Daily Digest: April 30, 2021
Until this last week, I had been on an airplane exactly twice since SARS-CoV-2 showed up and began running amok. That was for a quick round trip to San Francisco to deal with my husband’s apartment there. Both flights, to and fro, were well less than half-full, and San Francisco International Airport was so calm that it was actually rather eerie.
Then came my second round trip, this time to Reno, for a post-vaccination trip to see family. To say the experience was interesting was an understatement. Three takeaways …
• Airlines are most definitely NOT keeping middle seats open anymore. We flew Southwest Airlines from Palm Springs to Reno, with a layover in Oakland—and on the first leg, it appeared that every seat was taken. (There may have been a handful of seats open, but they were nowhere near us.) On the second leg, a flight attendant said 117 of 140 or so seats were filled.
• From what we saw, masking rules were being followed by virtually everyone. This put my mind at ease a bit about the nearly full flights—and masks will continue to be required at least into September. Of course, bad apples are out there, but none of them were to be found on our trip to Reno.
• The number of people traveling is increasing … but airport amenities have not necessarily rebounded. According to the TSA, traveler levels are around 50-60 percent of what they were in 2019, depending on the day. Well … apparently, the folks who run the Oakland International Airport are unaware of the rebounding travel numbers. Because of the timing of our flight and our layover length, on a Friday early in the evening, we figured we’d have dinner at OAK. Big mistake. The vast majority of the food vendors in our terminal were closed, and the ones that were open had limited menus and huge lines.
If you’re going to be traveling anytime soon, you may want to consider packing a lunch (or dinner). Just make sure you follow the TSA’s rules.
From the Independent
By Katie Finn
April 30, 2021
This Mother’s Day, our resident sommelier is mixing things up, and drinking some fantastic new wine finds.
By Matt King
April 29, 2021
May shows in the Coachella Valley and high desert will star performers including Toby Keith, Queen Nation, Alf Alpha, Symara Stone, and more!
By Robert Victor
April 30, 2021
May’s skies bring the fast-moving inner planets to the western sky at dusk, while the gas giants make morning appearances.
April 29, 2021
Topics addressed on this week’s comics page include the filibuster, Biden’s alleged burger ban, police reform, laws punishing protesters, and much more!
And Now, the News
• This is concerning, and threatens to slow or upend the progress we are making in the battle against COVID-19. According to the Los Angeles Times: “Los Angeles County is set to hit a milestone in COVID-19 vaccinations that no one is happy about. For the first time, the county will not reach its goal of administering 95% of its weekly supply, officials said this week. The reason: Appointments for the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine have decreased by about 50%.” Please, get your shots, people.
• The feds have jumped into the effort to make getting vaccinated as easy as possible. Bloomberg News says: “President Joe Biden’s administration has launched a website, text-message tool and phone hotline to link Americans with COVID-19 shots near them as the pace of vaccination in the U.S. has plateaued. An existing vaccine locater site, VaccineFinder.org, has relaunched as Vaccines.gov, along with a new Spanish-language equivalent, Vacunas.gov. People in the U.S. will be able to text their ZIP code to GETVAX (438829) or VACUNA (822862) to see locations near them with available doses, or call a toll-free number with service in more than 150 languages.”
• The U.S. government is banning some travel from India, as the pandemic there rages on. NPR reports: “The Biden administration is set to enact a travel ban on any non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents coming to the country from India as multiple coronavirus variants have driven India’s COVID-19 outbreak to troubling new heights. The policy will take effect starting on Tuesday, the White House said. … The policy will not apply to U.S. citizens, a Biden administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Lawful permanent residents and other people with exemptions would also be allowed to travel from India to the United States.”
• In some circles, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine remains a popular choice, despite the government’s usage pause following reports of rare but serious blood clots. The Washington Post says: “A blue card sat on the windshield of Josh Woolvin’s black Hyundai Tucson on Tuesday, a spot of color in the sunshine at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It signaled to nurses at this drive-by immunization clinic that Woolvin and his mother, Debbie Shipp, wanted Johnson and Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine, not their other choice, Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-shot regimen. Both selected Johnson and Johnson for its one-and-done convenience, a preference that outweighed their concerns about the extremely rare blood clots that prompted a 10-day pause in use of the vaccine.”
• MedPage Today looks at the latest anti-vaccination conspiracy theory—one that is completely bonkers, but made the news recently because of the actions of one Florida (where else?) school: “When a Miami school said earlier this week that it wouldn’t allow vaccinated teachers in its classrooms, its founder cited ‘vaccine shedding’ as her main concern. The trope is currently abuzz in anti-vaccine circles, said Nicole Baldwin, MD, a pediatrician who has been a target of attacks by the anti-vaxxer community. … Essentially, they believe that people who’ve had the vaccine can somehow shed the spike protein, which in turn can cause menstrual cycle irregularities, miscarriages, and sterility in other women just by being in close proximity. ‘This is a new low, from the delusional wing of the anti-vaxx cult,’ said Zubin Damania, MD, aka ZDoggMD, in a video he recently posted to bust vaccine shedding myths.”
• Menthol cigarettes may soon go the way of the dodo. “The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it will propose a ban on menthol-flavored cigarettes in the United States, which would be a huge blow to future tobacco sales,” CNBC reports. “Menthol is the last allowable flavor for cigarettes. According to the FDA, menthol cigarettes have been disproportionately used by youth, people of color and low-income communities. The vast majority of Black smokers favor menthol cigarette brands, and Black men currently have the highest rates of lung cancer in the country.”
• If you were to ask an accurate Magic 8 Ball about a possible extension beyond June 30 of California’s residential eviction ban, the reply would be: “Reply hazy. Try again later.” According to our partners at CalMatters: “’It remains to be seen if there’s appetite in Sacramento to extend the protections past June 30,’ said David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat who wrote the original eviction moratorium legislation. ‘But I don’t think any of my colleagues have an interest in seeing a wave of mass evictions.’ On Wednesday, a group of local-level elected officials, renters and tenant advocates called for an extension of the moratorium, either through legislative action or executive fiat, and a change to the elements of the law that still allow landlords to evict tenants for reasons other than failing to pay their rent.”
• Paid maternity leave, according to two scholars writing for The Conversation, is a rare political issue about which both sides agree: “President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.8 trillion package of new and expanded benefits, which requires congressional approval, would eventually make it possible for all workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid family leave totaling as much as $4,000 per month. This leave would be for mothers and fathers alike, as well as caring for yourself or another loved one. … In our newly released study about attitudes among U.S. adults regarding paid leave based on data from 2012, 82% of Americans supported parents receiving paid leave—a proportion that’s identical to the recent YouGov poll. Repeatedly, since then, polls have found that at least 80% of Americans support paid maternity leave.”
• This is a big weekend for people who love theme parks. According to the Los Angeles Times: “Disneyland and Disney California Adventure opened their gates to guests Friday after an unprecedented 13-month closure, welcoming parkgoers to stroll down Main Street USA, pay a visit to the Haunted Mansion and scream down Splash Mountain as the COVID-19 pandemic loosens its grip on the state. In the 66-year history of Disneyland, the theme park has been shut for extreme circumstances only a few times—after the assassination of President Kennedy and following the 1994 Northridge earthquake, for example—but before the pandemic struck in March 2020, none of those closures lasted longer than a day. Now, with a slew of coronavirus safety adjustments, the Anaheim parks are welcoming back their fans.”
• This is also a big weekend for people who love legal sex work! Our friends at the beautifully named Nevada Independent report: “Clients will once again be able to solicit the company of legal sex workers at Nevada’s brothels as owners open the doors to their establishments this weekend after being shuttered for more than a year—longer than virtually all other businesses—because of the pandemic. Nevada legal sex worker Alice Little said she is looking forward to returning to work after Gov. Steve Sisolak passed the responsibility of reopening and COVID-19 mitigation measures to individual counties as of May 1. The state allows prostitution within brothels, which are only legal in certain counties and not in Washoe, Clark or Carson City, among others.”
• We feel bad for the folks who work in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, because sometimes their jobs get really stupid. Here’s one example, via NBC News: “Walmart has filed formal opposition to Kanye West’s bid to trademark his ‘Yeezy’ logo, with the superstore titan saying the rapper’s symbol looks too much like its own stamp. The retail giant said consumers could mistake the ‘Walmart Spark Design’ with the ‘Yeezy’ symbol that’s in the same general shape but is expressed in dots rather than solid marks. … The West application is now winding its way through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.”
• And finally … if you find yourself complaining about snowbirds whilst driving here in the Coachella Valley, please understand that commuters elsewhere, in places like Houston, face bigger challenges than you do. Per The Associated Press: “A cow and an alligator caused traffic delays on Wednesday during separate incidents in which the animals took themselves for a spin on Houston area roadways. At around 8 a.m., the cow was spotted moving along Interstate 10 in east Houston, stopping traffic during morning rush hour. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted that a pedestrian tried to rope the cow. … A few hours later, a not fast but furious alligator parked itself on the shoulder of a busy bridge near the Houston suburb of Baytown. At least one lane of traffic was blocked as several officers, including members of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, placed a rope around the reptile’s neck. After the alligator wrestled and spun on the ground, officers held it down as its mouth was taped shut.”
Support the Independent!
Happy Friday, all. We’ve made it through another week—and another month! Please consider celebrating, if you’re able, by clicking below and becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We need all the help we can get to continue producing quality local journalism—and making it available for free.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Have a safe and enjoyable weekend.