Daily Digest: March 26, 2021
During a text conversation with a friend earlier today, I remarked: “I am becoming more and more convinced humankind doesn’t deserve to get renewed for another season.”
I was joking. Mostly. Maybe.
Apologies for the downer attitude, but, wow, the news has been depressing over the last couple weeks—and all of it has to do with human beings being just awful.
Two things in particular are fueling my dour demeanor: First off are the moves by some morons—yes, I said morons—to loosen precautions at a time when we are PROBABLY approaching the end of the worst part of the pandemic, but DEFINITELY not there yet. The most recent idiocy came from Doug Ducey, the man who is the governor of Arizona, which just so happens to be the state on our eastern border.
Declaring the COVID-19 pandemic under control and the need for restrictions over in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey is abolishing all the limits that still remain on businesses and public gatherings.
And he is eliminating—and once again nullifying—the ability of Tucson, Pima County and other local communities in the state to maintain their own mask mandates.
Meanwhile, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky spoke today. The Hill reported:
She noted that the most recent seven-day average is about 57,000 new cases per day, which represents a seven percent increase from the prior week.
An additional 1,000 deaths associated with COVID-19 infections are being recorded per day as well.
“I remain deeply concerned about this trajectory. We have seen cases and hospitalizations from historic declines, to stagnations, to increases,” Walensky explained. “And we know from prior surges that if we don’t control things now, there is a real potential for the epidemic curve to soar again.”
The second thing is the wave of anti-Asian hate that is taking place around the country—and right here at home. The Press-Enterprise yesterday reported:
Nail salons in Riverside and Yucaipa are among those being targeted in an apparent campaign of anonymous, racist, hate letters being sent to Asian-owned businesses.
Riverside resident Jackie Vu’s family, which owns Top 10 Nails & Spa in the Tyler Square shopping center, discovered such a letter Sunday, March 21, addressed to the salon, which is near the Galleria at Tyler mall. It was written to “all Asian,” without the s.
The typewritten, all-caps letter—posted by Vu on Instagram—includes expletives, slurs and stereotypes, calling the business owners “ugly, smelly and disgusting.” It tells them to go back to their “nasty” country, adding an expletive to describe the nation.
And here in the Coachella Valley, this happened, as reported by KESQ News Channel 3:
Stella Kim came to the United States from South Korea more than four decades ago.
She’s the longtime owner of two Palm Desert restaurants, including Musashi on Highway 111. That’s where she said a group of women customers Monday night became disgruntled, then racist and hateful.
“She picked on my English,” Kim said. “They were trying to imitate something–I said, ‘Wow, this is unbelievable.'”
Our species has problems. Serious, serious problems.
From the Independent
By Byrhonda Lyons and Robert Lewis, CalMatters
March 26, 2021
Could recent anti-Asian hate incidents finally get California to strengthen hate-crime laws?
March 25, 2021
This week’s alternative comics tackle issues including the mass shooting, the other mass shooting, the border crisis and the dangers of startling a massive Easter […]
And Now, the News
• The state is greatly expanding vaccination eligibility. According to our partners at CalMatters: “Gov. Gavin Newsom announced (Thursday) that all Californians 50 and older will be eligible to be vaccinated on April 1, while everyone 16 and older will qualify two weeks later. The governor also said that … the state will loosen requirements in lower-income communities for doctors and other health care providers to use their discretion to vaccinate anyone they think should get one, regardless of age or medical condition. The state expects a surge in supply next month: approximately 2.5 million first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccinations per week in the first half of April, and more than 3 million in the second half of the month. That is a substantial increase from the 1.8 million doses the state receives per week.” This is very, very good news.
• One of the biggest problems this country will be facing very soon is the large swath of Americans who refuse to get vaccinated—and one of the things fueling this problem, as mentioned previously in this space, is the glut of context-missing news stories about very rare post-vaccination occurrences. NPR says: “A new NPR analysis finds that articles connecting vaccines and death have been among the most highly engaged with content online this year, going viral in a way that could hinder people’s ability to judge the true risk in getting a shot. The findings also illustrate a broader trend in online misinformation: With social media platforms making more of an effort to take down patently false health claims, bad actors are turning to cherry-picked truths to drive misleading narratives. Experts say these storylines are much harder for companies to moderate, though they can have the same net effect of creating a distorted and false view of the world.” Sigh.
• In fact, U.S. National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins yesterday expressed concern about too many people refusing to get their shots, according to Reuters: “Collins said in an interview with Fox News that he is not worried about having enough vaccine supply. He is more concerned ‘with the hesitancy that is still there in a lot of groups’ that will make it harder to reach immunity ‘because so many people will basically say, “No, not for me.” ‘That could basically cause this pandemic to go on much longer than it needs to,’ he said.“
• Two things regarding the tragedy at the border. First: The Washington Post puts the situation in context … and shows that what’s happening is not unusual, and in fact is pretty typical: “The increase in border crossings at the U.S. border with Mexico has generated a lot of attention—and a lot of theories about where this increase is coming from and whether it might be linked to Biden administration policies. Underappreciated in the developing narrative is just how predictable the rise in border crossings is. We analyzed monthly U.S. Customs and Border Protection data from 2012 through February and found no clear evidence that the overall increase in border crossings in 2021 can be attributed to Biden administration policies. Rather, the current increase fits a pattern of seasonal changes in undocumented immigration combined with a backlog of demand because of 2020’s coronavirus border closure.”
• Second: Riverside County is asking for help from the state and federal government regarding asylum-seekers that are being dropped off by Border Patrol. According to yesterday’s county news release, the county has dealt with 257 immigrants so far in March: “‘This is a federal issue, yet the county is providing safety net services with very limited resources to these individuals and families,’ said Board Chair Karen Spiegel, Second District Supervisor. “We need support and intervention from the state and federal government before our local resources are overwhelmed.’ After picking up the immigrants seeking asylum from CBP, a county team administers rapid COVID-19 testing for everyone and practices strict COVID-19 safeguards to reduce and stop potential disease transmission. These safeguards include ensuring all staff and immigrants are wearing personal protective equipment. If someone tests positive, the individual and any others exposed are provided private accommodations for isolation at local motels throughout Riverside County. However, available motel space is extremely limited and this practice will not be sustainable without immediate intervention from the state and federal governments. Individuals and families who are not exposed to COVID-19, are provided shelter, meals and clothing from local nonprofit organizations.”
• Rather bafflingly, there has not been nonstop air service between Palm Springs and Las Vegas for a very long time. However, that’s about to change. According to the city of Palm Springs’ announcement: “Southwest Airlines has announced new non-stop service from Palm Springs to Las Vegas, beginning Sunday, May 9, 2021. The new year-round Las Vegas service will initially operate once a day on Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays. In June, Southwest will expand the route and provide Coachella Valley residents with one daily non-stop flight to Las Vegas seven days a week.”
• Related … here’s hoping this pilot doesn’t get assigned to the new route, for all sorts of reasons, including the fact that he probably hates it here: “In a hot mic incident recorded over the Mineta San Jose International Airport’s air traffic control scanner, an unidentified pilot was heard delivering an expletive-heavy rant, according to the travel site One Mile at a Time,” SFGate reports. “In the March 12 recording, the pilot says, ‘F—k this place, goddamn liberal f—ks.’ He then continues, making several other curse-word-laden comments before being interrupted by what seems to be an air traffic controller.” SFGate reports that the pilot in question indeed works for Southwest, and that the FAA is investigating.
• The city of Los Angeles decided to clear out a homeless encampment over the last several days in Echo Park. Last night, things got a little ugly, and the LAPD did not handle things well, detaining two reporters in the process. The Los Angeles Times reports: “Los Angeles Times reporter James Queally was briefly detained by the Los Angeles Police Department as he was covering a protest in Echo Park on Thursday evening. … After inquiries by Times editors and its attorney, Queally was released. It was not immediately clear why he was detained, but police had issued a statement a short time earlier saying reporters were subject to dispersal orders in the area. Times Managing Editor Kimi Yoshino said the paper was outraged that Queally was detained simply for doing his job. The Times immediately protested to authorities and he was released without charges.”
• President Biden joined a chorus of angry Democrats today in criticizing a new series of voting restrictions and changes just signed into law in Georgia. NBC News says: “President Joe Biden on Friday condemned the sweeping new voting restrictions in Georgia as ‘outrageous,’ ‘un-American’ and ‘Jim Crow in the 21st century.’ ‘This law, like so many others being pursued by Republicans in statehouses across the country is a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience,’ Biden said in a statement. The 98-page law outlaws providing food or water to people waiting in line to vote and adds additional voter ID requirements to mail voters and shortens state runoffs.”…
• An economist, writing for The Conversation, notes that a news study regarding air travel and the pandemic has some findings you may find surprising: “Fear of flying and catching COVID-19 led to a massive decline in air travel in 2020. But an interesting question emerges: How much did air travel contribute to the early, and uneven, spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.? … Experts have offered many explanations for why the virus spread so unevenly in the U.S. and elsewhere, ranging from population density to public transportation. We are economics researchers with experience studying air travel. In a recent study that is beginning the peer review process, we examine whether air travel from early COVID-19 hot spots in the U.S. spread the virus to other parts of the country. The answer is no.”
• And finally … four entertainment icons have been taken from us in recent days. Actor George Segal died on Tuesday at the age of 87. Beverly Cleary, one of the greatest children’s authors of all time, passed away yesterday at the age of 104. Pulitzer- and Oscar-winning author Larry McMurtry—someone I had the pleasure of meeting in Tucson during the release of Brokeback Mountain—died yesterday at the age of 84. And the legend who brought Lucille Bluth, Malory Archer and hundreds of other characters to life, Jessica Walter, passed away Wednesday at the age of 80. I’ll be having a martini in her honor tonight.
Support the Independent!
Happy Friday, everyone. Please, if you have the financial wherewithal, consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We really need reader support now, considering advertising remains way down due to the pandemic. As always, thanks for reading!