Coachella Valley Independent

Daily Digest: April 5, 2021

An announcement by Riverside County this afternoon offers some good news, and some possibly bad news.

The announcement, presented here in its entirety.

Riverside County health officials are expanding the eligibility for those who want to get vaccinated at the four county-run clinics to those 16 and older, effective Tuesday (April 6).

The change will open vaccine eligibility to hundreds of thousands of Riverside County residents.

“The expansion of eligibility will allow the last large group of Riverside County adult residents to get vaccinated, and bring us one step closer to herd immunity,” said Kim Saruwatari, director of Riverside University Health System-Public Health. “Bringing the vaccine to a younger population, where we have seen an increase in cases, is a big step forward.”

Those who are 16 and 17—who are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine—will need to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to get vaccinated. Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are available to those who are 18 years and older.

“More vaccine is available now, and opening eligibility will move us even further towards our goal of vaccinating the majority of our residents,” said Board Chair Karen Spiegel, Second District Supervisor. “(The) vaccine works best when the majority of the population takes it.”

More than one million vaccinations—both first and second doses—have been administered to Riverside County residents through the county-run clinics and those operated by the nearly 200 community providers. The county-run clinics are located at the Albert A. Chatigny Sr. Community Recreation Center in Beaumont, Heritage High School in Menifee, Tahquitz High School in Hemet and the Moreno Valley Mall. There are also clinics at six community health centers operated by Riverside University Health System that are allowing those 16 and older to be vaccinated.

To make an appointment, click Those needing assistance making an appointment can call 2-1-1. The current wait times for 2-1-1 are under five minutes

The good part is obvious: Anyone 16 and older can now get vaccinated, as long as they’re willing to go to one of the county sites. (Presumably, non-county-run sites will remain open only to people 50 and older, people with certain pre-existing conditions and some essential workers—until April 15, when the state opens vaccinations to everyone 16-plus.) Across the country, various states and counties have similarly expanded access to all adults.

The bad news … it’s possible this move portends a concerningly high level of vaccine hesitancy. When the state opened up vaccinations to people with pre-existing conditions, health officials warned that the sudden increase in eligibility would mean appointments would go fast. The same happened when everyone 50 and older was made eligible on April 1.

Instead, appointments have remained fairly easy to get. We’ve regularly been getting alerts in recent days about clinics being open to eligible walk-ins—including some open to any adult who had not yet been vaccinated, because many appointment slots remained unfilled. This is due, in part, to a significant increases in vaccine allotments, which have helped the U.S. set records—including 4 million shots given Saturday alone.

But I fear it’s also due to a lot of eligible people deciding that they’re not ready to get their shots—or that they’re not going to get them at all.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Monsters Mash: The Special-Effects Battles in ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Are Fantastic, but the Human Subplots Are Awful

By Bob Grimm

April 5, 2021

Godzilla vs. Kong is good enough as long as they are punching each other or somebody else. The humans and their subplots are the problem.

Content Shifter: Nine Shows on Fox Nation You Should Know About, but Probably Never Watch

By Bill Frost

April 5, 2021

Here are nine Fox Nation shows to be cognizant of when Gramps goes off on an unhinged rant.

And Now, the News

• Some good news from, uh, the sewers of Palm Springs: After two weeks of small increases, the amount of SARS-CoV-2 detected in Palm Springs wastewater decreased last week. From the report: “The latest samples from March 29 and 30, 2021 is showing a decrease in the number of copies per liter found in the wastewater. The data clearly shows the trend line leveling off for the past seven weeks. The data from GT Molecular estimates the number of cases can be anywhere between 120 to 533 cases, which represents a prevalence rate between 0.27% and 1.21%. Based on the sample taken on March 30, 2021, the model estimates about 229 cases, which is down from the 516 cases estimated on March 23, 2021.”

• While COVID-19 numbers in most of California are relatively stable, such is not the case in much of the country. So, is this a fourth surge, or no? The Washington Post asked a bunch of experts … and they don’t agree on the answer. A snippet: “By the numbers, this latest upswing is on par with the surge of cases in July. Going into the weekend, the country was reporting more than 65,000 cases per day, a number that didn’t include several states that did not report data on the Good Friday holiday. That figure is roughly the same as last summer’s peak, when soaring case counts were alarming public health officials and overwhelming some hospitals. On CBS’s Face the Nation, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb predicted the current spikes would not amount to ‘a true fourth wave,’ citing the number of Americans who have already been infected, plus the number of people who have been vaccinated.”

• One thing everyone agrees on: The number of “excess deaths”—deaths above the number that would happen in a typical year—horrifyingly skyrocketed in 2020, due to, well, you know. MedPage Today notes: “No harder measure of the coronavirus pandemic’s toll exists: death from any cause rose 23% nationwide in 2020. That meant 522,368 excess deaths from March through the end of 2020 compared with a projection from the prior 5 years, Steven Woolf, MD, MPH, of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in Richmond, and colleagues reported in JAMA.”

• As noted above, the Pfizer vaccine is the only one 16- and 17-year-olds can currently get—and kids 16 and younger can’t currently get vaccinated at all. However, that all will likely soon change. That’s why this news, via The Hill, is important: “Johnson & Johnson is expanding its coronavirus vaccine trials to include adolescents as young as 12 years old, the company said Friday. The phase 2a trial began in September and was initially designed to study single-dose and two-dose regimens of the vaccine in healthy adults aged 18 to 55 years, as well as adults 65 and older. The study is now including children ages 12 to 17.”

• While an increasing number of civil libertarians are starting to express worries about the use of “vaccine passports”—in other words, a form of vaccination proof that allows you to do things un-vaccinated people can’t do—a writer for Time magazine points out that the idea is far from new. Quote: “Detractors claim that requiring such documentation infringes on individual liberties. Some even suggest that these passports could be the beginning of a slippery slope toward “1940s Nazi Germany” or a surveillance state. Florida Governor Ron De Santis has announced a blanket ban on all vaccine passports, calling it ‘unacceptable for either the government or the private sector’ to require vaccination in order for citizens to be ‘able to participate in normal society.’ But this would not be American history’s first example of a vaccine passport—and in fact, Americans’ long campaign against smallpox shows that the benefits of such a system can extend far beyond the venues into which such a passport would grant admission.”

Our partners at CalMatters look at a consequence of the state’s unemployment disaster: It’s meant a lot of work for contractors: “As the ranks of desperate California workers … swell, the state’s Employment Development Department insists that it’s getting things under control. It has help from an ever-expanding roster of private contractors that are staffing up call centers, modernizing tech systems and rooting out fraud, officials stress on social media and at political hearings in Sacramento—an effort that, all told, has so far cost the state at least $236 million during the pandemic, the agency told CalMatters. The contracts are part of a nationwide unemployment gold rush, as tech companies and consultants pitch overwhelmed public agencies new solutions for fraud and outdated claims systems. One Bloomberg Law report last summer tallied $173.8 million in pandemic-era unemployment contracts for consulting giants Accenture, Deloitte and EY alone.”

• You know how airlines started doing things a little better during the pandemic—for example, getting rid of ridiculous change fees? Well, now that the travel market is starting to come back … so are those stupid change fees. Sigh. According to Poynter: “Starting this week, you will not be eligible for travel vouchers that allow you to change flight plans without rebooking fees when you book travel on American Airlines. Delta Air Lines goes back to the old way of doing things next month. If you have travel vouchers from the last year, you have until the end of 2021 to use them. United Airlines is also starting change fees back up again in May but is giving customers until April 2022 to use the ones they already hold.”

• The fact that companies are starting to speak out against Georgia’s new voting laws has the Senate minority leader in a snit. According to The Associated Press, via SFGate: “(Mitch) McConnell more pointedly warned the big business that have been responding to public pressure on their corporate actions not to give in to the advocacy campaigns. ‘It’s jaw-dropping to see powerful American institutions not just permit themselves to be bullied, but join in the bullying themselves,’ he said. Last week, Delta, Coca-Cola and other companies spoke critically of the new law in Georgia and baseball announced it was moving the All-Star Game from the state. McConnell warned companies not to get involved in voting issues or other upcoming debates on environmental policy or gun violence heading to Congress.”

• A round of applause for Asa Hutchinson. According to The New York Times: “Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas vetoed a bill on Monday that would make it illegal for transgender minors to receive gender-affirming medication or surgery—a rare Republican rejection amid the growing conservative effort to restrict transgender people’s health care and participation in society.” The story goes on to note that the bill passed with veto-proof majorities, so this may not do any good.

• The Los Angeles Times points out that the eviction moratoriums are leading to hard times for smaller landlords: “In interviews with The Times, property owners and managers said they understood the unprecedented nature of the crisis but that they are absorbing too much of the cost. Many said they or their clients are dipping into savings to keep properties afloat and delaying maintenance or repairs because they can’t afford them. Some said they probably can’t or won’t hold on much longer under these circumstances.”

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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...