Daily Digest: Feb. 24, 2021
It’s Feb. 24, 2020. The editor of the local alternative rag is working in his office. After putting the March print edition to bed, he has started work on the April edition—the annual Music Issue, coinciding with those big festival weekends in Indio.
A man knocks at the door. The editor tells him to come in.
MAN: Hi! I am from the future. Whatcha working on?
THE EDITOR: Oh, hi. I am working on our annual Music Issue. Wait, you said you’re from the future?
A music issue? Coinciding with those big music festivals in Indio? Oh, none of that’s gonna happen.
What? Not happening?
Yeah. Actually, your April issue’s gonna have TP on the cover.
What? TP—you mean toilet paper? What are you even talking about?
Yeah! Toilet paper. About two and a half weeks from now, COVID-19 is going to start shutting things down.
COVID-19? That’s a respiratory illness. What does that have to do with toilet paper?
Nothing, really. I mean, it does cause diarrhea in some people, but …
Then why will toilet paper be on the cover?
People are crazy, man. They started buying it and hoarding it when the shutdowns started. Stores had to limit the amounts people can buy, whenever they got in shipments.
Dude. This makes no sense. That April issue will be out just four weeks from today.
Yep! It’s gonna be a crazy, horrible four weeks. And buckle up, champ. This is only the beginning.
Again, this makes no sense. What do you mean this is only the beginning?
Well, there’s going to be the first COVID spike. And then the second. And then the third, which is really bad. Oh, and then there’s the social justice movement, the president refusing to concede the election …
Good god. You’re describing a nightmare.
Yeah. This all happens between now and this time next year. It’s nuts. In fact, you’ll have TP on your cover TWICE over the next year.
Twice? Why twice? Does the toilet-paper shortage continue for a whole year?
Nope! But y’all will do a story on poop almost a year from now, and …
We’ll end up doing a story on POOP?!
Uh, thank you?
You’re welcome. And wait until you hear about the insurrection!
Insurrection? OK, you need to leave. You’re clearly insane …
From the Independent
A Regional Resource: CREATE Center for the Arts Is Celebrating Its Huge New Home With Two Arts Projects Open to Everyone
By Jimmy Boegle
February 23, 2021
The CREATE Center for the Arts’ new home in the San Pablo area of Palm Desert has 20,000 square feet of space, for every type […]
On Cocktails: Our Intrepid Scribe Ponders His Bartending Past While Wondering About His Industry’s Future
By Kevin Carlow
February 24, 2021
Many bartenders are unlikely bartenders—a collection of introverts, substance abusers, artists, literary/music nerds … and with the bar industry in jeopardy, where do the lifers […]
By Matt King
February 23, 2021
For years, Dale Myers has helped provide the Coachella Valley with vinyl. Through his time working at the late, lamented Record Alley, his mobile record […]
And Now, the News
• First, the good news on the pandemic front: There will soon be a third SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in the mix. NBC News reports: “Documents released by the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday indicate that Johnson and Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine is overall safe and highly effective—86 percent—against the most severe outcomes of the illness. The favorable review comes two days before a panel of independent advisers to the FDA is scheduled to discuss the company’s application for emergency use. It is widely expected that the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, or VRBPAC, will vote to recommend authorization of the vaccine.”
• NPR makes a very good point about the fact that Johnson and Johnson’s single-shot vaccine has gotten something of a “bad rap,” because its publicized effectiveness stats aren’t quite as good as those for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. NPR talked to Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health: “He points out that the 66% vs. 95% effectiveness isn’t the right comparison for several reasons. He notes that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was tested in different settings—the U.S., several Latin American countries and South Africa, where some worrisome variants of the virus were first seen. ‘So that 66% number really represents an amalgamation of a variety of different clinical trials. Moderna and Pfizer were not tested in those circumstances,’ says. … ‘What you care about is hospitalizations and deaths,’ he says. ‘And Johnson and Johnson appears to be just as good as Moderna and Pfizer at preventing those.'”
• And now for the horrifying news on the pandemic front: You know those variants from the UK and South Africa we keep bringing up? Well, researchers now think California’s very own homegrown variant—the dominant strain in the state now—is in many ways just as bad. According to the Los Angeles Times: “Those attributes have some scientists worried that the homegrown variant could reverse the state’s recent progress in reducing new infections—especially if it’s able to swap mutations with other threatening strains. Experts said it underscores the need to vaccinate people as quickly as possible and to continue wearing masks, maintaining social distance and following other public health precautions as the state begins to reopen more.”
• As part of the just-signed $7.6 billion Golden State Stimulus bill, some 5.7 million lower-income Californians will receive $600 checks. Our partners at CalMatters explain who, exactly, will be getting these checks, and when. Spoiler alert: If you’re one of the people in line to get these checks, you should get your taxes filed ASAP: “An estimated 3.8 million workers who made up to $30,000 last year will qualify for a $600 tax rebate along with the 2020 California Earned Income Tax Credit. This includes undocumented workers who file taxes. When? Four to five weeks after filing 2020 tax returns, if you have direct deposit. Six to seven weeks after filing, if you need the check mailed.”
• Also from CalMatters: The “WhatMatters” newsletter breaks the bad news that the state is unlikely to miss upcoming climate goals. Key quote: “California State Auditor Elaine Howle, doesn’t mince words: ‘The state will fall short of meeting the 2030 goal’ of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels ‘unless emissions reductions occur at a faster pace.’ The audit, which found that transportation emissions have actually increased since 2013, rebuked the California Air Resources Board for overstating the impact of its emissions-reduction programs—including rebates that encourage Californians to buy clean vehicles.”
• Here’s this week’s Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report—back after one seemingly wasn’t posted last week, for some reason. (District 4 includes the Coachella Valley and some rural points eastward.) During the week ending on Feb. 21, things were trending in the right direction, with the district’s positivity rate down to 5.8 percent. However, COVID-19 remains very much a deadly, awful thing: 13 of our neighbors died due to the disease during the week.
• Related: As the pandemic focus has turned from COVID-19 testing to vaccines, the number of tests being taken has plummeted—so county officials are again asking people to go get tested, to help Riverside County move up in the state’s tier system. According to the news release: “Riverside County’s case rate is also worsened by the upwards adjustment for not reaching the statewide median of PCR swab tests, which is 386.4 per 100,000 population. Riverside County’s test rate, which was well above 800 per 100,000 population late last year, is now at 361.4 per 100,000 residents.”
• Sigh. The San Francisco Chronicle (registration required, alas) reports that, because people are terrible, this is happening with some vaccine codes the state issued: “The vaccine access codes created by California officials were intended to get individuals in underserved areas to the front of the line and combat inequities in vaccine distribution, according to Brian Ferguson, spokesperson for the California Office of Emergency Services. But the codes are being shared via text messages among people they weren’t intended for—healthy, privileged and white—and without the correct messaging about the intended recipients. Now, state officials are auditing their use and trying to put an end to the abuse of a system that started about a week ago.”
• Blue Shield is in the process of taking over the vaccine-distribution process … although nobody seems sure exactly how that’s gonna work. The Press-Enterprise reports: “One day after state officials announced the roll-out of a new system to 10 counties in Inland California—including Riverside County and counties in central and northern California—details are still being determined, Riverside County spokeswoman Brooke Federico said Monday, Feb. 22. ‘We’re working with Blue Shield to see which responsibilities we’ll retain and which they will handle,’ Federico said. Likely, the county will continue to provide vaccines and remain a partner in other areas, but Blue Cross might coordinate the distribution of the vaccine and the sign-up process. That could mean making appointments through the state’s vaccine sign-up system, called My Turn, she said.”
• Speaking of The Press-Enterprise: The newsroom there, and the newsrooms at its SoCal sister papers, have announced that they intend to follow in the footsteps of the journalists at The Desert Sun (and various other newspapers around the country) by forming a union. Key quote, from the announcement by the Southern California News Group Guild: “Media News Group and Alden Global Capital have cut our newsrooms to the bone. Layoffs and turnover have devastated our workforce. We face historic staffing shortages, and the exodus of journalists with decades of experience has hollowed out our newspapers. These cuts leave us less able to provide the quality product we owe our readers.”
• An epidemiologist, writing for The Conversation, says we can chill a bit on all the surface disinfectants regarding COVID-19. Key quote: “We need to put the risks of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 via the various modes of transmission into perspective, so we focus our limited energy and resources on the right things. This isn’t to say surface transmission isn’t possible and that it doesn’t pose a risk in certain situations, or that we should disregard it completely. But, we should acknowledge the threat surface transmission poses is relatively small.”
• My newest hero is Lucia DeClerck, a 105-year-old New Jersey resident who beat the coronavirus. The New York Times’ lovely profile of her includes this key to her success: “Surviving the coronavirus, she said, also may have had something to do with another staple: the nine gin-soaked golden raisins she has eaten each morning for most of her life. ‘Fill a jar,’ she explained. ‘Nine raisins a day after it sits for nine days.'”
• If you’ve lived near a Fry’s Electronics, you know about some of the stores’ quirky themes, the bargain-basement prices on cans of soda, and that THE BEST BUYS ARE ALWAYS AY FRY’S (weird zappy noises) GUARANTEED! Alas, Fry’s is no more. CNN says: “Fry’s Electronics suddenly closed all of its stores overnight, ending a nearly four-decade run in business. The company, which had 31 stores across nine US states, said in a statement on its website that it ‘made the difficult decision to shut down its operations and close its business permanently’ because of changing consumer shopping habits and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
• Finally … you will never, ever find me inside the Shapiro Undergraduate Library on the University of Michigan campus, and The Associated Press explains why: “Staff at a University of Michigan library temporarily closed the building after three venomous spiders turned up in a basement storage area. The Mediterranean recluse spiders were found in late January. ,,, The library reopened Tuesday after being closed Sunday and treated Monday for spiders.” No. Hell no!
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