Coachella Valley Independent

Daily Digest: March 15, 2021

Open government is good government.

That’s the tagline for Sunshine Week, which was started in 2005 by what was then the American Society of News Editors, and is now the News Leaders Association. The goal of the week is to promote open government—and specifically the access to public information.

Alas, government is not always so open—even though, both legally and ethically, it damn well should be.

Because of that, our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (this year, with an assist from MuckRock News) always have plenty to discuss for their annual Foilies awards. Every year, they chronicle the most insane attempts at governments to stonewall, disregard or simply violate open-records laws across the country—and every year, the Independent runs the Foilies recap in honor of Sunshine Week.

This year’s Foilies—which you can read all about in the first story in the “From the Independent” section—cover everything from the Trump administration’s refusal to disclose the gender of a heroic dog injured assisting in a raid on terrorists, to a city that retaliated against an activist who was seeking records by suing him. Yes, really.

Happy Sunshine Week, everyone.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

The Foilies 2021: In Honor of Sunshine Week, It’s Again Time to Recognize the Year’s Worst in Government Transparency

By the Electronic Frontier Foundation and MuckRock News

March 14, 2021

This year’s awardees for the most insane violations of public-records laws include the Small Business Administration, the CDC and many other governmental agencies!

A Little Classy, a Little DHS: After Releasing a Debut Album in December, The CMFs Pledge to Release a New Single Every Month in 2021

By Jimmy Boegle

March 15, 2021

After releasing a debut full-length album, Chaka, on Dec. 24, The CMFs announced the band would release a new single on the last Friday of […]

Home Video Review: ‘Minari’ Is a Beautiful Film That’s Worthy of Its Six Oscar Noms

By Bob Grimm

March 15, 2021

A Korean family moves to Arkansas in the ’80s to start a new life as farmers, a dream for the father (Steven Yeun), but not […]

And Now, the News

• Here in California, a whole bunch of counties today officially moved into the red tier—and Riverside County is expected to get OK’d tomorrow (Tuesday) to make the move on Wednesday. This means restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and other businesses can open indoors with strict capacity limits. The Los Angeles Times reports: “Proprietors and employees alike hope the latest round of reopenings—prompted by falling numbers of new coronavirus cases and rising vaccinations—will give the region’s economy a desperately needed shot in the arm. But business as usual remains a far-off concept, and those establishments that are open are still subject to restrictions on how many customers can be served at any one time, as well as requirements for physical distancing and face coverings.”

• However, in Europe, things are moving in the opposite direction—and may serve as a cautionary tale. As this New York Times headline says: Italy imposes lockdown measures as cases spike across Europe. As for the cautionary-tale part, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this today, the Times reported: “Each of these countries has had nadirs like we are having now, and each took an upward trend after they disregarded no mitigation strategies. They simply took their eye off the ball. I’m pleading with you for the sake of our nation’s health. These should be warning signs for all of us.”

• And, well, then there’s this: “A San Bernardino man has contracted the first known California case of the Brazilian strain of the coronavirus, San Bernardino County health officials announced Sunday,” according to The Press Enterprise. “The state’s first case of the P.1 variant was confirmed on Saturday, March 13, from a test taken on March 2, the county said in a news release. The county’s contact tracers have been in communication with the man, who is in his 40s, since March 3 and he has been self isolating at home. Officials are investigating how he might have been exposed to the variant.”

• Riverside County would like you to know that you that a whole lot more people became eligible for the vaccines today—including people with pre-existing conditions, and a new set of essential workers. According to the news release: “No doctor’s note or medical record is required to be eligible. The health conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic pulmonary disease, Down syndrome, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, heart condition (excluding hypertension), severe obesity, Type 2 diabetes mellitus or … an immunocompromised state from a solid organ transplant. … In addition, the list of occupations that now qualify to be vaccinated has expanded to include janitors, couriers who handle vaccine supplies and emergency supplies, massage therapists, those who work in foster care, utility workers, social workers, homeless shelter workers, library staff and public transit workers.” If you want to know more, here’s a breakdown from our partners at CalMatters.

• How big of a deal is the relief bill just signed into law by President Biden? Our partners at CalMatters, who are not prone to hyperbole, have this to say: “President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion virus relief package … has the potential to reduce child poverty in the Golden State by half. That would be a turning point for a state that is an economic powerhouse vexed by the highest poverty rate in the nation when accounting for the cost of living. Economists and progressives are hailing as ‘revolutionary’ a provision to send periodic cash to most families with children through a one-year expansion of the existing child tax credit. When combined with the state’s new stimulus aid, the payments could lift millions of Californians out of poverty this year, particularly immigrant households that have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s health and economic effects.”

The San Francisco Chronicle (subscription required, alas) takes a look at how Imperial County—our neighbors to the southeast, and a county that for much of the pandemic has been riddled with COVID—managed to beat much of the rest of Southern California out of the purple tier. Quote: “Dr. Stephen Munday, Imperial County’s public health officer, said the county’s situation has improved in part because the weather is warming and people are spending less time gathering indoors. Also, roughly a third of residents have been vaccinated or have contracted the virus and recovered, meaning they developed some level of antibodies, he said. ‘I do think that some of what we’ve seen is related to the beginnings of moving toward herd immunity,’ Munday said. ‘But not that we actually are at herd immunity yet.’”

• A doctor writing for MedPage Today has disappointing news regarding immunosuppressed patients: A new study indicates that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines don’t work very well on them. Dr. Dorry Segev says: “We launched a national study of vaccine immune responses in immunosuppressed solid organ transplant recipients. Among 436 COVID-naïve participants who received a first dose of mRNA vaccine, only 17% mounted detectable antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. This is in stark contrast to immunocompetent people who were vaccinated, of whom 100% mounted detectable antibody.”

• While we’re on the subject of depressing news, let’s go ahead and get this headline from The Conversation out of the way: “After the insurrection, America’s far-right groups get more extreme.” Key quote: “As police power comes to bear on these violent right-wing groups, many of their members remain at least as radicalized as they were on Jan. 6—if not more so. Some may feel that more extreme measures are needed to resist the Biden administration.”

• So, yeah, after those two headlines, we’re feeling like life’s definitely given us some figurative lemons. So let’s take a cocktail break and enjoy a lemon drop. Or if you don’t imbibe, let’s enjoy some lemonade instead.

• Hey! The Academy Award nominations were announced today! Fun fact: “Mank” nabbed the most nominations, with 10, even though only 61 percent of people who saw it liked it, according to Rotten Tomatoes.

• And finally … one of the greatest newspaper columnists over the last several decades is calling it quits. Here’s the final column by the Miami Herald’s Carl Hiaasen. While his columns were always centered on South Florida, they always carried with them universal lessons. Key quote: “Millions of worried seniors are still awaiting COVID inoculations because they don’t live in gated communities full of rich Republicans writing checks to the governor’s re-election committee. Then again, who’s really surprised that a resort like Ocean Reef gets special vaccine shipments while regular folks in nearby Florida City get to sit in their cars for hours, praying the supply doesn’t run out?”

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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...