Indy Digest: Sept. 15, 2022
I came across a news headline yesterday that surprised the heck out of me: “WHO says ‘the end is in sight’ for COVID pandemic as global deaths hit lowest since March 2020.”
The story, by NBC News, says:
The COVID pandemic may be nearing a close, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
New weekly cases also fell by 28% in that time, from nearly 4.2 million during the week of Aug. 29 to Sept. 4 to around 3.1 million last week, according to the WHO.
“We have never been in a better position to end the pandemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing Wednesday. “We are not there yet, but the end is in sight.”
U.S. COVID deaths, however, have stayed relatively flat, with little change over the last two weeks, according to NBC News’ tally.
The U.S. is recording a weekly average of 478 COVID deaths a day, which is far above its lowest rate ever: 168 daily deaths the week that ended July 6, 2021. In June 2022, the average was 258 daily deaths.
One reason I was so surprised by this story was the night before, the Independent’s sister paper, the Reno News & Review, published a story with this headline: “Many attendees returned from Burning Man 2022 with COVID-19 infections.” A snippet:
The event in the Black Rock Desert 100 miles north of Reno drew about 80,000 participants. The current strain of the virus is the most communicable to date, so some cases at a major event would be expected. There are no official figures available about festival participants who subsequently tested positive, but anecdotally, a multitude of positive tests have been reported among burners in Northern Nevada, California and elsewhere.
One Reno attendee who didn’t want to be identified said his camp had 34 participants and as of Sept. 13, eight had tested positive for the virus, including himself and his partner. Another burner said while she didn’t contract COVID-19, she “heard of a handful of confirmed COVID cases from people I know from both Reno and out-of-town.”
Burning Man COVID cases aside … I really hope the WHO is correct about COVID-19 being in its final stages. I am pretty sure all of us have that hope. And the WHO may very well be correct; after all, the pandemic has to end sometime, right?
Barring the emergence a more-contagious, deadlier SARS-CoV-2 variant, however, such declarations don’t matter, because the vast majority of the world is acting like the pandemic is already over. Almost all of the big events are back, and face masks are almost entirely a thing of the past.
Alas, the people who are really sick with COVID-19, and their loved ones, know the pandemic is not yet over. The friends and loved ones of nearly 500 Americans are still learning that lesson, in the most awful way possible, every week.
From the Independent
By Kevin Fitzgerald
September 15th, 2022
On Nov. 8, Coachella voters will pick between two candidates for mayor: Current Mayor Steven Hernandez, running for a fifth two-year term, and current City Councilmember Denise Delgado.
CV History: Before the Movie Stars Arrived, Palm Springs Was a Haven for Artists, Including Renowned Painter Gordon Coutts
By Greg Niemann
September 14th, 2022
In 1924, Gordon and Gertrude Coutts moved to Palm Springs and built their own Moorish castle, “Dar Marroc,” at 257 S. Patencio Drive—and today, it’s the Korakia Pensione hotel.
By Bob Grimm
September 13th, 2022
The new Pinocchio is proof that Disney’s concentration on live-action remakes of animated classics is getting a bit tedious.
September 15th, 2022
Topics touched upon via this week’s comics page include weird background lighting, free speech, low-fat peanut butter, Conan the Barbarian—and much more!
• The spread of monkeypox in the U.S. is slowing down … somewhat mysteriously. Wired reports: “With 22,774 cases, the US has racked up almost two-fifths of the world’s total. Nevertheless, a recent CDC assessment says the epidemic’s ‘rate of growth is slowing.’ In July, it took only eight days for the US case count to double; it takes approximately 25 days for the same to happen now. That the epidemic may be slowing is unquestionably good news. But there’s a catch: No one is quite sure why. The drop in cases is almost certainly due in part to people changing their behavior. In a recent survey of gay and bisexual men, who are at most risk of infection, half said they had reduced their number of partners or types of sexual encounters. It may also be due to protection from the monkeypox vaccine, though that effort has rolled out slowly and a recent preprint (which is not yet peer-reviewed) questions the vaccine’s effectiveness. Or the decline could simply be due to the virus burning itself out as it exhausts the number of people likely to be exposed to it—a remote possibility, but one that researchers have to consider.”
• Riverside County is reporting a total of 252 confirmed or suspected monkeypox cases—with 192 or more of those in the Coachella Valley. (I say “or more,” because the county’s by-city breakdown lists any city with 1-4 cases as “less than five.”) Get all the stats here.
• A potentially devastating railroad strike slated to start Friday appears to have been averted. NPR reports: “After a marathon negotiating session lasting 20 hours, the White House announced early Thursday that a tentative agreement had been reached between rail companies and the unions representing conductors and engineers. … Union members still have to vote to ratify the agreement before it is finalized. A vote is not expected for at least a couple of weeks. … (President) Biden called in to the talks at 9 p.m. Wednesday night to urge groups to ‘be flexible, be creative, get a deal done,’ an official said. At 2 a.m. Thursday, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh called to announce they had a deal.”
• A piece from the Possible Egregious Abuse of Power file, via the Los Angeles Times: “Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators searched the house of county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl on Wednesday as part of a criminal investigation into a county contract awarded to a nonprofit organization. … In a brief statement, the Sheriff’s Department announced the searches but declined to provide details, citing the ongoing criminal investigation. Later, in an unusual move, the department posted to its website a detailed statement about the case that investigators submitted to Richman when they sought the warrants. In it, investigators claimed an array of bribery and other crimes related to the contracts may have been committed, including ‘bribery of a county supervisor.’ Later on Wednesday, the county district attorney’s office said in a statement that prosecutors ‘were not consulted or aware of the search warrants that were served today. In this case, because we did not review the warrant beforehand, we do not intend to defend it if challenged in court.’ … The warrants marked a dramatic escalation of the sheriff’s long-running investigation into the nonprofit (Peace Over Violence’s) contracts and reignited angry claims from critics that (Sheriff Alex) Villanueva is using a secretive public corruption unit to target political enemies and others who have crossed him. Villanueva has denied the claims, saying he has recused himself from the unit’s work in order to avoid conflicts of interest.”
• A piece from the Undeniably Inhumane Abuse of Power file, via CBS News: “Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday flew two planes of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, escalating a tactic by Republican governors to draw attention to what they consider to be the Biden administration’s failed border policies. Flights to the upscale island enclave in Massachusetts were part of an effort to ‘transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations,’ said Taryn Fenske, DeSantis’ communications director. While DeSantis’ office didn’t elaborate on their legal status, many migrants who cross the border illegally from Mexico are temporarily shielded from deportation after being freed by U.S. authorities to pursue asylum in immigration courts—as allowed under U.S. law and international treaty—or released on humanitarian parole.”
• Gov. Gavin Newsom and others are asking the Department of Justice to investigate the awful stunts by DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Can we all agree that no matter one’s politics on immigration and border policies, these people are being used as pawns in political stunts are human beings, and that’s unbelievably cruel and inhumane?
• Speaking of Newsom, our partners at CalMatters report: “Now the hard work begins. So said Gov. Gavin Newsom at a Wednesday bill signing ceremony in San Jose about legislation he says is key to addressing one of California’s most glaring failures: The sheer number of people suffering from untreated mental illness living on our streets. Newsom’s office first rolled out his Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Court proposal in March. This new court system would make it easier for loved ones, first responders and mental health workers to force severely mentally ill Californians into psychiatric treatment and housing. … The hard work that the governor was alluding to is the fact that California’s 58 counties now have to actually set up these new systems before 2025 — with seven counties rolling out the programs within the next year. But alongside implementation and application, there’s almost certain to be litigation. Though the CARE Court bill sailed through both chambers of the Legislature and has been welcomed by at least some families of mentally ill, homeless Californians, it’s fiercely opposed by many civil liberties and human rights groups. They warn the new policy will take us back to the bad old days before the 1970s when California’s population of ‘mentally disordered persons’ were often indefinitely and involuntarily shuttered away in state hospitals.”
• And finally … let’s end with some good news: Cinema Diverse, the valley’s LGBTQ+ film festival, gets under way today! It kicks off with the opening night screening of “Bros” at the Palm Springs Cultural Center. Details: “From the ferocious comic mind of Billy Eichner (Billy on the Street, 2019’s The Lion King, Difficult People, Impeachment: American Crime Story) and the hitmaking brilliance of filmmakers Nicholas Stoller (the Neighbors films, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and Judd Apatow (The King of Staten Island, Trainwreck, The Big Sick), comes Bros, a smart, swoony and heartfelt comedy about how hard it is to find another tolerable human being to go through life with. Starring Billy Eichner, the first openly gay man to co-write and star in his own major studio film—and featuring an entirely LGBTQ+ principal cast, including Luke Macfarlane (Killjoys), Ts Madison (The Ts Madison Experience), Monica Raymund (Chicago Fire), Guillermo Díaz (Scandal), Guy Branum (The Other Two) and Amanda Bearse (Married …with Children)—Bros is directed by Nicholas Stoller from his screenplay with Eichner.” Peruse the complete Cinema Diverse schedule here. The fest takes place through Sunday, Sept. 25.
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