Indy Digest: Sept. 20, 2021
You may have seen recent headlines saying that COVID-19 is now believed to be the deadliest pandemic in United States history.
Those headlines, however, are not accurate. They will be soon … but not quite yet.
Before I get into the fact-checking element, it’s worth acknowledging the grim milestone represented by the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. surpassing the toll of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1920. In some ways, this pandemic still pales in comparison to the Spanish flu pandemic. In other ways, however, it’s worse.
COVID-19 has now killed about as many Americans as the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic did—approximately 675,000.
The U.S. population a century ago was just one-third of what it is today, meaning the flu cut a much bigger, more lethal swath through the country. But the COVID-19 crisis is by any measure a colossal tragedy in its own right, especially given the incredible advances in scientific knowledge since then and the failure to take maximum advantage of the vaccines available this time.
“Big pockets of American society—and, worse, their leaders—have thrown this away,” medical historian Dr. Howard Markel of the University of Michigan said of the opportunity to vaccinate everyone eligible by now.
Now for the fact-checking part. As NPR mentions, around 675,000 Americans have been killed by COVID-19. As for the actual deadliest pandemic … we’ll let the Kaiser Family Foundation explain:
The first cases of what would later become known as AIDS were reported in the United States in June of 1981. Today, there are more than 1.2 million people living with HIV in the U.S. and there are more than 35,000 new infections each year. People with AIDS have died since the beginning of the epidemic. More than 700,000 people in the U.S., have died from HIV-related illness.
Because HIV and AIDS have now been in the United States for more than four decades, and because Americans living with HIV now generally have access to life-saving medications, it’s easy today to forget about the true deadliest pandemic. But HIV is still very much a dangerous disease, both in the U.S. and, especially, around the world.
On a related note: DAP Health’s Desert AIDS Walk is coming up on Saturday, Oct. 30. Instead of asking for support for the Independent today, I’m asking you to consider donating to DAP Health; learn more on my AIDS Walk page.
From the Independent
By Kevin Carlow
September 17, 2021
Many classic cocktails have been forgotten, out-shadowed or even mocked—but it’s time to bring some of these beauties out into the light.
By Bob Grimm
September 20, 2021
Cry Macho is awful for a variety of reasons—the biggest one being that director Clint Eastwood has dreadfully miscast himself.
Caesar Cervisia: A Trip to the Ensenada Beer Fest Illustrates That Mexico’s Craft-Beer Scene Is Vibrant and Varied
By Brett Newton
September 20, 2021
If you didn’t know better, you may think there isn’t much to Mexico’s craft-beer scene … and you would be deeply mistaken.
By Guillermo Prieto
September 20, 2021
Part Johnny Cash and part bearded Elvis, Paul Cauthen wowed the Pappy and Harriet’s crowd on Saturday, Sept. 11.
• One last reminder that at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 21—that’s tomorrow, for those of you opening this Daily Digest on the day it’s sent—I’ll be joining the Palm Springs Post’s Mark Talkington for ONE PS’ “Talk of the Town: CV’s Independent Publishers: Building Personal Connections.” Via Zoom, we will have, per the description, “a very timely and informative session on how independent publishers are working to build personal connections with the neighborhoods of the Coachella Valley by helping them learn the news about their towns.” Click on the Facebook link above for more info, or visit the ONE PS website here.
• College of the Desert late last week announced a vaccination requirement for the spring semester. According to the news release: “To support the health and safety of students and employees, the College of the Desert Board of Trustees … announced plans to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination from employees and students who plan to attend face-to-face instruction or on-campus activities in the Spring 2022 term. The highly contagious Delta variant caused coronavirus cases to surge across the U.S., and most new infections and hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated,’ said Board Chair Aurora Wilson. ‘Throughout the pandemic, we have prioritized the safety and well-being of our employees and students. As we increase the number of people accessing our facilities, the board believes it is important to embrace a comprehensive strategy that includes proactive measures to reduce the possibility of the transmission of COVID-19 on our campuses.’ … Students and employees … will have until January 31, 2022, the beginning of the spring semester, to submit proof of vaccination. The college’s leadership is developing a secured system to track vaccination status and testing results. Details on how to submit proof of vaccination are forthcoming.”
• If you’re confused about who’s eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot, and when, you’re not alone—but a degree of clarity should be coming later this week. The Washington Post says: “State health officials are bracing for confusion as they manage expectations about coronavirus boosters that President Biden announced last month would be widely available to adults this week. The two federal agencies that determine who should get a booster—the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—are not expected to issue decisions until later this week. But in last month’s announcement, Biden and his top health advisers set the week of Sept. 20 as the start for a booster rollout that would make third shots available to adults eight months after completing their original two-shot regimen. Even though federal officials emphasized that the plan required FDA and CDC approval, specifying a date has meant ‘the expectation has been set by the administration that we now have to manage,’ said Michael Fraser, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.”
• Kids age 5-11 may soon be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the good news announced by Pfizer today: “In a highly anticipated announcement, Pfizer said on Monday a Phase 2/3 trial showed its COVID-19 vaccine was safe and generated a ‘robust’ antibody response in children ages 5 to 11,” CNN reports. “These are the first such results released for this age group for a US COVID-19 vaccine, and the data has not yet been peer-reviewed or published. Pfizer said it plans to submit to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization soon. FDA officials have said that once data is submitted, the agency could authorize a vaccine for younger children in a matter of weeks.”
• CalMatters’ Emily Hoeven breaks down California’s latest unemployment stats: “The numbers are irrefutable: Many Californians aren’t going back to work. Although the Golden State created a whopping 44% of the nation’s new jobs last month, its unemployment rate remained the second-highest in the country at 7.5%, according to figures released Friday by the state Employment Development Department. That’s essentially unchanged from the 7.6% unemployment rate California notched in both July and June—and hardly different from the 7.7% rate in May, a month before the state ended most coronavirus restrictions and fully reopened its economy. … Nearly half of the 104,300 payroll jobs California added in August were government positions, a reflection of public schools desperately trying to fill teacher and substitute teacher shortages as kids return to campus. Santa Ana Unified School District, for example, is hiring so many people that its understaffed human resources department hasn’t been able to process payments quickly enough, forcing more than 100 educators to go without pay for more than a month.”
• A Texas doctor has stuck his neck out to challenge that state’s new abortion law. The Washington Post says: “A Texas doctor stepped forward Saturday to say he had performed an abortion that is illegal under the state’s restrictive new law to force a test of its legality. ‘I understand that by providing an abortion beyond the new legal limit, I am taking a personal risk, but it’s something I believe in strongly,’ Alan Braid, a San Antonio OB/GYN, said in an op-ed in The Washington Post. ‘I have daughters, granddaughters and nieces. I believe abortion is an essential part of health care. … I can’t just sit back and watch us return to 1972.’ Braid said he performed a first-trimester abortion on Sept. 6, just a few days after the law known as Senate Bill 8 went into effect in Texas, making nearly all abortions illegal after a woman is about six weeks pregnant —with no exceptions for incest or rape. The doctor said he acted because he had ‘a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients.’”
• If you’re unfamiliar with what’s going on in Del Rio, Texas, be prepared to be horrified. The Associated Press explains: “More than 6,000 Haitians and other migrants have been removed from an encampment at a Texas border town, U.S. officials said Monday as they defended a strong response that included immediately expelling migrants to their impoverished Caribbean country and using horse patrols to stop them from entering the town. Calling it a ‘challenging and heartbreaking situation,’ Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a stark warning: ‘If you come to the United States illegally, you will be returned. Your journey will not succeed, and you will be endangering your life and your family’s life.’ Mayorkas and Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said they would look into agents on horseback using what appeared to be whips and their horses to push back migrants at the river between Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, and Del Rio, Texas, where thousands of migrants remain camped around a bridge.” Yikes.
• A professor of psychology, writing for The Conversation, slammed Facebook, which owns Instagram, comparing the company’s actions to those of Big Tobacco’s more than a century ago: “Facebook officials had internal research in March 2020 showing that Instagram … is harmful to teen girls’ body image and well-being but swept those findings under the rug to continue conducting business as usual, according to a Sept. 14, 2021, Wall Street Journal report. Facebook’s policy of pursuing profits regardless of documented harm has sparked comparisons to Big Tobacco, which knew in the 1950s that its products were carcinogenic but publicly denied it into the 21st century. Those of us who study social media use in teens didn’t need a suppressed internal research study to know that Instagram can harm teens. Plenty of peer-reviewed research papers show the same thing. … Teens are more likely to log on to Instagram than any other social media site. It is a ubiquitous part of adolescent life. Yet studies consistently show that the more often teens use Instagram, the worse their overall well-being, self-esteem, life satisfaction, mood and body image. One study found that the more college students used Instagram on any given day, the worse their mood and life satisfaction was that day.”
• In local events news: Splash House and Goldenvoice have teamed up to present a new EDM event in Palm Springs. Mark your calendars for Dec. 10 and 11. From the somewhat overwritten news release: “Desert Air, presented by Splash House and Goldenvoice, will bring globally recognized and critically acclaimed DJs and genre pushers to one of North America’s most unique open-air venues. The Palm Springs Air Museum will host festival goers aside its industrial hangars and historic aircrafts backdropped by the iconic San Jacinto Mountains and desert landscape. The music will be no less dramatic, with the world’s best selectors invited, ranging from Innervisions’ icon Dixon, the magnanimous and playful German producer DJ Koze, the Bronx’s prodigal house sons The Martinez Brothers, South Korea’s music-fashion globetrotter Peggy Gou and enigmatic Detroit tastemaker Moodymann.” Tickets will start at $130 plus fees; learn more at desertairfest.com.
• And finally, we’ll turn things over to Independent contributor Charles Drabkin, who is also a volunteer for Cinema Diverse, the LGBTQ film fest currently taking place at the Palm Springs Cultural Center. (The Independent is a sponsor of the fest.) Charles says: “Week Two of Cinema Diverse picks up this coming Wednesday, Sept. 22, and continues through Sunday, Sept. 26. A couple of my favorites: On Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., Boy Culture, the latest film from Q. Allan Brocka tells, the story of a hard-working escort struggling to stay competitive with a younger generation who has gained a competitive edge in the digital age. Then at 5:15 p.m. is short set A Day in the Life. It was very popular during the first weekend, featuring six short films exploring how millennials experience a queer identity. On Thursday at 2:45 p.m.: To Love and Back: A young Russian woman flees to Tel Aviv to experience pride and herself for the first time. And at 7:45 is The Extinction of Fireflies. This comedy highlights the struggle between youth and middle age as a playwright invites a TV diva and a young working actor friend to read and critique his latest work.” Find the complete schedule and get tickets at psculturalcenter.org/filmfest.