Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: Jan. 6, 2022

In response to the Monday Indy Digest, a reader wrote to me: “Jimmy sorry … but you gotta slow down. COVID is NOT life. Not kidding. Kick your heels up and sniff the good life.”

I am fortunate to have had many “sniffs” of the good life in recent months. I’ve done a little domestic traveling. I’ve been to some lovely shows and fantastic sporting events. I’ve enjoyed splendid meals.

But right now … COVID is so inextricably linked with “life” that, in some ways, they’re one in the same.

The amount of disruption omicron is causing on a local, state and national level right now is stunning. Wanna travel? There’s a good chance your flight’s going to be cancelled. Wanna see a show? While some concerts and performances are indeed going on as scheduled, a lot of others aren’t. Wanna have a nice meal at a good restaurant? Call ahead, because that restaurant may be closed due to illnesses—and if it’s open, there may be slower service than normal. (More on local cancellations and closures below.)

Trust me: The LAST thing I want to be doing here is covering yet more COVID crap. I am beyond tired of it. But in my lifetime, we have never experienced a disruption like this before. I am so sick of this word, but I am going to use it anyway: This is unprecedented.

But we have no choice but to cover what’s happening with COVID. It’s affecting every bit of our society right now.

Here’s to better days, hopefully very soon. But those days aren’t here yet.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

CV History: Meet Earle Strebe, the Man Who Brought Movie Theaters to the Coachella Valley

By Greg Niemann

January 5, 2022

Earle Strebe was a businessman a developer and a member of the Palm Springs City Council—but his primary love was the movies

Community Voices: Before He Leaves, DAP Health’s Departing Chief Development Officer Has One More Ask

By Darrell L. Tucci

January 6, 2022

Today is Darrell Tucci’s last day with DAP Health; he’s leaving to become the vice president of development for the Movement Voter Project. Here is his farewell letter to the community.

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for Jan. 2, 2022

By Staff

January 6, 2022

Topics tackled on this week’s comics page include the new West Side Story film, Delta Airlines, stress-triggered incontinence—and much more!

More News

• The results of the latest Palm Springs wastewater testing for SARS-CoV-2 levels, as we predicted, are beyond record-breaking. Testing done on Dec. 27 and 28 showed this: “Of the detected variants of concern on December 27th, 2.9% had the signature mutations associated with the Delta variant and 90.8% had the signature mutations associated with the Omicron variant. The data from December 28th reports, 7.5% had the signature mutations associated with the Delta variant, and 81.0% had the signature mutations associated with the Omicron variant.”

• As for the amount of virus: The previous all-time high was 2.6 million or so viral copies per liter of wastewater on Dec. 28, 2020. Well, on Dec. 27, 2021, that number was 3.75 million. The next day, it was 5.1 million—nearly double the previous high. According to GT Molecular, the company that does the testing for the city of Palm Springs, that 5.1 million number equates—very, very roughly, according to the report—to 22,973 COVID-19 cases. The population of Palm Springs is about 49,000.

Recent closures or limitations include Bar Cecil (closed until Jan. 11), Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill (closed until Jan. 10), the Desert Hot Springs Starbucks (closed until Jan. 10), Augustine Casino (Cafe 54 and Ayili Bar closed through the weekend). Blackbook (announced on Jan. 3 the restaurant was “taking a few days off”) and both locations of Sherman’s (closed Tuesdays due to staffing shortages).

Recently announced event cancellations or postponements include the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival (cancelled in 2022), the Dr. George Charity Car Show (cancelled for 2022), the Theresa Caputo Show at Agua Caliente Rancho Mirage (postponed from Jan. 8 to Feb. 4), Atomic Bingo at Wilma and Frieda’s Palm Springs (cancelled through January) and Unsung Midler at Oscar’s on Jan. 27 (postponed).

• On a non-local level, the Grammy Awards have been postponed. The Los Angeles Times reports: “The 64th Grammy Awards will not take place Jan. 31 in Los Angeles because of the rapid spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The Recording Academy, which presents music’s most prestigious awards show, said Wednesday that ‘holding the show on January 31 simply contains too many risks’ and added that a new date would be announced ‘soon.’”

• California has extended the indoor mask mandate into mid-February. NPR reports: “California announced it is extending its statewide indoor mask mandate until at least Feb. 15 due to the rise in COVID-19 cases driven by the fast-spreading omicron variant, according to health department officials. ‘We are and continue to be concerned about our hospitals,’ Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly told The Associated Press Wednesday. ‘Some facilities are going to be strapped.’ State officials reinstated the indoor mask mandate on Dec. 15 last year and it was originally due to expire on Jan. 15.”

• As of yesterday, 108 patients with COVID-19 were being treated at the three Coachella Valley hospitals. That’s just 10 below the delta-driven summer 2021 peak.

However … Emily Hoeven, with our partners at CalMatters, points out a big difference in today’s COVID-19 hospitalization numbers and those from previous waves: “As of Tuesday, roughly two-thirds of COVID-positive patients at hospitals run by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Services were admitted for something other than the virus. Marin County hospitals on Monday had a near-record high of 19 COVID patients — but at least 42% were incidental cases. And Berkeley is experiencing a ‘phenomenal’ surge in cases, but only three residents at minimum have been hospitalized for COVID-19 in the past month.”

• Palm Springs’ mayor has COVID-19. From a city news release: “Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton would like to inform the community that today she tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Middleton is following medical advice and direction and will spend at minimum the next ten days days at home in isolation as she recovers from what she described as mild symptoms. During isolation Middleton will continue her mayoral duties to the maximum extent possible. On Tuesday, Middleton woke up with a sore throat and has not left home except to get tested. Following the positive result, Middleton immediately notified the small number of people she had contact with outside of her home over the last several days.”

Riverside County has joined some other California jurisdictions in suspending jury trials; in Riverside County’s case, the suspension will go through at least Jan. 28. Our partners at CalMatters look at the state as a whole.

• If you’ve made it this far … congrats! You’re through the worst of the COVID-19-related stuff. As a reward, we offer up this related yet hopeful piece, compliments of NPR: “A vaccine authorized in December for use in India may help solve one of the most vexing problems in global public health: How to supply lower-income countries with a COVID-19 vaccine that is safe, effective and affordable. The vaccine is called CORBEVAX. It uses old but proven vaccine technology and can be manufactured far more easily than most, if not all, of the COVID-19 vaccines in use today. ‘CORBEVAX is a game changer,’ says Dr. Keith Martin, executive director of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health in Washington, D.C. ‘It’s going to enable countries around the world, particularly low-income countries, to be able to produce these vaccines and distribute them in a way that’s going to affordable, effective and safe.'”

• Now, some humor: McSweeney’s offers up this note for parents, guardians and people who were once kids themselves: “A note of reassurance from your school district regarding our updated omicron policies.” A snippet: “Your child should report to school no matter whatRemember that kids really should be in school because, at this point, everyone will get COVID anyway. Moreover, due to the unavailability of home tests and the fact that the nearest PCR drive-thru test is in Norway (email us for more info), this is the most expedient route. Please follow these easy steps every morning: 1. Fill out a daily health attestation by 5 a.m. We understand that you will lie.”

• As you likely know, today marks the one-year anniversary of one of the darkest days in U.S history … in the eyes of some people, at least. Meanwhile, others are trying to spin the events of Jan. 6, 2021 in ways that are flat-out inaccurate. The New York Times reports: “By (today’s) anniversary of the violence that has been connected to at least seven deaths and left some 150 police officers injured, it was an article of faith among vast swaths of conservative Americans that the riot was just ‘one day in January,’ in the words of former Vice President Mike Pence, whose life was directly threatened. For the half of Republicans who now believe the rioters were at the Capitol to ‘protect democracy,’ according to the latest ABC News/Ipsos poll, any talk of Jan. 6 as a singularly violent episode in American democracy would likely be taken as liberal, mainstream-media claptrap.

• Moving on to yet another tragic topic: ProPublica takes a look at climate change and wildfires in California, and comes to this conclusion: “After another devastating year, it’s clear that Californians can’t keep trying to ‘fight’ wildfires. Instead, they need to accept it as their new reality.” Key quote: “Relinquishing the idea of normal will require strength, levelheadedness, optimism and bravery, the grit to keep clinging to some thin vine of hope as we swing out of the wreckage toward some solid ground that we cannot yet see. ‘We’re no longer dealing with a fire regime in the woods that responds to the kinds of mild prevention and mild responses, the sensible responses we have thought about, and that thought alone is a crisis,’ (climate futurist Alex Steffen) said. ‘It means the lives we had we no longer have.’”

• David Robinson, of the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, breaks down the newly drawn congressional districts that slice our valley into two different districts, and how those maps compare to the last two: “Instead of the valley cities sitting in one contiguous district, they are now split into two—Districts 25 and 41. Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Indio, and Coachella are now in new District 25. And new District 41 contains Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, and La Quinta. This time population growth in our area outpaced the rest of the state prompting the need to split our area into two districts.”

• Let’s conclude on two happier notes. First: Ellen Goodman, the director of the Foundation for the Palm Springs Unified School District, asked if we’d publish a thank you she wrote up for two businessmen that do a lot of good in the valley: Charles Thomas and Jeff McDonald of The Roost in Cathedral City. Goodman wrote: “‘We give back,’ say these two public-facing businessmen, ‘and we’re proud to participate in and support our community in any way we can.’ As evidence of that, their thriving business just wrapped up their year of giving to the tune of $208,000! In early December, The Roost hosted a fundraiser for Palm Springs Unified’s Keisha D Scholarship Fund, managed by the school district’s Foundation, which I’m privileged to run. At that event, patrons were inspired to give via a fun audience paddle-raise. Jeremy Hobbs’ Western Wind Foundation was on hand to match all donations dollar for dollar, and that night, $10,400 was raised for our deserving PSUSD scholarship students. As if that weren’t enough, The Roost’s owners then made a surprise additional donation of $20,000 of their own. Wow! But The Roost’s generosity is wide-ranging, and funds raised and/or donated by Charles and Jeff will go this year, in addition to support of the Keisha D Scholarship Fund, to Angel View, the Cathedral City Senior Center, Tools for Tomorrow, the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, the Cathedral City Boys & Girls Club, Martha’s Kitchen, and the FIND Food Bank. Funds are raised via everything from The Roost’s Christmas in July event and Easter Bonnet Parade to scavenger hunts and Jeff’s famous Birthday Bash.”

• And finally … The New York Times tells the story of Nadia Popovici, a volunteer nursing assistant, and what happened after she noticed an mole on the back of the neck of Brian Hamilton, an assistant equipment manager for the Vancouver Canucks, during a Seattle Kraken game: “Ms. Popovici typed a message on her phone and waited for the game to end. After waving several times, she finally drew Mr. Hamilton’s attention, and placed her phone against the plexiglass. ‘The mole on the back of your neck is possibly cancerous. Please go see a doctor!’ the message read, with the words ‘mole, ‘cancer’ and ‘doctor’ colored bright red..” That message may very well have saved Hamilton’s life.

An Honor for the Independent

Rather than concluding with our usual ask for financial support, I’d like to use this space today to thank the City of Palm Springs Human Rights Commission.

From a news release: “The City of Palm Springs Human Rights Commission will honor six individuals and two organizations for outstanding contributions promoting and protecting human rights, social progress, better standards of life, and equality for all individuals at their upcoming annual Community Service Awards at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 14. The event will be held virtually, via Zoom, unless the situation with COVID-19 improves. … This year’s eight outstanding honorees significantly enhanced the quality of life in Palm Springs when the community was in crisis managing the pandemic.”

Those being honored are organizations Vaccinate Inland Empire (VAXIE) and the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation; and individuals Ann Sheffer, Chad Gardner, Nikki Stone, Vincent Corrales, Dean Lavine … and me, Jimmy Boegle. From the news release: “Jimmy Boegle is recognized for aligning business goals and initiatives with causes and social issues that benefit the broader community during a time of significant challenges for him personally. Founder, editor, and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent, Jimmy Boegle, is committed to keeping the community informed of the pandemic science and data from the medical community. Jimmy is credited for keeping honest, ethical, independent local journalism alive during the COVID crises while at the same time supporting nonprofit organizations, promoting youth housing, and access to health and social services. Like most businesses, revenue streams were severely impacted by the impact of the pandemic. The changing economy and competition from tech platforms made it difficult to continue to deliver honest local, and transparent journalism. Jimmy Boegle stayed true to his values and commitment to the community he serves and continued to keep the community informed so they could manage the pandemic safely and make informed decisions.”

I want to again thank the City of Palm Springs Human Rights Commission—and I want to thank you, our readers. Without you, the Independent would not exist. Thank you for your support, your kind words—and, as always, for reading.

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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...