Coachella Valley Independent

Daily Digest: Feb. 3, 2021

Donald J. Trump did a lot of terrible things as president—and it’s quite possible the worst thing he did (other than provoking an insurrection attempt) was politicizing face masks and social distancing.

Look: I loathe wearing face masks. I wear glasses—which fog up as a result of my redirected exhalation. I also hate not being in close indoor quarters with my friends. But this does not make me oppressed. This does not make me a victim or violate my “rights.” These are minor inconveniences that I am more than happy to deal with, because it protects both myself and others—primarily others.

I bring this all up, because it’s germane to a local group called the East Valley Republican Women Federated—and a Facebook page by several local activists that you really need to check out.

You may have read about the issue at hand last week in The Desert Sun. The short version: The East Valley Republican Women Federated have been regularly having large lunch gatherings in a ballroom at the Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage. It seems that masks during these events are few and far between, based on leaked photos from these luncheons.

After those pics from the December lunch circulated, several activists decided to speak out and try to stop this month’s lunch. Hence The Desert Sun article and that Facebook page I recommend you check out, hilariously called “Stop the Meal.”

Well … that February lunch did not get cancelled—so several Stop the Meal folks did some surveillance, which you can (and should!) read all about on their Facebook page.

Bill Holzhauer and Robert McCann counted 235 (!) people at the lunch. Here’s a snippet from their summary, written by McCann:

Did our “Stop the Meal” effort have any impact? Not on the Casino, obviously, and not on the number of attendees. However, the “Stop the Meal” Desert Sun article was the “talk of the town,” as it were, with both Bill and I overhearing several conversations about it. Moreover, and more concretely, the registration process was complicated (and slowed) by an EVRWF member approaching each person in the registration line and asking them if they had a cell phone. If the answer was “Yes,” she asked for the phone, placed it in a paper envelope, sealed the envelope, handed it back to the owner, and asked them not to unseal and use the phone until after the luncheon.

Sigh.

I have no idea what in the hell the Agua Caliente folks are doing by allowing these lunches to happen. Yes, as a sovereign government on sovereign land, they have the right to do so—but that doesn’t mean it’s right for them to do so.

Alas, I do have some idea what the members of the EVRWF are thinking (even if the thought process lacks rationality and completely dismisses science): “A leader I trust doesn’t think masks and social distancing are necessary, so why should I?”

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Know Your Neighbors: Meet Bonnie Gilgallon, a Singer, Actress, Newscaster, Writer—and So Much More

By Anita Rufus

February 3, 2021

Bonnie Gilgallon has a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars, thanks to her decades of broadcasting, performing and writing in the valley.

Shots Stumble: California Had Months to Prepare—So Why Is the Vaccination System Such a Mess?

By Ben Christopher, CALmatters

February 2, 2021

Many public-health experts say most of the factors that have slowed the state’s inoculation plan are outside the governor’s control. But some of the hurdles […]

And Now, the News

Here is this week’s Riverside County District 4 weekly COVID-19 report. (District 4 = the Coachella Valley and rural areas to the east.) The takeaways: 1. Things are getting better—cases, hospitalizations and the weekly positivity rate are all on the decline. 2. Things are still pretty bad: The 15.2 percent weekly positivity rate needs to be more than halved before our neck of the woods would meet the criteria for the next-less-restrictive tier, for example. Worst of all: 28 District 4 residents died last week from COVID-19. How huge of a news story would it have been if a single thing had killed 28 people locally this time last year?

• So you know how the experts said we shouldn’t all gather together indoors for Thanksgiving … and some people did anyway? And then they said the same thing about Christmas … and some people did anyway? And then there were massive COVID-19 spikes that closed things down and overwhelmed hospitals? Well, this weekend brings us Super Bowl Sunday … when in normal times, lots of people gather indoors together. So … the Riverside County Health System makes this plea: “Residents should limit possible exposure to the virus by reducing the number of people they have contact with during Super Bowl Sunday. If residents do attend gatherings, they should wear a mask, avoid shared utensils, and keep six feet of distance from people outside of their household. ‘We’re not out of the woods yet and we don’t want to lose the progress we’ve made,’ said Kim Saruwatari, director of the Riverside University Health System—Public Health.”

• If you have a relative, friend or loved one who is resisting getting the vaccine … Los Angeles Times columnist (and friend of the Independent) Gustavo Arellano offers up his father as proof that minds can be changed: “Toxic masculinity is a hell of a preexisting condition to have during a pandemic. Too many of us, Latinos and not, have had to deal with it, to the point of broken friendships and strained familial ties. But it can be defeated. My 69-year-old father is proof of this.” If you only read one story from today’s Daily Digest, make sure it’s this beautiful column.

• Remember that Russian vaccine that was approved there last summer, despite it not really being tested? Well, it seems that the Sputnik V vaccine is actually safe and effective. The AP reports: “Researchers said that based on a fall trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the vaccine is about 91 percent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. But it is unclear if Sputnik V can stop transmission. The study was published online Tuesday in The Lancet.”

• This news led Mexico, where vaccines are badly needed (although that can be said pretty much everywhere in the world), to take action: According to Reuters, “Mexico has approved emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine after signing a contract for millions of doses of the product, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said on Tuesday. In a morning news conference, Lopez-Gatell said Mexico’s contract provided for 7.4 million doses between February and April, with more due in May.”

• Unfortunately, Tanzania is going in the opposite direction: “Tanzania’s health ministry says it has no plans in place to accept COVID-19 vaccines, just days after the president of the country of 60 million people expressed doubt about the vaccines without offering evidence,” The AP reports. “… The health minister insisted Tanzania is safe. During a presentation in which she and others didn’t wear face masks, she encouraged the public to improve hygiene practices including the use of sanitizers but also steam inhalation—which has been dismissed by health experts elsewhere as a way to kill the coronavirus.” Sigh.

• Here at home, the vaccination effort continues to widen and improve. The federal government has announced it will start shipping some vaccine doses—around 1 million per week—directly to pharmacies—and that includes some locations in California. NPR says: “The program will begin on Feb. 11 on a limited basis, with vaccines sent to about 6,500 stores nationwide, Jeff Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, told reporters on Tuesday. He said that the effort would then scale up and that eventually up to 40,000 retail pharmacies, including Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid locations, would receive doses directly from the federal government.”

The first two federally run vaccination sites in the country will be in California, with one in Oakland, and the other at CSU-Los Angeles. The Hill reports: “The facilities will be staffed primarily by federal employees from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Defense (DAD), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS), the White House announced Wednesday. The pilot program is part of the Biden administration’s effort to set up 100 federal vaccination sites across the country. Preparation of the two locations is under way and the sites are slated to open to eligible members of the public on Feb. 16.”

• The Novavax vaccine, which performed well in a large-scale British trial, could help the U.S. return to normalcy during the summer. The New York Times breaks it down: “The scarcity of the two vaccines authorized in the United States, made by Moderna and Pfizer, seems to have made it easier for Novavax to recruit volunteers in its trial here. That speedy enrollment has put the company on track to have results this spring, with possible government authorization as early as April. If all goes right—and nothing is guaranteed—that would mean an influx of 110 million vaccine doses, enough for 55 million Americans at two doses each, by the end of June.”

If you’re confused about what the SARS-CoV-2 variants mean, exactly, and how they’re different from the “normal” virus, here are two pieces for you. First, a biologist, writing for The Conversation, explains how viruses mutate, and how those mutations can make things worse. Second, NPR shares drawings of the virus—with parts replaced with Legos!—to break things down.

Here’s a Los Angeles Times headline for ya: “California lawmakers angrily demand fixes at unemployment agency after scathing audits.” But will these demands actually do any good? Let’s hope so, because lives depend on it. Key quote: “Four lawmakers, including Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson), said they have constituents living in their cars, some of them with children, because of delays in receiving unemployment benefits. ‘It is inexcusable,’ said Gipson, his voice booming with anger.”

• If you needed further proof that COVID-19 is just terrible (and you don’t, but still), it has claimed the life of Capt. Tom Moore, a 100-year-old World War II who did an amazing amount of good for British health-care workers during the dark early days of the pandemic. The AP explains: “Captain Tom, as he became known in newspaper headlines and TV interviews, set out to raise 1,000 pounds for Britain’s National Health Service by walking 100 laps of his backyard. But his quest went viral and caught the imagination of millions stuck at home during the first wave of the pandemic. Donations poured in from across Britain and as far away as the United States and Japan, raising some 33 million pounds ($40 million). For three weeks in April, fans were greeted with daily videos of Captain Tom, stooped with age, doggedly pushing his walker in the garden. But it was his sunny attitude during a dark moment that inspired people to look beyond illness and loss.”

• Finally … Axios reconstructs the events of Friday, Dec. 18, at the White House—and, boy, wow, is it bonkers. Here’s how the piece starts: “Four conspiracy theorists marched into the Oval Office. It was early evening on Friday, Dec. 18 — more than a month after the election had been declared for Joe Biden, and four days after the Electoral College met in every state to make it official. ‘How the hell did Sidney get in the building?’ White House senior adviser Eric Herschmann grumbled from the outer Oval Office as Sidney Powell and her entourage strutted by to visit the president.” If you only read two stories from today’s Daily Digest, make sure the second one is this piece, which is in turns hilarious, scary and baffling.

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Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. A native of Reno, Nevada, the Dodgers fan went to Stanford University intending to become a sportswriter—but fell...