Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: Jan. 20, 2022

It’s possible that we’re at or near the omicron peak.

Maybe. Perhaps.

Let’s take a look at four different sources of information to figure this all out, shall we?

First up: the latest city of Palm Springs wastewater testing for SARS-CoV-2, done on Jan. 10 and 11. The report stated: “The number of copies recorded at the city’s wastewater treatment plant continues to be significantly high. While the numbers are lower than the record high measured last week, the overall average for the week did increase from last week’s average. So while the trendline continues to go up, the rate at which it is going up is not like previous weeks.”

Rounding to the nearest hundred thousand: On Jan. 3, there were 6.9 million viral copies per liter of wastewater. That fell to 3.9 million on Jan. 4. The number was 4.6 million on Jan. 10, and 6.5 million on Jan. 11. It’s also worth noting that more than 98 percent of the virus being detected is the omicron variant.

Keep in mind that we’re always getting these results a week after the samples are taken. In other words, we’ll know next Monday or Tuesday what was in Palm Springs’ wastewater two and three days ago.

Given these numbers have sorta, kinda, leveled off, it’s possible we will see a decrease in the results of Jan. 17 and 18 testing when those results are released next week. Possible but not certain.

Next, let’s look at the Riverside County District 4 report for the week ending Jan. 16. If you’re in the Coachella Valley or rural points to the east, you’re in District 4. Hospitalizations keep rising steadily, and three people died last week, which is awful. However, the weekly positivity rate was 11.3—down from 15.2 percent the week before. Presuming the county has these figures right … that could be an encouraging sign.

Information source No. 3, however, is decidedly NOT encouraging. Eisenhower Health’s latest stats show that as of yesterday, the organization’s seven-day moving average positivity rate was 41.7 percent … and as high as ever. Yikes.

Finally, the Los Angeles Times yesterday published a story with the headline “Growing signs Omicron is leveling off in California.” It makes a convincing case that in some—but not all—parts of the state, the surge is leveling off or even decreasing.

It also has this stunning bit of info: “California has recorded more than 7 million coronavirus cases as of this week. The tally, recorded in the state’s databases late Monday, comes one week after it recorded its 6 millionth coronavirus case.” In other words, a seventh of all cases recorded happened within one recent week. Wow.

On a more hopeful note, there’s this: “The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model projects that the daily number of Californians infected—including those who aren’t getting tested—peaked in early January, around the same time emergency room visits for coronavirus-related concerns reached an all-time record. The model suggests that by mid-February, new infections could be 7% of the levels from early January—about the same as early December.”

Let’s hope that’s true. But in the meantime, stay safe—because even if things are leveling off or even starting to decrease locally, there’s still a LOT of SARS-CoV-2 out there making people sick.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Vast but Limited: Local Artists Explore the History and Justice of Desert Land Use With Intersect Palm Springs’ ‘Zzyzx Redux’

By Melissa Daniels

January 20, 2022

Intersect Palm Springs, formerly Art Palm Springs, returns with exhibits including Zzyzx Redux, curated by Bernard Leibov of BoxoPROJECTS.

Better Health: DAP Launches the Coachella Valley’s First Syringe-Service (Needle-Exchange) and Harm-Reduction Program

By Jimmy Boegle

January 18, 2022

DAP Health’s syringe-service program received state authorization to operate in Palm Springs on Jan. 10, becoming the second such program in Riverside County to get the state’s OK.

Hiking With T: Safely Enjoy the Gorgeous Randall Henderson Trail—and Get Ready for the Coachella Valley Wildflower Festival

By Theresa Sama

January 18, 2022

The Randall Henderson Loop Trail is a 2.5-mile (give or take) loop beginning at 1,000 feet, with around 425 feet of elevation gain—that is surrounded by wildflowers this time of year.

On Cocktails: I Walked Away From Bartending … yet I Am Still a Bartender

By Kevin Carlow

January 19, 2022

I am not a bartender anymore. I haven’t been a bartender for months. Yet … I’m still a bartender. Let me explain.

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for Jan. 20, 2022!

By Staff

January 20, 2022

Topics tackled on this week’s comics page include a pile of crap, solar supremacy, the Defense Production Act, Betty White—and much more!

The Lucky 13: Jose Ceja, Drummer for Giselle Woo and the Night Owls

By Matt King

January 20, 2022

Get to better know Jose Ceja, the drummer for Coachella-bound Giselle Woo and the Night Owls.

More News

• Our partners at CalMatters address an issue we’ve discussed in this space before: The fact that government assistance that was available during previous COVID-19 spikes is nowhere to be found now. The lede: “Essential workers such as supermarket cashier Brittannie Gulley are once again on the front lines of another COVID-19 surge. Only this time, they’re on the job without the initial policies intended to protect them. As the pandemic unfolded, California funneled federal emergency unemployment benefits and tapped a budget surplus to help workers stay at home and weather the virus-induced recession. Sick pay benefits that were extended to 10 days for workers who needed to quarantine expired last year, along with other protections. ‘I am the sole provider for my children,’ said Gulley, a 34-year-old single mother from Norwalk who works at a Stater Bros. Markets grocery store. ‘I’ll really take a hit if I have to go out: whether I’m sick or I just have to quarantine, there’s nothing for me.’”

Also from CalMatters: The omicron surge continues to make a mess of the state’s school system. A snippet: “Last week at Simi Valley Unified School District, northwest of Los Angeles, there were only enough substitutes to cover about half the teachers who stayed at home after testing positive for COVID-19.  ‘It’s untenable,’ Superintendent Jason Peplinski said last week. ‘It is so bad.’ The good news is that public health experts across California expect the omicron surge to be over by March. But the consequences of the highly transmissible variant and the acute school staffing crisis it has caused could long outlast the spike in case numbers. The teacher shortages and unprecedented absenteeism are disrupting learning, extending the long-term academic fallout of COVID-19. ‘But what’s a teacher to do when she has half of her class gone?’ Peplinski said. ‘Do you just keep teaching long division and hope the class will catch up?’”

The surge is also hampering medical laboratories when they’re at their busiest. A professor of clinical laboratory science, writing for The Conversation, says: “Medical laboratory professionals form the backbone of health care and the public health system. They conduct some 13 billion laboratory medicine tests annually in the U.S. As of January 2022, these individuals had also performed more than 860 million COVID-19 tests and counting during the pandemic. … Like other health care and health professionals, these lab workers are experiencing dangerously low staffing numbers as a result of the pandemic. This includes a diverse group of professionals with varying levels of education and credentials including phlebotomists, medical laboratory technicians, medical laboratory scientists, specialists and the most recent addition to our profession, the advanced professional doctor of clinical laboratory science. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2021 that employment of medical laboratory professionals is projected to grow 11% from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.”

• Related: An opinion video piece by The New York Times makes the case that corporate greed, not necessarily COVID-19, is the main culprit for the staffing crisis at the nation’s hospitals. From the description: “Nurses set the record straight about the root cause of the nursing crisis: chronic understaffing by profit-driven hospitals that predates the pandemic. ‘I could no longer work in critical care under the conditions I was being forced to work under with poor staffing,’ explains one nurse, ‘and that’s when I left.’ They also tear down the common misconception that there’s a shortage of nurses. In fact, there are more qualified nurses today in America than ever before.”

Our friends at the Palm Springs Post report that the county is looking for volunteers for this year’s point-in-time homeless count: “To give the latest virus wave time to taper off, officials rescheduled the point-in-time tally to Feb. 23-25. It was initially planned for Jan. 26-28. According to the county, the additional time to recruit volunteers will also be helpful. Members of faith-based groups, churches, civic affairs organizations, college students, and many others are needed for the effort. ‘The information we collect allows us to make informed decisions about where our resources should be targeted,’ Supervisor Karen Spiegel said when the count was announced last month.” (If you’re interested in volunteering, register here.)

• We’ve been listing a lot of pandemic-related closures and cancellations as of late, so it’s nice to do the opposite here. From the city of Palm Springs: “Following an outbreak of employee exposures to COVID-19 that necessitated the closure of the Palm Springs Swim Center, the city would like to advise the community that the Swim Center (reopened) again to the public on Wednesday, Jan. 19. … Other city facilities remain temporarily closed to walk-in traffic due to a surge in COVID-19 cases that continues to impact the community at large as well as city staff.”

• A farmers’ market is coming to Indio. From a news release: “A weekly certified farmers’ market could set up in downtown Indio as early as February!  On Jan. 19, Indio City Councilmembers unanimously approved an agreement to bring the market to a city owned property just west of City Hall on Towne Street between Bliss and Oasis streets. Certified produce, fresh hot and cold chef-prepared foods, artisan crafts such as handmade wood and leather gifts, stationery, soap, jewelry, candles and other crafted items will be sold every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. from October through May.  The market will also include live music, and a family friendly atmosphere encouraging relaxation and support of fresh, locally made, farm to table items. … The agreement with established Certified Farmers’ Market organizer Christiana Green allows for a possible smaller, indoor market during the hotter summer months. Green also runs similar markets in Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells.”

• And finally … The Conversation brings us this intriguing headline: “Sperm donation is largely unregulated, but that could soon change as lawsuits multiply.” Key quote: “The federal government requires only that donated sperm and eggs be treated like other human tissue and tested for communicable diseases—infectious conditions that spread through viruses, bacteria and other means—but not genetic diseases. There are also no federal requirements that sperm banks obtain and verify information about a donor’s medical history, educational background or criminal record.” Yeesh.

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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...