Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: Aug. 4, 2022

As the local monkeypox case count continues to rise—the number of probable and confirmed cases in Riverside County is up to 42, and all but a handful of those cases are among Coachella Valley men—the LGBTQ+ community is in the midst of a debate over how to discuss the outbreak.

Everyone can agree on one thing: The vast, vast majority of monkeypox cases in the United States are among men who have sex with men.

Beyond that … well, there’s not a lot of agreement.

In Monday’s Indy Digest, I wrote, in bold letters: “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.”

This Digest prompted a response from a reader who said, via Twitter, that the Digest “needs updating to align with what we know about the virus.” The reader’s tweet included images from a July Department of Homeland Security document, with various passages highlighted in red, including portions saying that monkeypox “may be stable for days to weeks in water, soil, and on refrigerated food”; that clinicians caring for infected patients should wear personal protective equipment including N-95 respirators; and that “humans can be contagious before a visible rash appears and can continue shedding the virus weeks after symptoms have dissipated.”

In a follow-up message, the reader explained his issue with the Digest was that it had “a focus on sexual contact, which is important, but (there is) new information regarding transmission, including surface and airborne routes to infection.”

So … consider yourself updated. If you want to know more about what we collectively know, and what we don’t collectively know, about monkeypox’s spread, I highly recommend this Time magazine article, “How the Monkeypox Virus Does—and Doesn’t—Spread.”

While I don’t know this reader’s motivations for bristling at my emphasis on sexual contact in Monday’s Digest, I have seen similar complaints made by people who find it stigmatizing to point out that most of the monkeypox victims so far are men who have sex with men … even though that is the undisputed truth. Kai Kupferschmidt, a science journalist, wrote a guest essay for The New York Times, published today, that explains what’s going on:

Public health officials in many places seem so unsure of how to talk about this disease in a nonstigmatizing way that they prefer to speak only in vague terms. Some—whether out of complacency, callousness or homophobia—just do not seem to see much urgency. Others avoid mentioning altogether that men who have sex with men are by far the most vulnerable at the moment. …

Even within my own community, some have argued that stating that the disease was mostly affecting men who have sex with men was homophobic. Others were simply afraid of worsening the stigma many gay men already face. On the other end of the spectrum, social media accounts that have gained huge numbers of followers during the coronavirus pandemic are spreading the false information that monkeypox is transmitting widely through handshakes, the food we eat and the air we breathe. The result has been confusion, with some people wrongly thinking they are at high risk and others not knowing about their very real risk or how to lower it.

This debate, in part, prompted the NLGJA, the Association of LGBTQ Journalists, to issue a special advisory today for journalists covering monkeypox. While the advisory contains some sound advice—for example, it’s NOT good to publish pictures of people in line at a monkeypox vaccination clinic without their permission, even if they are on a public street, because that violates their medical privacy (and more)—it also contains this section under the heading “referring to populations most affected by monkeypox”:

Reporting on those being affected by this current outbreak can spark conversations about how to refer to the people most at risk. It is accurate to say that the monkeypox virus “is currently spreading among men who have sex with men,” which emphasizes a behavior and not an orientation or identity. However, some members of the community object to this usage. They believe it is too clinical, too focused on sex, and doesn’t encompass people who don’t identify as men. “Gay and bisexual men” is another option, but it leaves out those who don’t identify as men or as gay/bisexual.

There are other ways to describe those at risk, such as “men who have sex with men and their sexual networks” or “men who have sex with men, a group that includes people who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender and nonbinary.”

Consider your audience when deciding which terminology to use. If you’re reporting on clinical aspects of the outbreak, “men who have sex with men” may be more appropriate. If you’re reporting on the outbreak’s effects on LGBTQ communities, other descriptors may be a better choice.

Clear as mud, right?

As a gay man, I hate the fact that monkeypox is here, and I hate the fact that some bad actors are using the disease to further stigmatize the LGBTQ+ community.

But I am also a journalist, and, well, facts are facts. And the fact is that, no matter how many different ways in which monkeypox can be transmitted, more than 97 percent of the people who have gotten monkeypox, according to World Health Organization data (in cases where sexual orientation is revealed), are men who have sex with men.

It’s also a fact that the vast majority of Riverside County’s monkeypox cases have been in the Coachella Valley … where there’s a large population, both in terms of residents and visitors, of men who have sex with men.

I’ll let Kai Kupferschmidt, the aforementioned science reporter, have the last word, as he sums things up better than I could:

As an infectious disease reporter, I have seen how deadly stigma can be. And as someone living with HIV, I have experienced the suffering that stigma can cause. But the solution is not to fall silent or to act as if the risk from monkeypox is the same across different groups. The solution is to choose words carefully, to engage the communities that are most at risk and to listen to those affected by this disease. That work will make the difference between public health and homophobia by neglect.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

More Than Snowbirds: Canada’s The Dreamboats Find a New Home for Their Rock ’n’ Roll Revival Sound in the Coachella Valley

By Matt King

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The Dreamboats have become a Modernism Week staple, and they’re set to perform at 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 13, in downtown Indio.

The Best Predator Film Yet: Hulu Gets Into the Blockbuster Movie Game With ‘Prey’

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August 3rd, 2022

Prey is basically everything you would want in a Predator movie, and more.

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for Aug. 3, 2022!

By Staff

August 4th, 2022

Topics covered on this week’s comics page include scarecrows, divorce, the New Deal, gravy, breastfeeding—and more!

Biting Humor: Season 4 of FX Vampire Mockumentary ‘What We Do in the Shadows’ Is Packed With Laughs

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More so than any other show on TV right now, What We Do in the Shadows packs many laughs into its minutes, complemented by fine doses of profanity and gore.

More News

• Three days after California declared a state of emergency, the federal government today finally declared the monkeypox outbreak to be a public health emergency, as the nationwide case count surpassed 6,600. The Associated Press explains: “The announcement will free up money and other resources to fight the virus, which may cause fever, body aches, chills, fatigue and pimple-like bumps on many parts of the body. ‘We are prepared to take our response to the next level in addressing this virus, and we urge every American to take monkeypox seriously,’ said Xavier Becerra, head of the Department of Health and Human Services. The declaration by HHS comes as the Biden administration has faced criticism over monkeypox vaccine availability. Clinics in major cities such as New York and San Francisco say they haven’t received enough of the two-shot vaccine to meet demand, and some have had to stop offering the second dose to ensure supply of first doses. The White House said it has made more than 1.1 million doses available and has helped to boost domestic diagnostic capacity to 80,000 tests per week.”

• CalMatters’ Emily Hoeven poses the question: “Is California headed for an economic downturn?” The Magic 8 ball of the economy seems to be saying “outlook not so good”: “The Golden State is more likely than not to collect less from personal income, sales and corporation taxes than the $210 billion assumed in the 2022-23 budget, according to a Monday report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, which advises lawmakers on fiscal issues. The report notes, however, that ‘significant uncertainty’ remains, and the state could ultimately end up collecting anywhere from $25 billion less than anticipated to as much as $15 billion more — likely ending up about $5 billion below projections. A recent report from the state Department of Finance offers a similarly mixed outlook: For the first time since the pandemic struck in early 2020, California’s tax revenues in June fell short of projections rather than exceeding them. Cash receipts came in about $2.4 billion less than expected, largely due to lower proceeds from the personal income tax.”

Gannett, the parent company of The Desert Sun, reported its financials today, and they were not good. (Understatement alert.) What does this mean? The Poynter Institute says: “Gannett recorded a dismal second quarter financially, the company reported Thursday – important revenues sources down, costs up and a loss of $54 million on revenues of $749 million. Strong cost reduction moves are on the way. Media division head Maribel Perez Wadsworth, in a note to staff, warned of impending layoffs. ‘In the coming days,’ she wrote, ‘we will … be making necessary but painful reductions to staffing, eliminating some open positions and roles that will impact valued colleagues.‘ Gannett stock, already down roughly 45% for the year, fell another 28.5% in midmorning trading, indicating Wall Street had not expected such bad results.”

If you were denied a loan or otherwise penalized due to a credit score in recent months, you really should read this story from CNN: “Credit giant Equifax sent lenders incorrect credit scores for millions of consumers this spring, in a technology snafu with major real-world impact. In certain cases the errors were significant enough—the differential was at least 25 points for around 300,000 consumers—that some would-be borrowers may have been wrongfully denied credit, the company said in a statement. … The problem occurred because of a ‘coding issue’ when making a change to one of Equifax’s servers, according to the company, which said the issue ‘was in place over a period of a few weeks [and] resulted in the potential miscalculation’ of credit scores.” Eek.

In better news, yet another airline and more flights are coming to Palm Springs International Airport. From a news release: “Avelo Airlines announced it will begin serving Palm Springs this fall with seasonal nonstop service to three popular destinations. Beginning Nov. 11, Avelo will be the only airline serving Palm Springs to fly direct to Santa Rosa/Sonoma, Calif, as well as Bend and Eugene, Ore. Palm Springs International Airport becomes the 30th destination on Avelo’s U.S. route map.”

• Speaking of travel: If you’re planning on heading to Vegas anytime soon, the “back way” is not an option. The Palm Springs Post notes (toward the bottom): “Travelers from Palm Springs to Las Vegas have long known the quickest (and most scenic) route is through the Mojave Desert. But that route has been cut off following recent storms. … Kelbaker Road, Cima Road, Essex Road, and Morning Star Road are closed until further notice, according to Mojave National Preserve staff. The roads are simply too damaged to traverse following intense monsoonal storms over the weekend.” Watch this site for updates.

• As if the world isn’t screwy enough these days, the planet is now spinning faster than ever before. What’s the big deal? Scientist Leonid Zotov explains via CBS News: “If the trend continues, atomic time—the universal way time is measured on Earth—may have to change. Some scientists propose introducing a negative leap second. ‘Since we can not change the clock arrows attached to the Earth rotation, we adjust the atomic clock scale,’ he said. As opposed to leap years, which have an extra day added, a negative leap second would mean clocks skip one second. Some engineers oppose the introduction of a leap second, as it could lead to large-scale and devastating tech issues. Meta engineers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi, who is also a researcher, wrote blog post about it for Meta, which is supporting an industry-wide effort to stop future introductions of leap seconds.”

• And finally … I need to talk a little bit about Vin Scully.

I have not always been a baseball fan. When I was a young child, in fact, I was more annoyed by baseball than anything else—because the games would occasionally pre-empt my late afternoon cartoons.

However, in 1986, when I was 11, that started to change. Instead of getting upset when games pre-empted the cartoons, I started watching. Around that time, I got a sheet of random baseball cards in a magazine … and most of the cards were for Dodgers. Then I read a biography of Jackie Robinson.

Even though I lived in Reno—which is primarily San Francisco Giants/Oakland A’s territory—a Los Angeles Dodgers fan was born.

Most of my fandom came via the box scores that I scoured (and often saved) from the daily newspaper … until one night, while futzing with my radio in my bedroom, I heard the voice of a man I’d soon come to know as Vin Scully talking about the Dodgers.

By car, Bakersfield is some six hours away from Reno. Yet after dark, the signal for Bakersfield station KNZR 1560 AM bounced over the Sierra Nevada—and could be heard clearly on my radio.

I was hooked. Almost every night during baseball season as I grew up, I’d listen to the Dodgers after dark via KNZR, with Vin Scully, Don Drysdale and Russ Porter as my guides to what was happening on baseball fields hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Over the years, Dodgers announcers would come and go—but Vin Scully was the one constant. He had so many amazing moments as a broadcaster, but the one I remember most is one of the saddest: His heartbroken revelation, on July 3, 1993, that his friend and broadcast partner, Dodgers great Don Drysdale, had died.

YouTube video

Vinny retired in 2016, after a stunning 67 seasons of broadcasting for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. After that, he refused all requests to do play-by-play any more, even for one inning, but he was still a presence. He’d make appearances at Dodgers events from time to time, and narrated the Dodgers’ 2020 championship documentary. He also, belatedly, got on social media—joining Twitter in August 2020. In his final tweet, on May 6, he wished Willie Mays a happy 91st birthday.

As you no doubt know by now, Vin Scully died Tuesday night, Aug. 2, at the age of 94. I am rarely rattled by deaths of celebrities or other people I don’t personally know. Yet on Tuesday night, I was truly heartbroken when I heard the news.

Vin Scully had that effect on people; he was so good at what he did. In fact, he was the best who ever lived.

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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...