Daily Digest: Jan. 20, 2021
Relief. That’s the word that keeps coming to mind today.
I am relieved, first and foremost, that—as of this writing—none of the bad things that law-enforcement officials were worried about since the Jan. 6 mess have happened. As I mentioned last Friday in this space, a lot of friends at newspapers around the country have been preparing for possible violence against journalists, and I’ve linked to a whole bunch of stories about the extra precautions being taken in state capitals and in D.C. I admit to being nervous as I watched the inauguration this morning. But, so far, all has been clear.
Second, I am relieved—as many Americans are—that we now have an executive branch of the federal government that seems interested in doing the jobs that the executive branch of the federal government should do. This is not a partisan statement; it’s a fact that the Trump administration washed its hands of responsibility for the pandemic, for COVID-19 testing efforts, and for helping coordinate the vaccination process.
Finally, I am relieved that we have a president who again is decent. Even Trump’s most ardent defenders shook their heads at his insults, his name-calling, his hyper-focus on himself. I am no longer an enemy of the people in the current president’s eyes.
From the Independent
By Anita Rufus
January 20, 2021
The Palm Desert resident has a passion for nonprofits; she calls working on their behalf “her calling.”
Hiking With T: Turn Your New Year’s Fitness Resolution Into a Goal by Making a Plan and Sticking to It
By Theresa Sama
January 20, 2021
Getting more exercise may very well be most common resolution … and it wouldn’t be so common of most of us were actually holding to […]
By Katie Finn
January 19, 2021
Our resident sommelier breaks down these new and popular wine definitions.
The Lucky 13: Alexandro Zatarain, Radio-Television Instructor at College of the Desert and Sports/Gaming Twitch Streamer
By Matt King
January 20, 2021
Get to know Alexandro Zatarain, a local college instructor, radio producer and grown-up “theater kid.”
And Now, the News
• For updates on all that has happened today—including President Biden’s various executive orders, the swearing in of the new senators, etc.—find your favorite national media source’s update page, and dive in. Here are The New York Times’ updates. Here are The Washington Post’s updates. Here are NBC News’ updates.
• Riverside County will begin taking a limited number of vaccination appointments tomorrow (Thursday) for clinics in the upcoming days. According to the news release: “Riverside County received 26,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine this week to distribute among community partners. Of this week’s allocation, 3,900 doses will be used for six additional county-run vaccine clinics. Supply of vaccine continues to be limited and demand for vaccine high. Registration will be available Thursday (Jan. 21) at noon for six upcoming COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Lake Elsinore, Perris and Indio planned for people in Phase 1A (all tiers), 1B (tier 1), which includes individuals 65 and older.” That Indio clinic will take place Jan. 23 and 24. Signups and more info are at www.ruhealth.org/covid-19-vaccine. (If the link doesn’t work, try again; the site is being inundated with traffic.)
• In his last hours in office, President Trump was busy issuing pardons. According to The Washington Post: “President Trump on Tuesday granted clemency to 143 people, using a final act of presidential power to extend mercy to former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon, well-connected celebrities and nonviolent drug offenders—but he did not preemptively pardon himself or his family.”
• However, Trump left a fellow reality star hanging. As CBS News’ headline put it: “‘Joe Exotic,’ with limo waiting outside prison, fails to get Trump pardon.”
• Trump also decided to refill the not-at-all-drained swamp a bit. As The Associated Press explains: “Donald Trump, in one of his final acts as president, released current and former members of his administration from the terms of their ethics pledge, a move that once again laid bare his failure to fulfil his 2016 campaign promise to ‘drain the swamp.'”
• If you’re a dork like I am, you were confused earlier today when Biden was sworn in BEFORE noon. The Washington Post explains that even though he was sworn in, he didn’t OFFICIALY become president until the clock struck 12: “’The oath is required but it is not the act that makes Biden the next president,” (George Washington University law professor Jonathan) Turley told The Washington Post in an email. Turley noted that no matter how early the president-elect swears the oath of office, the previous president—barring a last-minute resignation—remains the officeholder until noon.”
• Given all the threats mentioned above, as well as the pandemic … why did we even need to have an inauguration ceremony? An expert in rituals, writing for The Conversation, explains that we legally didn’t need one … but: “Public ceremonies like inaugurations are wrapped in pageantry. They involve music, banners, speeches and more—the more important the moment, the more extravagant the ceremony. When we attend a ritual loaded with splendor, it is as if a little voice inside our brain is telling us: ‘Pay attention, because something important and meaningful is happening.'”
• A nomination announcement Biden made on Tuesday is making history: He’s nominating Dr. Rachel Levine to be his assistant secretary of health: “Levine, a pediatrician, would become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate,” says The Washington Post.
• Bernie Sanders’ fashion (or lack thereof) and demeanor (grumpy grandpa-esque) got a lot of attention today—especially his mittens. Because, why not, the Los Angeles Times offers this detailed lowdown on those mittens, and how they came to be. Fun fact: They’re apparently made of made from repurposed wool sweaters and fleece made from recycled plastic bottles.
• You probably will not be surprised to learn that QAnon believers are not taking today’s events well at ALL.
• Now back to the pandemic news: Our local congressman, Dr. Rep. Raul Ruiz, announced yesterday he had tested positive for COVID-19. As Axios explains, he’s the seventh member of Congress to test positive since Jan. 6, when some GOP members refused to wear masks during the lockdown as the insurrection attempt took place. Please get better soon, Dr. Rep. Ruiz.
• Here’s the Riverside County District 4 report for the week ending Jan. 17. (District 4 consists of the Coachella Valley and largely rural points eastward.) A horrifying 41 of our neighbors died last week due to the coronavirus … just awful. However, some of the other news in the report is slightly encouraging: Hospitalizations are trending down somewhat—and so is the positivity rate. Fingers crossed—HARD—that these continue trending in the right direction.
• One reason for a lack of optimism is this: We have our owned damn SARS-CoV-2 variant here in California! The New York Times explains: “CAL.20C accounted for more than half of the virus genome samples collected in Los Angeles laboratories on Jan. 13, according to a new study that has not yet been published. … Eric Vail, the director of molecular pathology at Cedars-Sinai, said it was possible that CAL.20C is playing a large part in the surge of cases that has overwhelmed Southern California’s hospitals. ‘I’m decently confident that this is a more infectious strain of the virus,’ Dr. Vail said.” Sigh.
• As if that isn’t scary enough, here is a piece from The Conversation explaining why the transmission of COVID-19 between animals and humans—something we know is happening to an extent—is NOT GOOD: “Perhaps the biggest risk to humans is that spillover could result in the coronavirus establishing a reservoir in new animals and regions. This could provide opportunities for reintroduction of COVID-19 into humans in the future. This month researchers published a paper showing that this had already happened on a small scale with human–to–mink–to–human transmission on mink farms in Denmark.”
• Some good news: A new poll indicates that more and more people are saying they’ll take a coronavirus vaccine. “Now 56% of those surveyed say they will get the vaccine as soon it was available to them, a jump of 10 percentage points since the USA TODAY poll in December and up 30 points since October.” The bad news: “But those who declare they will not get the vaccine has barely budged, edging down to 18% now compared with 20% in October and December.”
• The fact that the coronavirus surge only got worse after outdoor dining was closed has some people wondering: Is it possible that the closure actually did more harm than good? According to SFGate: “Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at UCSF, believes it’s highly likely. ‘We won’t be able to know the exact percentage it drove, but I would say closing outdoor dining certainly did not help and likely hindered efforts to avoid a surge,’ she said.”
• And finally … are we in for an early spring? Well, Mojave Maxine, our local Punxsutawney Phil equivalent, thinks so. According to The Living Desert: “The Living Desert’s Mojave Maxine emerged from brumation (reptilian hibernation) … on Jan. 18 at 10:23 a m. The 43-year-old desert tortoise is the ultimate predictor that spring is near. ‘The temperatures this January have been extremely warm—in the upper 80s, so it’s not surprising that Maxine predicts an early spring,’ said Dr. James Danoff-Burg, director of Conservation Engagement. ‘Interestingly, this marks the eighth year in a row that she has debuted several days earlier than the previous year. This continuing trend seems to reflect a warming climate.'”
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