Coachella Valley Independent

Daily Digest: March 3, 2021

Hey, so we’re all friends here, right? So can I make a confession regarding something that’s a little embarrassing?

OK, here goes: I am suffering from vaccine envy. Yes, I am feeling envious of people who have gotten vaccinated.

Let me explain.

When the state announced its tier system for vaccinations, I was part of phase 1C—because the tier included frontline journalists as part of that tier’s set of essential workers. According to a graphic that was posted on the county’s website, that tier was supposed to start getting vaccinated in March.

Then the state changed its mind. First, the state decided it’d be simpler to move to an age-based system (plus, of course, the most essential of the essential workers—people in health care, food supply, emergency services, etc., plus residents in long-term care facilities). Second, the state added in Californians with certain pre-existing conditions—like cancer, chronic kidney disease, etc.—with an effective date of March 15.

As for phase 1C … as far as I can tell, it no longer exists, since it is no longer included on either the state or the county vaccine-info sites. Meanwhile, in other states, like Nevada, journalists are currently getting vaccinated.

While I am bummed out about the apparent elimination of phase 1C, it was undeniably the right move to prioritize people with pre-existing conditions that make them susceptible to COVID-19. Everyone currently eligible to get vaccinated SHOULD be ahead of journalists in the figurative line.

Still, I look at the excited tweets from journalism colleagues getting their shots in other states, and I think about how the county not long ago was saying my turn would be coming up soon … and I just kinda sigh.

The state, after some fits and starts, now has its vaccination priorities mostly correct. But I am still feeling vaccine envy—and despite my embarrassment, I have a feeling that some of you may be feeling vaccine envy as well.

—Jimmy Boegle

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And Now, the News

• President Joe Biden yesterday said the U.S. should, by the end of May, have enough vaccines to inoculate every adult. CNBC reports: “Less than a month earlier, the Biden administration offered a more modest prediction: that the U.S. would have enough vaccine supply for 300 million Americans by the end of July. Biden’s announcement came as the White House works to increase production of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID vaccine, the most recent to receive approval for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Biden confirmed in his speech that J&J and pharmaceutical giant Merck will work together to pump up production of the newly approved vaccine.”

• More details continue to be revealed about the horrific traffic crash in Imperial County yesterday that killed 13 people. KTLA reports that the vehicle entered the U.S. from Mexico through a hole that had been cut in the border fence: “Surveillance video showed a Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Suburban drive through the opening early Tuesday, said Gregory Bovino, the Border Patrol’s El Centro sector chief. The Suburban carried 19 people, and it caught fire for unknown reasons on a nearby interstate after entering the U.S. All escaped the vehicle and were taken into custody by Border Patrol agents. The Expedition crammed with 25 people continued on, and a tractor-trailer struck it a short time later. Ten of the 13 killed in that crash have been identified as Mexican citizens.”

The Washington Post reports: “On Tuesday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged Catholics to avoid taking the Johnson and Johnson coronavirus vaccine and to choose alternatives from Pfizer or Moderna instead because Johnson and Johnson used cells derived decades ago from an abortion to create the vaccine.” The story explains how, uh, well, complicated the issue is. I’ll just leave it at that.

• President Biden has agreed to a compromise that means fewer Americans will receive checks from the government as part of the new COVID-19 relief bill. CNN explains: “7 million fewer families will receive a partial payment than would have under the House version of the bill, according to an estimate from the Penn Wharton Budget Model. The new proposal will completely cut off (joint filers) who earn more than $160,000 a year and individuals who earn more than $80,000 a year. The House legislation, which passed Saturday, set the income caps at $200,000 for couples and $100,000 for individuals. But the same households will receive the full payment of $1,400 per person, including children. Individuals earning less than $75,000 and couples earning less than $150,000 will—just as in the House bill. Then, the payments will phase out faster for those earning more.”

• Also included in the relief bill: A significant and helpful overhaul of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare—and nobody is speaking out much in opposition. NBC News reports: “The biggest ACA-related item in the American Rescue Plan, which the House passed last week, would address one of the most persistent complaints about the law among customers and political opponents alike: sky-high premiums for people who don’t qualify for federal tax credits to help pay them. … For the next two years, the American Rescue Plan would expand tax credits to higher earners and cap the maximum premium anyone is expected to pay at 8.5 percent of their income. It would boost tax credits at lower incomes, as well: People making less than 150 percent of the federal poverty line ($19,320 for an individual) would be expected to pay $0 in premiums for a benchmark plan, for example.”

The governors of Texas and Mississippi yesterday removed mask mandates and declared that all businesses could open at full capacity—despite the fact that the vast, vast majority of medical experts say those are terrible ideas. President Biden, to nobody’s surprise, agrees with those experts. CNBC reports that Biden told reporters: “Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms. … The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking, that, ‘In the meantime, everything’s fine. Take off your mask. Forget it.’ It still matters.”

• Sort of related: The Los Angeles Times looks at the reopening processes in the state of California. Key quote: “In California, daily coronavirus cases are still declining, but at a slower rate than last month. The state is currently recording about 5,200 cases a day, a decrease of 23% from last week. In mid-February, the week-over-week drop was 37%. The paradox has lingered throughout the pandemic: How can it be safe to open up when you’re still asking residents to batten down?

• Meanwhile, in New York City, live performances will be allowed for the first time in more than a year starting in April. The New York Times says: “(Gov. Andrew) Cuomo, speaking at a news conference in Albany, said that arts, entertainment and events venues can reopen April 2 at 33 percent capacity, with a limit of 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors, and a requirement that all attendees wear masks and be socially distanced. Those limits would be increased—to 150 people indoors or 500 people outdoors—if all attendees test negative before entering. A handful of venues immediately said they would begin holding live performances, which, with a handful of exceptions, have not taken place in New York since Broadway shut down last March 12.”

Here’s this week’s Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. (District 4 consists of the Coachella Valley and rural areas eastward.) The good news is that hospitalizations continue to decrease. The bad news is that local case counts may be plateauing—or at least not decreasing as much. The awful news is that nine of our neighbors died of the disease during the week ending Feb. 28.

Cathedral City voters have decided to get rid of most vacation rentals in the city. Measure B will uphold a city ordinance phasing out most of them by Jan. 1, 2023. In yesterday’s special election, the measure received 4,465 “yes” votes, with 2,457 “no” votes. According to the county Registrar of Voters, a little more than 2,000 votes remain to be processed—but given that number presumably also includes ballots from Eastvale for their special election, Measure B will almost certainly pass.

• This Los Angeles Times headline cuts straight to the point: “Criminals stole billions in COVID-19 unemployment benefits. A new relief bill won’t prevent it from happening again.” While the story explains what this all means, we’ll share this key quote, because it, again, cuts straight to the point: “Cybercrime experts, including some who once made their living exploiting weak online systems, warn that as Congress prepares to pass another mass infusion of cash, criminals have gotten smarter, but the federal government hasn’t.”

• Governor Gavin Newsom said today that a limited number of fans could be allowed into Major League Baseball stadiums by Opening Day. The Los Angeles Times says: “Newsom stopped short of a guarantee, since a resurgence of the coronavirus could derail plans. But he noted that the state’s positivity rate has fallen to 2.2% and hospitalizations for the virus have dropped 43% in the last two weeks.”

• You’ve probably heard about the hubbub over Dr. Seuss in the last few days. No, progressives are not trying to “cancel” Dr. Seuss; his own estate, not progressives, decided to stop publishing six of his books due to racist undertones and depictions. Anyway, Slate interviewed a scholar of children’s literature about the decision—and the piece contains some fascinating information, including revelations on how the author himself reacted when people pointed out some of the racist tropes. Key quote from the scholar, Philip Nel: “Yes, there are some examples of him revising in response to criticism, and you can give him credit for that—but I would only give partial credit!”

• Finally, Dolly Parton is a national treasure—and she received a vaccine shot yesterday (after helping to fund the research that made the vaccines possible) … with a song, of course. NPR offers up the details.

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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...