Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: July 11, 2022

On Friday evening, the city of Palm Springs posted, earlier than normal, the latest test results for the amount of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater.

The results are not good. Per the report: “The average of 834,210 (viral copies per liter) from the previous week’s average has jumped significantly to an average of 1,433,093 copies/L for July 4 and 5, 2022.”

Furthermore, more than 84 percent of the virus detected was either of the BA.4 or BA.5 variety—super-duper contagious subvariants that are really good at evading immunity.

We may very well be on our way toward the second-worst spike, in terms of illness, since the pandemic began—worse than even the 2020-2021 winter spike that overwhelmed hospitals (before vaccines were readily available).

In the coming weeks, a lot of your friends and loved ones will likely get sick—and you may, too. You’ll probably see some event postponements and temporary business closures as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks.

As The Washington Post so eloquently put it yesterday:

America has decided the pandemic is over. The coronavirus has other ideas.

The latest omicron offshoot, BA.5, has quickly become dominant in the United States, and thanks to its elusiveness when encountering the human immune system, is driving a wave of cases across the country.

The size of that wave is unclear because most people are testing at home or not testing at all. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the past week has reported a little more than 100,000 new cases a day on average. But infectious-disease experts know that wildly underestimates the true number, which may be as many as a million, said Eric Topol, a professor at Scripps Research who closely tracks pandemic trends.

Antibodies from vaccines and previous coronavirus infections offer limited protection against BA.5, leading Topol to call it “the worst version of the virus that we’ve seen.”

I’ve said it before, and I am depressingly sure I’ll say it again: I am really damned tired of writing about COVID in this space … but, alas, it’s our job to report the facts. And the fact is the pandemic is still very real, and very dangerous—not as dangerous as it was, say, 19 months ago, but dangerous nonetheless. More than 37,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 right now. Long COVID is a huge concern.

Oh, hey, and did you hear about the latest concerning variant that scientists are watching?

To paraphrase The Washington Post, with a slight modification: The Coachella Valley has decided the pandemic is over. But the coronavirus has other ideas.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Ho-Hum Hammer Time: ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ Mixes Serious Shortfalls With Decent Action and Lots of Laughs

By Bob Grimm

July 11th, 2022

Taika Waititi returns to direct after his masterful Thor: Ragnarök to deliver a chapter that remains zany while aspiring toward a little more gravitas.

CV History: Helen Hunt Jackson, Advocate for American Indians and Author of ‘Ramona,’ Proved One Person Can Make a Difference

By Greg Niemann

July 10th, 2022

Helen Hunt Jackson got involved in American Indian rights after hearing Ponca Indian Chief Standing Bear in 1879 describe to a Boston audience his tribe’s forced removal from their Nebraska reservation.

Content Shifter: Seven Artificial-Intelligence Series to Stream

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Here are seven AI TV series that don’t offer easy solutions to The Human Problem—but you’ll at least be distracted from your meat-sack self while streaming them.

More News

Place this one in both the “yet more gun violence” and “WTF?” files. The Associated Press reports: “Two people were killed and three wounded in shootings before dawn Monday at four 7-Eleven stores in Southern California and authorities said they were seeking a lone gunman in at least three of the shootings. The shootings appear to have occurred after robberies or attempted robberies at the four convenience stores on July 11, or 7/11—a day when the national 7-Eleven brand is celebrating its 95th birthday by giving out free Slurpee drinks. ‘Our hearts are with the victims and their loved ones,’ 7-Eleven, Inc. said in a statement. ‘We are gathering information on this terrible tragedy and working with local law enforcement.’ It wasn’t immediately clear to investigators what prompted the shootings in the cities of Riverside, Santa Ana, Brea and La Habra, or why the violence occurred July 11.”

Related: Our partners at CalMatters take a look at some recently passed California gun laws … and the court challenges they’re facing: “This week, Gov. Gavin Newsom is poised to sign a bill on his desk that would create a ‘standard of conduct’ for the gun industry—and permit California residents, the state attorney general and local governments to sue noncompliant manufacturers, retailers and distributors. Once signed, it’s almost certain to be hit with legal challenges. On Friday, guns rights groups sued to block a California law banning firearm companies from advertising certain weapons to minors—which Newsom had signed just the week before. Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle & Pistol Association, a plaintiff in the suit, told the Orange County Register: ‘This law is a clear First Amendment violation of speech and assembly. … It’s really an attempt to wipe out the next generation of hunters and shooters. Politicians in Sacramento are not even trying to hide their disdain for the “gun culture,” which they neither understand nor support. They want to wipe it out.’ Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office told Reuters it plans to ‘take any and all action under the law to defend California’s commonsense gun laws.’”

• The (figurative) circus may be coming to Palm Springs City Hall Wednesday morning. From a news release: “The city of Palm Springs will move forward with the removal of the statue of former Mayor Frank Bogert at City Hall following a recent ruling by a Riverside County Superior Court judge denying a preliminary injunction filed on behalf of the Friends of Mayor Frank Bogert. Palm Desert-based Art Collective Fine Art Services has been hired to oversee the removal process and transport the statue to the City maintenance facility to be safely stored until a new location for the statue is found. … Art Collective’s crew will begin the statue removal process at 7 a.m. on Wednesday, July 13, in front of City Hall.” The last time the city made such an attempt, a protester stopped things. So Wednesday morning could be quite interesting.

The state of California is going to be producing its own insulin. CBS News explains: “California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Thursday that he approved a budget that allocates $100 million for the state to create its own insulin, a response to extremely high prices for the life-saving medication that have made it inaccessible to some people with diabetes. ‘Nothing epitomizes market failures more than the cost of insulin,’ Newsom said in a tweeted video. ‘Many Americans experience out-of-pocket costs anywhere from $300 to $500 per month for this life-saving drug. California is now taking matters into our own hands.’ Newsom said $50 million will go to the development of low-cost insulin products, while the other $50 million will be used to create a California-based insulin manufacturing facility. He did not specify a time frame for the product or say exactly how much it would cost, though he noted that the state plans to make it ‘at a cheaper price, close to at-cost, and to make it available to all.’”

• If you or someone you know may be eligible for rental assistance … you’re running out of time to act. From a Lift to Rise news release: “The United Lift Rental Assistance program will be sunsetting its online application portal on July 29. United Lift has been a collaborative effort, over the past two years, between Riverside County, Inland SoCal United Way and Lift To Rise, to support Riverside County families and residents financially impacted by COVID-19 through direct rental and utility assistance. By the end of 2022 the program will have disbursed more than $250 million countywide and helped 25,000 households—representing 100,000 local residents—stay in their homes, making it one of the most effective rental assistance efforts in the country. … Riverside County residents are still able to apply through the Unitedlift.org online application before July 29. Rental assistance funds, provided by various federal and local sources, will still be disbursed through the end of the 2022, while funding lasts. … United Lift will re-launch as a collaborative eviction protection effort targeting reducing evictions and keeping neighbors housed in the fall of 2022.”

ProPublica examines how some right-wing organizations are escaping financial disclosures: They’re becoming churches: “The Family Research Council’s multimillion-dollar headquarters sit on G Street in Washington, D.C., just steps from the U.S. Capitol and the White House, a spot ideally situated for its work as a right-wing policy think tank and political pressure group. From its perch at the heart of the nation’s capital, the FRC has pushed for legislation banning gender-affirming surgery; filed amicus briefs supporting the overturning of Roe v. Wade; and advocated for religious exemptions to civil rights laws. Its longtime head, a former state lawmaker and ordained minister named Tony Perkins, claims credit for pushing the Republican platform rightward over the past two decades. … In the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service, though, it is also a church, with Perkins as its religious leader. … The FRC is one of a growing list of activist groups to seek church status, a designation that comes with the ability for an organization to shield itself from financial scrutiny. Once the IRS blessed it as an association of churches, the FRC was no longer required to file a public tax return, known as a Form 990.”

• And finally … the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope are being released today and tomorrow. Stay tuned for what is likely to be some amazing stuff!

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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...