Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: Nov. 17, 2022

I was fortunate enough to attend the Lewis Black show at the McCallum Theatre in October. At the end of every show, Black has a feature called “The Rant Is Due,” which is livestreamed on his social media channels. Audience members and fans around the world can submit their own rants for the segment, which Black will read in his hilariously unique way, before offering his two cents.

On this particular night, more than a few of the rants submitted by the McCallum Theatre audience had a theme—the theater’s face mask and vaccination policies.

Unlike most local venues, the McCallum continues to require attendees to show proof of vaccination before entering the theater, and wear face masks while inside. Based on the rants submitted to Black, it was clear that these policies—especially the face mask rule—deeply offended some members of the audience.

On the ride home from the show, one word kept coming into my mind: selfishness.

I really, really dislike wearing face masks. I wear eyeglasses, with both progressive lenses and astigmatism adjustments, and whenever I wear a face mask, I have two choices: I can wear the mask below my glasses and deal with the lenses fogging up, or I can pinch the tippy-top of the face mask between my nose and the bridge of my glasses, which stops the lens-fogging, but throws off my vision. I can work around it, of course, but it is annoying.

Despite my dislike of face masks, however, I deal with them … because I am not a selfish twerp.

Face masks offer some protection for the wearer, yes—but they also offer significant protection to people near the wearer. We know we can’t be sure we’re not asymptomatic and spreading SARS-CoV-2 or some other virus, unless we’re testing ourselves for everything constantly. So … in crowded spaces where people will be sitting around for hours at a time, maybe a face mask policy is not a bad idea?

It’s also worth pointing out that face masks also decrease the spread of viruses other than COVID-19—and as I mentioned in this space on Monday, we are at the start of what is going to be a record-breaking season of sickness. To repeat: The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is filling up children’s wards at some hospitals, and flu-case rates are already sky-high. In some places, flu rates are higher than they’ve been at any time within the last five years …. and flu season is just getting started. Meanwhile, some Southern California hospitals are already setting up overflow tents to deal with patients suffering from respiratory illnesses, and local wastewater testing shows that RSV, flu and SARS-CoV-2 levels are on the rise. Bay Area hospitals are reporting being strained.

There’s one easy, cheap and relatively painless way we could keep all of these illnesses in check to some degree: face masks. Alas, too many Americans are too selfish to wear them given the choice … even while sitting stationary in a crowded theater.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

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More News

Related to the above rant: NBC News reports that new subvariants have taken the COVID-19 lead in the U.S.: “BA.5 became dominant in July, then consistently accounted for the majority of new Covid infections until last week. But data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published Friday showed that the new subvariants—called BQ.1.1 and BQ.1—have taken over. The two together make up around 44% of new COVID infections, whereas BA.5 makes up just 30%. ‘BA.5 is essentially declining quickly, probably soon to be gone,’ said Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.” Here’s hoping local wastewater testing soon distinguishes between BA.5 and its subvariant progeny.

• The Biden administration announced a plan to forgive some student debt. Then the courts put that plan on hold. And Time magazine reports that it’s likely the courts will ultimately snuff out those plans entirely: “Student debt forgiveness for 40 million Americans is on hold indefinitely after another legal setback on Monday—and legal experts are warning that it’s possible the measure will be killed by the courts before anyone sees debt relief. A federal appeals court issued a preliminary injunction on Monday preventing the program from moving forward, further delaying up to $20,000 per person in debt forgiveness. As the case moves forward, it could make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. ‘It’s entirely possible that judges that are kind of skeptical of executive action or administrative action would strike it down and enjoin it,’ says Michael Sant’Ambrogio, a law professor at Michigan State University, who studies administrative law, federal courts and constitutional law. ‘That’s a very real risk at the moment.’”

Yet more layoffs are coming to the company that owns The Desert Sun. Poynter explains: “Gannett’s news division is being hit with another round of layoffs, the company’s third move to slash costs in the last six months. Journalists were informed in a note Thursday from the news division’s new interim head, Henry Faure Walker. It said those affected will be informed Dec. 1 and 2. The note did not specify a number, but communications chief Lark-Marie Anton said in an email that the target was a 6% reduction. With a headcount of 3,440, that would amount to roughly 200. Faure Walker said that he had conferred with other executives and decided, ‘While we have taken several steps already, we must enter the new year in a stronger economic position, and the reality is that our news cost base is currently too high for the revenues it generates.’” Yeah, who cares about news if it isn’t bringing in cash? Sigh. Here’s hoping the Desert Sun Newsguild can continue to hold off local layoffs.

After several years of big surpluses, the state of California is now facing a budget deficit. Our partners at CalMatters report: “$25 billion. That’s the estimated deficit Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers will confront when crafting a budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal advisor announced Wednesday. The projection marks a stunning reversal from back-to-back years of unprecedented prosperity: The budget for California’s current fiscal year clocked in at a whopping $308 billion, fueled by a record $97 billion surplus that was by itself enough to treat every state resident to a $7,500 vacation. The year before, Newsom and lawmakers approved what was at the time a record-busting $263 billion budget that included a $76 billion surplus.

• No exaggeration: It’s nearly impossible to imagine a corporate takeover more inept that Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. The latest, according The Verge: “Hundreds of Twitter’s remaining employees have resigned ahead of Elon Musk’s ‘extremely hardcore’ cultural reset of the company, according to internal Slack messages seen by The Verge and employee tweets. The fresh purge of Twitter’s ranks comes after Musk recently fired dozens of employees who criticized or mocked him in tweets and internal messages. Musk then set a deadline of 5 p.m. (Eastern) on Thursday for all employees to respond ‘yes’ on a Google form if they want to stay for what he is calling ‘Twitter 2.0;’ otherwise, today would be their final day of work and they would receive a severance package. … Twitter had roughly 2,900 remaining employees before the deadline Thursday, thanks to Musk unceremoniously laying off about half of the 7,500-person workforce when he took over and the resignations that followed. Remaining and departing Twitter employees told The Verge that, given the scale of the resignations this week, they expect the platform to start breaking soon. One said that they’ve watched ‘legendary engineers’ and others they look up to leave one by one.”

And finally … if you’re flying next week, the fine folks at the Palm Springs International Airport have a plea: Please arrive early. From a news release: “Officials at Palm Springs International Airport expect Thanksgiving passenger numbers to set new records this year. They’re asking travelers to arrive two and a half hours early to catch their flight if they need to check luggage and 90 minutes early with only a carry-on. The airport also encourages travelers to consider taking a taxi or Uber/Lyft to catch their flight. Palm Springs International Airport has been on a record-setting trend this year. Airport officials stated that this Thanksgiving will be even busier than last year with 20% more passengers expected to fly out of PSP.”

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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...