Coachella Valley Independent

Daily Digest: March 12, 2021

It was a year ago tomorrow that I sent out the first Daily Digest.

No More Visitors at EMC; PSUSD Closing for Two Weeks; and More!” was the headline of the March 13, 2020 Digest.

We now know that the Palm Springs Unified School District would be closed for more than two weeks. A lot more.

As I compiled that first Daily Digest, the mood of the country was one of, well, panic. We’d never been through anything like this before. We had no idea what was coming.

Today, as I compile the 192nd Daily Digest, the mood is optimistic—tired, and weary, yes, but optimistic. Official case counts continue to decline. Some 66 million Americans have received at least one vaccine shot. A degree of normalcy, it seems, is on the horizon.

But …

As you probably know, we recently did a story on the wastewater testing that the city of Palm Springs is doing. Thanks to this new technology, the city gotten early notice that “official” cases may soon be rising—or soon be falling.

Well, this was posted today on social media by Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors:

Unfortunately, we saw an increase in active COVID cases in Palm Springs based on our weekly testing of wastewater, although the numbers are still lower than anytime since we started testing in August other than last week. The estimated number of cases has gone from 83 last week to 379 this week. More concerning is the finding of a mutation with a profile that is consistent with the South African variant, which is a variant of concern currently in limited but growing circulation within the United States. As the county moves to the red tier, this is an important reminder that while the numbers are significantly down from December, COVID is still spreading.

What, exactly does this mean? Nobody knows for sure, other than this: We’re not definitively on our way out of this yet.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Restaurant News Bites: COVID-19 Restrictions Highlight Local Restaurants’ Resiliency, Resourcefulness

By Charles Drabkin

March 11, 2021

The return of our restaurant-news column brings news of grilled-cheese and biscuit popups; a new food-truck venue in DHS; and much more!

Indie Films Outside: The Palm Springs Cultural Center Revives Its Outdoor Cinema—and Prepares for a Return to Semi-Normalcy

By Jimmy Boegle

March 12, 2021

Last summer, the folks at the Palm Springs Cultural Center decided to bring back the drive-in movie experience. It seemed like a no-brainer idea: Since […]

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for March 11, 2021!

By Staff

March 11, 2021

On this week’s Meghan and Harry-free weekly Independent comics page: The K Chronicles warns the kids about Phase 7; This Modern World grills Mr. Potato […]

And Now, the News

• California has officially readjusted the tier system, after hitting a first goal of administering 2 million vaccines in the state’s disadvantaged areas. As a result, the Los Angeles Times explains: “Thirteen counties—Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Amador, Colusa, Contra Costa, Mendocino, Mono, Placer, San Benito, Siskiyou, Sonoma and Tuolumne—will exit the proscriptive purple tier effective Sunday, according to the California Department of Public Health. And another 13 counties—Sacramento, San Diego, Riverside, Ventura, Kings, Lake, Monterey, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Sutter, Tehama, Tulare and Yuba—are poised to join the less strict red tier as soon as Wednesday, provided their coronavirus metrics stay steady.”

• The state also adjusted the criteria to allow wineries, breweries and distilleries that don’t serve food to reopen outdoors. According to SFGate: “The change comes with some new rules, however. Patrons must make reservations with the establishment and follow a 90-minute time limit, and on-site consumption must end by 8 p.m. Bars without food, however, will have longer to wait before reopening.”

• Another tier change coming soon: The addition of a green tier, as announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday. Per SFGate: “Newsom didn’t provide specifics on the new tier, but implied that it will be a level indicating a county has very little, if any, virus circulating and 100% reopening can occur. ‘We are working, quite literally, on a green tier and have been now for a number of months, in anticipation of this bright light now at the end of this tunnel,’ Newsom said from a Southern California vaccination site at a Wednesday press briefing. ‘And so we’re working on that. We’ll begin to socialize that.'”

• If you somehow missed all the March 11 remembrances yesterday, as it has become the unofficial anniversary of pandemic awareness, here’s a nice and not-too-long one from NPR. Key quote: “The global health emergency was now officially a pandemic—the first one to be caused by a coronavirus. The stock market reacted quickly to the new designation: the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 1,200 points. By the end of the day, the Dow was down more than 20% from its peak in February—and had entered bear market territory. An 11-year bull market had come to an end.”

• And in case you missed the big announcement yesterday: “President Biden set a goal of July 4 to ‘get closer to normal’ in reopening the country in his first prime-time address on Thursday night. To reach that goal, Mr. Biden said he would be directing all states to make all American adults eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1,” CBS News explains.

• On one hand … regulators in parts of Europe—where the vaccine rollout is going MUCH slower—have suspended use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, over concerns about blood clots. CNN reports: “Denmark announced a two-week suspension on Thursday following a number of reports of clotting in the country, including one fatal case. Iceland and Norway followed suit, but did not say how long their suspensions would last. Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke made clear the pause was a ‘precautionary measure,’ saying it was not possible yet to draw conclusions. ‘We act early, it needs to be thoroughly investigated,’ he said in a tweet.”

• On the other hand … the U.S. is facing increasing criticism for holding on to Oxford-AstraZeneca doses, which sit unused, because the vaccine has not yet been authorized for use here. The New York Times says: “The fate of those doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine is the subject of an intense debate among White House and federal health officials, with some arguing the administration should let them go abroad where they are desperately needed while others are not ready to relinquish them, according to senior administration officials. AstraZeneca is involved in those conversations. ‘We understand other governments may have reached out to the U.S. government about donation of AstraZeneca doses, and we’ve asked the U.S. government to give thoughtful consideration to these requests,’ said Gonzalo Viña, a spokesman for AstraZeneca.”

• Yet another vaccine candidate is reporting positive preliminary results. According to NBC News: “The Maryland-based biotech company Novavax reported Thursday that its experimental COVID-19 vaccine is more than 96 percent effective in preventing mild and severe illness. The results are from the company’s Phase 3 clinical trial, which was conducted in the U.K. Novavax’s trials in the U.S. and South Africa continue, and the company cannot apply for emergency use authorization in the U.S. until the American trials are complete.”

Also from NBC comes this headline, which we’re just going to leave here before slowly walking away: “States with Republican governors had highest COVID incidence and death rates, study finds.”

• The battered restaurant industry is going to get a lot of help due to the newly signed COVID relief bill. As explained by The Associated Press via SFGate:” The bill that gained final congressional approval Wednesday adds money to the Paycheck Protection Program and provides indirect help to small businesses in general through stimulus payments and unemployment benefits. But restaurants got the biggest share of direct help: $28.6 billion in grants for restaurants whose revenue fell in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. The bill calls for grants equal to the amount of restaurants’ revenue losses, up to a maximum of $10 million per company and $5 million per location. Eligible companies cannot own more than 20 locations, and they can’t be publicly traded. The bill sets aside $5 billion for the smallest restaurants, those whose annual revenue is $500,000 or less.”

• A lot of California students may get sent to summer school. Our partners at CalMatters offer the lowdown: “Two of the state’s largest districts have unveiled plans for multimillion-dollar summer school programs, signaling this could be one of California’s main strategies to address a year of learning loss during the pandemic. San Francisco Unified announced a $50 million initiative Wednesday to offer in-person classes, summer camps and child care to all 52,000 K-12 public school students free of charge, with online options for those who choose. On Tuesday, San Diego Unified approved a $22 million summer school program with in-person and online options, intended to help students improve their grades and increase the number of graduating high school seniors; currently, 20% aren’t on track to graduate in June.”

• We “spring forward” this weekend, losing an hour thanks to the start of daylight saving time—and a neurologist, writing for The Conversation, said this time change may be even harder due to the pandemic: “Sleep this past year has been affected by a variety of factors, including anxiety, inconsistent schedules and increased screen time. This affects our health, as getting adequate sleep is important to assure our immune system can fend off and fight infections.”

• If you’re looking for something safe to do outside this weekend … Desert X is officially under way! The New York Times explains what the biennial desert art event is all about:

• Could a crackdown by Netflix on password-sharing be in the works? That’s unclear, according to this CBNC article. But … “Netflix is trying out a new policy with some customers, prompting certain people to sign up for a separate account if they aren’t watching with the subscriber. The message reads: ‘If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching.’ The Streamable first reported about the trial.

Business Insider reports that there is a small degree of hope that Taco Bell could be persuaded to right a grievous wrong: “Taco Bell cut the Mexican Pizza from menus back in November, but some fans now have renewed hope that it might come back soon. … Taco Bell announced potatoes are returning to menus on March 11 after months of protest. ‘We definitely heard from our consumers — because they love our potatoes,’ Taco Bell’s global chief food innovation officer Liz Matthews told Insider. ‘We do have a direct line with our consumers and they’re loud and vocal, and we love that because they’re passionate about our brand.'”

• And finally … um … well, ZDNet says your sex toys (no judgment) may be vulnerable to hackers: “Smart sex toys are equipped with a variety of features: internet connectivity, remote control, Bluetooth links, video, messaging, apps for measuring and monitoring responses, and more. However, there are concerns that in the rush to offer more and more connectivity options, sex toys could be leaving users open to ‘data breaches and attacks, both cyber and physical.'”

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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...