Coachella Valley Independent

Daily Digest: March 24, 2021

I think it’s time for Riverside County to greatly expand vaccine eligibility.

Granted, nobody asked me what I think. But here are the reasons why.

First, and definitely foremost, is the fact that a whole lot of vaccine appointments all of a sudden are going unfilled. This prompted county officials yesterday to plead with eligible residents to PLEASE make an appointment to get their shots.

“Hundreds of appointments are available though Friday at the four county-run clinics and those operated by Curative and OptumServe in Riverside County,” a news release from the county said. “Those within Phases 1A and 1B are eligible, including residents 65 years of age and older and those with underlying health conditions. Vaccine eligibility is based on the state’s rollout tiers. ‘The supply of vaccine has increased and that allows us to provide more vaccination appointments,’ said Kim Saruwatari, director of Public Health for Riverside County. ‘This is a great opportunity for those who have been waiting to get vaccinated. It is quick and easy—both making the appointment and actually getting vaccinated.’”

Second: Other counties in California have expanded eligibility already. According to the Los Angeles Times:

“As COVID-19 vaccine supplies increase, a growing number of California’s 61 health departments have broken with state health guidelines and made the shots available to potentially millions of additional people, sparking joy among locals, and frustration and envy from residents in counties that are sticking with stricter rules. … At least four counties — including Contra Costa, San Luis Obispo, Butte and Solano—have recently lowered their age requirement for vaccination to 50. In Tuolumne, it’s 45. Several others, including San Diego and San Francisco, are now vaccinating people who are considered overweight or have some chronic health conditions.”

Third … the sooner we get more shots in arms, the better. As we’ve mentioned in this space before, most of the nationwide decreases we were seeing have turned into plateaus and upticks. Every delay in getting a vaccine into an unvaccinated person’s arm makes it all the more likely that we will experience some sort of fourth spike. And that’s something we definitely do not want to see.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

‘What You Choose Not to See’: New Documentary ‘Invisible Valley’ Showcases the Variety of People Who Call the Coachella Valley Home

By Matt King

March 24, 2021

Invisible Valley follows a farmworker family; a pair of nuns working to build a shelter for farmworkers in need; and a snowbird who only […]

Tackling the Housing Crisis: California Lawmakers Propose Various Bills in an Attempt to Create More Affordable Homes

By Nigel Duara, CalMatters

March 23, 2021

Could these varying bills help California build more affordable housing?

A Note From the Editor: The High-Stakes Race Between Vaccines and Variants

By Jimmy Boegle

March 24, 2021

In this month’s note to readers, our editor expresses concern about rising COVID-19 case counts in much of the country.

The Lucky 13: Christopher Ramont, of Aoster, Which Just Released Debut Single “Youth Is Wasted on Youth”

By Matt King

March 23, 2021

Get to know Christopher Ramont, the mastermind of a brand-new project called Aoster.

And Now, the News

The Washington Post has assembled a well-done yet emotionally hard to-read recounting of what happened during the mass shooting at on Monday in Boulder, Colo. It’s powerful stuff.

Here’s this week’s Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report. (District 4 includes the Coachella Valley and rural points to the east.) Things are trending downward here still—the 3.1 percent weekly positivity rate has to be an all-time low—but five deaths from COVID-19 were reported in the last week, with 942 total deaths in the district. PLEASE DO NOT BECOME DESENSITIZED to these deaths. That’s half the number of deaths that happened in the Boulder shooting in just one week.

The county has canned the public health officer … and isn’t saying why. As The Press-Enterprise explains: “Dr. Cameron Kaiser was ousted as Riverside County’s public health officer Tuesday, March 23, after a closed-door Board of Supervisors meeting that led to the promotion of another doctor to the highly visible role in the county’s coronavirus pandemic response. Kaiser ‘is no longer employed by the county, which was a decision made by the county executive officer … earlier (Tuesday),’ read a county news release announcing the appointment of Dr. Geoffrey Leung as Kaiser’s successor. … County spokeswoman Brooke Federico described Kaiser’s departure as being ‘released’ and declined to go into details about his exit.”

• Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced his pick to become the state’s new attorney general, replacing new HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. According to our partners at CalMatters: “Faced with a looming recall threat, Gov. Gavin Newsom nominated Assemblymember Rob Bonta today as California’s next attorney general, handing one of the state’s most powerful offices to a trusted political ally who will make history as the first Filipino American to hold the position.” (Bonta is pictured in the homepage photo, by CalMatters.)

• The situation at the border is getting some significant attention from the Biden administration. Says NBC News: “President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he has appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to lead efforts to stem migration across the U.S.-Mexico border, as the administration faces growing political pressure to address a surge in undocumented migrant children unaccompanied by parents. Biden said during an immigration meeting at the White House that he had asked Harris to lead the administration’s efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle—El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, countries that will ‘need help stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border.'”

• The New York Times reports on the increasing proof that the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are, while not perfect, certainly kicking some ass: “One study found that just four out of 8,121 fully vaccinated employees at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas became infected. The other found that only seven out of 14,990 workers at UC San Diego Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles tested positive two or more weeks after receiving a second dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Both reports, published on Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, show how well the vaccines work in the real world, and during a period of intense transmission.”

AstraZeneca has goofed up yet again, perhaps further damaging the reputation of what is probably nonetheless still a very good vaccine. “The company on Monday announced the long-awaited results of its phase three clinical trial of the Covid-19 vaccine it developed with the University of Oxford, saying it was 79 percent effective in preventing symptomatic illness and 100 percent effective against severe disease and hospitalization,” CNBC reports. “The next day, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases released an unusual statement that said it was informed by the data and safety monitoring board, or DSMB, that was overseeing the trial that the U.K.-based company may have included information in its U.S. results that provided an ‘incomplete view of the efficacy data.’”

• Let me make one thing clear: Most of the journalists who work for mainstream newspapers are fantastic. However, the management ranks at these newspapers’ corporations are filled with dipshits, and that’s why things like this happen: “Just 41% of U.S. news publishers ‘make it easy’ for subscribers to cancel their subscriptions online, according to a new survey from the American Press Institute.” reports the Nieman Lab. The story goes on to say that one reason the number isn’t worse is the fact that California requires that people be able to cancel online. So, yay for us!

• It turns out rich people are REALLY good at avoiding paying taxes. As reported by Business Insider: “The top 1% of the highest-earning American households fail to report around 21% of their income, according to new research by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and academic economists.” Sigh.

• As of now, people need to be 16 years old and up to get any COVID-19 vaccine. However, vaccinations for kids are coming, explains an expert on pediatric infections diseases, writing for The Conversation. Key quote: “Right now, the Pfizer vaccine is the only one in the U.S. authorized for teenagers as young as 16. Before kids under 16 can be vaccinated, clinical trials need to be completed in thousands of young volunteers to assess the vaccines’ safety and efficacy. Vaccine manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer both have trials underway with adolescents and expect to have data by late spring or early summer. If their vaccines are shown to be safe and effective, kids 12 and up could be vaccinated before school starts in the fall. Realistically, young children probably won’t be eligible for the vaccine until late fall or winter at the earliest.”

• Another valley institution that has been long shuttered by the coronavirus has announced a reopening date. According to the Coachella Valley History Museum website: “The Coachella Valley History Museum will be opening on Saturday, April 17th. We have COVID-19 protocol in place to protect our visitors and our volunteers. Masks will be required at at all times during your visit.  Limited capacity at this time while we follow the County and State guidelines. Starting April 17th, the museum will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.”

• And now from the category of “News That’s Not Really ‘News,’ Because It Happens All the Damn Time,” comes this update on California’s unemployment system, from our partners at CalMatters: “The Employment Development Department’s website was unable to process claimants’ information over the weekend and was still plagued with difficulties Monday. … Challenges with certifying claims have been so pervasive that a website called ‘Is It Down Right Now?‘ has sprung up to check whether EDD’s services are functional at any given moment. The comments section is full of frustrated Californians sharing tips and tricks for getting claims certified, many of whom say they spent multiple days trying to get through. One woman said Monday she finally reached EDD after 100 calls, only to have the representative say they couldn’t help because the system was down.”

• Los Angeles Times columnist Laura Newberry takes a look at a heartbreaking consequence of pandemic-caused campus closures: Some young LGBTQ people who were out at school had to go back into the closet when they had no choice but to return to their parents’ homes. Newberry focuses on a young man named Enrique: “When he moved to a University of California campus in Southern California, he quickly came out to his new friends. They loved the parts of him that he feared his parents would label as ‘flamboyance.’ He met a guy he liked and they dated briefly. He began dressing like the male models he saw on Instagram—three-quarters-length pants, turtlenecks and silver-chain bracelets. For the first time in his life, he felt like his outside matched his inside. When Enrique first learned that campus was closing last year, he thought: ‘This will probably be over by May. I’ll be OK.’ But one month at home turned into two, then three. Then there was no end in sight.”

• California’s on-again, off-again, but mostly on-again drought is very much on again. According to The Sacramento Bee: “State and federal officials issued remarkably bleak warnings Tuesday about California’s summer water supplies, telling farmers and others to gear up for potential shortages. The Department of Water Resources, in a rare turnabout, actually lowered its forecast of the deliveries it expects to make to the cities and farms that belong to the State Water Project. In its new forecast, the agency said its customers can expect just 5 percent of contracted supplies. In December the expected allocation was set at 10 percent.”

• And finally … The Washington Post says there was a fascinating tidbit in last year’s $2.3 trillion appropriations bill: “The legislation, which President Donald Trump signed into law, was a bureaucratic nesting doll that ran more than 5,500 pages and contained the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, which itself carried an unusual provision in its ‘committee comment’ section, beneath the understated heading ‘Advanced Aerial Threats.’ The stipulation mandates that the director of national intelligence work with the secretary of defense on a report detailing everything the government knows about unidentified flying objects—known in agency lingo as ‘unidentified aerial phenomena’ or ‘anomalous aerial vehicles.’ It must be made public, and when it is, it will be big, former intelligence director John Ratcliffe said in a recent interview.” So, uh, yay?

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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...