Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: Feb. 3, 2022

For the first time since early last summer—before the delta variant arrived—I have hope that we’re nearing the end of the pandemic.

Make no mistake: No matter what happens, SARS-CoV-2 is going to be part of our lives for a long, long time. The only question is whether it will become endemic and manageable, more or less, or whether a new variant will come along and continue the awfulness of the epidemic phase.

The state, for what it’s worth, seems to be shifting toward treating COVID-19 as an endemic disease rather than an epidemic. The Sacramento Bee reported on Tuesday: “Gov. Gavin Newsom, during a Monday news conference centered on housing, said his administration will be releasing an ‘endemic plan’ for the state’s COVID-19 response within ‘the next couple weeks.’ A disease is considered endemic when infection totals are relatively stable and follow established patterns, as opposed to major outbreaks continuing and prompting emergency response as has happened throughout the pandemic phase. Seasonal influenza is an example of an endemic disease. Newsom has not laid out what an endemic plan might include.”

We’re all sick of this damned pandemic. I am sick of writing about it; you’re sick of reading about it. However, I am dismayed that because we all really want to be DONE with COVID-19, we’re also becoming desensitized to the damage it’s causing.

Take the latest weekly Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. During the week ending Jan. 30. The numbers are bad, but improving across the board. Hospitalizations and the positivity rate are all coming down. It’s clear the omicron wave is, thankfully, subsiding.

But the number that really stands out on the report is: 10. That’s the number of residents of District 4—in other words, the Coachella Valley and rural points to the east—who died of COVID-19 during the week.

I’ve made similar comparisons before, but it bears repeating: How shocking and awful would it be if 10 of our neighbors died, all at once, in a car accident? Or a mass shooting? Or a building collapse? Or, well, in any way that didn’t have to do with COVID-19?

It would be a big deal. But 10 COVID-19 deaths? It’s barely mentioned on the news, if it is at all.

So, yeah, I am hopeful—not exactly optimistic, but hopeful—that the pandemic is in its final stages, at least here in the U.S. COVID-19 has cost us all a lot—including some of our humanity.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

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More News

• More encouraging COVID-19 news from Eisenhower Medical Center: The organization’s positivity rate continues to plummet. The seven-day average rate, which was higher than 40 percent just a couple weeks ago, was down to 24.5 percent as of yesterday. The graph indicates it’s falling as quickly as it rose—a very good thing.

• Pfizer has asked the FDA for emergency authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine to be used in children younger than 5—with a nudge from the FDA to do so. The Associated Press says: “In an extraordinary move, the Food and Drug Administration had urged Pfizer and its partner BioNTech to apply earlier than the companies had planned—and before it’s settled if the youngsters will need two shots or three. The nation’s 19 million children under 5 are the only group not yet eligible for vaccination against the coronavirus. Many parents have been pushing for an expansion of shots to toddlers and preschoolers, especially as the omicron variant sent record numbers of youngsters to the hospital.”

• It’s never been easy to be an Olympic athlete—to work toward a goal one can achieve only every four years or so. But today, it’s more daunting than ever—where a positive COVID test can dash dreams in an instant. The Los Angeles Times explains: “The opening ceremony for the 2022 Winter Olympics is still days away, but the U.S. has already celebrated its first big win. When a team charter departed Los Angeles International Airport last week, all of the expected athletes were on board. That means all 100 of them passed their pre-travel coronavirus tests. … Beijing was supposed to herald a return to normal, or something akin to normal, after the pandemic-related challenges of the Tokyo Olympics last summer. Worries were fading as vaccinations increased and case numbers declined. There was talk of arenas packed with cheering fans. Then came the Omicron variant.”

FedEx is having major staffing issues thanks to the omicron variant. Reuters reports: “FedEx Corp on Tuesday suspended its domestic express freight services due to a staff shortage as cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus rose. The delivery firm said it is suspending the economy domestic FedEx express freight, including FedEx two-day freight and FedEx three-day freight services. International economy freight pick-up services, which had been paused earlier, resumed on Monday, FedEx added. Last month, the company had warned that rising cases of the Omicron variant had caused a staff shortage and delay in shipments transported on aircraft.”

• Moving on from COVID-19: Did Gov. Newsom just give utility company PG&E “a license to burn”? Our partners at CalMatters say: “That’s what environmental justice advocates are calling the safety certificate Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration issued to PG&E late Monday, allowing the utility to ‘recover catastrophic wildfire costs from its ratepayers’ or from a $21 billion state insurance fund partly funded by surcharges on customers’ power bills for the next 20 years. At the end of Reclaim Our Power Utility Justice Campaign’s Monday press conference urging the governor to reject the safety certificate, organizers found out the Newsom administration had granted it hours earlier—even though the campaign said it was scheduled to meet with his office on Feb. 7 to discuss the decision ahead of a Feb. 10 deadline.”

The latest effort by the California Legislature to enact a single-payer health-care system is dead. Also from CalMatters: “Despite, or perhaps because of, an aggressive last-minute push by progressive activists ahead of a crucial deadline, legislation to create a government-run universal health care system in California died Monday without coming up for a vote. The single-payer measure, Assembly Bill 1400, was the latest attempt to deliver on a longtime priority of Democratic Party faithful to get private insurers and profit margins out of health care. Because it was introduced last year, when it stalled without receiving a single hearing, it needed to pass the Assembly by Monday to continue through the legislative process. But even the threat of losing the party’s endorsement in the upcoming election cycle was not enough to persuade the Assembly’s Democratic supermajority to advance the bill for further consideration, effectively killing the effort for another year.”

• An update on the story we linked to on Monday regarding the FBI and San Bernardino County confiscating—and then attempting to keep—money being transported by licensed cannabis businesses in the state, from the Los Angeles Times: “Judge John W. Holcomb of U.S. District Court in Riverside said he was not taking a position on allegations by the company, Empyreal Logistics, that the FBI and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department were breaking both federal and state law by stopping its vans and seizing the money inside. But he castigated Empyreal’s lawyers for their legal tactics, saying they failed to meet the high burden of qualifying for a temporary restraining order. ‘Empyreal may very well have an excellent case on the merits—the court respects Empyreal’s zeal and does not doubt its sincerity—but Empyreal’s counsel does their client no favors by cutting procedural corners and ignoring the court’s guidance,’ Holcomb wrote in a 14-page ruling.”

• And finally … if you’re uncomfortable taking off your mask to eat or drink indoors, perhaps the kosk is for you. The Washington Post explains what in the heck I am talking about: “The mask has gone viral on social media and in various online forums, after it was recently unveiled by a South Korean company, Atman. It can be used folded up when eating just to cover the nose, and unfolded to cover both the nose and mouth after eating. It is available on an online shopping website for about $8 for a box of 10. The new mask is called kosk, or a nose mask — a portmanteau of ‘mask’ and ‘ko,’ the Korean word for nose. Kosk is typically used to describe people who wear their masks over their mouth, with their nose revealed.”

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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...