Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: May 14, 2021

I’ve said it before in this space, and I fear I’ll say it again: One of the most frustrating aspects about the pandemic is that nothing is ever clear-cut.

Take yesterday’s surprising face-mask announcement by the CDC, explained here by CNBC: “Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a face mask or stay 6 feet away from others in most settings, whether outdoors or indoors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated public health guidance released Thursday.”

It would be hard to understate how fantastic this news is, if considered uncritically and by itself: It would mean that the government has said the pandemic, more or less, is over for people who’ve gotten their shots. Think of how momentous this is.

But … not so fast.

First, a whole lot of epidemiologists—some of whom had previously chided the CDC for being too cautious—expressed concerns that this declaration went too far, too fast. As the Los Angeles Times reported: “Dr. John Swartzberg, a clinical professor emeritus of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health’s infectious diseases division, said, ‘There is good science to support changing our policy. On the other hand, I’m surprised they came out with it this soon. I would’ve liked to have had another month under my belt of seeing the numbers continue to come down.’ If California does begin allowing fully vaccinated people to be maskless in stores, who would be checking to see if those without masks were really vaccinated? Will supermarkets really be interested in checking vaccine cards at the entrance? ‘I can’t see grocery stores confirming that you’re vaccinated. It just won’t happen,’ Swartzberg said.”

Second … the real world keeps happening—and sometimes being sorta scary. On the very same day as the CDC announcement came this news from the baseball world, as explained by NPR: “Eight members of the New York Yankees—the team’s All-Star shortstop Gleyber Torres, along with seven coaches and staff members—have tested positive for the coronavirus this week, even though all of them had been vaccinated. The outbreak of so-called ‘breakthrough’ cases was first detected Sunday as the team was flying to Florida for a series against the Tampa Bay Rays. Seven more people, including Torres, tested positive over the three subsequent days.”

Out of context, this news is certainly alarming. In context … not so much. Seven of the eight cases were asymptomatic, with the other one being quite minor. The asymptomatic cases were only caught because of Major League Baseball’s rigorous testing regimen; had this happened in the “real world,” it’s possible nobody would have noticed. There’s also this, as NPR explains: “All of the positive cases on the Yankees had been vaccinated with the single-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which was favored by baseball teams because of their complicated travel schedules. According to the team, players and staff were offered the vaccine together on April 7. In clinical trials, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 100% effective in preventing hospitalization and death. When it came to preventing any type of COVID-19 infection, the vaccine was66 to 72% effective.”

Third … the real world keeps happening—and sometimes being really stupid. Check this out, from NBC News: “Yehuda Goldberg, owner of Brothers Butcher Shoppe in Ontario (Canada), updated the COVID-19 guidelines for people visiting his meat shop this month. He posted on Instagram that he would ask vaccinated people not to come in to protect his female customers. … The reason, Goldberg said, is that evidence is surfacing that people who have been vaccinated are ‘shedding spike proteins,’ which appears to be affecting women’s menstrual cycles. While medical experts say that isn’t true, Goldberg said that what he’s reading shows that just being around someone who has been vaccinated can cause reproductive health issues for women and that he doesn’t want to endanger any of his female customers.”

Sigh. To be clear, since NBC soft-peddled things: This idiot’s “evidence” has been proven to be completely wrong, impossible and generally bonkers conspiracy-theory nonsense

Yesterday’s CDC announcement was indeed important, exciting and even historic. But SARS-CoV-2 has a knack for muddling anything and everything.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

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The Weekly Independent Comics Page for May 13, 2021!

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Topics tackled on this week’s comics page include Fox News, vampires, pronouns, protest signs, and much more!

And Now, the News

As of this writing, California still has a mandate that people, vaccinated or not, must wear masks in indoor public places. But by the time you read this … who knows? The San Francisco Chronicle (subscription required) explains: “California health officials are reviewing new federal guidelines saying people vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely go maskless in most public spaces, and will decide as early as Friday whether the state will adjust its rules for wearing masks, Gov. Gavin Newsom said. … States and counties would have to adopt the guidelines before they would go into effect locally, and the California Department of Public Health has not yet indicated what it will do. ‘There’s a whole lot of complexities we have to work through,’ Newsom said in a news conference Friday, such as how enforcement would work in schools and businesses.”

Our partners at CalMatters sum up what they’re calling “Gavin Newsom’s spending spree” this week. The lowdown: “Facing a trifecta of extraordinary circumstances — the waning COVID-19 pandemic, a looming recall election and an insanely flush state budget—Gov. Gavin Newsom barnstormed the state this week, dropping good news by the billions. He wants to spend$12 billion to house the homeless, the governor announced in the lobby of a San Diego motel converted into a shelter; $3.4 billion to expandpreschool to all 4-year-olds, he said on the playground of an elementary school in Monterey County; $1.5 billioncleaning up blight, he said as TV news crews filmed him hoisting an old mattress off the side of a Los Angeles freeway. The announcements—capitalizing on a $76 billion surplus in the state budget plus $27 billion in federal aid—amounted to a very convenient marriage of governing and campaigning for the first-term Democrat, who almost certainly faces a Republican-ledrecall electionthis fall.”

• Something not included in Newsom’s “spending spree” is this action being taken in Ohio, as reported by The Associated Press: “Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled a lottery system Wednesday to entice people to get COVID-19 shots, offering a weekly $1 million prize and full-ride college scholarships in a creative bid to overcome the vaccine hesitancy that remains a stubborn problem across the nation. … Beginning May 26, adults who have received at least one vaccine dose may enter a lottery that will provide a $1 million prize each Wednesday for five weeks. In random drawings, the state will also provide five full four-year scholarships to an Ohio public university—including tuition, room-and-board, and books—to vaccinated Ohioans under 18.”

• Related to the above discussion of asymptomatic people who are fully vaccinated testing positive for COVID-19 is this bit of news from Variety: “Bill Maherhas tested positive for COVID-19, forcing HBO to scrap Friday’s scheduled taping of this week’s episode. … ‘Billtested positive during weekly staff PCR testing for COVID. He is fully vaccinated and as a result is asymptomatic and feels fine,’ HBO said. ‘Real Time production has taken every precaution following COVID CDC guidelines.No other staff or crew members have tested positive at this time.The show will be rescheduled at a later date.’”

An immunologist explains to The Conversation what’s known and not known yet about the concerning SARS-CoV-2 variant that was first detected in India, and is now making its presence known in the U.K. Key quote: “If our vaccines stop working, our only option to prevent increases in mortality will be further restrictions until new vaccines are available. But, importantly, there is no indication at the moment that any variant surpasses current vaccine protection against serious COVID-19.”

• Who had “increase in street racing” on their effects-of-the-pandemic lottery card? Anyone? The Associated Press reports: “Jaye Sanford, a 52-year-old mother of two, was driving home in suburban Atlanta on Nov. 21 when a man in a Dodge Challenger muscle car who was allegedly street racing crashed into her head-on, killing her. She is one of the many victims of a surge in street racing that has taken root across America during the coronavirus pandemic, prompting police crackdowns and bills aimed at harsher punishments. Experts say TV shows and movies glorifying street racing had already fueled interest in recent years. Then shutdowns associated with the pandemic cleared normally clogged highways as commuters worked from home.”

TIME magazine takes President Biden to task for breaking a key promise: “In January 2017, one of Donald Trump’s first moves as President was to create a new office that highlighted crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. For four years, the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office, known as VOICE, was wielded by the White House to perpetuate Trump’s false narrative of an immigrant crime wave. Revoking the order that created VOICE was also one of Joe Biden’s first decisions as president, made just hours after his inauguration. But nearly four months into his term, the Biden Administration has not closed the controversial office. Nor does it plan to. In a decision that underlines the challenges of unwinding Trump’s immigration legacy, Biden’s Department of Homeland Security plans to keep the VOICE office open, rename it, and refocus its work to better serve victims and witnesses.”

• We recently discussed Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox’s weird press conferences involving a bear. Well … guess what? According to SFGate: “When California gubernatorial recall election candidate John Cox brought his 1,000-pound bear to San Diego on Tuesday, he may have violated a city code related to unusual animals. Two San Diego TV stations—NBC San DiegoandABC10—confirmed that the San Diego Humane Society’s law enforcement division has opened an investigation into Cox and his campaign. The city code in question reads, ‘No person shall offer for sale, give away, bring into or maintain within an area coming within the jurisdiction of this ordinance, any lion, tiger, bear, monkey, wolf, cougar, ocelot, wildcat, skunk.’ Zoos are exempt from the code, but gubernatorial candidates are not, it would seem.”

• And finally … California, you’re in something of a baby-naming rut. SFGate says: “Olivia reigns as queen in California. The name is at the top of the 2020 list of the most popular baby girl names in the state for the second year in a row, according to data from theSocial Security Administration. Noah continues to rule the top spot on the boys’ list, a position he has held onto since 2014.” Click to learn the complete lists of the Top 20 names, and see if you’re as baffled as I am by some of them!

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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...