Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: June 20, 2022

Starting this week, kids between the ages of 6 months and 5 years old will, at long last, be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

This is a big deal—a bigger deal than most people realize—for two reasons.

First off: While COVID-19 has proven to be deadliest of all to older people and people with certain pre-existing conditions, it can be dangerous to young children as well.

Healthline reports:

Research has found that COVID-19 is still more dangerous in children than the seasonal flu.

In general, COVID-19 is far less severe in children than in adults, but kids can easily become infected and in some cases, develop serious disease.

The report published in JAMA Network Open on Wednesday found that twice as many children were admitted with COVID-19 during the first 15 months of the pandemic compared to the number of children hospitalized with the flu during the two years before the pandemic.

Pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and hospital stays were also longer in children hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to children hospitalized with the flu, according to the findings.

Previous research has identified higher rates of hospital admissions and mortality among children with COVID-19 compared to the flu.

Second: The new omicron subvariants seem to be hanging around—at a very high level.

The latest Palm Springs wastewater testing levels for SARS-CoV-2 were released today—and after a modest decline in the results reported last week (with samples taken the week before), the results released today (with samples taken last week, on June 12 and 14) show the amount of viral copies has again increased. Specifically: “The average number of copies (per liter) recorded at the city’s wastewater treatment plant has gone back up. The average of 435,917 copies/L from the previous week’s average has increased to an average of 634,207 copies/L for June 12 and 14, 2022.”

For close to two months now, we’ve all been walking around in a world where there’s more virus out there than at any other time during the pandemic other than the two December-January spikes—at levels equivalent to or higher than last summer’s Delta-driven spike.

Despite these high levels, hospitalization and death rates remain low—something most medical folks are attributing to the fact that the vast majority of us have some sort level of immunity. As The New York Times reported today:

Nearly three months since an ultra-contagious set of new Omicron variants launched a springtime resurgence of cases, people are nonetheless dying from COVID at a rate close to the lowest of the pandemic. … The country remains better fortified against COVID deaths than earlier in the pandemic, scientists said.

Because so many Americans have now been vaccinated or infected or both, they said, the number of people whose immune systems are entirely unprepared for the virus has significantly dwindled.

“In previous waves, there were still substantial pockets of people who had not been vaccinated or exposed to the virus, and so were at the same risk of dying as people at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Dr. David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Those pockets don’t exist anymore.”

However, kids age 6 months to five years old don’t have as much immunity. But soon, thanks to these vaccines, they may have that immunity—and that’s a very good thing.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Vine Social: Should Writers and Sommeliers Retire the Words ‘Masculine’ and ‘Feminine’ When Describing Wines?

By Katie Finn

June 17th, 2022

Several wine industry professionals are on a mission to eliminate the words “feminine” and “masculine” from the wine writer’s vocabulary. The terms are accused of being outdated and inappropriate, archaic stereotypes—offensive ways to describe a wine.

Jeff Bridges Is Back: FX’s ‘The Old Man’ Offers Intense Action, Solid Drama, Fine Acting

By Bob Grimm

June 20th, 2022

The Old Man has elements of John Wick—if Wick aged 25 years and got two dogs instead of one.

Great Name, Mediocre Film: Netflix’s ‘Spiderhead’ Bores While Wasting an Excellent Cast

By Bob Grimm

June 20th, 2022

Spiderhead … it’s such a cool name for such a dud flick.

More News

• Today, the U.S. is marking Juneteenth as a federal holiday. A historian, writing for The Conversation, explains why the holiday is celebrated today—but notes that Juneteenth is just one of 20 different emancipation days in the U.S., and that “emancipation” didn’t always mean what we think of today: “In my view as a scholar of race and colonialism, Emancipation Days—Juneteenth in Texas—are not what many people think, because emancipation did not do what most of us think it did. As historians have long documented, emancipations did not remove all the shackles that prevented Black people from obtaining full citizenship rights. Nor did emancipations prevent states from enacting their own laws that prohibited Black people from voting or living in white neighborhoods. In fact, based on my research, emancipations were actually designed to force Blacks and the federal government to pay reparations to slave owners—not to the enslaved—thus ensuring white people maintained advantages in accruing and passing down wealth across generations.”

• While Juneteenth is indeed a national holiday, it’s not yet being observed in a high number of states. NPR explains why: “When Juneteenth became a federal holiday last year, South Carolina organizer Jamal Bradley was excited for it to finally get the recognition it deserves. But his enthusiasm was quickly dashed when he learned state leaders decided not to follow suit in observing the holiday. ‘It just lets me know there’s still work left to do in South Carolina,’ said Bradley, who started a petition for Juneteenth to become a state holiday. … While every state has at some point recognized Juneteenth as a day of observance, 26 states have yet to adopt Juneteenth as a paid public holiday, including seven former Confederate states, according to the Pew Research Center. Reasons for the delay vary from state to state. In some places, it’s due to lagging bureaucracy. In other places, it’s due to disputes over when to actually celebrate the holiday.”

• NBC News reports that the right-wing threats against LGBTQ events we covered in this space a week ago are causing a lot of event cancellations: “California state Sen. Scott Wiener said he was at a supermarket … when he was alerted by a staff member not to return to his home before calling police. Wiener, who had joked on Twitter about making ‘Drag Queen 101 part of the K-12 curriculum’ in response to a tweet last week by a Texas state House representative announcing a bill seeking to ban drag shows in the presence of minors, had received an email saying there was a bomb in his house. Bomb-sniffing dogs had to clear Wiener’s apartment before he went back in. ‘There is a very orchestrated network of right-wing accounts and personalities to coordinate on whatever the current attack message is and who’s going to be targeted. And they have an army of social media trolls who amplify their messages,’ he said in a phone interview. ‘It’s a very orchestrated attack machine.’ The bomb scare directed at the state senator’s home was just one of several threats and intimidation tactics aimed at LGBTQ activists in the last week, some just hours after the high-profile arrests of 31 members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front in Idaho on Saturday. The threats mostly aimed to shut down events for transgender rights and drag performances, which have become frequent targets of extremists, militias and far-right personalities during June, which is Pride Month. They come as more than 200 bills targeting LGBTQ people have been filed across the United States this year.”

One reason why everything costs so much these days, per ProPublica: huge, and possibly illegal, fees being charged by some ocean carriers. A snippet, involving a case where a company selling bananas was forced to pay ridiculous fees to get the fruit to customers before it rotted: “In the first quarter of 2022, the biggest carriers’ operating margins hit 57%, according to one industry research firm, after hovering in the single digits before the pandemic. The hauler that wanted $12,000 per container to move the bananas told the One Banana logistics specialist that it needed the money to cover a slew of fees the ocean carriers were tacking onto freight bills. Hapag-Lloyd, the German shipping giant that owned the containers the bananas were sitting in, had become particularly notorious in the freight industry, leading to multiple complaints to the Federal Maritime Commission. In normal times, the fees, known as detention and demurrage, make a lot of sense. Importers who don’t pick up their stuff on time get charged demurrage for storage at the marine terminals. Truckers who don’t return an empty container on time pay late fees, or detention. The purpose of the penalties is to incentivize the various players in the supply chain to keep goods flowing. … But as supply chains snarled last year, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles ran out of room and became clogged with shipping containers that importers, often big-box retailers and brands, weren’t able to retrieve. Surrounding truckyards and streets were flooded with empty containers, temporarily dumped there by trucking companies that couldn’t get appointments to return them to the ports. Hapag had made it ‘extremely difficult’ to return empty containers, the trucking company said, and it was often left holding them for a month, all while Hapag continued to charge the firm $400 a day for each container that wasn’t returned on time.”

Aaaand now climate change is … affecting sriracha supplies?! Yep. NPR explains: “The company that makes sriracha, Huy Fong Foods, wrote in an email to customers in late April that it will have to stop making the sauce for the next few months due to ‘severe weather conditions affecting the quality of chili peppers.’ … The shortage is due to a failed chili pepper harvest in northern Mexico, where all of the chilies used in Sriracha come from, according to National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Guillermo Murray Tortarolo, who studies climate and ecosystems. ‘Sriracha is actually made from a very special type of pepper that only grows in the southern U.S. and northern Mexico,’ Murray Tortarolo said. ‘These red jalapeños are only grown during the first four months of the year, and they need very controlled conditions, particularly constant irrigation.’ Irrigation, of course, requires lots of water, but northern Mexico is in its second year of a drought. … As a result, the spring chili harvest was almost nonexistent this year. Murray Tortarolo thinks it’s very likely that climate change is a factor, although it requires further study to confirm.”

• And finally, let’s conclude on a happy note: We’re a few weeks away from seeing likely amazing, and certainly scientifically significant, images taken by the new James Webb Space Telescope: The Conversation worked with a scientist involved with the project to explain: “NASA is scheduled to release the first images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope on July 12, 2022. They’ll mark the beginning of the next era in astronomy as Webb—the largest space telescope ever built—begins collecting scientific data that will help answer questions about the earliest moments of the universe and allow astronomers to study exoplanets in greater detail than ever before. But it has taken nearly eight months of travel, setup, testing and calibration to make sure this most valuable of telescopes is ready for prime time. Marcia Rieke, an astronomer at the University of Arizona and the scientist in charge of one of Webb’s four cameras, explains what she and her colleagues have been doing to get this telescope up and running.”

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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...