Daily Digest: March 31, 2021
Happy Wednesday, all.
It’s March 31, which means several things: 1) It’s Cesar Chavez Day, a state holiday (something we explored in the last Daily Digest); 2) it’s Trans Day of Visibility, something that was noted, for the first time by a president today; and 3) tomorrow is April 1, aka April Fools’ Day.
As for that last thing: Consider yourself warned, and be on the lookout tomorrow for tricks and jokes on the World Wide Web and whatnot..
There was a time when I was one of those tricksters. At a paper I worked at previously, we’d bring out a pseudonym—the name was an anagram of “April Fools”—every so often on April 1 to write a joke story. The piece would start off somewhat believably, and then get crazier and wackier as it went, before ending with some blatant reference to April Fools’ Day. One year, the local head of a political party got so angry halfway through one of those particular pieces—about a beloved local landmark being town down to make way for a development named “Gringo Nuevo”—that he stopped reading to send me an impassioned letter to the editor denouncing the proposed project.
About 10 minutes later, when he realized the story was just a ruse, he sent a sheepish retraction.
Anyway, that happened more than a decade ago. I recently asked myself if I’d consider such an April Fools’ prank today. Well … after the last couple of years we’ve lived through—when the crazy and unimaginable has so often become reality—heavens no, I would not.
As an illustration, I have four words for you: Four Seasons Total Landscaping.
Parody may not be dead. But it’s definitely hurtin’.
From the Independent
Know Your Neighbors: Meet Erin Teran, a Nurse, Mother, Political Activist and COVID-19 Survivor
By Anita Rufus
March 31, 2021
Erin Teran, who ran unsuccessfully for the Indio City Council last year, says she will always remain involved.
April Astronomy: The Month Brings the Start of Ramadan—and a Lot of Bright Stars in the Western Half of the Sky
By Robert Victor
March 30, 2021
A look at what to expect in the nighttime skies in April 2021.
And Now, the News
• Well, this is not good at all. As explained by The New York Times: “Workers at a Baltimore plant manufacturing two coronavirus vaccines accidentally conflated the vaccines’ ingredients several weeks ago, ruining about 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine and forcing regulators to delay authorization of the plant’s production lines. The plant is run by Emergent BioSolutions, a manufacturing partner to both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. Federal officials attributed the mistake to human error. The mixup has halted future shipments of Johnson & Johnson doses in the United States while the Food and Drug Administration investigates. Johnson & Johnson has moved to strengthen its control over Emergent BioSolutions’ work to avoid further quality lapses.”
• Now here’s some much-better vaccine news: “Pfizer said Wednesday its COVID-19 vaccine was 100 percent effective in a study of adolescents ages 12 to 15, encouraging results that could clear the shots for use in middle school students before school starts this fall,” CNBC says.
• Here’s the latest Riverside County District 4 weekly COVID-19 report. (District 4 = the Coachella Valley and rural points eastward.) By far, this is the least-bad report I’ve seen: Zero (!) COVID-19 patients in the ICU as of March 28 is fantastic, and a 2.3 percent weekly positivity rate is another new local low. Alas, one person died of COVID-19 during the week ending March 28, and the total number in the district is nearing 1,000—an unimaginable tragedy.
• If the county’s numbers continue to improve—or at least don’t get any worse—we could move into the next less-restrictive COVID-19 tier, as early as next week. The Press-Enterprise explains: “The county’s coronavirus numbers aren’t quite low enough to meet the current requirements to move from the red tier to the orange tier. The number of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people is 4.1, but the state requires that number to be under 4.0. However, the orange tier case threshold can be lowered once 4 million vaccine doses are administered in disadvantaged communities, making it easier for Riverside County to advance from the red tier, county Director of Public Health Kim Saruwatari said during the Tuesday, March 30, Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting.”
• Related: The county reached a significant milestone today. According to the press release: “Today Riverside County reached an important milestone in its mission to provide COVID-19 vaccines to most Riverside County residents and workers, with more than one million vaccines administered. Shirlley Ann Gruenke, a 65-year-old resident of Cherry Valley, represented the millionth dose with cheers and fanfare from the nurses and staff at the Albert A. Chatigny Senior Community Center in Beaumont.” (She’s pictured in the photo on the home page.)
• The city of Palm Springs has extended its moratorium on commercial evictions—but only through April 28. You can peruse the news release here. If COVID-19 numbers don’t backslide locally over the next few weeks, the City Council will have a very interesting decision on its hands.
• Sigh. According to The Associated Press: “The Biden administration for the first time Tuesday allowed journalists inside its main border detention facility for migrant children, revealing a severely overcrowded tent structure where more than 4,000 people, including children and families, were crammed into a space intended for 250 and the youngest were kept in a large play pen with mats on the floor for sleeping. With thousands of children and families arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent weeks and packing facilities, President Joe Biden has been under pressure to bring more transparency to the process. U.S. Customs and Border Protection allowed two journalists from The Associated Press and a crew from CBS to tour the facility in Donna, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, the nation’s busiest corridor for illegal crossings.” We have to do better than this as a country. Don’t we?
• COVID-19 continues to surge in much of Europe—and as a result, France is entering another lockdown. BBC News says: “French schools will close for at least three weeks as part of new national restrictions to fight rising COVID cases, President Emmanuel Macron says. Mr Macron said that schools would move to remote learning from next week. Lockdown measures, introduced in some areas of France earlier this month, are also being extended to other districts. All non-essential shops are to close from Saturday and there will be a ban on travelling more than 10km (six miles) from home without good reason.”
• From the “We Kinda Knew This Already, but It’s Still Depressing” file: COVID-19 was the No. 3 cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, coming in behind heart disease and cancer—but ahead of accidental deaths (and, well, everything else). Per NPR: “A pair of reports published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report sheds new light on the approximately 375,000 U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19 last year, and highlights the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color—a point CDC Director Rochelle Walensky emphasized at a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing on Wednesday. She said deaths related to COVID-19 were higher among American Indian and Alaskan Native persons, Hispanics, Blacks and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander persons than whites.”
• And now from the “We Kinda Knew This Already, but It’s Still Infuriating” file, comes this tidbit, compliments of the Los Angeles Times: “Skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine has fallen steadily in California as inoculations increase. But resistance still remains particularly high among one group: Republicans. In a poll released late Tuesday by the Public Policy Institute of California, 26% of registered Republicans said they will definitely not get vaccinated, and 13% said they probably won’t be. The 39% hesitancy rate is the highest of any group surveyed.”
• Well, this is a concerning lede. According to CNBC: “The double mutation of a COVID-19 variant discovered in India is of grave concern—and could spread to other countries, according to Dr. Kavita Patel, a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution. India’s health ministry said last week that a variant with two mutations—known as E484Q and L452R—was found in the country. The mutations are not new, but the variant in India carries both of them—something that has not been seen in other variants. The mutations could make the virus more contagious and better at evading the body’s defenses.”
• Our partners at CalMatters examine the huge number of people who are behind bars and awaiting trial in California—delays that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. (If you click on the link, keep scrolling to get to the story itself; they may have gotten a bit carried away with the graphics.) Key quote: “A CalMatters investigation has revealed that at least 1,300 people have been incarcerated in California’s jails longer than three years without being tried or sentenced. Of those, 332 people have been waiting in jail for longer than five years, according to CalMatters’ analysis. And one man in Fresno County has been jailed awaiting trial in a double-murder case for nearly 12 years—4,269 days since his arrest.”
• President Biden today revealed the details of his $2 trillion infrastructure plan. The Washington Post breaks things down: “Biden’s proposal, the American Jobs Plan, would be paid for, in part, by raising the corporate tax rate and global minimum tax. Many of these measures would reverse the Trump administration’s 2017 tax cuts. … Republicans and prominent business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have already come out against the plan, particularly the proposed tax increases, arguing they would damage U.S. investment and global competitiveness. The White House’s stance is that higher taxes would offset concerns about adding to the federal deficit.”
• Raw Story’s Jordan Green—he was just hired by the online publication to cover white supremacy—has this alarming news to report: “White supremacists on Telegram are organizing a series of simultaneous rallies under the banner of ‘White Lives Matter’ in major American cities scheduled for April 11, with active participation and promotion in some locales by members of the Proud Boys.”
• And finally … if you have not yet read about the stray dog that kept sneaking into a Dollar General in Duplin County, N.C., to steal a stuffed purple unicorn, you really must. Here’s a piece from The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., explaining what happened after the pooch tried to steal the unicorn four or five times: “When the store called, they sent Animal Control Officer Samantha Lane, an 8-year veteran with a soft spot for sad stories, he said. She arrived to find the 1-year-old dog still standing in the parking lot, as if waiting for a chance to get back inside. So she went in and bought the unicorn for him. Lane put it in the front seat of the truck, and the dog came along willingly.”
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