Coachella Valley Independent

Daily Digest: Feb. 26, 2021

After a year that’s been surreal and horrifying, things are starting to feel … well, not normal, but slightly closer to normal.

I went to dinner with friends last night—outdoors and socially distanced, of course.. We discussed the possibility that some youth and adult-recreational sports may be able to resume locally as soon as next week. These are sports that have not been allowed since last March.

Today, the city of Palm Springs announced it was lifting its curfew for restaurants and bars (that serve food). According to the news release: “With COVID-19 cases decreasing in Riverside County, Palm Springs restaurants, bars, wineries and breweries may now stay open until 2 a.m. in compliance with state rules, City Manager David H. Ready directed in an executive order which took effect at noon today. Last July, a curfew was set at midnight. ‘We feel confident now with case numbers trending down that it is safe to rescind the July order and allow the affected businesses to close at 2 a.m.,’ said Ready, who as city manager also serves at the city’s director of emergency services.”

That news may be at least tangentially related to the fact that Palm Springs’ wastewater testing for the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to show ever-decreasing levels of the virus. According to a city news release from yesterday, (Assistant City Manager Marcus) “Fuller noted that the estimated number of COVID-19 cases predicted by the wastewater testing has dropped dramatically from 4,823 cases on Dec. 28, to 848 cases on Feb. 16 (an 82% reduction).” (For more on wastewater testing for SARS-CoV-2, read the Independent’s recent story here.)

Other news from the day included the fact that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine cleared yet another hurdle. The single-dose vaccine could be officially granted emergency authorization as soon as tomorrow, and Gov. Newsom said today that as many as 380,000 does could arrive in California next week, with 1.1 million arriving within three weeks.

It’s all good news … but that does not mean ALL the news is good? This tidbit was included in the linked-to-above CNBC news story regarding the Johnson and Johnson vaccine: “The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, warned earlier Friday that the declines in COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S. since early January may now be flattening as variants continue to spread. ‘Over the last few weeks, cases and hospital admissions in the United States have been coming down since early January and deaths have been declining in the past week,’ Walensky said during a White House news briefing. ‘But the latest data suggest that these declines may be stalling, potentially levelling off at still a very high number.’”

The New York Times reported today: “Americans will win against the virus and regain many aspects of their pre-pandemic lives, most scientists now believe. Of the 21 interviewed for this article, all were optimistic that the worst of the pandemic is past. This summer, they said, life may begin to seem normal again. But—of course, there’s always a but—researchers are also worried that Americans, so close to the finish line, may once again underestimate the virus.”

Things may be starting to feel slightly closer to normal … but it’s important to keep our guard up, and keep taking precautions, because normal is still a ways away.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Schools Showdown: Who Has the Power to Decide When In-Person Learning Resumes? It’s Complicated

By Laurel Rosenhall, CalMatters

February 26, 2021

It’s hard to figure out who’s responsible for whether California kids will get back in the classroom. Here’s what we know.

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for Feb. 25, 2021!

By Staff

February 25, 2021

On this week’s alt comics page, topics addressed include Trump’s taxes, stripper-bar food, the energy mess in Texas—and more!

March Astronomy: Mars Passes South of the Pleiades Star Cluster, Creating a Wonderful Sight in Evening Skies

By Robert Victor

February 26, 2021

A look at what to expect in the skies in March 2021.

A Note From the Editor: There Are Real Reasons for Hope Regarding the End of the Pandemic

By Jimmy Boegle

February 25, 2021

The circumstances of the last year may very well have taken a toll on you—a toll you may not have fully realized yet.

And Now, the News

• If you’re a small-business owner or an in-home child-care provider in the city of Indio, you should know the city is opening a grant-application process next week. From the news release: “The City of Indio is offering grants of up to $10,000 to eligible Indio businesses in an effort to provide emergency cash flow to those struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic. The application period will run from 12:01 a.m. on March 5, 2021 to 11:59 p.m. on March 15, 2021. Applications for the Small Business Emergency Assistance Program (SBEAP) will be accepted on a first-come/first served basis, subject to eligibility requirements. … Independently owned and operated businesses in Indio with a physical storefront location will be eligible for grants up to $10,000. Independently owned and operated in-home childcare providers in Indio will be eligible for grants up to $5,000. The City of Indio has set aside $645,000 in general funds for the SBEAP.”

• Rep. Raul Ruiz talked to MSNBC about the challenges regarding getting underserved communities vaccinated. (Here’s a three-minute video.) Key quote from the congressman: “They don’t have internet to make online appointments at vaccination centers, they have to work at high risk essential jobs and don’t have hours to spend on the phone, and they’re very concerned if they test positive that they won’t be able to go to work.”

• A virologist, writing for The Conversation, explains how the aforementioned Johnson and Johnson vaccine compares to the other vaccines. Key quote: “As many people as possible need to be vaccinated as quickly as possible to limit the development of new coronavirus variants. Johnson and Johnson is expected to ship out nearly four million doses as soon as the FDA grants emergency use authorization. Having a third authorized vaccine in the U.S. will be a big step towards meeting vaccination demand and stopping this pandemic.”

• Our partners at CalMatters, in their WhatMatters newsletter, report that the incorporation of Blue Shield into the vaccine-rollout process is, well, sort of a fustercluck. Key quote: “Although San Joaquin County was among those set to finish onboarding to the Blue Shield system by Monday, ‘nothing’s really transitioned at this point in our county,’ Greg Diederich, the director of the San Joaquin County Health Care Services Agency, (said) Wednesday. Diederich added that the county ‘didn’t get a lot of direct dialogue’ with Blue Shield ‘until Thursday last week,’ when the insurance giant passed along model contracts for vaccine providers.” Sigh.

• What in the hell is the Biden administration thinking? According to The Washington Post: “Reporters who cover the White House may soon be paying what amounts to an admission fee to do their jobs. Starting Monday, the White House’s press office said it will start charging journalists for coronavirus tests, which are required for anyone entering the White House grounds. The proposed cost for each test: $170. With dozens of journalists at the White House each day, the fees could add up to tens of thousands of dollars flowing from newsrooms, many of them small and cash-strapped, into government coffers.”

• Sigh. CNBC reports: “Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation to capture or kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, according to a U.S. intelligence report that could further strain U.S.-Saudi relations as the White House reassesses ties with Riyadh.” That part is just fine. This part is not: “However, The New York Times reported that the Biden administration would not penalize the crown prince for Khashoggi’s killing. The White House decided such action would have too high a cost on U.S.-Saudi cooperation in the areas of counterterrorism and confronting Iran, according to the Times.”

• Remember the mess that Trump appointee Louis DeJoy has been making of the post office? Well, the mess continues. Per The Washington Post: “As the service crisis at the U.S. Postal Service drags into its eighth month, complaints are reaching a fever pitch. Consumers are inundating members of Congress with stories of late bills—and the late fees they’ve absorbed as a result. Small-business owners are waiting weeks, even months, for checks to arrive, creating cash-flow crunches and debates on whether to switch to costlier private shippers. Large-scale mailers, such as banks and utilities, are urging clients to switch to paperless communication, a shift that would further undercut the agency’s biggest revenue stream.”

Vox breaks down the mess created over an Australian law that will make digital platforms pay for news content. While Google calmly started negotiating with various publishers, Facebook basically went crazy and banned all news content (as well as a lot of content that wasn’t news). However, Facebook is in the process of reversing that. Vox explains: “The law, which passed on Thursday, says that digital platforms like Facebook and Google have to pay news organizations if their content is featured on those platforms, like in Google search results or Facebook shares, unless they make enough deals with those organizations outside of the law. If the platforms and the publishers can’t come to a payment agreement, they’ll go before an arbiter who will decide a fair price for them that they will have to pay, or else face significant penalties. The treasury minister decides which digital platforms are subject to the law.”

• This week on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast, I joined Dr. Laura Rush with hosts John Taylor, Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr to talk about vaccine envy, wastewater testing for COVID and other topics. Check it out!

• There could possibly be flying cars in a city near you within three years. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? ZDNet explains: “Flying cars got another step closer to reality when a prominent player in the space pledged to create an Urban Air Mobility network over California’s largest city by 2024Archer, which is designing and developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft that can carry passengers for 60 miles at speeds of up to 150 mph while producing minimal noise, is partnering with the City of Los Angeles on the project.”

• And finally … 2020 was the year of the virus. Could 2021 become the year of the aliens? Esquire says: “An American Airlines flight crew encountered an unidentified flying object over New Mexico on February 21. American Airlines has confirmed the strange incident, during which a “long, cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile” zipped over the Airbus A320, according to a pilot’s transmission obtained by The War Zone.”

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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...