Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: July 28, 2022

To mask … or not to mask?

That’s a question that will still be relevant in Los Angeles’ public indoor spaces tomorrow. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Los Angeles County will hold off on reinstituting a universal indoor public mask mandate, prompted by improvements in the region’s coronavirus case and hospitalization rates.

Aside from not implementing the order, which otherwise would’ve gone into effect Friday, the recent downward trends are fueling some optimism that the months-old COVID wave fueled by hyper-infectious Omicron subvariants is finally starting to wane.

The renewed face covering order would have applied indoors for anyone age 2 or older at a host of establishments and venues, including shared office space, manufacturing and retail settings, event spaces, restaurants and bars, gyms and yoga studios, educational settings and children’s programs.

Fingers crossed—tightly—that the improvements are a trend and not a blip.

Personally, I am having a hard time deciding where to wear a face mask, and where not to—and, frankly, my decisions don’t always make sense. On the mostly-cross-country trip I took last week, I wore my mask in airports and on planes except for when I was eating and drinking. But the second we got to our hotel room, the masks came off, and remained off as we went downstairs and ate at the crowded hotel restaurant.

Meanwhile, the L.A. Times also reports some experts are softening their stances on masking:

Thanks to a combination of widespread immunity, effective COVID-19 treatments and a more benign virus, there’s less reason to suppress viral spread by any means necessary, said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease doctor who conducts public health research at UC San Francisco.

“We’re in a very different place in the pandemic,” Gandhi said. “At this point, I do not think that widespread masking is necessary.” …

In some cases, health officials are still turning to mask mandates out of instinct, Gandhi said.

When new infections rise, “that feels scary to a public health officer, and it feels like something they can do,” she said.

But if mask mandates no longer hold the promise of driving down hospitalizations and reducing deaths, they will be hard to defend — especially to an increasingly restive public.

“At this point we really do have to think about public health trust,” which has been deeply eroded during the pandemic, Gandhi said. “That is a real concern.”

To mask … or not to mask? In almost all situations now, that’s entirely up to you.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

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Restaurant News Bites: Eight Local Restaurants Get Grants; Taste of Summer Rancho Mirage Continues

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The Weekly Independent Comics Page for July 28, 2022!

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A crepe with shrimp, red pepper, Parmesan and a wine cream sauce, this dish was utterly delicious

More News

• Regarding that other virus that’s currently menacing our community: San Francisco has declared a state of emergency because of monkeypox. The San Francisco Chronicle (subscription required, apologies): “The declaration will allow Mayor London Breed and other city officials to marshal resources and personnel to confront the intensifying monkeypox outbreak. As of Wednesday, the city reported that 261 people had confirmed or probable monkeypox infections. Health officials said they anticipate that figure will only grow in the coming days and weeks. A rapid surge of monkeypox cases in San Francisco has collided with a scarcity of available vaccines. To date, city officials said they’ve received about 8,200 doses of the Jynneos vaccine, which is intended to prevent monkeypox and smallpox in adults.”

• In news that should have been reported weeks ago—if only the government had been properly on the ball—The New York Times reported yesterday that more monkeypox vaccines are finally on their way: “Easing a shortfall that has plagued the fight against monkeypox for weeks, the Food and Drug Administration announced on Wednesday that it had cleared nearly 800,000 additional doses of vaccine for use. The Biden administration said it would announce allocations for states and jurisdictions on Thursday. The new doses should greatly expand the supply in the United States, but some experts questioned whether they would be enough to meet the demand. Since May, the country has confirmed 3,600 cases, among the highest tallies in the world, and the figure is almost certainly an underestimate. Stores of Jynneos, the monkeypox vaccine, have been constrained since the start of the outbreak. The vaccine is made by Bavarian Nordic, a small company in Denmark.” Too bad the government didn’t have its you-know-what together.

• Now back to the other virus: Scientists are increasingly coming to the conclusion that SARS-CoV-2 came from nature, not a lab. MedPage Today reports: “Two complementary studies published in Science provide the latest evidence against the idea that COVID-19 leaked from a Chinese lab, and instead point to the Huanan market in Wuhan, China, as the early epicenter of the virus. Researchers conducted spatial, environmental, and molecular analyses that led them to their conclusion, and the findings were the result of collaborative efforts from scientists across four continents, including insights from researchers within China. During a media briefing with the researchers on Tuesday, Joel Wertheim, PhD, of University of California San Diego and an author on the study looking at the molecular epidemiology of the virus, said the researchers analyzed the genomic diversity of SARS-CoV-2 within and outside of China, starting with the earliest sampled genomes in December 2019 and extending through mid-February 2020.”

Slate reports that, as the headline says, “There’s a Looming Workplace Crisis. Employers Don’t Care.” Some details: “A single bout of COVID can knock out all of someone’s sick days for the year. That leaves many more months to get through where other illness or injury might arise (to say nothing of time people might need for long COVID, or kids who are sick with COVID or quarantined from day care). The latest COVID variants, which are driving a wave of reinfections, will only make things worse. But many employers haven’t adjusted their sick leave policies to fit that reality. … The problem is further compounded for the large number of people who switched jobs this year, which often means they don’t yet have sick leave accrued when they need it. … What’s going to happen in a few months when an employee whose sick leave was exhausted by COVID gets reinfected, or sick with something else, or breaks a leg, or otherwise has another legitimate need for sick time? They’re likely to be told to go into the red on sick time—i.e., borrow from next year’s allotment, which means the problem will be even worse next year—or to take the time unpaid, which means taking a pay cut just because you’re sick, something most people can’t afford.”

Our partners at CalMatters report that the state is not doing enough to make sure all Californians—including some of our neighbors here in the Coachella Valley—have safe drinking water: “Under state law, every Californian has the right to safe, clean, affordable and accessible water — but a blistering audit released Tuesday shows just how far the state is from turning that promise into reality. … Acting State Auditor Michael Tilden slammed regulators at the State Water Resources Control Board for what he characterized as their ‘lack of urgency to provide needed assistance to failing water systems,’ even as the state funnels hundreds of millions of dollars into drinking water projects. Among the audit’s key findings: More than 920,000 people face an increased risk of cancer and liver and kidney problems because they get drinking water from one of the more than 370 systems that didn’t meet water quality standards as of December 2021. More than 150 of those systems have failed to meet those standards for at least five years, and an additional 432 systems serving more than 1 million people are currently at risk of failing.”

• And finally … is it time for U.S. Supreme Court term limits? Two political science experts, writing for The Conversation, say a whole lot of people think so: “Following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning half a century of abortion rights under Roe v. Wade, nearly two-thirds of Americans want fundamental court reform, specifically term limits for Supreme Court justices. Indeed, on July 25, 2022, Democrats introduced a bill that would allow a new justice to take the bench every two years and spend 18 years in active service. The majority that overturned Roe was possible only because of the current system in which justices serve for life and are therefore able to choose when and whether to step down.”

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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...