Coachella Valley Independent

Daily Digest: Dec. 30, 2020

Unless something crazy happens tomorrow, this will be the final Daily Digest of the year.

(However, considering tomorrow will be 2020’s last gasp, it would be completely on-brand for something crazy will happen … so who knows?).

It’s become a 2020 cliché to say things like this, but I’ll say it anyway, because it’s true: If someone had told me this time a year ago that I’d wind up writing 162 things called “Daily Digests”—in which I’d share the news of the day about massive protests, political hijinks, occasional cocktail recipes and, primarily, a raging pandemic—I’d have told that person to quit huffing paint.

But, well, here we are.

Thanks you for reading—and an extra-special thank you to all of you who have shown your support, be it through a kind email, or by sending us a few bucks via our Supporters of the Independent program. And here’s to what will hopefully be a much, much better 2021.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Health in the Time of COVID: A Chat With Carmina Zavala, the Newest Member of the Desert Healthcare District Board

By Kevin Fitzgerald

December 29, 2020

Carmina Zavala, the newest member of the Desert Healthcare District and a mental-health professional, discusses her health priorities for the Coachella Valley.

January Astronomy: Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury Cause an Evening Planetary Traffic Jam

By Robert Victor

December 30, 2020

A look at what to expect in the nighttime skies in January 2021.

And Now, the News

• We’ll start off by sharing two PDFs that come to us from Riverside County. First is this District 4 COVID-19 report for the week ending Dec. 27. (District 4 consists of the Coachella Valley and rural points eastward.) The news, again, is all bad. Alas, 13 neighbors of ours died due to COVID-19 in the last week.

• On a more hopeful note, here’s the list of vaccine allocations to hospitals in the county. I can’t wait to see the numbers on THIS list rise.

Hey, you know that SARS-CoV-2 variant that officials in the U.K. say spreads much faster and easier? Well, it’s in Southern California now. As the Los Angeles Times explains: “San Diego County officials announced later in the day that they had confirmed the strain in a 30-year-old man who tested positive there after developing symptoms Sunday. Officials said the man had ‘no travel history.’ As a result, ‘we believe this is not an isolated case in San Diego County,’ Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said during a press conference.”

• The BNP Paribas Open—the first big local-event casualty due to the pandemic, as our Kevin Fitzgerald covered back whenwill not be happening in March 2021, either. ESPN explains: “‘The tournament is proactively working with the ATP and WTA Tours as well as title sponsor BNP Paribas to confirm dates later in the year to hold the event,’ the tournament said in a news release. ‘Details will be released in the near future as plans are finalized.'”

Joe Biden yesterday released his plan for dealing with the pandemic during his first 100 days. As MedPage Today explains, he wants to get 50 million people vaccinated in that time—and “Biden said he’ll invoke the Defense Production Act to compel faster production of vaccine materials and personal protective equipment. He’ll also request all people in the U.S. to wear a mask during his first 100 days, and will order mask wearing for all federal workers in government buildings and during interstate travel. Biden will also prioritize school openings.”

• Related: Vaccinations in the U.S. are going much more slowly than anticipated. CNN explains: “In the U.S., there’s a significant difference between the number of vaccines that have been distributed to various locations and the number of shots that have actually gone into arms. According to the CDC, 12,409,050 doses have been distributed, and 2,589,125 vaccinations have been administered between December 14 and December 30 at 9 a.m. ‘Clearly, we need to get better at this,’ Dr. Paul Offit, an advisor to the US Food and Drug Administration on vaccine, told CNN’s Bianna Golodryga Wednesday.”

• Also from CNN: Dr. Anthony Fauci has been criticized by some—including Sen. Marco Rubio—for “moving the goalposts” regarding what it will take for the U.S. to reach herd immunity. Their fact-checkers break down who and what is correct.

• Good news: Those $600 stimulus payments are already starting to show up in some people’s accounts. Bad news: Sen. Mitch McConnell doesn’t seem to want to increase payments to $2,000, as the president has demanded. According to The Washington Post: “’The Senate is not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democrats’ rich friends who don’t need the help,'” McConnell said on the Senate floor.” Huh?

• MedPage Today ponders this question: “Should Docs’ Spouses Be Higher Up on COVID Vaccine Priority List?” Key quote: Denny Amundson, DO, a 70-year-old pulmonary intensivist in California, thinks spouses probably should be moved up the priority list—and the sad ordeal he and his wife have endured makes his case. … (Amudson got sick, followed by his wife. She) was so sick, she spent 27 days at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest, 11 of them in the intensive care unit, with complications of severe COVID pneumonia.”

• The Los Angeles Times looked at complaints by Instacart shoppers that the company is being a bit too trusting of unscrupulous customers. Key quote: “Instacart’s order-allocation system takes the ‘customer is always right’ mantra to new extremes, some of its professional shoppers say. The grocery delivery company presents its workforce of independent contractors with orders based in part on their in-app ratings: Those with higher scores get first pick, often leaving behind fewer and less lucrative batches for everyone else. Interviews with more than 10 shoppers and receipts reviewed by The Times show a sharp decline in earnings for shoppers whose ratings drop just slightly below 4.95 out of 5 stars. Often, shoppers said, the negative reviews were beyond workers’ control.”

• Maybe this is something to be optimistic about: The governor wants to dedicate $2 billion to help schools reopen for in-person learning, with a phased-in approach starting in February. Our partners at CalMatters explain: “Newsom’s January budget will call for providing a one-time payment of $450 per student to school districts that offer in-person instruction to help cover their extra costs related to the virus. The phased-in approach would prioritize the state’s youngest learners, kindergarten to sixth grade, beginning in February, Newsom said. Distance learning will remain an option for families, he said.”

• Whoops. Per NPR: “Saddled with delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic and last-minute changes by the Trump administration, the first set of 2020 census results will not be ready for release by Thursday’s year-end deadline for numbers that determine representation in Congress and the Electoral College for the next decade.”.

• Sigh. The Fleming’s in Rancho Mirage has announced that its doors are closed for good.

• The alarming local COVID numbers have led the city of Palm Springs to tighten things up: “Due to rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Riverside County, the lobby at City Hall has been temporarily closed to the public and contactless pick-up service at the Library has been suspended.” Read the news release here, if you’d like.

• And there will be no new jury trials in the county through at least Jan. 29.

• Finally … my original plan was to write today’s Daily Digest intro about my friend Tiffany Shackelford, who passed away on Dec. 27 due to COVID-19 complications. I got to know her during her tenure as the executive director of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia from 2010-2016. I still may write something about Tiffany—there’s a story about a limo ride to a porn convention that needs to be told at some point—but, frankly, I just don’t have it in me to write it now. I am too heartbroken. Instead, for now, I’ll share this lovely remembrance the folks at the Society for News Design put together. All of us at the Independent send our love to her husband, Aaron, and her son, Sam. Forgive my language, but I don’t know how else to say it: Fuck COVID, and fuck 2020. The Manhattans are on me on the other side, Tiffany.

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The Daily Digest will take Friday off—barring any major news, of course—and return on Monday, Jan. 4. Happy (we really hope) New Year, everyone.

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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...