Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: Feb. 21, 2022

On this Presidents Day of 2022, I am going to mostly ignore the big, scary international news of the day—and instead make an observation.

Every Monday, I dutifully head to the city of Palm Springs website to check the latest wastewater treatment plant COVID-19 test reports. The reports for testing done on Monday and Tuesday are usually posted on the following Monday—and I am especially curious about the reports for testing done on Feb. 14 and 15, seeing as the report from Feb. 8 showed a surprising increase in virus levels, following weeks of declines.

Was that Feb. 8 report a statistical outlier or a mistake—or was it a harbinger of bad news? I suspect it was the former, but given the trickiness of this damned virus (more on that down below), it’s possible it was the latter.

Anyway, when I went to check for the Feb. 14-15 results today … they weren’t posted. Then I remembered: It’s Presidents Day. City and other government offices are closed.

Now for that observation, posed as a question: SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t take holidays and weekends off … so why do government agencies who report on COVID-19 take them off?

Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s an unfair comparison, and at this point in the pandemic, it’s not a huge deal if the people responsible for posting stats take weekends and holidays off. The world won’t end because my curiosity is satisfied on a Tuesday instead of a Monday.

However, this has gone on throughout the pandemic. It’s always bemused me that the county takes weekends off from reporting daily COVID-19 stats … but again, stats can probably wait a day, or two, or—in the case of a holiday weekend—three. But the same sort of thing was happening at some county- and state-run testing facilities and vaccination clinics at times back when testing and vaccines were very much in demand. These potentially life-saving tools were more accessible on weekdays than weekends.

Because y’know, government.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Play Ball! A Nonprofit Partners With Palm Springs Unified to Bring Back Middle School Sports

By Kevin Fitzgerald

February 21, 2022

Beginning the first week of March, any middle school student in the Palm Springs Unified School District can participate in an inaugural afterschool basketball program—for free.

Restaurant News Bites: The Mysterious Case of Luchows; the PD Food and Wine Fest Returns; and More!

By Charles Drabkin

February 18, 2022

The latest restaurant news, including a possible new owner of the now-shuttered Luchow’s restaurant; a well-known Portland “Mexican sports bar” gets set to open a place in Palm Springs; and more!

People, Penguins and Parenthood: Desert Ensemble’s Production of ‘Salty’ Is a Bold Choice That’s Well-Executed

By Bonnie Gilgallon

February 19, 2022

Aj Clauss’ Salty, being produced by Desert Ensemble Theatre, is set in the future, at one of the last conservation zoos on the planet. Most of the actors play both a zoo employee and a penguin—with great aplomb across the board.

Split Memories: AppleTV+’s ‘Severance’ Masterfully Takes Work-Life Separation to the Extreme

By Bob Grimm

February 21, 2022

In this dystopian future of Severance, you can opt to have a brain procedure that completely separates your work-time memories from your real-life recollections.

Bad Reboot: Netflix’s New ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ Is Only Worth a Few Minutes of Your Time

By Bob Grimm

February 21, 2022

This Texas Chainsaw Massacre is actually a very stupid movie, with the dumbest premise offered up by the franchise so far—and this is a franchise full of dumb premises.

More News

• In the category of News You Did Not Want to Hear Today or Ever: An even-more-contagious version of omicron is now making headway in the U.S. NPR reports: “Because BA.2 quickly overtook the original omicron in South Africa and other countries and has even caused a second omicron surge in Denmark, researchers have been bracing for the same thing to happen in the U.S. … So far that hasn’t happened. Instead, BA.2 has slowly, but steadily spread even as the omicron surge continued to dissipate. The fear is that spread may be on track to rapidly accelerate in the near future. BA.2 has now been found from coast to coast and accounts for an estimated 3.9% all new infections nationally, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It appears to be doubling fast.” (And THIS is why I am so interested in those wastewater test results each Monday!)

Politico reports that a record number of people in the U.S. contracted COVID-19 while in the hospital in January. The lede: “More than 3,000 hospitalized patients each week in January had caught COVID sometime during their stay, more than any point of the pandemic, according to U.S. government data analyzed by POLITICO. The record surge demonstrates the virulence of the Omicron variant and how even hospitals, where infection control is paramount, provided little refuge.

• You may not need another COVID-19 booster shot for a while. The New York Times, via SFGate, reports: “Three doses of a COVID vaccine—or even just two—are enough to protect most people from serious illness and death for a long time, the studies suggest. ‘We’re starting to see now diminishing returns on the number of additional doses,’ said John Wherry, director of the Institute for immunology at the University of Pennsylvania. Although people who are over 65 or at high risk of illness may benefit from a fourth vaccine dose, it may be unnecessary for most people, he added. Federal health officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration’s top COVID adviser, have also said that they are unlikely to recommend a fourth dose before the fall.”

• This link is why I said above that I was mostly ignoring the Ukraine mess: The Los Angeles Times offers an explainer showing why angering Vladimir Putin is something Europe wants to avoid: “The tensions show the risk of Europe’s reliance on Russia for energy, which supplies about one-third of the continent’s natural gas. And Europe’s stockpile is already low. Although the U.S. has pledged to help by boosting exports of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, there’s only so much it can produce at once. It leaves Europe in a potential crisis, with its gas already sapped by a cold winter last year, a summer with little renewable energy generation and Russia delivering less than usual. Prices have skyrocketed, squeezing households and businesses.”

• We recently linked in this space to a story about Florida’s god-awful “Don’t say gay” bill. Well, similar bills are being proposed in other states as well. The Hill reports: “There are 15 similar bills moving through state legislatures that restrict how textbooks and curriculums teach LGBTQ+ topics, who can be hired and what teachers are allowed to say when it comes to gender identity and sexual orientation. A House bill in Tennessee would ban textbook and instructional materials that ‘promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) lifestyles’ in K-12 schools. Another, in Kansas, seeks to amend the state’s obscenity law to make using classroom materials depicting ‘homosexuality’ a Class B misdemeanor. Legislators in Indiana are working to bar educators from discussing in any context ‘sexual orientation,’ ‘transgenderism’ or ‘gender identity’ without permission from parents.”

Our partners at CalMatters report that California may make election ballots available in fewer languages this year: “Some advocates are sounding the alarm over Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s decision to reduce the number of languages required in at least some voting precincts from 56 to 20 for the 2022 election. As a result, some local election officials may find it more difficult to get funding to translate ballots and other voting materials for languages beyond what’s required by the federal Voting Rights Act. In a Feb. 11 letter to Weber, four voting advocacy groups expressed concern at what they called ‘the massive rollback of language assistance’ and urged her to use her authority to uphold the expanded options.”

• The folks at Desert Rose Playhouse have yet again had to postpone their next scheduled production due to a positive test result. From the news release: “Despite our best efforts and strict adherence to safety protocols during our rehearsal process for The Drag, another actor in the cast tested positive for COVID yesterday. Ironically, he was a replacement and had only one rehearsal with the original cast on Saturday but then began feeling ill yesterday and received a positive test result. He is doing OK with it so far but because the cast was in rehearsals together only 48 hours ago, we cannot bring everyone back together until all those possibly exposed have fully isolated according to CDC guidelines. … With an opening night scheduled two days from now, postponing the run of The Drag is our only responsible option. We will be pushing The Drag to run alongside Mae West’s other play in our season lineup as a ‘Mae West Double Feature’ running May 25 through June 5. … In place of The Drag dates that we have cancelled over the next two weeks, we will continue the hugely successful run of Electricity.”

• Rents are going up here … they’re going up there … they’re going up everywhere. Time magazine reports: “In the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, median rent rose an astounding 19.3% from December 2020 to December 2021, according to a analysis of properties with two or fewer bedrooms. And nowhere was the jump bigger than in the Miami metro area, where the median rent exploded to $2,850, 49.8% higher than the previous year. Rising rents are an increasing driver of high inflation that has become one of the nation’s top economic problems. Labor Department data, which covers existing rents as well as new listings, shows much smaller increases, but these are also picking up. Rental costs rose 0.5% in January from December, the Labor Department said last week. That may seem small, but it was the biggest increase in 20 years, and will likely accelerate.”

• And finally … in the Feb. 17 Indy Digest, I made a mistake: After saying that a UC Riverside study revealed “the number of days above 85 degrees between November and April (in Palm Springs) is projected to increase by up to 150% by the end of the century,” I commented that those figures meant we could “add on half as many more hot days per year.” Well, several of you wrote in to point out that my math was wrong here. In fact, an increase of up to 150 percent means the number of hot days could increase by two and a half times … which is way worse! I apologize for the error, and I promise I’ll check my math next time!

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Jimmy Boegle

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...