Alameda County Fire Department employee Max Shih administers the second dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Julia Jackson, a volunteer at a Berkeley needle-exchange program, in Hayward on Jan. 27. Photo by Anne Wernikoff/CalMatters
Coachella Valley Independent

Daily Digest: Feb. 19, 2021

A couple days ago, I startled my husband, who was working in the other room, by shouting at my computer screen.

“THAT’S NOT NEWS, YOU MORONS!” I bellowed.

The catalyst of my ire was a news story, published by a reputable source that should know better, about a few people in some state or another getting COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated.

Sigh.

According to The Washington Post’s vaccine tracker, 18 million people in the U.S. have gotten both shots. Both vaccines are believed to be 95 percent effective against recipients contracting COVID. So … that leaves around 900,000 fully vaccinated people who could get COVID (even though most of them won’t).

SO THREE FULLY VACCINATED PEOPLE SOMEWHERE GETTING COVID IS NOT NEWS, DAMMIT.

Turns out that David Leonhardt, of The New York Times, agrees with my frustration (presumably without the bellowing).

In today’s “The Morning” newsletter, he wrote about vaccine alarmism, and the very real problems news coverage like that aforementioned story is causing:

“The coronavirus vaccines aren’t 100 percent effective. Vaccinated people may still be contagious. And the virus variants may make everything worse. So don’t change your behavior even if you get a shot.”

Much of this message has some basis in truth, but it is fundamentally misleading. The evidence so far suggests that a full dose of the vaccine—with the appropriate waiting period after the second shot — effectively eliminates the risk of COVID-19 death, nearly eliminates the risk of hospitalization and drastically reduces a person’s ability to infect somebody else. All of that is also true about the virus’s new variants.

Yet the alarmism continues. And now we are seeing its real-world costs: Many people don’t want to get the vaccine partly because it sounds so ineffectual.

The result of all this alarmism? A whole lot of Americans aren’t wild about the idea of getting the vaccine.

“Our discussion about vaccines has been poor, really poor,” Dr. Muge Cevik, a virologist, said to Leonhardt. “As scientists we need to be more careful what we say and how that could be understood by the public.”

Journalists do, too.

I’ll repeat something Leonhardt wrote: Getting fully and properly vaccinated effectively eliminates the risk of COVID-19 death, nearly eliminates the risk of hospitalization and drastically reduces a person’s ability to infect somebody else.

Now that’s some news that’s worth (positively) bellowing about.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

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Bread for Good: Frankie’s Italian Bakery Uses Livestreamed Shows to Collect Gift Cards and Cash for Musicians in Need

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February 19, 2021

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And Now, the News

• If you’re 65 and older, and don’t mind a drive to Hemet, there are vaccine appointments for next week available via the county’s website (as of this writing); click here to go there.

Our partners at CalMatters looked at the county-by-county vaccination data and determined this: “County data provided by state officials is incomplete. Yet the existing data does give us a snapshot of who has been vaccinated first: White people have received the largest percentage of doses in nearly all counties. Included are those—such as Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Fresno, Madera, Monterey, San Joaquin and Kern counties—with large Latino populations.”

• The crazy winter weather that’s devastated much of the country is delaying vaccine shipments nationwide—including some to Riverside County. The Press-Enterprise reports: “Shipments of COVID-19 vaccine bound for the Inland Empire are being delayed because of the icy weather afflicting much of the nation, causing appointments for second doses to be rescheduled for about 600 Riverside County residents. However, people who made appointments at Riverside County-operated health clinics for their first dose won’t need to reschedule because the county has enough Pfizer vaccine to fill the gap, county spokesperson Brooke Federico said Thursday, Feb 18.”

According to CNBC … it appears Riverside County has gotten off lucky regarding these delays: “Massive winter storms across the Midwest and Texas have delayed the delivery of 6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses affecting every state in the U.S., the nation’s top health officials said Friday. The backlog represents three days’ worth of delayed shipments, Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor for Covid response, said during a press briefing. ‘Many states have been able to cover some of this delay with existing inventory,’ Slavitt said.”

More from our partners at CalMatters: The governor and the Legislature cannot agree on a school-reopening plan: “Senate Bill 86 calls on California’s school districts to offer some sort of in-person instruction to students in kindergarten through sixth grade and older vulnerable students by April 15 if case rates in their county fall below 7 positive cases per 100,000 residents, known as the red tier. But less than 24 hours after lawmakers announced their plan, Gov. Gavin Newsom signaled he would veto it if it reached his desk, arguing it would slow down school reopenings across the state. The governor said at an Oakland vaccination clinic today that, beginning March 1, the state plans to earmark 10% of incoming vaccine doses for teachers and school employees set to return to campuses.”

The Los Angeles Times offers an in-depth look at that aforementioned plan to set aside more vaccine shots for teachers: “Based on current vaccine allocations from the federal government, the state will reserve about 75,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine for school employees. The governor did not say whether teachers and other staff should expect to receive full treatment—current vaccines require two injections—before returning to campuses or should expect to be vaccinated soon after schools open.”

• Meanwhile, cancer researchers have asked the Biden administration to prioritize vaccinations for cancer victims. A snippet from the letter to the president from the American Association for Cancer Research: “We fully support your COVID-19 vaccination plan that calls for broadening access and vaccinating as many Americans as rapidly as possible. However, we are compelled to underscore the urgency of prioritizing access to a COVID-19 vaccine for patients with active cancer and survivors of cancer. There is mounting evidence that patients with cancer are at increased risk of severe illness and death if they are infected with the virus.”

Related good news, compliments of Bloomberg: “The U.S. vaccine supply is poised to double in the coming weeks and months, according to an analysis by Bloomberg, allowing a broad expansion of doses administered across the country. Currently, the U.S. is administering 1.6 million doses a day, constrained by the recent supply of about 10 million to 15 million doses a week. … A review of drugmakers’ public statements and their supply deals suggests that the number of vaccines delivered should rise to almost 20 million a week in March, more than 25 million a week in April and May, and over 30 million a week June. By summer, it would be enough to give 4.5 million shots a day.”

• The aforementioned winter storms will almost certainly lead to higher prices at the gas pump. USA Today reports: “Gasoline prices are expected to rise 10 to 20 cents a gallon in the coming days after winter storms knocked out about a dozen refineries in Texas, capping a sharp run-up in prices since Halloween and possibly heralding a move toward $3 by summer as the pandemic eases.” (I know what you’re thinking: “GAS PRICES ARE ALREADY MORE THAN $3!” Well, remember, you live in California. The average U.S. gas price was $2.54 as of Wednesday. Booooo!)

There has been a serious data breach related to the DMV. SFGate notes: “A billing contractor, the Seattle-based Automatic Funds Transfer Services, was hit by a ransomware attack in early February. … KFSN in Fresno reports that the affected data includes 20 months’ worth of California vehicle registration records—including names, addresses, license plate numbers and vehicle identification numbers (VINs)—dating back to at least August 2019.” The story says 38 million records are affected—but that “other data, including Social Security numbers, immigration status and birth dates, were not part of the leak.”

• This is progress … I guess? Walmart is giving some workers a raise. CNN explains: “Walmart announced pay bumps Thursday that will bring its average hourly wage to over $15 an hour. But the move still falls short of the $15 minimum wage announced by some of its largest competitors. Walmart, America’s largest private employer, said it will raise wages for 425,000 US workers—more than a fourth of its workforce—to at least $13 an hour. … Walmart will still maintain its $11 minimum wage, putting it behind some other big chains.”

• A new UCSF study indicates that pandemic-induced unemployment has taken a deadly toll. According to UCSF’s news service: “The research team projected that the spring 2020 spike in unemployment in the United States would lead to 30,231 excess deaths among 25- to 64-year-olds in the ensuing 12 months. As with the deaths that were directly caused by the virus, those linked to unemployment have taken a disproportionate toll on Black people, men, older people (in the case of workers, those who were 45 and up), and especially those with the least education.”

• You may have heard that the Perseverance Rover successfully landed on Mars yesterday! Jim Bell, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University who is the primary investigator leading a team in charge of one of the camera systems on Perseverance, spoke to The Conversation recently about the mission’s goals. Key quote: “What we’re looking for is evidence of past life, either direct chemical or organic signs in the composition and the chemistry of rocks, or textural evidence in the rock record. The environment of Mars is extremely harsh compared to the Earth, so we’re not really looking for evidence of current life. Unless something actually gets up and walks in front of the cameras, we’re really not going to find that.” (Now THAT would be something if it happened!)

The state has loosened the rules for the return of outdoor sports. The Los Angeles Times explains: “(The California Department of Public Health) announced that high-contact sports such as football, field hockey, rugby and water polo, with participants ages 13 and older, can be played in counties with an adjusted daily case rate of 14.0 or fewer per 100,000 population, along with regular weekly testing for athletes and coaches.” The new rules take effect Feb. 26.” (Riverside County’s case rate is currently about twice that, but is on a downward trend.)

• I was back at the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week. Dr. Laura Rush and I joined hosts John Taylor, Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr—and they got to hear me bellow about the very same COVID alarmism in news coverage I addressed above. Check it out if you, too, would like to hear me holler!

• Finally … this fascinating and more than a little concerning: A couple of experts in political behavior, writing for The Conversation, say this: “Partisanship is not enough to explain why so many Americans—mostly Republicans—distrust the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. … We are aware of another factor in voters’ thinking that has increased right alongside electoral distrust: Americans’ beliefs in conspiracy theories, especially those that express mistrust of government officials. Our research, which has not yet been published, finds that … Americans who believe aliens have visited Earth are more likely than disbelievers to say that Joe Biden is not the legitimate winner of the 2020 presidential election. As conspiracy theory beliefs grow in the U.S., we expect a corresponding drop in public trust in elections.”

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Happy Friday, everyone. While there’s hope on the horizon, times are still tight here at the Independent due to the pandemic. If you have the means to do so, we ask you to please click the button below and become a Supporter of the Independent. News like this Daily Digest, Kevin Fitzgerald’s exhaustive look at COVID-19 wastewater testing (linked to above) and so on cost a lot of money to produce—and then we turn around and give it away for free. Help us continue to do so, if you can.

As always, thanks for reading. Have a wonderful and safe weekend.

Read this Daily Digest at CVIndependent.com!

Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. A native of Reno, Nevada, the Dodgers fan went to Stanford University intending to become a sportswriter—but fell...