CVIndependent

Fri08072020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

Happy Wednesday, everyone. Let’s get right into it:

• Remember how on Monday, we said that Gov. Gavin Newsom was expressing tentative optimism about a statewide decrease in COVID-19 cases? Well … it turns out there may or may not be a decrease at all—because the state reporting system is currently being hampered by technical issues. According to our partners at CalMatters: “California’s daily count of COVID-19 cases appears to be falling, but that may be due to underreporting caused by technical issues, state health officials said (Tuesday). ‘We’ve discovered some discrepancies,’ said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary in a press call. Data, he said, is ‘getting stuck’ in the electronic system that feeds information from test labs to both the state and local public health departments. This means counties and the state are not getting a full picture of who and how many are testing positive. That lack of information hampers the counties’ ability to investigate cases and initiate contact tracing, Ghaly said.” Whoops! 

• And here are details on an even-more heinous state whoops, also according to our partners at CalMatters: “As the coronavirus continues to sicken Californians, the state mistakenly terminated or reduced health-insurance benefits for thousands of low-income people. An error involving the state’s Medi-Cal program and its automated system for renewals triggered the drops in coverage—despite the governor’s executive order earlier this year that was supposed to ensure that people maintain access to safety net programs during the pandemic.” Yeesh.

• Meanwhile, the United Parcel Service is prepping for that happy day a vaccine is available: Bloomberg reports that UPS is building two “giant freezer farms” that can each hold up to 48,000 vaccine vials.

• More vaccine news: Johnson and Johnson will deliver 100 million vaccine does to the U.S. for a cool $1 billion when they’re ready—and give the U.S. the option to buy another 200 million doses, the drug-maker announced today. Presuming, you know, the vaccine actually works.

• Because the federal testing plan … uh, really isn’t a thing, seven states have joined forces to buy more than 3 million coronavirus antigen tests. These tests could be a game-changer; according to Bloomberg, “the tests, which search for proteins on the surface of the virus, can deliver results in 15 to 20 minutes.

• Public Citizen, “a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power,” yesterday issued a scathing report accusing Gilead Sciences and the federal government of “sitting on a potentially promising coronavirus treatment (GS-441524) for months that may offer significant advantages over the closely related antiviral drug remdesivir, possibly to maximize profits.” Read what Public Citizen has to say here.

• CNN today released a series of before and after satellite images of the pure devastation created by the massive explosion in Beirut yesterday. Simply put: They’re horrifying.

• It appears neither major-party presidential candidate will appear at their conventions to accept their nominations this year. The Biden campaign said today that the former vice president will not be going to Milwaukee, while the Trump administration is making plans for the president to deliver his nomination-acceptance speech from the White House, which may not exactly be legal.

• From the Independent: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s efforts to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—which allows some undocumented residents who were brought to the United States as children to gain legal status—were illegal. Nonetheless, feds are pretty much terminating the program anyway. Kevin Fitzgerald recently spoke to two local activists about the toll the DACA shutdown is taking on local undocumented families.

• Also from the Independent: President Trump recently suggested that we delay the election because of the supposed threat of mail-in voting fraud. Could he really do such a thing? Probably not … but Jeffrey C. Billman examines other scenarios Republicans seem to be preparing to use to create a constitutional crisis the likes of which the country has not seen since 1976.

• Past and present U.S. surgeons general said earlier this week that concerns over vaccines in the Black community could be a big problem, according to MedPage Today. That same publication also examined a related problem: Scientists aren’t doing enough to make sure people of color are being included in various clinical trials.

• The U.S. military has found the amphibious assault vehicle that sank off the coast of San Clemente Island last week, killing eight Marines and one sailor. CNN has the details on these people who died in service to our country.

• If you have not yet watched the bonkers interview President Trump did with Axios on HBO yet … boy, it’s worth your time—and here’s a link to the whole thing.

The PPP loans are starting to run out … and that means that more layoffs are coming.

• Our partners at High Country News took a pants-wetting look at the ways in which religious zealots in the West are using the pandemic as an opportunity to gain converts. Key quote: “When asked how he would respond to observers who say he’s exploiting people’s fear to further his anti-LGBTQ+, anti-women, anti-abortion agenda, (Idaho preacher Doug) Wilson responded frankly. ‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘I am.’

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted yesterday to declare racism as a public health crisis. Better late than never!

The Coachella Valley Economic Partnership crunched the numbers on the decrease in passenger accounts at the Palm Springs International Airport. Key quote: “The lockdown, which started in mid-March, had an immediate effect, with passenger traffic for the month quickly dropping 50 percent. April and May traffic were down an unfathomable 97 percent and 90 percent. Projecting a conservative 50 percent drop in passengers for the rest of the year would result in a 2.8 million decrease in passengers for the entire year, resulting in passenger traffic for the year being only one-third of 2019.”

Flu-shot makers are producing record amounts of this year’s flu vaccine, anticipating that more people than ever will be getting the shots, because of … well, you know. 

• If you’re planning on sneaking into New York City without quarantining for two weeks, beware: They may have checkpoints waiting for you.

• We recently pointed out social-media sleuthing indicating that the Riviera may soon become a Margaritaville resort. Well, Jimmy Buffett fans can rejoice, because the conversion was officially announced today.

If you have Disney+ and are willing to fork out an extra $29.99, you will be able to watch the much-anticipated Mulan from your couch Sept. 4.

• Finally, because life is random and weird, yet history keeps repeating: Both Who’s the Boss? and Ren and Stimpy are being rebooted. Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Be safe, everyone. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. If you value honest, independent local journalism, and have the means to do so, we ask you to help us continue to do what we do by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Thanks for reading! The Daily Digest will return Friday.

If your anxiety and/or depression levels were high this weekend, you were not alone.

More than a handful of people have told me were out of sorts this weekend—something that I, too, experienced. I suspect the extreme heat and at-times apocalyptic-looking skies due to the fires had something to do with it.

Despite the bleakness … at least as far as the coronavirus goes, there are signs that we’re making progress at flattening that pesky, pain-in-the-ass curve once more.

Consider:

Eisenhower Medical Center posted on Friday: “We are seeing a sustained 14-day decline in our percent positivity rate, and a corresponding decline in hospitalizations.” Indeed, hospitalizations at all of the valley’s hospitals have been steadily decreasing.

• Other parts of Southern California are seeing improvements, too. Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles County public health director said today: “We’re cautiously optimistic that we’re getting back on track to slowing the spread of COVID-19. I want to emphasize the word ‘cautiously.’” 

The same goes for the state as a whole. “California Gov. Gavin Newsom said at his Monday press briefing more tests are being done, but the percentage of people testing positive is going down. The 14-day positivity rate is 7 percent compared to 7.5 percent a week ago,” according to SFGate.

We’re nowhere near the end of this thing … but it seems we’re heading in a better direction than we were a couple of weeks ago.

More news links:

Here’s the latest District 4 from the county. (District 4 includes the Coachella Valley, as well as points eastward.) Hospitalizations are down, as mentioned above, but the positivity rate remains too darned high. Worst of all: 20 of our neighbors died in the last week.

• There is an increasing amount of discussion about what will happen if a vaccine is ready to go. However, this positive comes with a big, honking negative: Nobody’s quite sure how a vaccine-distribution effort’s going to take place. The Washington Post today cited a number of people, from scientists to governors, who are concerned the federal government may not be up to the task. Key quote: “‘This is a slow-motion train wreck,’ said one state official who has been involved in planning efforts and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. The official pointed in particular to the administration’s botched rollout of remdesivir, an antiviral medication that is one of the only approved treatments for covid-19 patients. ‘There’s certainly a lot of concern, and not being able to plan creates a significant amount of confusion,’ the official said.”

• Related: The New York Times reported that more and more doctors are worried that the Trump administration may rush a vaccine—to make it available before Election Day—before it’s been proven to be safe and effective.

• And here’s another dose of cold, hard reality: The World Health Organization today reminded everyone that a great vaccine is no sure thing. Key quote, from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “A number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials, and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment—and there might never be.”

• In other parts of the country, schools are beginning to reopen—and things aren’t necessarily going well. The Associated Press headline: “Parents struggle as schools reopen amid coronavirus surge.

Four former commissioners of the Food and Drug Administration today co-wrote a piece for The Washington Post saying that the use of blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, according to the headline, “might be the treatment we need.” They wrote: “We need a concerted effort to collect blood plasma, along with clinical trials to determine when its benefits outweigh the risks so we can treat the right people at the right time. With that evidence in hand, we need to maintain a highly synchronized distribution system to get the plasma to the right health-care facilities in a timely and equitable way.”

• Sigh. The Center for Public Integrity reports that many businesses have been illegally denying paid sick leave to COVID-19-stricken workers: “Hundreds of U.S. businesses have been cited for illegally denying paid leave to workers during the pandemic, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. As of June 12, nearly 700 companies had violated the law’s paid-leave provisions and owed back wages to hundreds of employees, according to Labor Department records. Violators include six McDonald’s franchises and the franchise owners of a Comfort Suites, Courtyard by Marriott and Red Roof Inn.”

Eli Lilly announced today it’s starting a late-stage trial—among people who live in or work at nursing homes—on an experimental COVID-19 antibody treatment to see if it can prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

It’s time to check your hand sanitizers: The FDA now has a list of more than 100 types that need to be avoided—either because they’re dangerous, or they don’t include enough alcohol to be effective.

NBC News published a sobering story today about how systemic racism remains pervasive in the housing market.

The San Francisco Chronicle looked at the mess that is California’s unemployment system—officially known as the Employment Development Department—and what lawmakers are talking about doing to fix it. “More than a million jobless Californians are in limbo, desperately seeking unemployment benefits. That includes 889,000 who may be eligible for benefits with additional information, and 239,000 whose cases are pending resolution, according to a letter EDD Director Sharon Hilliard sent to her boss, Labor Secretary Julie Su, (last) Wednesday.” The Chronicle also included a list of 12 tips that may help people get the benefits they need.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise looked at how the county’s small-business grant awarding process was going; the application period for the $10,000 grants remains open through Aug. 31. Businesses must have 50 or fewer employees; they must have been harmed by the pandemic financially; and they can’t have received Paycheck Protection Act funding. (Full disclosure: We learned over the weekend that the Independent was awarded one of these grants.)

• The Apple Fire, which continues to threaten homes and is only 5 percent contained, was started by the exhaust of a malfunctioning diesel-fueled vehicle, CAL FIRE announced today.

• Depressingly related: Two Purdue University environmental engineers, writing for The Conversation, offer tips on what communities can do to protect themselves from drinking-water systems that become polluted in the aftermath of a wildfire—as happened following the terrible Northern California fires in 2017 and 2018.

• Is it safe to play college football this fall? A number of Pac-12 players issued a letter via The Players Tribune over the weekend, demanding more COVID-19 safety regulations. That’s not all; the players also said athletic programs should protect other sports programs by “reduc(ing) excessive pay” of coaches and administrators, and demanded that the league take steps to end racial injustice in college sports. If these steps aren’t taken, players may opt out of playing.

• Members of the local LGBTQ community, take note: Our friends at Gay Desert Guide are hosting a ton of virtual events during these dog days of summer, including comedy shows, scavenger hunts and speed-dating events. The first one is tomorrow at 7 p.m., when Shann Carr hosts Big Gay Trivia! A small fee ($10 or so) applies for most events; get all the details here.

That’s plenty for today. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. If you appreciate honest local journalism, and have a few bucks to spare, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Stay safe, everyone.

Earlier this week, we asked you, our amazing readers, to answer a short, six-question survey about this Daily Digest—and more than 200 of you took the time to do so. We thank all of you who did.

Here are some takeaways:

• The majority of you (53.8 percent) said you preferred getting the Daily Digest three days per week—while 36.3 percent said you’d ideally like to receive it five times per week. However, some of the comments led us to believe that a lot of you who said you preferred three days per week did so because we talked about the time constraints we were under. So, moving forward, we’ll continue to do the Digest at least three days per week.

• More than 61.3 percent of you said you’d like the Daily Digest to include all news, not just COVID-19-related news. Therefore, in the coming weeks, we’ll broaden the range of news links included.

• The vast majority of you said exceedingly nice things about the digest’s tone and construction. We thank you all for that; we don’t plan on changing much there.

• The biggest complaint about the Daily Digest was the fact that some links are to publications with metered pay walls—meaning you can only read so many articles for free until you’re forced to subscribe. Unfortunately … there’s nothing we can do about this. We’ll do our best to link to as many free news sources as possible—but since some of the country’s best news sources have paywalls (The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, etc.), they’re unavoidable. We know we’re largely preaching to the choir here, but it’s worth repeating: Good writing and reporting costs money to produce. That means the aforementioned news sources have every right to ask people to pay for it.

• This leads us to the Independent’s Supporters of the Independent program. First: Thanks again to all of you who have, will and/or continue to support us. It’s appreciated, and it’s helping us keep the figurative lights on. Second: To those of you who said you want to support us, but don’t know how, click on this sentence to go to our Supporters page. We use PayPal, so it’s easy to do. Third: To those of you who expressed guilt about being unable to support us financially: Please do not feel guilty. Times are tough—as tough as they’ve been since the Great Depression. We understand, and that’s why we make our publication, both online and print, free to everyone. When the time comes that you have a few bucks to truly spare, then please consider supporting us—but don’t sweat it until that happy time comes.

• Some of you said you didn’t know much about the Independent and/or the primary writer of this here Daily Digest. Well, here’s a quick primer I, Jimmy Boegle, wrote back in May. If you’re unfamiliar with our print version, here’s our entire archive—all 85 editions going back to our first one in April 2013. And, of course, all of our content going back to our first postings in October 2012 can be found at CVIndependent.com.

Thank you yet again to all of you who responded. If you have questions or concerns I didn’t address here, send me an email, and I’ll be happy to answer. And finally, to all of you. Thanks for reading. That’s why we do what we do.

Enough yammering about ourselves. Here’s the news of the day:

• I was again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week. I joined hosts Shann Carr, John Taylor and Brad Fuhr to talk to Dr. Laura Rush and Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors. Other guests joined the podcast as well; check it out!

• We previously mentioned that the city of Palm Springs had said that bars (serving food) and restaurants in the city (currently operating only outdoors) have to close at 11 p.m. for the time being. Well, after receiving some complaints, the city has extended that closure time to midnight.

RIP, Herman Cain. The former GOP presidential candidate and COVID-19/mask-wearing skeptic, who attended President Donald Trump’s infamous rally in Tulsa, died yesterday at the age of 74 due to the virus.

• It’s official: The national economy during the second quarter suffered from an unprecedented collapse due to the coronavirus and the resulting shutdowns.

• Wisconsin yesterday became the latest state to require that people wear face masks in public. However, Republicans in the state Legislature there seem determined to strike down Gov. Tony Evers’ order. Sigh.

Vanity Fair published something of a bombshell yesterday, saying that a team led by Jared Kushner had developed a comprehensive COVID-19 testing plan—but it was shelved, in part, because the coronavirus then was primarily hitting Democratic-led states.

• Please pay attention to this, folks, as it’s really important: U.S. Postal Service backlogs continue to amount, as the Trump administration attacks and starves the agency in multiple waysand this could cause huge problems with mail ballots during the election.

• Pay attention to this, too: The U.S. Census Bureau is being pressured by the Trump administration to wrap up the oh-so-important once-a-decade count earlysomething that has Democrats rather alarmed.

A sad milestone: For the first confirmed time, a Californian under the age of 18 has died from the coronavirus.

• Listen to the president! Yes, really, in this instance: On the heels of reports that the FDA is getting ready to allow a more-widespread use of convalescent blood plasma to treat COVID-19 patients, President Trump yesterday encouraged people who had recovered from COVID-19 to donate.

Got goggles? Dr. Anthony Fauci recommended wearing them in addition to a face covering, if possible, to offer more protection from this nasty virus.

• The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the first wave of lawsuits being filed against employers who allegedly did not do all they could to protect their employees from SARS-CoV-2.

An NPR investigation found that a multi-million dollar contract the Trump administration awarded to a company to collect COVID-19 data from hospitals—something the CDC had already been doing capably—raises a whole lot of alarming questions.

• The $600 in extra unemployment benefits from the federal government is expiring, in large part due to claims that it’s acted as a disincentive for people to go back to work. However, a new Yale study indicates that those claims are not based in reality.

• The government has 44 million N95 masks stockpiled, with another half-billion on order. However, those masks aren’t getting to the professionals who need them in a prompt manner. Key quote: “It’s like we’re in the middle of a hurricane here. They should not be stockpiling PPE,” said Bob Gibson, vice president of the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest such union in Florida. “It should be given to the frontline health workers. They have been in this fight for five months now, and they are exhausted.”

The U.S. Mint kindly requests that you spend the coins you have, because there aren’t enough of them in circulation right now.

• Remember that huge Twitter hack several weeks back that essentially shut down all verified accounts? Well, feds say they’ve arrested the mastermind … 17-year-old Graham Ivan Clark.

• If you’re a baseball fan like me … savor this weekend’s games, as things could get shut down as soon as Monday, according to the MLB commissioner.

Hong Kong is postponing legislative elections for a year due to the coronavirus—something that has pro-democracy folks quite alarmed. That couldn’t happen here. Right?

• Experts writing for The Conversation say that some 800,000 low-income households may have recently had their electricity disconnected. Blame the COVID-19-related shutdown—and lawmakers who aren’t doing enough to intervene.

• Also from The Conversation: Older, under-maintained schools in poorer areas were dangerous to begin with—and they’ll be even more dangerous if students are forced to return to them as the pandemic rages.

• We’ve talked in this space a LOT about the various vaccines being tested—but it’s likely that those vaccines, even if proven to be generally effective, won’t work on everyone. Well, MIT is using machine learning to design a vaccine that would cover a lot more people.

• Sweden has not done a whole lot to shut down its economy—and a lot of people have died there from COVID-19 as a result. Still … the curve is being flatted there. How and why? Will it last? MedPage Today looks into it.

An Arenas Road bar is poised to reopen (for outdoor dining) on Aug. 9, thanks to a brand-new kitchen. See what Chill Bar has planned.

• Finally, from the Independent: Get outside when temps are only in the 90s and check out what the skies have to offer in August—including the Perseids meteor shower

Folks, we’ve survived another month. Who knows what August will bring? Stay tuned to find out. Have a great weekend; the Daily Digest will be back Monday.

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

If you’re one of the 130 readers who has taken the time to complete our short, six-question survey: Thank you! If you have not taken the survey yet, and you have 90 seconds to spare, please click here.

We’ll close the survey tomorrow (Thursday) night, and I’ll share some takeaways from the survey in Friday’s Daily Digest.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Here are today’s links:

Here’s the most recent District 4 COVID-19 report from Riverside County. District 4 consists primarily of the Coachella Valley, as well as points eastward to the Arizona state border. The good news: Local cases and hospitalizations seem to be edging slowly downward. The bad: The weekly positivity rate remains alarmingly high. Peruse yourself you’d like.

• Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, who has resisted wearing a mask at the Capitol, has tested positive for the coronavirus. I shan’t comment further, because I have no words.

• Meanwhile, California has endured its deadliest day for COVID-19. Again.

• The state linked to this article yesterday: XPrize is offering $5 million to anyone who can “come up with inexpensive, fast, and easy COVID-19 testing that enables effective, data-driven tracing.” Let’s all hope they have to fork out that money—and fast.

The Conversation looks at the impending eviction crisis—and a legal system that, for centuries, has favored landlords over tenants.

• Related: The economies in California and a lot of other states will take huge hits if the new GOP stimulus package gets passed without major changes.

• Also related: California is considering providing the extra $600 in unemployment if the federal government doesn’t extend the benefit … but will need to borrow money to do so.

• NBC News looks at the tactics protesters are using to stand up to federal law enforcement in Portland. Get out the leaf blowers!

• Related: The New York Times reports that those federal agents have agreed to leave Portlandas long as the federal courthouse is secured.

• An NPR analysis shows that the coronavirus is becoming a huge problem in a lot of the nation’s small cities, as more and more hospitals become overwhelmed.

• The fact that we’re talking about what may happen when a vaccine arrives is a good thing, but nonetheless, take note: Now is the time for people to learn about a vaccine’s possible side effectsnot to cause alarm, but to learn.

AMC theaters and Universal Pictures have kissed and made up. AMC had said it’d never again show Universal films after the studio released Trolls World Tour online because of the pandemic. As part of the reconciliation, AMC has agreed that Universal can release films online after just 17 days in theaters; before, that number was at least 75 days.

• Sigh … meanwhile, in Minnesota, a rodeo took place over the weekend. The organizer said there’d be “no spectators,” but invited people to show up to protest “government overreach.” Thousands of people—many of them not wearing masks—did.

• From the Independent: We’ve posted an interesting commentary piece from local PR guru David Perry, in which he asks people to stop calling for a complete shutdown—because those of us who are less privileged can’t “shut down.”

The stock value for Eastman Kodak—a company that has struggled in recent years, because film really isn’t a thing anymore—has gone bonkers, after the feds gave Kodak a Defense Production Act loan of $765 million to start making drug ingredients.

• From the “What in the Ever-Loving $&%# Is Going On?!” files: Random people in at least 28 states have received seeds in the mail, apparently from China … and nobody knows why. If you get them, contact the state, and DON’T PLANT THEM; investigators are trying to figure out whether these seeds are harmful. Man, 2020 just won’t quit.

• Whoever had “Madonna Posts Discredited Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory” on their 2020 Bingo card … step up and claim your prize!

Finally, a bit of … possible local news: Is the Riviera Palm Springs about to become the latest Margaritaville? Hmm.

That’s the day’s news. Wash your hands! Wear a mask. Be kind. If you’re able to send us a few bucks to help fund this Daily Digest and the other things the Independent does, please click here. The digest will be back Friday.

As July comes to an end to make way for August … I am tired.

I am tired of this damned pandemic. Of not being able to hug my friends. Of seeing so many people struggle. Of not being able to play softball with my teammates. Of watching my business limp along financially. Of not being able to travel to see family. Of not being able to enjoy the world I took for granted back in February.

Yeah. I’m really tired.

I say this not to complain—because I know I am one of the blessed ones. I live in a place where I am comfortable and safe. Because I have an amazing husband whose work has (knock on wood) been stable, the bills are paid, and I have food in the refrigerator. No, I say this because I know a lot of you out there can relate.

And you know what? Even though I am tired, and I am not feeling optimistic, I know, logically, that better times are coming.

First: We’re learning more about how to deal with this damned virus. Treatments for the virus are getting better. Professional sports are back—yes, without spectators, but this is an improvement over the bleakness of late March and April. All the early vaccine trials that we’ve heard about have gone well. One way or another, we will eventually defeat SARS-CoV-2, just like we’ve beaten every other pox on humanity that’s come our way over the centuries.

Second: Despite all the pain and fear and isolation at home, good people continue to do great things in this community. Various recent Independent stories prove that: You can read about an elder-law attorney fighting the good fight. About activists working to get out the vote in November. About the medical world, at long last, acknowledging that racism is a public-health issue. About a young future leader eventually heading off to Stanford University—and pledging to come back to the Coachella Valley for her career, because she wants to make it a better place. About restaurants feeding seniors in need. About local musicians continuing to create. About the McCallum Theatre finding a way to give their Open Call talent-competition finalists their moment in the spotlight, despite the pandemic. About passionate local theater artists coming to together to find a way forward, even though nobody knows when we’ll be able to gather in auditoriums again.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

These are dark and scary times, and a whole lot of people are hurting. A whole lot of us are tired. But there’s a lot of good out there—and better times are coming. Really.

As always, thanks for reading—and be sure to pick up the August 2020 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting streets this week.

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A little background: I started the Daily Digest when the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic hit full force (on March 13, to be exact). The goal was for it to be sent each weekday, offering up vetted, reliable links to news about the pandemic. The response was overwhelmingly positive (and I thank you for that).

In late May, following the death of George Floyd, the Daily Digest also started including links relevant to the Black Lives Matter protests. Today, the digest is primarily focused on COVID-19, with occasional links to other matters of importance to you, our readers.

Several weeks ago, we cut the frequency of the Daily Digest to three days per week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). We did so for two reasons. First: The open rate for these Daily Digests had decreased ever so slightly, and I feared y’all were suffering from news fatigue. Second: Frankly, I needed a break. Each of Daily Digest takes, on average, about two hours of my time, meaning the digest had added 10 hours to my work week. By going down to three days a week, I was able to reclaim four hours of my time per week for either personal matters or other work.

So … as we head into August, it’s time to re-evaluate things. The Daily Digest isn’t going anywhere; we’re just trying to figure out what to include in it, and how often you want it to appear in your inbox (and at CVIndependent.com).

That survey, again, can be found here. Thanks for your time, and for helping us figure out how best we can serve you, our amazing and talented readers.

Today’s links:

• From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: The vast majority of California’s schools will not be reopening this fall—at least to start. As a result, parents are scrambling. Key quote: “Millions of working parents … need to wade through constantly evolving scenarios about the school year ahead, weighing the twin stressors of how prolonged campus closures will affect their childrens’ learning and mental well-being, as well as their own livelihoods.”

This just in from the city of Palm Springs: “In an effort to flatten the spread of COVID-19 and minimize large gatherings, the city of Palm Springs today issued a new supplementary order that requires restaurants, bars, wineries, distilleries and breweries to close from 11 p.m. until 5 a.m. The temporary order goes into effect at noon on Friday, July 31, and will remain until the COVID-19 emergency is abated. Guests already in the facilities at 10 p.m. may be allowed by the operator to remain until 11 p.m. Only staff needed to close, open or clean can be in such facilities between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.” Interesting.

• A sliver of good news: The COVID-19 hotspot messes that are Arizona, Texas and Florida are indeed sill messes—but there are signs of improvement.

• And a sliver of hope: The final-stage, large-scale study of a promising SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is officially under way

Alas, globally, the coronavirus news is not good, as nations in Asia, Europe and elsewhere are issuing new restrictions and closures because of outbreaks. (However, it should be noted that these outbreaks would be mere nits here in the U.S.). Sigh.

• Google says its employees will be working from home for another year. Yes. Another whole year.

• Sinclair Media—a conservative-owned company that has 294 stations nationwide—was going to run a segment over the weekend featuring whackadoo “Plandemic” conspiracy theorist Judy Mikovits claiming Dr. Anthony Fauci himself created SARS-CoV-2. However, thank goodness, the company had a change of heart.

• In my post-print-deadline haze, I forgot to mention last week that I was again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast, along with hosts Shann Carr, John Taylor and Brad Fuhr, and expert Dr. Laura Rush. Check it out! 

The New York Times takes a look at current state of antibody testing, and more or less concludes that we’re doing it wrong.

• Related-ish: Riverside County today released the results of an antibody study—and almost 6 percent of the people tested had the antibodies. That means less that less than a third of the COVID-19 cases in the county have been reported, if true.

The Washington Post takes a heartbreaking look at some of the chaos that’s unfolded in California’s prisons as a result of the coronavirus. Key quote: “Before the pandemic, women at (the California Institution for Women) were allowed out of their cells for 23 hours a day. They worked and participated in professional training or personal development programs. That ended in mid-March, along with family visits. Women say they now often spend 23 hours locked in their cells, with little information on how long the latest lockdown measures will last or when they’ll be able to exercise outside, call their families or even be allowed to shower.”

The Major League Baseball season could be in jeopardy, as the Miami Marlins team is in the midst of an outbreak, affecting 11 players and two coaches. As of now, only three games, total, have been postponed—but needless to say, this is not good.

• It turns out FEMA has been sending expired and faulty personal protective equipment to nursing homes across the country. What in the heck? 

The Save Our Stages bill has been introduced in Congress; it would offer a lifeline to independent performance venues across the country. Rolling Stone recently spoke to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, one of the sponsors of the bill.

• Our friends at The Conversation examine the various lawsuits filed against the Trump administration because he’s sending mysterious federal law enforcement into various cities, foremost Portland.

A study of Microsoft employees newly working from home revealed some fascinating things. Key quote: “One overarching result of being stuck at home—at work—is that the working day has become longer. ‘People were 'on' four more hours a week, on average,’ say the researchers.”

• Finally, let’s conclude with this humorous call to change our vocabulary because of the pandemic, including the introduction of terms like “Zoom Tourism” into our vernacular.

That’s the news for the day. Please, if you’re able, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, to help us continue providing quality local journalism, for free, to all. Stay safe; wear a mask; and, as always, thanks for reading.

Happy Friday, all. We survived another week!

Today’s news links:

• Under pressure from the Trump administration, the CDC has released new school-reopening guidelines that The New York Times callsa full-throated call to reopen schools.” Yeesh. 

• The governor today announced that the state would take more steps to protect essential workers. Key quote: “The governor said his administration has fallen short in educating businesses on how to safely reopen, and he's trying to make up for that with a new public information campaign targeted at employers. The state launched a new handbook for business owners and employers to support a safe, clean environment, with guidance on everything from cleaning guidelines to what to do in an outbreak.”

• The much-needed next round of stimulus spending—including a possible extension of extra federal unemployment benefits, which will run out in mere days—is likely several weeks away, according to the Senate majority leader.

• Related: NPR and Bloomberg both offer updates on the impending nationwide eviction crisis.

Also related, here’s some good news locally, from The Desert Sun: The city of Palm Springs has extended its eviction moratorium through Sept. 30.

• So … if/when that glorious day comes when there’s a coronavirus vaccine available, who will get the first doses? How will that be decided? The New York Times looks at the matter. Spoiler alert: The word “lottery” comes into play.

• The FDA has now recalled some 77 different types of hand sanitizer that federal regulators say are toxic.

• This is a nasty virus. NBC News reports that the CDC revealed today that many people who get COVID-19, but are not hospitalized, can have lingering effects from the illness for weeks or even months.

• Orange County is quickly becoming the state’s coronavirus hotspot—and beleaguered experts there are having a hard time figuring out the cause, according to the Los Angeles Times. This quote from the county’s acting health officer, Dr. Clayton Chau, speaks volumes and will make you want to bang your head against the wall: “It’s quite difficult, even the person themself would not know,” he said during a briefing Thursday. “‘Well, I was at the bar; I was at the beach; I was here; I was there, where did I get infected?’ It’s a very difficult question to decipher, and all case investigators and tracers do their best to try to ask people, ‘Where were you at so we can pinpoint?’ But, as far as I know, we can’t really pinpoint.”

• Meanwhile, the virus continues to spread in Los Angeles—largely among people of color.

• McDonald’s is the latest large businesses to say it’s going to start requiring customers to wear face coverings. What took ya so long?

• Riverside County plans on giving out 10 million masks via local nonprofits, churches and businesses. They’re calling it the Masks Are Medicine campaign.

Meanwhile, they’re getting serious about masks in Indiana: As of July 27, people not wearing masks there could be charged with a misdemeanor.

• Related: There have been a lot of recent news articles about the science behind masks. NPR cites scientists saying that if 95 percent of people wore masks, coronavirus transmission would decrease by at least 30 percent; meanwhile, CNBC says the more layers a mask has, the better.

• Many so-called experts have declared that the pandemic has essentially ended the era of the office, in favor or working at home. However, The Conversation says not so fast. Key quote: “Organizational life is founded on relationships. Sure, the current remote work experiment has demonstrated that more jobs can be done virtually than many managers previously assumed. But jobs are comprised of tasks; organizations are comprised of relationships. And relationships require ongoing—and often unintended—interactions.”

• Also from The Conversation: The U.S. coronavirus testing system is a mess—but you probably knew that already … and it isn’t going to be easy to fix.

• Speaking of testing: Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services, says tests soon will be able to look for both SARS-CoV-2 and the flu. Yay?

• The lost year of 2020 continues: The Dinah, the huge party weekend for lesbians and queer women every year, will not be held this year.

• How much of 2021 will be lost, too? This just in from the county, via a news release: “The 2021 Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival, set for February 12-21, has been canceled and hopes to resume in 2022 with its 75th year celebration. In addition, the Queen Scheherazade Scholarship Pageant, scheduled for November 2020, is also being canceled. Queen Scheherazade and her court act as goodwill ambassadors leading up to, and during, the Fair in February.”

Movies keep getting pushed back, too: Disney has delayed the release of Mulan, and all Star Wars and Avatar films are being delayed a year.

• And finally, now for something completely different: The New York Times yesterday published a piece on the Pentagon’s Office of Naval Intelligence—the secretive agency that looks into UFO reports. The Times botched the piece by writing it in such a droll and formal fashion—and by burying some holy-shit-level revelations about some of the office’s findings. Key quote: “Eric W. Davis, an astrophysicist who worked as a subcontractor and then a consultant for the Pentagon UFO program since 2007, said that, in some cases, examination of the materials (gathered from purported UFO crashes) had so far failed to determine their source and led him to conclude, ‘We couldn’t make it ourselves.’

That’s enough for the week! Stay safe. Wear a mask. Enjoy the weekend, as best you can—safely, of course. Oh, and if you can spare a buck or two, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent; we’re giving you great local journalism free of charge … but it isn’t cheap to produce! The Digest will be back Monday.

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.

Before everything went to hell, the Coachella Valley theater community was enjoying, by far, its most successful season ever.

CVRep was reveling in its first full season in its gorgeous new home, the CVRep Playhouse in Cathedral City. Dezart Performs and the Desert Rose Playhouse were in the midst of sold-out seasons. Coyote StageWorks was getting settled into its new digs at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, while Palm Canyon Theatre and Desert Theatreworks were packing people into shows in downtown Palm Springs and Indio, respectively.

“We started off our ninth season like a rocket,” said Shawn Abramowitz, the executive director and board president of the Desert Ensemble Theatre Company, which shares space at the Palm Springs Woman’s Club with Dezart Performs. “We had not just record attendance, but record donations—and we were really growing, which allowed us to invest more.”

The weekend of March 13-15 was going to the biggest weekend during this most successful season ever: Four of the six aforementioned companies were opening shows, while LGBT-focused Desert Rose was entering its second weekend of Beautiful Thing, which had received rave reviews, and Palm Canyon Theatre was embarking on the final weekend of a successful production of The Pajama Game.

But as that weekend approached, the reality of COVID-19 began to set in. The BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament was postponed, while Coachella and Stagecoach were delayed until October (before being cancelled altogether for 2020). Disneyland closed—as did all of the shows on Broadway.

Desert Rose Playhouse, Dezart Performs and Desert Ensemble Theatre Company (which, appropriately, was preparing to open a show called How to Survive an Apocalypse) chose to cancel the weekend’s shows, while Desert Theatreworks and Palm Canyon Theatre shut down after Friday’s performances. Only CVRep would make it through the weekend—and on Sunday, March 15, the company’s production of The City of Conversation would become the final full theatrical production the valley has hosted since.

The cancellations devastated the local theater community, both emotionally and financially.

“I will tell you, the amount of frustration and disappointment in coming right up to opening night and having to cancel—I do not want to go through that again,” said Chuck Yates, the founding artistic director of Coyote Stageworks. “We shut down The Velocity of Autumn the day before we were supposed to open. It’s too hard.”

Now, more than four months later, all of the valley’s theater companies remain in limbo. None of them know what the 2020-2021 season will bring—even though some companies have optimistically announced seasons starting as early as September.

In other words, the theater world is a mess—but the mess has had a silver lining, of sorts: It’s brought the local theater community together.

Some—but, notably, not all—of the desert’s theater companies have banded together to launch the Alliance of Desert Theatres, “a cooperative of producing theater companies in the Coachella Valley that network and take action in order to nurture a vibrant performing arts community,” according to the website. The effort started with a Zoom call back in May, and continues with weekly Zoom calls and subcommittees that look at various initiatives.

“I felt that (the alliance) was going to be a great resource and offer a sense of community and camaraderie to get through this horrible time,” said Michael Shaw, the artistic director of Dezart Performs. “We’re sharing our woes; we’re sharing our strategies. This was an opportunity to really get a sense of what we need to do to survive as a theater community.”


David Cohan, the vice president of the board of directors at CVRep, serves as the Alliance of Desert Theaters’ spokesman. He explained that the alliance grew out of internal conversations taking place at CVRep.

“With everything that is (happening), we felt that this is the time and place where we need to come together,” Cohan said. “Joe Giarrusso, the president of the (CVRep) board, and I started discussing this. I suggested that if nobody was doing it, maybe we should be the ones to organize it. So we put out emails to all the other theater groups and set up an initial meeting. That was the starter.”

Cohan said the alliance’s weekly meetings give participants the opportunity to share information and ideas, and the group is working on possibly pooling some resources. As an example, Cohan said, the alliance has discussed the feasibility of filming productions and streaming them.

“That’s not as simple as it sounds,” he said. “For instance, for CVRep, we are a union theater company, and there are two different unions—one that covers live theater, and one that covers, basically, broadcast theater. … If you’re recording a live performance, but then wanting to stream it, you’re talking about two different unions and two different sets of rules.

“Then you get into technology—how could you do it? How do you do it in terms of equipment? A lot of theaters don’t have recording equipment—and how expensive is it? Besides cameras, what do you need? … There are some people who are much more technically oriented and have been doing research on recording. Could we buy some recording equipment and share it among the theaters? That’s one of the things we’re discussing.”

While it’s been helpful to exchange ideas and share information, Cohan said the sense of community the alliance has fostered has been its biggest benefit.

“The camaraderie has been nothing short of amazing and heartwarming and astounding,” he said. “We’re all working really well together—and it makes for a stronger arts community. We all have a much better appreciation for one another.”

Desert Ensemble’s Abramowitz agreed.

“It’s really a huge support system for theater companies,” Abramowitz said. “Even the groups that aren’t necessarily a part of the alliance, it doesn’t mean that the alliance wouldn’t have resources available for those other theater companies. There’s been a need for a very long time for groups to come together to figure out how we can combine resources in a way that is non-competitive and that allows us to grow. We’re all doing great work, and we all support each other, and we all love each other—even though we’re also all very competitive.”

Abramowitz said the Alliance of Desert Theatres fulfills a different purpose than the long-established Desert Theatre League—best known for its annual Desert Star Awards, honoring the best in local theater each year. (Incidentally, Desert Star nominations are slated to be announced on Aug. 1.)

“The Desert Theatre League’s mission is to highlight the work that is being done in the valley,” Abramowitz said. “What’s not a part of their mission is helping us expand, in terms of resources and availability.

“I think the common thread among all of us is … how can we best help each other out when we do not know what our reality is going to be like? The alliance itself is supposed to be equal in terms of participation. That there’s no specific leader; there’s no specific hierarchy. We’ve formed subcommittees to help each other out, whether it’s regarding fundraising, or what possible grants are out there for us, and who could possibly use them. What are the (standard operating procedures) for reopening? What do we think it’s going to look like? Where can we get the best deal on hand sanitizer?”

Shaw said one of the alliance’s goals is to help educate the public about local theater.

“The fact that we are speaking weekly, it’s good that all of our patrons and all of our donors know that we’re doing that, because what we’re also doing is educating the public,” Shaw said. “‘Did you know that there is a LGBTQ theater in the valley? Did you know that there’s a very successful theater in Indio at the Indio Performing Arts Center? Did you know that?’ There are a lot of people who don’t know that. It’ll help open the eyes and educate the public about what the offerings are in the community once we get back up and running. It would have been great to have something like this before, pre-COVID, but we’re all so busy.”

That busy-ness is one of the reasons some of the valley’s theater companies have declined to participate in the alliance—at least for now. Take Coyote StageWorks, for example; the company was listed as a member in the news release first announcing the formation of the Alliance of Desert Theatres, but Yates said he later decided that he needed to take a step back.

“I applaud them. We were in the first three Zoom conversations about setting it up and what it could be,” Yates said. “David Youse is my board president. We talked a lot about it. … It was taking away our focus from keeping our own business alive. It also seemed to be heading in a different direction from what we initially thought the alliance was going to be. We just decided that at this particular moment, it was imperative that we focus on Coyote.

“Some of the talk was in getting buying power on hand sanitizer and that kind of stuff for the theaters. Well, we already have that covered with being at the Cultural Center.”

Yates said he may at some point decide to rejoin the alliance.

“Things may change. I may go back to them and say, ‘All right, now we’re ready,’” Yates said. “But at the time it was all happening, there was too much unknown. We had people saying that they were definitely starting up in November, and I was like, ‘I can’t support that.’ An alliance means that you’re aligned.”


Meanwhile, the theater companies are all trying to figure out how to handle their 2020-2021 seasons—if the pandemic even allows a 2020-2021 season.

Palm Canyon Theatre and Desert Theatreworks, as of this writing, are selling tickets for fully announced seasons, starting in September. Desert Rose is in the midst of a move from Rancho Mirage into a new home—the former Zelda’s nightclub space, on South Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs.

Most of the other theater companies have their eyes set on 2021.

“Gosh, we are definitely not opening up this year,” Desert Ensemble’s Abramowitz said. “There’s just no way, especially without state or federal guidelines on how a theater company or a performance-art center should operate. We don’t want to give hopes to any of our patrons and then cancel. Right now, we are thinking of the beginning of next year. We’re changing our gala event—which would normally be an event with food, and drink, and song, and a ton of people—to something a little bit more quaint.

“We are (hoping to do a season starting in the first part of 2021), but it will be very short. Instead of doing the gala event and then three full-stage productions, we would be doing a gala event and two stage productions. One of them would be (company founder) Tony Padilla’s show that we want to do for our 10th anniversary, that we did a reading on back in December of last year. Then, we also hope to redo How to Survive an Apocalypse. We have the set; we have everything.”

Dezart Performs’ Shaw is also setting his sights on a scaled-down season in 2021, starting with the show he was never able to open back in March—presented, perhaps, in an unconventional manner.

“Our goal is to produce three shows this season, and start with Every Brilliant Thing, where we left off; how we’re going to present it comes down to money,” Shaw said. “We are looking into various streaming platforms. We’re looking at filming it live and then streaming it as a recording.

“Our second show—for the first time, we’re actually producing a musical. It’s only two actors. … Then we’re doing a brand-new drama by Paul Coates called The End of It.”

Chuck Yates, at Coyote StageWorks, said the set for The Velocity of Autumn remains onstage at the Cultural Center.

“Our plan is, when it is safe for people to come back to a theater, we will do that show,” he said. “We have a couple of other titles in a holding pattern if we get to do more than one show—but at the moment, nobody seems to know when we’re able to do what we do.”

In the meantime, Yates said he’s working with the Cultural Center—which recently started hosting drive-in movies—to possibly hold smaller events outdoors.

“I won’t say they’re full productions, but they’d be some concerts and some other sorts of fun outdoor events for Coyote StageWorks,” he said. “All of that’s in the works right now, just so we can keep doing some things. … We’ve also talked about doing our play-reading series outdoors when it gets cooler.”

Over at CVRep, which has been hosting a steady series of virtual events, the plan is to reopen with The City of Conversation, hopefully in January 2021—but even if that can happen, Cohan said it will be a big challenge to actually pull it off, barring a miracle cure for COVID-19.

“We’re making all sorts of plans,” Cohan said. “We have multiple calls a week where we’re coming up with plans A, B, C, D and E; it just keeps going. One of our plans is, if it is safe enough, and if we think we’ll have the patrons to be able to do it, we will invite people to come back to the theater with enormous modifications to how we do in-person shows—with a very limited seating capacity and socially distanced seating. We’re also talking about making it safe for the actors by having their dressing rooms and rehearsal rooms separated with Plexiglass and all kinds of other things. We’re trying to figure all that out—and then having particular protocols for how people will actually come to the theater, everything from going to fully paperless ticketing to having people arrive at the theater at staggered times so people aren’t waiting together in our lobby.

“We’re thinking about everything. There are very extensive cleaning protocols to the actual seats and every surface, and restrooms, both during the shows, when restrooms will get cleaned multiple times before the show and intermissions, and after the show, as well as all the seats being sprayed down and disinfected between shows. … And then what happens as we approach a show, if an actor comes down with the sniffles, which is not an unusual thing? Can we still run the show? We used to be able to. An actor used to be able to muscle through. But now if an actor has the sniffles, can we still do that?”

Below: Josh Odsess-Rubin and Martha Hackett in CVRep’s The City of Conversation—the final show to be performed in the valley before the March shutdown.

Is it possible—just possible—that the coronavirus has peaked, at least for now, in the Coachella Valley?

Maybe. Maybe not. But maybe.

The county’s just-released District 4 report—District 4 includes the Coachella Valley and points eastward to the state line—shows that hospitalizations, case numbers and the weekly positivity rate are all inching downward.

This is very good news … but don’t break out the party hats just yet.

First: The weekly positivity rate is still 12.8 percent, which, while lower than last week’s rate, is still too high. The state’s overall rate is below 8 percent, and in order for things to reopen open, the county would need to get its rate below 8 percent.

Second: We lost 24 of our neighbors to COVID-19 last week. That’s simply awful.

We need to keep up the fight, folks. We need to wear masks and wash our hands and avoid crowds. If a contact tracer contacts you, for crying out loud, work with them. (More on that below.) If you think you might be sick, STAY HOME. Please.

Today’s news:

• The state shut down “indoor operations” of salons and barber shops last week—a distinction which confused the heck out of some shop owners, because outdoor operations are largely prohibited anyway. Well, Gov. Newsom today clarified things, and explained that under new rules, salons and barbershops can indeed operate outside if they follow certain rules. Now, if it just weren’t 109 degrees outside …

More good news on the vaccine front was announced today, this time coming from the joint effort by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca: Early testing showed the vaccine “increased levels of both protective neutralizing antibodies and immune T-cells that target the virus” in human test subjects, according to Bloomberg News via SFGate. Keep your fingers crossed …

However, Bloomberg News also threw a little cold water on vaccine hopes, in a piece pointing out that the leading vaccine candidates—the aforementioned Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and the Moderna Inc. vaccine—may wind up requiring two doses. This, of course, makes it harder to make sure as many people are vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Yet more encouraging-but-take-it-with-a-massive-grain-of-salt news, courtesy of The New York Times: “A British drug company said Monday that an inhaled form of a commonly used medicine could slash the odds of COVID-19 patients becoming severely ill, a sliver of good news in the race to find treatments that was met by scientists with equal measures of caution and cheer. The drug, based on interferon beta, a protein naturally produced by the body to orchestrate its response to viruses, has become the focus of intensifying efforts in Britain, China and the United States to treat Covid-19 patients.”

Delta Air Lines is keeping middle seats open, while most of its competitors are not. Is it because Delta Air Lines “cares” more? No, it’s because it’s good business, posits this ZDNet article. Key quote: “Why this sudden decency? Because, (CEO Ed) Bastian explained, those empty middle seats are the ‘No. 1 reason’ travelers are booking with Delta.”

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino announced today that all concerts in its Special Events Center slated for 2020 are being postponed.

• Modernism Week today said that its Fall Preview series of in-person events, scheduled for Oct. 15-18, will not take place. Instead, according to a news release: “The Modernism Week team is developing unique virtual programs to be offered online during Fall Preview. Tickets for these virtual events are planned to be released by October 1.” Watch the Modernism Week website for details.

Also announced today, by the California Interscholastic Federation: The start of high school sports in the state will be delayed until at least December or January.

• From the Independent: How will the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the economic downturn effect the local results on Election Day? We crunched the numbers in terms of recent voter-registrations—and it appears the Democratic Party is on the upswing. Kevin Fitzgerald also talked to local party leaders and some others regarding what they’re seeing on the ground.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise published a piece on the problems contact tracers are having in Riverside County—and specifically in Riverside County, where, for some reason, more than half of the people being contacted aren’t cooperating. Key quote: “San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties also have teams of tracers in the field but haven’t had as many problems.” Sigh.

This New York Times interview with freelance journalist Robert Evans is a couple of days old, but it’s worth a read if you want to better understand what in the heck is going on in Portland, Ore. After more than 50 nights of mostly peaceful protests in a small part of the city, the federal government has swooped in with a mysterious force—a force that Portland officials and state of Oregon don’t want there. 

• After seven months of existing with SARS-CoV-2, scientists are still trying to determine the true fatality rate of the virus. Two experts, writing for The Conversation, explain the process—and offer their best estimates based on the data so far.

Also from The Conversation: A University of Oregon journalism professor writes about the devastation the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn have wrought on the country’s newsrooms. Key quote: “COVID-19 has ripped through the industry. In the United States alone, over 36,000 journalists have lost their jobs, been furloughed or had their pay cut.”

As previously reported in the Independent, live music events have been against state rules since the shutdown began—although some restaurants have gone ahead with them anyway. Well, Riverside County is beginning to crack down.

Last night’s episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, now available on YouTube, broke down why conspiracy theories always pop up around major events (like, say, a certain society-crippling pandemic).

• Because of a testing-supplies shortage, the federal government is encouraging pool testing—where samples from multiple people are combined. If the combined test comes back negative, that’s great; if it comes back positive, then the individual samples get tested to figure out who had the positive results. However, Politico makes the case that this strategy simply won’t work. Key quote: “But the U.S. outbreak is now so out of control that health experts and testing labs say it won’t work here. In areas where the virus is widespread, many pools would test positive—requiring additional tests of each person in those pools.”

CNET helpfully (and depressingly) reminds us that flu season is approaching—and “consulted Dr. Nate Favini, medical lead at Forward to help shed some light on what you need to know about both viruses and what to do if you get sick.” Bleh. Is it time for a cocktail yet?

That’s a lot—I think, you’ll agree, it’s enough for today. Please, if you can, consider throwing a few bucks our way by becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep doing what we do—quality local journalism. Stay safe, everyone.

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