journalism like this Daily Digest and our aforementioned stories on the theater scene and the elder-law attorney, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Thank you.

Published in Daily Digest

Elder-law attorney Michael “Mick” McGuire, 73, says he keeps trying to find a way to retire. “But when the pandemic hit, that went on the back burner.”

McGuire, a La Quinta resident for seven years, used to visit the desert from Long Beach—until his wife of 30 years, Vivien, a public defender, made him to decide to relocate.

McGuire was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and his birth family included grandparents who had emigrated from Ireland. They had four daughters and were scrounging for work during the Great Depression. “My grandfather died in his 30s, and my grandmother was one of those people you’re blessed to have in your life. She cleaned houses to support her daughters.

“My mom had no education past the ninth-grade, and they were always one step ahead of the landlord. My mom always used to say, ‘If things aren’t going your way, just get on with it. If one thing doesn’t work, do something else.’

“My dad was a true Pittsburgh boy. He came along at a time when they were letting guys out of high school to go to war. He was in the Army Air Corps, and then he took a correspondence course at Cornell University. He worked in the restaurant business and became a regional manager.

“I have one sister. I always joke that we’re 'Irish twins'; our birthdays are so close. Once we were out of high school, my folks couldn’t wait to get out of the dire winters of Pittsburgh, so after my freshman year of college, we moved to Arizona.”

McGuire (www.calelderlaw.com) got his education at Arizona State University. After a year in the Army Reserve, McGuire’s first job was with Hallmark Cards in Seattle. He relocated to Los Angeles in 1970 and worked for companies including Xerox, E.F. Hutton, and Home Savings. What made him decide to go back to school and study law?

“I was dealing with real estate agents all day long,” he says, “and I had met my wife, who was in law school at the time. In 1991, I studied at the University of West Los Angeles, and passed the bar on my first try!”

McGuire opened his first law office in Long Beach, doing estate planning, wills and trusts. “I had a client who was having real problems with his elderly mom, and thus I discovered elder law as a specialty,” says McGuire. “I realized the need for people to be able to deal with the Medi-Cal system and Veterans (Affairs).

“The best part of what I do is being able to listen to people’s stories. I had a client who had been in a small village in France during World War II at the age of 16 when the Germans had come. He was stopped by two Gestapo officers, was arrested, and he ended up in a concentration camp. He survived and went to Canada, then came to the U.S. He had told his family that he had been in the war, but his daughters had never heard the full story. When they asked him why he had never told them, he said, ‘I didn’t want you to worry.’

“I had another client who had been a submarine commander during World War II and didn’t realize he had benefits available. You can’t make these stories up—they’re amazing!”

McGuire gets particularly emotive when we talk about the COVID-19 pandemic—and particularly its impact on elders in nursing-home situations.

“The state drives people to long-term care, because there’s nowhere else to go,” he says. “It’s all corporate money now, and they’re driven by profitability. They say, ‘It’s all about heads in the beds.’ People get three meals a day, and poor care—and what we’ve seen over the past months of the pandemic shows how bad it is. It’s a terrible conundrum: You have someone who makes about $12.50 an hour to change people’s diapers and wipe their chin. Those willing to do those jobs are often the migrants at the border.

“We have a glaring hole in Medicare for taking care of seniors when they need help. The Affordable Care Act created a plan to pay up to $1,500 a month for long-term care. On average, decent care costs $10,000 a month for a nursing home in California. Long-term care is expensive, but in my experience, it probably only costs an average family about $1,500 to $2,500 a month to keep someone at home. I’ve never met anybody ever who wanted to go to a nursing home.

“It should be a red flag that out of all the developed countries in the world, we’re (the only one) without a plan. We can talk about it all academically, but when it’s your family member, the whole thing changes. The counties are often ignorant of the actual regulations, and how people are being treated is ridiculous. I’ve become very aggressive and insistent to benefit my clients.”

In 2014, McGuire handled what he described as his most interesting case. Los Angeles County had denied long-term benefits to a man taken to a nursing home as a qualified patient. “It took a year to bring the county to the table. I came to understand how badly the system is stacked against the public interest. You walk away from these experiences and realize that for every one who gets representation—how many are left to their own devices, meeting obstacles at every turn?”

McGuire and his wife are very proud of their family, including son Sean (“He works in the office with me, handling veterans’ cases”) and twin grandchildren. (“She’s at MIT, and he’s at Berkeley,” beams the proud grandpa.)

McGuire’s latest venture is a radio program, Elder Answers, airing every Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. on KNEWS 94.3 FM/970 AM. McGuire describes the show as an opportunity to start a conversation, and he looks forward to, when the pandemic is over, again presenting workshops where people can talk on a more personal level.

“Throughout life, no matter the situation, you’re well-advised to exercise patience and introspection before you react,” McGuire says. “I’ve failed to follow that many times and paid a price for sure. When I’ve done it, it’s always paid off.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show The Lovable Liberal airs on IHubRadio. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

A scam attempt can affect you or a loved one at any time.

That’s the lesson I learned a couple a weeks ago—and fortunately, my family and I were lucky to apparently escape unscathed.

My mom, who lives in Reno, Nev., was checking email at her computer on Tuesday, June 25, when she received a phone call. A man who said he was calling on behalf of Microsoft, via a company called Techhart Solutions, gave her bad news: Her computer was sending error messages, apparently as a result of a malicious computer virus. To “prove” this, he directed my mother to a log that, she says, seemed to show that her computer was indeed sending error messages. The man said it was crucial that he help her fix the computer—for a fee, of course. My mom then gave her Discover-card number.

I am not sure exactly what else happened; Mom can’t remember all the details, as she was quite upset at the time: She’d just gotten home from taking her beloved miniature schnauzer to the animal hospital because he was, among other things, puking up blood. (The dog’s fine now, by the way.)

My mom’s pretty darned smart, and had she been in her right mind, she probably would not have bought the story given to her by the caller. Thankfully, my mother soon realized that something didn’t seem right, so she called me. I told her to immediately unplug her computer from the Internet (in case the fraudulent Techhart/“Microsoft” rep had done something malicious to her PC), and to call Discover and dispute the charge from Techhart. She called the credit-card company before the charge went through, thankfully; the card was then deactivated.

Later that day, I Googled Techhart Solutions, as well as the phone number the fraudsters had given my mom (866-529-9245). There are numerous online reports from folks who had the exact same thing happen to them, with the exact same M.O.

The story doesn’t end there. Presumably because my mom’s credit card was declined, Techhart began calling her several times a day; she ignored the calls. After several days of this, she received a message on her answering machine from Techhart, saying that she needed to call them back regarding an urgent matter.

So I called them. A man with a thick accent answered.

“Hi, my name’s Jimmy Boegle, and I’m calling on behalf of my mom. You left her a message earlier today.”

“Oh, yes,” the man responded. “We’re her computer techs, and we want to make sure that her computer’s OK.”

When I informed the man that Mom did not need a computer tech, and that they’d lied to her about all sorts of things, he hung up. I tried calling back a couple of times from the same phone; there was no response. Therefore, I called from a different phone (my Palm Springs business line), and he answered.

“Hi. This is Jimmy Boegle. I think we were just cut off …”

Click.

While my mom seems to have escaped unscathed—I had a couple of tech-savy friends check my mom’s PC, and it appears OK—not everyone has been so lucky, as those aforementioned Google searches prove.

Therefore, my mom and I decided to file a complaint with the state Attorney General. After all, one of the jobs of the state AG is to protect Nevadans like my mom from fraud, and warn them of fraud attempts. Well, long story short: Unless the fraud attempt has to do with mortgage or foreclosure scams, the Nevada AG won’t take a complaint. When you call, an automated phone-system recording actually encourages callers “to proceed through other avenues, such as the Better Business Bureau … or small claims court.”

I am kind of happy that I, personally, live in California right now, where I could have at least filed a complaint, had the incident happened here.

I also filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC rep didn’t ask about anything beyond the most basic details of the case; basically, he took my information and my mom’s information before giving me a case number. (Oh, and one more thing: He gave me the number for the Nevada attorney general’s office—the number with the aforementioned automated phone-system recording—and encouraged me to file a state complaint, too. Sigh.)

We all need to be smart in these days of the Internet—and we need to keep an eye out for our loved ones, too, just in case Techhart Solutions or the other fraudsters of the world come calling.

Published in Editor's Note