Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: Dec. 23, 2021

Boy, it’s been one heck of a week … and it’s only Thursday.

Monday brought my booster shot appointment, an important business meeting and two holiday gatherings, in addition to all of the usual work stuff. Tuesday brought the arrival of my mother and in-laws for the holidays—two days earlier than previously planned. (They drove here from Nevada, and they let us know late last week they were coming earlier, wisely, to get ahead of a forecasted snow storm along their route.)

Wednesday brought an 11-hour work day, mostly involving production of the January print edition—and I am writing this on Thursday, just after finishing said print edition and uploading it to the printer.

This Indy Digest is the last major work task I have for the week, meaning I am now starting to look ahead at this holiday weekend—and I am feeling a lot of things.

I’m feeling a little tired. A little concerned, too. But most of all, I am feeling grateful.

Despite the dark cloud called omicron, things are undeniably much better heading into Christmas 2021 than they were heading into Christmas 2020. Last year, my mom and the in-laws had to cancel their trip down here due to the COVID-19 spike. Nobody was vaccinated yet—and even if they had risked coming anyway, we couldn’t have gone anywhere, really, since California was under a stay-at-home order.

This year, however, we’re all vaccinated and boosted (even though the shots my husband and I received are still in the taking-effect stage). Restaurants are open, and most epidemiologists say it’s pretty safe to dine outdoors, at least. Even if the virus does get us, it’s likely to cause only mild illness.

So, yeah. I am grateful—for science, for the ability to gather together again without worrying about dying, for being in a much better place, I am also grateful to all of you, for reading us and supporting us through what’s been a rather intense 2021.

I hope that as we head into this Christmas weekend, you’re feeling grateful, too.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Civic Solutions: New Ways of Park Planning Are Sprucing Up Underserved Parts of the Coachella Valley

By Melissa Daniels

December 21, 2021

Instead of funneling money to the same places it has always gone, the Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program directs new resources to places where there have been historic gaps.

Back on the Big Screen: A Chat With Lili Rodriguez, the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s Artistic Director, About 2022 Plans

By Matt King

December 22, 2021

On Dec. 20, Palm Springs International Film Festival organizers announced it was cancelling the 2022 Film Awards. That’s the bad news. The good news is that as of our press deadline, the screenings portion of the Film Festival is still taking place—with masks and proof of vaccination required—from Jan. 7-17.

Vine Social: A Meeting With an Inspirational Woman Made Me Realize How Lucky I Am to Do What I Do

By Katie Finn

December 21, 2021

Advice to live by: “Go do what you love, and service the people who love what you do.”

Shirley Speaks! Cindy Williams Kicks Off a Tour of Her One-Woman Show With Four Palm Springs Performances

By Jimmy Boegle

December 21, 2021

Cindy Williams’ Palm Springs performances will serve as the kickoff of an 18-city tour for Me, Myself and Shirley through April.

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for Dec. 23, 2021!

By Staff

December 23, 2021

Topics tackled on this week’s comics page include the wide open country, talk radio, the Fox News Christmas tree, support groups—and more!

Best of Coachella Valley Winners’ Advertising Spotlight!

More News

Palm Springs VillageFest is cancelled this evening due to the not-great weather, specifically “forecasted rainfall, (a) flash flood warning and high winds.”

• Sunnylands will be closed through at least Jan. 4. From a news release: “With COVID-19 cases surging, Sunnylands Center and Gardens is closing temporarily as a precaution against transmission of the virus among the public and its employees. The temporary closure begins Thursday, Dec. 23, and will remain in place at least through Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.  A reopening date will be announced in the new year. Watch for updates at ‘We don’t take this step lightly, but given the rise in coronavirus cases due to the spread of the omicron variant, we believe a temporary closure is in the best interest of our guests and staff,’ said Janice Lyle, director of Sunnylands Center and Gardens. Guests who have booked tours of the historic Sunnylands estate will receive refunds.”

• If you had “El Paseo steakhouse” in your First Confirmed Coachella Valley Omicron Case Betting Pool … congrats! KESQ reports: “Nearly 90 employees of Mastro’s Steakhouse in Palm Desert have been ordered to get tested for COVID-19 after a major outbreak among workers that included a case of the Omicron variant, health officials announced on Wednesday. At this time, it is the first Omicron case in the Coachella Valley. Riverside County reported its first case of the Omicron variant last week in the western portion of the county. … The manager of Mastro’s was notified about the order Tuesday afternoon, with health officials urging them not to open the restaurant for dinner. After initially opening for service, the restaurant closed early so testing could be done, according to RUHS-Public Health.” The Desert Sun reported that the restaurant was slated to reopen last night.

• The FDA has approved two antiviral pills for use in COVID-19 cases over the last two days—marking a major milestone in the battle against this hideous disease. NBC News reports: “The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday authorized Merck’s antiviral pill to treat COVID-19 for emergency use, adding another tool in the nation’s arsenal to combat the virus. The FDA’s move comes a day after it authorized another antiviral drug, from Pfizer. Merck’s treatment, known as molnupiravir and developed in partnership with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, is cleared for use in adults with mild to moderate COVID who are at risk for severe disease, the agency said in a statement. Pfizer’s pill was authorized for people as young as 12.”

The Biden administration has granted a reprieve to federal student-loan recipients. CNBC says: “Amid concerns about the new omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus, the Biden administration will extend the payment pause for federal student loan borrowers until May 1. ‘We know that millions of student loan borrowers are still coping with the impacts of the pandemic and need some more time before resuming payments,’ President Joe Biden said in a statement on Wednesday. Since March 2020, borrowers have been given the option to press the pause button on their monthly bills without interest accruing on their debt. Almost all borrowers have accepted the relief, research shows.” The pause had been set to expire Jan. 31.

• Gov. Gavin Newsom yesterday announced three moves to combat the omicron variant. Our partners at CalMatters explain: “First, to make sure hospitals can handle any increase in COVID patients, he detailed a new vaccine mandate—boosters for an estimated 2 million healthcare workers and nursing home staff, with a Feb. 1 deadline. Until then, those nurses and others who haven’t received the additional dose will be tested twice a week. Second, to keep schools open, Newsom said 6 million free in-home rapid tests will be sent to California schools and partner groups, enough so that all K-12 students can be checked once or twice before returning to the classroom after the holidays. In an unusual joint statement Wednesday, teachers’ unions, parents’ groups, administrators and school boards reaffirmed their commitment to in-person learning through the pandemic. And third, to prevent long lines seen in New York City and elsewhere, hours will be extended at some state-run testing sites among the 6,300 locations across the state.”

• Oh, and, hey, here’s the latest Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report for the week ending Dec. 19. (District 4 includes the Coachella Valley and areas eastward.) All the stats are more or less steady—but the thing that jumps out is that COVID-19 claimed the lives of five of our neighbors last week.

• It’s possible the information on the District 4 is already very outdated, considering what’s happening in LA and SF right now. The Los Angeles Times reports: “Daily reported coronavirus cases are soaring in Los Angeles County as the region grapples with the early effects of a new surge fueled by the highly mutated omicron variant. A day after reporting 6,509 new coronavirus cases—which was more than twice the figure from the day before—(Los Angeles) county health officials reported another eye-popping infection total Thursday: 8,633. ‘This steep increase, one of the steepest rises we’ve ever seen over the course of the pandemic, reflects the increased circulation of omicron and the associated rapid acceleration of transmission associated with this variant,’ county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday. And the surge isn’t just in L.A. In San Francisco, public health officials said the local case rate has tripled, which they called ‘a clear indication that we have entered the fifth surge in the pandemic.’”

• We’ve frequently discussed the scourge of misinformation in this space—and the topic came up in a significant way when The Associated Press asked some of its reporters covering the pandemic to reflect on the year 2021. Here’s a snippet of what D.C.-based medical writer Lauran Neergaard said: “The surprise amid all of this hope was how quickly misinformation turned into its own epidemic. We expected some of that, of course. It is natural for people to ask questions, especially when they’ve been busy living their lives and not hanging onto every scientific development. But there was a firehose of information that required sorting the real, quality science from the baseless claims. And the amount of active disinformation was stunning. I hadn’t ever imagined having to write, ‘No, there are no chips inside the needles to track you.’ And over time the false claims grew more sophisticated than that. So with the complexity of reporting the international rollout, at the same time, you had to address outright lies that were turning people away with potentially deadly results.”

• And now, we bring you several excellent pandemic-related investigative pieces. First: The Associated Press looks at how the pandemic has driven drug use, leading to more overdoses—and Native Americans have been hit especially hard. A taste: “As the pandemic ravaged the country, deaths from drug overdoses surged by nearly 30%, climbing to a record high. The drug crisis has also diversified from an overwhelmingly white affliction to killing people of color with staggering speed. The death rate last year was highest among Native Americans, for whom COVID-19 piled yet more despair on communities already confronting generations of trauma, poverty, unemployment and underfunded health systems. It is no longer an opioid epidemic, but one in which people are dying from deadly cocktails of many drugs. Deaths involving methamphetamine have nearly tripled in recent years, with Native Americans 12 times more likely to die from it.”

• Second: ProPublica tells the story of scientist Irene Bosch, who quickly developed an easy-to-use, inexpensive home COVID-19 test … and was then pretty much ignored by the government: “Bosch and her colleagues had a test that would detect coronavirus in 15 minutes and produce a red line on a little chemical strip. The factory where they were planning to make tests for dengue fever could quickly retool to produce at least 100,000 COVID-19 tests per week, she said, priced at less than $10 apiece, or cheaper at a higher scale. … On March 21—when the U.S. had recorded only a few hundred COVID-19 deaths—Bosch submitted the test for emergency authorization, a process the Food and Drug Administration uses to expedite tests and treatments. A green light from the FDA could have made a big difference for the many Americans who were then frantically trying to find doctors to swab their noses, with results, if they were lucky, coming back only days later. But the go-ahead never came.”

• And finally … every year, Oscar’s Palm Springs does a beautiful thing on Christmas Day. Here are the details from owner Dan Gore: “On Christmas morning from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., Oscar’s is serving A FREE breakfast. It’s our sixth annual event. Anyone in need of good food, good cheer or just good company, we are open with no charge for breakfast.” Gore goes on to say that alcohol will not be served—and he encourages everyone to spread the word, especially to people who are homeless or hungry. Thanks, Dan and Oscar’s, for doing such a wonderful thing.

Support the Independent!

You all know the drill—please click the button below if you think the Independent is worth your financial support. Beyond that, I wanted to reiterate what I said above: I am beyond grateful for all of your support—whether it be financial, or by spreading the word about us, or simply by reading us. To all of you: Thank you. Have a wonderful holiday weekend. We’ll be back next week with the Digest’s regular schedule—the news never stops, after all!

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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...