Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: April 11, 2022

If I were a betting man, I’d have placed a fairly large wager on the city of Palm Springs’ latest wastewater testing for SARS-CoV-2 levels showing an increase.

But I’m not a betting man—and I am glad to report that I would’ve lost that wager.

The results of testing done on April 4 and 5 were released today (if you click the link, the dates on the top of the report are wrong), and they show that the amount of virus remains flat, at a fairly low level. On March 28 and 29, testing showed 240,020 and 110,079 viral copies per liter, while testing on April 4 and 5 showed 189,674 and 145,652 viral copies per liter. To put these numbers in context: The readings during the early January omicron spike reached a high of more than 6.4 million.

Also worth noting: The vast majority of the virus detected was the BA.2 omicron subvariant.

Why would I have been betting on an increase locally? Well, both anecdotally and statistically, BA.2 is causing problems in other places.

Take Ontario, Canada, for example. CBC reports: “By every available measure—hospitalizations, officially confirmed cases and the presence of the virus in sewage—Ontario’s latest wave of COVID-19 infections is showing exponential growth. Estimates from the viral count in wastewater suggest about 100,000 people are now getting infected daily in Ontario, according to the COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. That is a faster infection rate than at any previous time in the pandemic.”

Here in the United States, the case numbers remain fairly low. However, current case counts can’t necessarily be trusted. Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute writes: “The next week will be crucial for decisions about COVID-19 in the United States. For starters, Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, estimates that our national COVID-19 figures do not include about 93 out of 100 positive cases. Keep in mind that his group has been among the most reliable forecasters of COVID-19 trends for a couple of years. However, Mokdad’s forecasting team currently does not foresee a big increase in hospitalizations or deaths from this wave of COVID-19.”

That last sentence is a relief. But what about all the cases we’ve been hearing about regarding political types in Washington, D.C.? It turns out a lot of those can be attributed to a super-spreader event. NBC News reports: “Seventy-two people have tested positive for COVID-19 after having attended the Gridiron Dinner in Washington … including members of the Biden administration and reporters. Gridiron Club President Tom DeFrank said Sunday that the group had reported 72 cases out of the hundreds of people who attended. New York Mayor Eric Adams, who was also at the dinner, tested positive Sunday. … Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who has been fully vaccinated and boosted, tested positive Friday and is experiencing mild symptoms, his office said in a statement Saturday, adding to a new wave of cases that has swept through the nation’s capital. Two other members of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, tested positive last week after they attended the annual social gathering of high-profile political media and business figures.”

Uh, whoops.

Up the road in Philadelphia, the city is again requiring people to mask up. The Associated Press reports: “Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate on Monday after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, with the city’s top health official saying she wanted to forestall a potential new wave driven by an omicron subvariant. Confirmed COVID-19 cases have risen more than 50% in 10 days, the threshold at which the city’s guidelines call for people to wear masks indoors, said Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, the health commissioner. Health officials believe the recent spike is being driven by the highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant of omicron, which has spread rapidly throughout Europe and Asia, and has become dominant in the U.S. in recent weeks.”

COVID-19 is definitely increasing in a lot of parts of the country and world. But the Coachella Valley seems to be doing OK … for now..

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Broadway, Storm Large and Charo, Oh My! The McCallum Theatre Announces Its 2022-2023 Season

By Jimmy Boegle

April 11, 2022

The McCallum’s 2022-2023 season will include more than two-dozen shows that are brand-new to the theater, along with a whole lot of returning favorites.

Curiosity and Exploration: After Multiple Delays, Crumb Finally Gets to Bring Its Genre-Hopping Music to Coachella

By Matt King

April 8, 2022

The music by Crumb, the four-piece band out of Brooklyn, has been described as everything from “psychedelic rock” to “indie psych jazz” to “soft pop.”

Community Voices: The Desert Roadrunners Plan on Participating in the Annual 545-Mile AIDS/Lifecycle Until There’s a Cure

By Brett Klein

April 11, 2022

For many riders and roadies, the AIDS/LifeCycle, taking place June 5 to 11, is the most physically challenging week of year—but it is also the most emotional and fulfilling

Padded Pursuit: Fantastic Acting Can’t Quite Overcome Michael Bay’s Quick Cuts in ‘Ambulance’

By Bob Grimm

April 11, 2022

Ambulance tries to put all those high-octane Michael Bay-isms—quick cuts, handheld cameras, swirly shots, etc.—in the back of a moving ambulance while making an attempt at actual drama.

More News

Public school enrollment in the state continues to plummet. Our partners at CalMatters report: “For the first time since the start of the century, California has fewer than 6 million students attending public schools. According to new data released by the California Department of Education, enrollment in public schools continues to drop more quickly than it did before the pandemic, stirring fears of more budget cuts and long-term financial instability for schools. Among key takeaways from the newly released data: Statewide enrollment has dropped by more than 110,000 students to 5,892,240 during the current school year, a 1.8% dip from last year but less steep than the 2.6% decline during the first year of the pandemic. … And 9,000 more students are enrolled in private schools, a 1.7% increase, but that doesn’t explain much of the exodus from public schools.”

More federal help for struggling restaurants may—or may not—be coming. The Los Angeles Times explains: “The House on Thursday approved more than $40 billion in COVID-19 assistance for restaurant owners who tried but failed last year to receive help from the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which quickly ran out of money. … Prospects for the legislation in the Senate are unclear. The bill would replenish the restaurant fund with $42 billion and provide another $13 billion to other businesses still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. The fund was created under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and originally offered $28.6 billion in tax-free grants to restaurants that lost revenue due to COVID-19 shutdowns. But the fund ran dry just three weeks after launching, offering assistance to 101,000 businesses, and leaving another 177,000 qualified applicants in the lurch. Among them were about 20,000 in California.”

A showdown between the state and some California cities over a new duplex law seems inevitable. Also from our partners at CalMatters: “The state housing department is gearing up to send stern warnings to cities trying to skirt a new housing law advocates hope will bring more affordable housing. Senate Bill 9, a state law that went into effect Jan. 1, allows property owners to build duplexes and in some cases, fourplexes, on most single-family parcels across the state. Cities, more than 240 of which opposed the bill, have pushed back against the state with ordinances that would severely curb what property owners can build. The Housing and Community Development Department confirmed it has received complaints about 29 such cities it told CalMatters it plans to investigate.” (For the record: Of the nine Coachella Valley cities, two of them—Indian Wells and La Quinta—came out in opposition of SB 9.) 

The Washington Post takes a look at how warring criminal groups have displaced tens of thousands of Mexican citizens. “As criminal groups battle for control over Mexican territory, the displaced are becoming increasingly visible, in towns such as Coahuayana and at the U.S. border. An estimated 20,000 people have fled violence in the past year in Michoacán state, roughly the size of West Virginia. Thousands more have abandoned their homes in other states like Zacatecas and Guerrero. Forced displacement is generally associated with armed conflict — it’s been a feature of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Yet it’s become such a problem in ostensibly peaceful Mexico that the country’s Senate is considering legislation to offer humanitarian aid to victims.”

• If you need help putting your problems in proper perspective, may I suggest this article from The Conversation, written by a political science professor, headlined “Ukrainian teens’ voices from the middle of war: ‘You begin to appreciate what was common and boring for you.’” An excerpt: “A colleague from Kyiv, Ukraine, whom I’ll call N.M., sent me brief essays her students wrote on what they would do when the war ends. … Several themes run through most of the essays. The teens yearn for peace and want to do ordinary things, such as meet family and friends, take walks, enjoy the city. Daily routines have become extraordinary after several weeks of war. All intend to stay in Ukraine. Despair is absent. The students expect the war to end with a Ukrainian victory, and they’re decidedly proud to be Ukrainian. Their optimism is all the more remarkable in light of the essays’ having been written in mid-March, when anything like victory seemed remote. Many of the students have also learned an important existential lesson: Life can be cut short at any time, and it’s imperative to live it to the hilt.”

• And finally … The Associated Press notes that the days of Kmart’s existence seem to be numbered: “The familiar sights and sounds are still there: the scuffed and faded floor tiles, the relentless beige-on-beige color scheme, the toddlers’ clothes and refrigerators and pretty much everything in between. There’s even a canned recording that begins, ‘Attention, Kmart shoppers’—except it’s to remind folks about COVID-19 precautions, not to alert them to a flash sale over in ladies’ lingerie like days of old. Many of the shelves are bare, though, at the Kmart in Avenel, New Jersey, picked over by bargain hunters as the store prepares to close its doors for good April 16. Once it shutters, the number of Kmarts in the U.S.—once well over 2,000—will be down to three in the continental U.S. and a handful of stores elsewhere, according to multiple reports, in a retail world now dominated by Walmart, Target and Amazon.” (In case you’re wondering: The last Kmart in California closed in Grass Valley last December.)

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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...