Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: July 29, 2021

About 24 hours ago, the hubby walked into one of the local chain pharmacies and asked whether they’d give an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine shot (either Pfizer or Moderna) to someone who had gotten a Johnson and Johnson shot.

Long story short: The pharmacist said yes; we filled out paperwork; and we each got a Moderna shot.

A month or so ago, I wrote about concerns that those of us on vaccine team J&J weren’t as protected—especially from the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2—as those who’d gotten their two Pfizer and Moderna shots. In that Digest, I cited three news stories: one that said some doctors were already recommending J&J recipients get a mRNA “booster”; one that cited results of a preliminary study saying people who received an AstraZeneca shot (which, like J&J, is an adenovirus vaccine) and then a Pfizer shot had a huge antibody boost; and one that quoted a doctor who said he expected the immune response produced by J&J to be inferior to the response produced by Pfizer and Moderna.

I mentioned in that piece that I was going to message my doctor and ask about getting a possible booster. He responded thoughtfully, saying that he understood my concerns, and that he’d ask the higher-ups at the medical organization that employ him about the matter. He’d get back to me if they got back to him, he said.

Then, well, a month passed. My doctor didn’t get back to me, apparently because the higher-ups never got back to him. The CDC didn’t authorize anything. So, we were kinda stuck.

In the meantime, Delta started running amok, and the science kept getting clearer, at least to me, that the J&J vaccine—while still quite good, in the scheme of things—wasn’t nearly as protective as the mRNA shots.

On the pro-J&J side: The company announced on July 1 that it had data showing its shot worked well against Delta … based on the blood samples of a whopping eight people.

Yes. Eight.

Then came another study release last week. It was NOT pro-J&J. As The New York Times put it: “The new study has not yet been peer reviewed nor published in a scientific journal. But it is consistent with observations that a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine—which has a similar architecture to the J&J vaccine—shows only about 33 percent efficacy against symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant.”

The hubby and I were actually spurred on by a friend who did a similar thing last week. He was a J&J recipient, and he made an appointment at another large chain pharmacy, which gave him a Moderna shot.

We were also spurred on by several friends who got sick from COVID-19 despite being immunized with J&J. (It’s worth noting that none of these friends required hospitalization. It’s also worth noting that several other people we know who also contracted symptomatic COVID-19 had gotten either two Pfizer or Moderna shots. Delta is serious business.)

As I was getting the shot, I felt a mixture of emotions. I admit feeling a bit conflicted about the fact I was using my privilege as an American to get a second shot, when most people around the world can only dream about getting vaccinated. I felt a little embarrassed that I was breaking the rules, sort of, seeing as we were doing something that was not CDC-authorized. I also feel bad that others may be turned away from pharmacies that are being more strict.

But mostly, I felt relief. I don’t want to get sick—and more importantly, I don’t want to play any role whatsoever in spreading this damned disease to anyone else.

—Jimmy Boegle

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• More and more government agencies and businesses are recommending or requiring that people—vaccinated or not—mask up indoors. The city of Palm Springs on Wednesday followed in the footsteps of the CDC’s recommendation on Tuesday by issuing a recommendation—but not a requirement—of their own. Riverside County did the same. On Tuesday, the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation Board did this, according to a news release: “On Tuesday, July 27, the Board strongly recommended full vaccination for employees and all eligible students returning to campus for in-person learning, as well as recommended that everyone wears a mask in public indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status. These community health and safety recommendations would remain in place until a vaccination rate of at least 80 percent is reached in the valley, according to a report from the Healthcare District and Foundation. More than 238,000 people have been fully vaccinated so far, but an additional 106,707 individuals must be fully vaccinated to accomplish this goal. District and Foundation CEO Conrado Bárzaga said the call to action is the Healthcare District’s ‘ethical obligation’ during a pandemic that has taken more than 600,000 Americans’ lives, while acknowledging the public agency lacks the regulatory authority to implement the requirements on its own.” MASK UP, FOLKS!

• Remember the weekly District 4 COVID-19 reports? The county stopped doing them around the first of June, but they’re back, baby! (Sigh.) So in the week ending July 27, the positivity rate in District 4 (consisting of the Coachella Valley and points eastward) was 6.5 percent, with hospitalizations definitely on the rise. Bleh.

• Oh, great. In news about Other Diseases to Worry About, the state Department of Public Health tweeted (no pun intended, I swear) this yesterday: “Found a dead bird in your yard? Call 1-877-WNV-BIRD or report online at Birds can get sick and die from mosquitoes infected with #WestNileVirus (WNV). CDPH tests dead birds and uses the information to track WNV in #California.”

• In non-COVID-related news: Palm Springs City Councilwoman Christy Holstege announced she was running for the District 42 Assembly seat in the 2022 election. It’s currently occupied by independent Chad Mayes. The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus co-issued the news release, giving Holstege their endorsement. While the announcement was no surprise, its early timing is certainly intriguing. Holstege is currently serving as Palm Springs’ mayor; the seat rotates among councilmembers from year to year. This is going to be a fascinating race, to say the least.

The Palm Springs Post reports on the curious case of the Hair of the Dog English Pub. The city’s Appeals Board, according to the Post, this week upheld three citations issued to owner Larry Bitonti for running afoul of COVID-19 orders, but reduced his fines from $40,000 to $16,000. Key quote: “Code enforcement officers who visited Hair of the Dog three times between November 2020 and January 2021 testified Wednesday that not only were bar patrons being served inside, but that food offered on a paper menu officers were shown, which appeared to be from a temporary taco stand not doing business at the bar, fell short of being full food service. Officers also reported seeing people inside the bar drinking, playing pool, and watching sports quickly disperse when they knocked on the bar’s locked door. Charles Koller, an attorney representing Bitonti, acknowledged that patrons were inside the bar during one visit by the officers. He said that incident was simply a mistake made by an employee acting on behalf of Bitonti, who was concerned about the comfort of his customers. On the other occasions, Koller said, what officers thought were people playing pool were customers who happened to be touching pool equipment while they waited near pool tables to pay their bills. People seen dispersing by the officers, he claimed, were past and present employees who showed up to clean the bar and went on a break at the same moment officers arrived.”

The Associated Press points out a positive aspect of the 2021 Summer Olympics (which have pretty much been a debacle): There are FAR more out and proud athletes than ever before. Key quote: “The gay website has been tallying the number of publicly out gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and nonbinary athletes in Tokyo. After several updates, its count is now up to 168, including some who petitioned to get on the list. That’s three times the number that Outsports tallied at the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. At the London Games, it counted just 23.”

• The pandemic-related microchip shortage is even hitting the big boys of tech. The Wall Street Journal (registration required to read the whole thing, alas) says: “Apple Inc. and Tesla Inc. are set to begin feeling the impact of a significant disruption to the global supply of microprocessors, a sign that even some of the largest, best-supplied companies can no longer sidestep the semiconductor crisis. The iPhone maker cautioned on Tuesday that supply constraints would extend to its smartphones during the three-month period ending in September, contributing to a slowing of the company’s growth compared with the 36% revenue gain in the most recent quarter. The caution comes as Apple prepares to bring out its latest iPhone this fall. ‘We’re going to take it sort of one quarter at a time and, as you would guess, we’ll do everything we can to mitigate whatever set of circumstances we’re dealt,’ Chief Executive Tim Cook told analysts Tuesday during a public conference call.”

• If you use McCormick’s seasonings, take note: “McCormick & Company is recalling three of its seasonings because of potential salmonella contamination,” CBS News says. “Routine testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration led to the recall of McCormick Perfect Pinch Italian Seasoning, McCormick Culinary Italian Seasoning and Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Ranch Seasoning, the company said in a news release.”

• Well this is interesting: Scarlett Johansson is apparently suing Disney over the fact that Black Widow was not solely released in theaters. CNN says: “Actress Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday that alleges Disney breached her contract by releasing the highly anticipated superhero film Black Widow on its streaming service, Disney+. The film was released simultaneously on the service and in theaters, which the suit claims broke an agreement between the star and the company. The suit alleges that Johansson agreed that her salary for the film would be based, in large part, on the film’s box office haul.”

• And finally, if you’re bad with directions, it may be your parents’ fault. According to a doctoral student in psychology, writing for The Conversation: “I studied factors that affect people’s spatial navigation skills—or how they understand their location and the features within their surroundings. I was also curious about the possible childhood origins of gender differences in how men and women navigate, and why women feel more anxious when trying to find their way around unfamiliar areas. My findings suggest that children who are allowed to roam by themselves farther away from their homes are likely to become better, more confident navigators as adults than children who are more restricted.”

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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...