Indy Digest: Aug. 1, 2022
Earlier today, Riverside County Department of Public Health spokesman Jose Arballo tweeted:
I went through Arballo’s previous tweets, and he only ever mentions one case in “western” Riverside County. Therefore, it seems that 33 of these 34 cases are in “eastern” Riverside County, which The Desert Sun reports is everything east of the San Gorgonio Pass.
In other words: eastern Riverside County = Coachella Valley.
I will be blunt here: If you are a sexually active man who has sex with men, and you live in the Coachella Valley, and you’re not in some sort of closed relationship that you’re sure is closed, you’re at serious risk of monkeypox right now.
The good news is more and more monkeypox vaccines are being distributed. The bad news is it isn’t happening very fast, and there may not be enough to go around. The federal government’s response has been abysmal.
The state’s response hasn’t been much better. In a guest commentary we published on Friday, Conrado Bárzaga, the CEO of the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation, wrote:
California is approaching monkeypox with ineffective, lukewarm and misguided measures.
There are important lessons we have learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and other epidemics that should be applied, now and in the future:
1. Equity matters.
2. No one is safe when someone is not safe.
3. Stigmatizing diseases or communities results in the politicization of public health.
Equity in healthcare means providing care that does not vary in quality because of personal characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, geographic location, and socioeconomic status. This is a complex topic that can be better addressed by understanding that you first must identify those at higher risk of becoming ill; prioritize their access to care; and remove all barriers that keep them from accessing it.
We know who is at the highest risk today; the numbers are clear: Men who have sex with other men (MSM) are the group at highest risk of monkeypox infection. Prioritize them. Remove all barriers that this group faces; increase awareness; increase education; increase knowledge; increase the outreach; and more important, make the vaccine and treatment available to them, now, here in the Coachella Valley.
A vaccine distribution based on ratios or per capita is the wrong approach. It is an approach that failed us in the COVID-19 pandemic. Giving priority to larger counties and larger cities because they have more people is an ineffective strategy.
Folks, this is serious. Pay attention. Please.
From the Independent
Community Voices: The Monkeypox Vaccine Rollout Must Include Greater Access for Coachella Valley’s LGBTQ Community
By Conrado Bárzaga
July 30th, 2022
As long as we continue failing to apply the lessons recently and painfully learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to struggle to contain the spread of the virus that causes monkeypox.
By Matt King
July 29th, 2022
A look at the valley’s August entertainment offerings.
August Astronomy: A Full Moon Ruins This Year’s Perseid Meteor Shower—but There Are a Bunch of Visible Planets and Bright Stars
By Robert Victor
July 31st, 2022
A preview of the night skies’ offerings in August 2022.
By Jimmy Boegle
August 1st, 2022
“Carne asada or pastor taco with crispy melted cheese, spicy pickled red onion, micro cilantro and avocado sauce.” Sold!
• The New York Times today reported on the fact that not long ago, the federal government had 20 million doses of a vaccine against monkeypox sitting in freezers, ready if needed. So … what happened? “Such vast quantities of the vaccine, known today as Jynneos, could have slowed the spread of monkeypox after it first emerged in the United States in mid-May. Instead, the supply, known as the Strategic National Stockpile, had only some 2,400 usable doses left at that point, enough to fully vaccinate just 1,200 people. The rest of the doses had expired. … At several points federal officials chose not to quickly replenish doses as they expired, instead pouring money into developing a freeze-dried version of the vaccine that would have substantially increased its three-year shelf life. As the wait for a freeze-dried vaccine to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration dragged on over the last decade, the United States purchased vast quantities of raw vaccine product, which has yet to be filled into vials. The raw, unfinished vaccine remains stored in large plastic bags outside Copenhagen, at the headquarters of the small Danish biotech company Bavarian Nordic, which developed Jynneos and remains its sole producer.”
• As for that other virus plaguing our community: The latest Palm Springs wastewater tests for SARS-CoV-2 show the amount is decreasing. As the report explains: “The average of 954,664 (viral) copies (per liter) from the previous week’s average has significantly dropped to an average of 539,134 copies/L for July 25 and 26, 2022. This is similar to the week of May 16, 2022, when the average was 544,167 copies/L.” Make no mistake: These numbers show there is STILL A LOT of COVID-19 in our community. But the decrease is excellent news nonetheless.
• Related: The Los Angeles Times offers up this depressing news: “Emerging evidence suggests that catching the coronavirus a second time can heighten long-term health risks, a worrisome development as the circulation of increasingly contagious Omicron subvariants leads to greater numbers of Californians being reinfected. Earlier in the pandemic, it was assumed that getting infected afforded some degree of lasting protection, for perhaps a few months. As the coronavirus mutates, though, that’s no longer a given. And each individual infection carries the risk not only for acute illness but the potential to develop long COVID. ‘The additive risk is really not trivial, not insignificant. It’s really substantial,’ said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, clinical epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis and chief of research and development at the Veterans Affairs Saint Louis Healthcare System.”
• And for the next depressing bit of news on the docket, we turn to climate change news, and specifically how climate change is causing awfulness right now. The Washington Post says: “Large parts of the Lower 48 are set to bake this week after a punishing, prolonged heat wave that set records in the Pacific Northwest edges east and south. Few regions will be spared as the heat expands into different areas each day, scorching the Northern Rockies on Monday, the central states Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Northeast by Thursday. … The heat wave has its roots in the Pacific Northwest, where it set records for longevity in Seattle and Portland. Combined with a historically severe drought, the heat has fueled dangerous conditions for the spread of wildfires in Northern California, where the newly ignited McKinney Fire devours the landscape. The blaze, located in the Klamath National Forest, has torched 51,468 acres and is entirely uncontained.”
• Folks, I am so, so sorry this news is all so damned depressing. So … let’s take a break and talk about my favorite cocktail as of late: The Brooklyn. Here’s a recipe from Liquor.com. It’s sorta like a Manhattan, but usually with dry vermouth instead of sweet. I have taken to doing half sweet vermouth, half dry, with Bulleit rye, and the result is a delicious, beautifully balanced drink. So good!
• If you don’t imbibe, this recipe, from BBC, for a sidecar mocktail, sounds simply amazing. It combines tea, lemon juice, marmalade (!) and honey. Yum!
• Now back to the news, while also staying beverage-related: A manufacturer has voluntarily recalled 53 different products due to possible “microbial contamination, including Cronobacter sakazakii,” which does not sound fun. Here are the details and the list of recalled products, which includes everything from Stumptown iced coffees to Premier Protein shakes.
• And finally … Nichelle Nichols, best known as Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, passed away on July 30. A history professor, writing for The Conversation, discuses the significance of one Star Trek moment in particular: “On a 1968 episode of ‘Star Trek,’ Nichelle Nichols, playing Lt. Uhura, locked lips with William Shatner’s Capt. Kirk in what’s widely thought to be first kiss between a Black woman and white man on American television. The episode’s plot is bizarre: Aliens who worship the Greek philosopher Plato use telekinetic powers to force the Enterprise crew to sing, dance and kiss. At one point, the aliens compel Lt. Uhura and Capt. Kirk to embrace. Each character tries to resist, but eventually Kirk tilts Uhura back and the two kiss as the aliens lasciviously look on. The smooch is not a romantic one. But in 1968 to show a Black woman kissing a white man was a daring move. The episode aired just one year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia decision struck down state laws against interracial marriage. At the time, Gallup polls showed that fewer than 20% of Americans approved of such relationships.”
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Again, I apologize for all the rough news in today’s digest. But it’s our job to tell you the facts about what’s going on in the Coachella Valley—and, alas, that includes monkeypox, COVID-19 and climate change. Fortunately, as you can see in the “From the Independent” section above, it also includes amazing culture, food and entertainment—all of which we cover. Please help us continue this coverage, if you can, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Click the button below to learn more—and thanks for reading!