Indy Digest: May 16, 2022
When it comes time to look back on the current decade, what will the top news stories have been?
Climate change, certainly. The Trumpization of the Republican Party/the big lie about election integrity? It’ll be up there. The pandemic? Most definitely.
Within the overarching topic of the pandemic, however, I think there may very well be a huge story—a positive one—that will, on its own, make many Top 10 lists at the end of the 2020s: the near-miraculous effectiveness of the vaccines and other treatments in the battle against SARS-CoV-2.
I was pondering this as I perused the latest Palm Springs wastewater testing results for SARS-CoV-2 levels. Testing done on May 9 and 10 showed that while there’s still a LOT of the virus out there, the latest COVID-19 wave may have crested. As the report says: “The average number of copies recorded at the city’s wastewater treatment plant has decrease(d). The average of 893,852 copies (per liter) from the previous week’s average has dropped to an average of 657,747 copies/L for May 9 and 10, 2022.”
I say “may have” crested, because previous waves have included some brief decreases that were just temporary. So, take these numbers with a figurative grain of salt.
What strikes me is how bad, according to these wastewater-testing numbers, this wave has truly been: The only periods in which there was more COVID-19 found in wastewater samples were during the awful, deadly December 2020-January 2021 wave, which overwhelmed hospitals; and the December 2021-January 2022 omicron wave, during which case-count records were obliterated.
A lot of people have been sick with COVID-19 in recent weeks, and a lot remain sick. I started doing a mental tally of friends, colleagues and acquaintances who have had COVID-19 over the last month or so, and I lost count.
Yet … the hospitalization numbers remain low. As of yesterday, 19 people, total, were in our three local hospitals with COVID-19. Compared to previous waves, that number is tiny. (It’s very possible this number will increase in the next week or two, as hospitalizations lag behind cases, which lag behind wastewater testing.)
Why? Partially, it may be because the current dominant variants, while incredibly contagious, aren’t as deadly as previous editions of SARS-CoV-2. The immunity from the insane O.G. omicron wave is playing a part, too.
But the biggest factor may very well vaccines. All of the people I know who’ve had COVID-19 in recent months were vaccinated, and most of those people were boosted. None of them were hospitalized, and most of them were only mildly sick.
These vaccines were based on a version of COVID-19 which is no longer really circulating—updated vaccines are likely on the way—yet these shots have saved, and continue to save, millions upon millions of lives. The fact that these vaccines were developed and deployed in about a year is amazing.
In fact, it’s pretty much a miracle. Science works—and we all owe our thanks to the people responsible. Without them, life would be unbearably worse right now.
From the Independent
Civic Solutions: A Long-Awaited Park Being Built in Mecca Is a Significant Step Toward Equity
By Melissa Daniels
May 14, 2022
The Mecca Regional Sports Park is being built after nearly 20 years of planning, money-wrangling, politicking and government navigating.
The Power of Music: La Luz Pushes Through the Pandemic and Cancer to Share New Music
By Matt King
May 16, 2022
La Luz is finally getting to fully tour in support of the band’s self-titled 2021 release, after a tour was cut short by both the omicron surge and personal health reasons.
Caesar Cervisia: Some Brain Droppings on the Current Craft-Beer Landscape
By Brett Newton
May 15, 2022
Our resident beer scribe has thoughts on various news from the craft-beer world.
Easter Sundays: An Excerpt From Alden Reimonenq’s Novel ‘The Upside-Down Tree’
May 16, 2022
An excerpt from the book The Upside-Down Tree, by Palm Springs author Alden Reimonenq.
An Incredible Comeback: The New ‘Kids in the Hall’ Season Is Among the Troupe’s Best Work
By Bob Grimm
May 16, 2022
This is atomically (and anatomically) funny stuff, with each member of Kids in the Hall at the top of their games.
Flamed Out: The New ‘Firestarter’ Features Some of the Year’s Worst Acting and Dialogue
By Bob Grimm
May 16, 2022
Nothing flows in Firestarter, which basically has two or three set pieces stitched together with a clumsy narrative.
• The beliefs of the suspected shooter who killed 10 and wounded three others in Buffalo, N.Y., on Saturday have a lot in common with a certain Fox News host—although there’s no evidence the suspect watched the top-rated Fox News show. NBC News reports: “Fox News personality Tucker Carlson is facing intense scrutiny from extremism experts, media watchdogs and progressive activists who say there is a link between the top-rated host’s ‘great replacement’ rhetoric and the apparent mindset of the suspect in the weekend’s deadly rampage in Buffalo, New York. The white suspect accused of killing 10 people and wounding three others Saturday at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood apparently wrote a ‘manifesto’ espousing the white supremacist ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory—elements of which Carlson has pushed on his weeknight show. The theory baselessly holds that a cabal of Jewish people and Democratic elites are plotting to ‘replace’ white Americans with people of color through immigration policies, higher birth rates and other social transformations. The idea circulated on the far-right fringes before moving to the mainstream of conservative media.”
• Closer to home, the person killed in a mass shooting on Sunday at a Laguna Hills church—the shooter was “apparently motivated by political hatred directed at the Taiwanese community“—is being hailed as a hero. The Los Angeles Times reports: “The churchgoer killed when a gunman opened fire at a Laguna Woods church Sunday was a sports medicine doctor and master of martial arts who was slain while trying to stop the shooting, authorities said Monday. Orange County sheriff’s officials said that when the suspect began shooting, Dr. John Cheng put himself in the line of fire and tried to prevent others from being shot. According to the visiting pastor, Cheng, 52, of Laguna Niguel, was not a regular at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which met Sundays at the Geneva Presbyterian Church, but had brought his mother to a special event honoring the former longtime pastor. ‘Dr. Cheng is a hero in this incident, based on statements from the witnesses and corroborated by other means. It is known that Dr. Cheng charged the individual—the suspect—(and) attempted to disarm him, which allowed other parishioners to then intercede,’ Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said at a news conference.”
• This just in, as we were about to hit “send,” from the city of Palm Springs: “The statue of former mayor of Palm Springs Frank Bogert is scheduled to be removed from its location in front of City Hall, 3200 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. The Art Collective, a Palm Desert-based fine art services company, will remove and transport the statue for storage at the City Yard.” The release goes on to say the city is happy to work with the Friends of Mayor Frank Bogert—the group which fought the city’s efforts to remove the statue from its spot in front of City Hall—to a non-city location. Read more about the hubbub here.
• One of the most respected peer-reviewed medical journals has editorialized against the possible overturn of Roe v. Wade. A snippet from the mince-no-words editorial in The Lancet: “The fact is that if the US Supreme Court confirms its draft decision, women will die. The justices who vote to strike down Roe will not succeed in ending abortion; they will only succeed in ending safe abortion. Alito and his supporters will have women’s blood on their hands.”
• We’ve talked about the massive pandemic-era unemployment fraud in California, but the problem is not limited to the Golden State. The Washington Post reports: “The exact scope of the fraud targeting federal aid initiatives is unknown, even two years later. With unemployment benefits, however, the theft could be significant. Testifying at a little-noticed congressional hearing this spring, a top watchdog for the Labor Department estimated there could have been ‘at least’ $163 billion in unemployment-related ‘overpayments,’ a projection that includes wrongly paid sums as well as ‘significant’ benefits obtained by malicious actors. So far, the United States has recaptured just over $4 billion of that, according to state workforce data furnished by the Labor Department this March. That amounts to roughly 2.4 percent of the wrongful payments, if the government’s best estimate is accurate, raising the specter that Washington may never get most of the money back.”
• Our partners at CalMatters report on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plans for the state’s whopping budget surplus: “Speaking for more than two hours in a press conference in Sacramento, Newsom unveiled his latest record spending proposal for the coming fiscal year. Riding a superheating economy and drawing disproportionately from the state’s highest earners, the state is now projected to have a surplus bigger than California—or any state—has ever had, and significantly more than the $76 billion that the governor predicted in January. Roughly half of the surplus is required by law to be spent on education. That leaves ‘only’ roughly $49 billion in discretionary money, and the governor wants to reserve 99% of that for one-time spending: $18.1 billion to provide financial relief for Californians buffeted by inflation, plus $37 billion for infrastructure investments, including $5.6 billion for education facility upgrades, and an extra $2.3 billion for the ongoing fight against COVID-19.”
• And finally … the good folks involved with Leadership Coachella Valley this month are trying to raise funds and collect much-needed items for the Galilee Center, whose mission is “to fulfill the needs of the underprivileged and disadvantaged by providing food, clothing, and other basic needs and affirm their dignity with love, compassion and respect.” According to a news release, people can help in one of two ways: 1) They can go to https://galileecenter.org/give/ or they can drop off new, unopened baby items at one of seven locations: Visit Greater Palm Springs (70100 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage); the Desert Sands Unified School District office in La Quinta; Destiny Church East (80250 Highway 111, Indio); Destiny Church West (at the Mary Pickford Theater Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.); the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells; KESQ (31276 Dunham Way, Thousand Palms); and JadaBug’s Kids Boutique (78377 Highway 111, La Quinta). There are good people doing great things in this world.
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