Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: Nov. 26, 2021

I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner yesterday with a dear group of friends. We are all vaccinated and boosted, and we dined, hung out and conversed indoors, unmasked, unworried.

It was a stark contrast compared to last year, when I got together with many of the same friends. We dined, hung out and conversed outside, wearing masks, very much concerned about COVID-19 and the increasing pain it was causing in our valley, our state, our country, our world.

Realizing this, I had a little extra appreciation for yesterday’s festivities. This extra enjoyment of things happened a lot earlier this year. I almost cried the first time I stepped into the softball field for my first game in well over a year. I was very emotional the first time I hugged my mom since the pandemic started.

Lately, however … not so much. Yeah, these feelings burble up during milestones like Thanksgiving, but they don’t for the more “normal” stuff anymore. Dinners with friends, weekends out of town, hugs—they no longer seem as special as they did when they were first “allowed” again after vaccinations started earlier this year.

All of this was running through my head last night after I was perusing the news and came across a story about the newly discovered SARS-CoV-2 variant out of South Africa.

If you’re not yet familiar with this news, here’s a handy explainer from The Associated Press. An excerpt:

It appears to have a high number of mutations — about 30 — in the coronavirus’ spike protein, which could affect how easily it spreads to people.

Sharon Peacock, who has led genetic sequencing of COVID-19 in Britain at the University of Cambridge, said the data so far suggest the new variant has mutations “consistent with enhanced transmissibility,” but said that “the significance of many of the mutations is still not known.”

Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, described the variant as “the most heavily mutated version of the virus we have seen.” He said it was concerning that although the variant was only being detected in low levels in parts of South Africa, “it looks like it’s spreading rapidly.”

This new variant has caused a great deal of concern—enough concern to cause stock markets today to plummet and move the Biden administration to restrict flights from southern Africa—because of fears this variant may be so mutated that current vaccines won’t work against it. However, it’s way, way too early to know whether or not this is the case.

This new variant, now called the omicron variant, may wind up being a big deal … or it may not. But reading about it made me think back to how life felt last December, when we were under a stay-at-home order.

One thing is for certain: After reading this news, I now have a renewed appreciation for the more “normal” stuff that COVID-19 took away for much of 2020 and parts of 2021.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

The Local Climate Crisis: Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia Talks About His Takeaways From the U.N. Climate Change Conference

By Kevin Fitzgerald

November 23, 2021

Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia was part of California’s delegation to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26.

The XX Factor: Meet Jeni Eskridge, a Recently Retired Drama Teacher Who Touched Countless Students’ Lives

By Kay Kudukis

November 24, 2021

Jennifer (Jeni) Eskridge just retired from Desert Mirage High School—and is now enrolled in the low-residency MFA program at UCR, studying creative writing and performing arts with an emphasis on stage plays.

Big Platform, Big Opportunities: The Indio International Tamale Festival Returns With a Stacked Music Lineup Featuring Both National Acts and Locals

By Matt King

November 24, 2021

When the entertainment lineup for this year’s Tamale Festival dropped, many people were flat-out shocked at the high-profile acts, both national and local, on the schedule.

Restaurant News Bites: It’s Time for Tamales; Gigi’s Opens at the V; and More!

By Charles Drabkin

November 25, 2021

This month’s restaurant and food news column has details on three new restaurants at The River, a second Tac/Quila location, boxed cocktails—and more!

Breathtaking Bar: The Owner of Yucca Valley’s AWE Bar Wants to Create a Top-Notch Venue for Both Local Musicians and Big Stars

By Matt King

November 24, 2021

Clark Fyans, the co-founder and director of AWE Bar, talks about how the new venue came to be, and why its opening has been delayed.

Alchemy of Art: After Taking Up Abstract Painting at the Age of 42, Wyman Lancaster Finds Success

By Cat Makino

November 26, 2021

At the age of 42, Wyman Lancaster took up painting—and after only a year and half, his paintings started selling enough for the self-taught artist to make a living.

The Indy Endorsement: The Pho at Fuzion Five

By Jimmy Boegle

November 25, 2021

In our humble opinion, a hot summer day is a fine time for pho. So is a cold winter night. So are all of a day’s 24 hours, 365 days per year. In other words, there’s no excuse to not eat at Fuzion Five.

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for Nov. 25, 2021!

By Staff

November 25, 2021

Topics tackled on this week’s comics page include crumbled doggy biscuits, voter suppression, the Metaverse, the filibuster—and much more!

Best of Coachella Valley Winners’ Advertising Spotlight!

More News

• This time last year, the biggest COVID-19 surge so far (and, hopefully, forever) was getting started. This year, things locally are much different—and better. That’s the message I took from the most recent Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. (District 4 consists of the Coachella Valley and mostly rural points to the east.) While COVID-19 is very much a problem, all of our stats as of the week ending Nov. 21 are holding pretty steady. The number of COVID-19 patients in our three local hospitals were around 40 all week; the week’s positivity rate fell slightly, to 3.9 percent.

• Related: Our partners at CalMatters take a statewide look at how we’re faring with COVID-19 compared to last year. Key takeaways: “Overall the state as a whole is now doing better than a year ago, before vaccines were available. But a closer look at each county shows that ‘better’ isn’t the case for all: At least 18 counties have more hospitalized COVID-19 patients today than they did this time last year. Another five have just as many. The vast majority of the ones faring worse are in the Central Valley and rural Northern California, which are still recovering from bad summer surges. … It’s a different—and far better — situation in California’s urban counties. Of the state’s 10 most populous counties, all except Fresno have fewer COVID patients in the hospital today than a year ago. Los Angeles, Alameda and Contra Costa counties are reporting less than half of the COVID-19 hospitalizations of last year. San Diego, Orange, Riverside, Santa Clara, San Bernardino and Sacramento counties have about 30% less.

• If you’re flying out of Palm Springs International Airport today, and you’re planning in parking at the airport … that may not be possible. Yesterday, the good folks at PSP sent us this alert: “Our main parking lot at PSP and our Holiday overflow parking lot are both full. We are asking travelers … to please take alternate forms of transportation to the airport such as taxis or Uber/Lyft. If travelers drive to the airport today there will be no parking available for them. The airport has had a lot of growth from airlines this year which has led to record passenger numbers over the past five months and very high passenger volumes this holiday weekend. This Thanksgiving has been one of our busiest.” This morning, the airport confirmed that parking lots remained full, but said spaces may begin to open up as some holiday travelers start returning later today.

• Well, here’s a small blessing in disguise: The aforementioned new COVID variant may play a role in getting gas prices to fall. CNBC explains: “A decrease in travel and potential new lockdowns, both of which could hit demand, come just as supply is about to increase. ‘It appears that the discovery a COVID-19 variant in southern Africa is spooking markets across-the-board. Germany is already limiting travel from several nations in the affected region,’ said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital. ‘The last thing that the oil complex needs is another threat to the air travel recovery,’ he added.”

You are invited to a festive celebration in Indio, starting at 5 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 2. The details, from a news release: “The free event will be held at 100 Civic Center Mall (in between City Hall and the Indio Public Library). The festivities include the lighting of Indio’s 14 year old ‘Holiday Tree,’ one of the largest living holiday trees in the Coachella Valley.  This 35-foot pine will sparkle with thousands of twinkling LED lights. Expect performances from carolers from Shadow Hills High School, the Academy of Musical Performance (AMP), and Desert Theatreworks’ production of the Winter Wonderettes. Also making an appearance, celebrating their 23rd season, the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus, with their new artistic director, Jerry R. Soria-Foust. The public is encouraged to bring their cameras, as children will have the opportunity to take a photo with Santa after the tree lighting ceremony and enjoy holiday treats, including candy canes and cookies.”

• And finally … be careful while doing your holiday shopping online, because there are a whole lotta scams out there. A social psychology professor, writing for The Conversation, offers 10 tips on avoiding these scams. Here’s No. 5: “Take a close look at the reviews. If there aren’t any, back away. If there are, check for the following warning signs. The reviews are few and unanimously five stars with no comments. If there are comments, they are loaded with broken English or vague praise that could have been copied and pasted from any product. None of the reviews includes pictures of the actual received product. There aren’t any negative reviews, which is a red flag because even the best legitimate businesses can’t please everyone all the time. As a side note, if you are looking at a legitimate product offering, be careful not to read too much into the negative reviews.”

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Have an amazing holiday weekend, everyone. Try to savor your time with friends and loved ones. Enjoy life. Oh, hey, and if you value the Independent, please consider sending us some financial support; click the button below to learn more. As always, thanks for reading!

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Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. He is also the executive editor and publisher of the Reno News & Review in Reno, Nev. A native of Reno, the Dodgers...