Indy Digest: Feb. 14, 2022
California’s indoor mask mandate is expiring tomorrow. Isn’t that wonderful?
Yes. Well, I think it is. I just hope it’s not happening too soon.
Too soon? Why would you say it’s happening too soon?
Well, there are signs that the decreasing COVID-19 numbers are leveling off, or maybe worse, in some places.
“Leveling off, or maybe worse, in some places”? Yikes. What does that mean?
Well, first off, the latest Palm Springs wastewater test results are out, and the numbers are mixed. The results from samples taken last Monday, Feb. 7, showed the lowest levels of SARS-CoV-2 in the wastewater since early December (324,021 viral copies per liter). But the results from samples taken last Monday, Feb. 8, were not good: They indicated 1,592,108 viral copies per liter—numbers comparable to where we were in mid-January.
Yikes. What does this mean?
That’s unclear. As the report says: “This could be an outlier data point; however we will watch the data trends closely.” It’s also possible the lab made an error, which has happened before. We’ll know more this time next week (unless the lab made an error, in which case we may know sooner.)
OK, so there’s no cause for alarm. That’s good.
Uh, so, what’s going on in the Bay Area?
To quote from the story: “The Bay Area is averaging 86 new cases a day per 100,000 residents, compared to 57 cases a day last Monday—marking the first time the number has ticked up at the start of the week since early January. Statewide, the average is hovering around 65 daily cases per 100,000 residents, down slightly from 71 last week. The state’s health department said data reporting issues—including a lab report that cleared out a backlog of approximately 27,000 newly confirmed infections across California—may be causing some variation in the numbers. But hospitalizations and deaths, which were not affected by the glitch, are also leveling out.” There’s certainly no cause for alarm here, but it’s worth watching.
Damn it. I so want this to be over.
Yeah, me, too. These stats may just be temporary bumps in the figurative road, and all the numbers may start going down again. But then again, they may not. We’ll see soon. In any case, I’ll personally be masking up when I’m indoors in a public place for at least another week or two—even though it won’t be required after tomorrow.
From the Independent
By Brett Newton
February 14, 2022
I’m a beer expert who just started a job as a bartender at a busy restaurant—so I reached out to the Independent’s resident cocktail scribe for advice.
By Bob Grimm
February 14, 2022
The visuals in Death on the Nile are awesome, and director Kenneth Branagh’s use of period jazz and blues earns an A+ rating for set design and art direction. Alas, the mystery at the center is way too predictable.
The Lucky 13: Aiden Schaeffer, Vocalist and Frontman of Pescaterritory, Releasing “Dream Inside a Dream” Music Video on Feb. 25
By Matt King
February 14, 2022
Get to better know Aiden Schaeffer, the frontman of Pescaterritory.
• Children under the age of 5 won’t be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine for at least a couple more months after all. As CNN explains: “The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee was scheduled to meet February 15. … But the FDA announced Friday that it had postponed the meeting because ‘new data have recently emerged.’ The data supported the safety of the vaccines but showed disappointing effectiveness, the Washington Post reported Friday. The agency needs to see data from an ongoing trial of a third vaccine dose in these younger children in order to move forward with emergency use authorization, Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said during a news briefing. Pfizer and BioNTech said Friday that they expect to have data on three doses available in early April.”
• Masks in California’s schools are here to stay for at least two more weeks. The Sacramento Bee says: “Millions of Californians will remove their masks this week when the state’s universal mandate ends this week. Teachers and students, however, will not be among them. Despite a drastic drop in COVID-19 cases over the last month and pressure from parents and Republicans, California officials will not lift the universal mask mandate in schools. California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly on Monday said cases have dropped by more than 75% since mid-January, but the state is not yet ready to make masks optional in schools. Ghaly said the department will reassess in two weeks, on Feb. 28, to consider if it’s time to move from a mask requirement to a mask recommendation.”
• Congrats! (Not really!) You’re living through the worst mega-drought here in more than a millennium. (Really!) The Associated Press reports: “The American West’s megadrought deepened so much last year that it is now the driest in at least 1,200 years and is a worst-case climate change scenario playing out live, a new study finds. A dramatic drying in 2021—about as dry as 2002 and one of the driest years ever recorded for the region—pushed the 22-year drought past the previous record-holder for megadroughts in the late 1500s and shows no signs of easing in the near future, according to a study Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. The study calculated that 42% of this megadrought can be attributed to human-caused climate change.”
• If you like avocados, sit down, because we have some bad news. From The AP, via SFGate: “Mexico has acknowledged that the U.S. government has suspended all imports of Mexican avocados after a U.S. plant safety inspector in Mexico received a threat. … Avocado exports are the latest victim of the drug cartel turf battles and extortion of avocado growers in the western state of Michoacan, the only state in Mexico fully authorized to export to the U.S. market. The U.S. government suspended all imports of Mexican avocados ‘until further notice’ after a U.S. plant safety inspector in Mexico received a threatening message, Mexico’s Agriculture Department said in a statement.”
• If you somehow missed the bonkers news out of last Thursday’s Palm Springs City Council meeting, check out the story from our friends at the Palm Springs Post. It all started when Councilmember Dennis Woods called for an investigation of the Measure J Oversight Commission … which just so happens to be chaired by Jeffrey Bernstein, who has announced he intends to run for the council seat currently held by Woods. A taste: “At issue for Woods is the method by which the Commission chooses to allocate those funds—projected to be as much as $3 million this year—and specifically the involvement of Bernstein, the owner of a downtown retail business who is also active in several organizations which Woods claimed could benefit from the funds. … Bernstein said there was no merit to Woods’ claims. ‘Measure J is strictly an advisory commission,’ he said. ‘We have no financial authority. We have actually not allocated almost all of the 2021-2022 budget. I personally have been advocating that we speak with City Council for some time due to COVID. That has been difficult to schedule and there have been many other priorities.’”
• The state’s insurance program for low-income Californians is undergoing a potentially significant change. Our partners at CalMatters report: “Medi-Cal offers medical insurance to low-income Californians, serving as a lifeline for nearly half of the state’s children, one in five adults and 2 million seniors and people with disabilities. But the program is inefficient: More than half of Medi-Cal’s roughly $133 billion annual budget is spent on just 5% of the program’s highest-needs individuals—people with multiple complex health problems compounded by homelessness, poverty, substance abuse, mental illness or incarceration, according the Department of Health Care Services. Over the next five years, the goal of CalAIM is to address the upstream drivers of deteriorating health—things like food insecurity and housing instability—in an effort to reduce costly emergency department visits, hospitalizations and nursing home stays. The program redesign is based on ‘whole person care’ principles, which help people avoid situations that worsen their physical and mental health.”
• And finally … you know that saying. “No good deed goes unpunished”? Well, ProPublica just published a piece regarding an incident that takes this saying to the extreme, involving a man named Elliot Malin, who volunteered to give a kidney to his cousin, Scott Kline: “Living organ donors are never supposed to receive a bill for care related to a transplant surgery. The recipient’s insurance covers all of those costs. This rule is key to a system built on encouraging such a selfless act. And for most uninsured patients in end-stage kidney failure, Medicare would pick up the tab. But in Malin’s case, he would end up facing a $13,000 billing mistake and the threat of having his bill sent to collections.”
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