Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: Nov. 1, 2021

I was talking with several friends Saturday morning before the start of the Desert AIDS Walk at Palm Springs’ Ruth Hardy Park. One of those friends is a nurse at a local hospital, and he bemoaned the fact that some people keep referring to the pandemic in the past tense.

“It’s not over,” he said. “I see that every day.”

He’s right, of course. As of yesterday, 41 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the valley’s three hospitals. Eight are in the ICU. Make no mistake: That’s a LOT of people.

We seem to have hit a COVID-19 plateau locally. Local positivity rates, the amount of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater and hospitalizations all seem to be more or less stable—up a little one week, down a bit the next—at levels that most public-health experts would say is higher than it really should be.

So … while my friend is undeniably technically right … is he socially right?

This was on my mind as I read an article in The Washington Post, with the headline “How does a pandemic start winding down? You are looking at it.” A snippet:

The pandemic appears to be winding down in the United States in a thousand subtle ways, but without any singular milestone, or a cymbal-crashing announcement of freedom from the virus.

“It doesn’t end. We just stop caring. Or we care a lot less,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said when asked when the pandemic would be over. “I think for most people, it just fades into the background of their lives.”

That last part of the quote—it just fades into the background of their lives—really hit home. I am vaccinated and boosted, so I am not really concerned that SARS-CoV-2 will kill me. I went to the AIDS Walk the morning after a dinner at a crowded restaurant (albeit outdoors) with a bunch of friends; after the AIDS Walk, I had brunch at another crowded restaurant (indoors this time), and later, I went to see a show with friends (again outdoors). Yesterday, I played softball with yet more friends. If it weren’t for having to wear masks here and there, and needing to show my proof of vaccination a couple of times, my life over the weekend would have seemed just like it did this time two years ago.

Here’s another part of that aforementioned Washington Post article:

“I think it’s becoming slowly part of the furniture,” said Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist at the University of California at Irvine. He is still wearing masks in grocery stores, but no longer does he always don one of the highly protective N95 masks. “I don’t want to wear scuba gear everywhere I go. This is just part of the human environment now.”

That’s also the view of Robert M. Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. Wachter is hardly complacent about the virus. This summer, he took to social media to warn people they needed to renew their vigilance as the delta variant took hold and breakthrough infections became more common.

But he’s vaccinated and boosted now, and making his risk calculations under the assumption that our current environment is roughly as good as it’s going to get. And he doesn’t want to forgo travel and indoor dining the rest of his life.

“My feeling now is that we’re nearing a steady state where things might get a little better or worse, for the next few years. It’s not great, but it is what it is,” Wachter said in an email.

Fades into the background of our lives. Part of the furniture. It is what it is. While it’s indeed not great, the status of the pandemic is a heck of a lot better than it was this time last year, when the big winter spike was just starting.

It is what it is. And for now, I’ll take it.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

A Note From the Editor: The Weird, Bumpy and Amazing Road to Our 100th Print Edition

By Jimmy Boegle

October 29, 2021

We’re not sure how we made it, to be honest, but our November issue—our 100th print edition—is on newsstands now.

The Venue Report, November 2021: Ludacris, Macy Gray, Priscilla Presley—and a Lot More!

By Matt King

October 29, 2021

A look at November’s live-entertainment offerings across the Coachella Valley and high desert.

November Astronomy: Venus, Saturn and Jupiter Shine at Dusk—and a Late-Night Lunar Eclipse Takes Place a Week Before Thanksgiving

By Robert Victor

November 1, 2021

Three planets star in November 2021’s evening skies, while Mercury shines in early November’s mornings.

Inventive, Crazed, Beautiful: Edgar Wright’s ‘Last Night in Soho’ Tries to Do a Lot—and Partially Succeeds

By Bob Grimm

November 1, 2021

Last Night in Soho isn’t quite the sum of all of its wonderful parts—but it’s plenty good enough if you like films that are a little different and bizarre.

The Lucky 13; Jaxon Fischer, Bassist of Fever Dog, Releasing New Album ‘Alpha Waves’ on Nov. 5

By Matt King

November 1, 2021

Get to know a little about the bassist for Instigator and Fever Dog.

More News

Here’s the aforementioned latest report regarding the city of Palm Springs’ wastewater testing for SARS-CoV-2. Test results from Oct. 25 and 26 show that “the average number of viral copies detected at the City’s wastewater treatment plant has increased from the previous week.” Ever since mid-September, the numbers have been pretty steady. To quote the aforementioned Dr. Wachter: It’s not great, but it is what it is

• Sorta related: Our partners at CalMatters have confirmed that the state just did a very suspect thing: “On Sunday, while you were out trick-or-treating, California quietly auto-renewed a contract worth up to $1.7 billion for a COVID-19 testing lab so plagued with problems that state health officials warned in February it could lose its license. The automatic renewal, which California Health and Human Services Agency spokesperson Sami Gallegos confirmed to me Sunday night, comes as the state faces scrutiny for its failure to release a report investigating ‘significant deficiencies’ at the lab. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration said the full report would be made available in mid-March. More than seven months later, it is nowhere to be found.”

• If you’re one of those people who think it’s onerous to wear a mask or show proof of vaccination, 1) Really? Sheesh. And 2) you should be thankful that you’re not in China. NPR explains what happened over the weekend: “Shanghai health authorities say they have tested nearly 34,000 people in a single night for COVID-19 at Shanghai’s Disneyland. On Sunday evening, the city suddenly closed Shanghai Disneyland and banned anyone inside from leaving. They also shut down the metro station that services the theme park. The park said they did so to cooperate with a contact tracing investigation after a woman who visited the park Saturday later tested positive for the coronavirus in neighboring Jiangxi province. Shanghai announced on Monday that all of the guests who had been tested over the weekend came back negative for COVID-19, according to the Associated Press. Authorities said they will have to be tested again, the outlet reported. Chinese media says an estimated 100,000 people visited the park Saturday and Sunday, all of whom will now need to be tested.” Yes. They did this because of ONE POSITIVE TEST.

• Moving from COVID-19 to another dangerous pandemic: ProPublica reports on a salmonella strain that first started sickening people via contaminated poultry back in 2018: “Victims were landing in the hospital with roiling stomach pains, uncontrollable diarrhea and violent bouts of vomiting. The source of the infections seemed to be everywhere. Even more alarming was that this strain of salmonella, known as multidrug-resistant infantis, was invincible against nearly all the drugs that doctors routinely use to fight severe food poisoning. With a public health threat unfolding across the country, you might have expected federal regulators to act swiftly and decisively to warn the public, recall the contaminated poultry and compel changes at chicken plants. Or that federal investigators would pursue the root cause of the outbreak wherever the evidence led. None of that happened.” As you might presume, that strain of salmonella is still very much a problem today.

• Another week, another airline dealing with a mess of cancellations, stranded travelers and mass confusion. This time, it’s American Airlines. NBC News says: “Travel hassles continued for American Airlines passengers Monday as the carrier canceled more than 300 flights—bringing its total number of cancellations since Friday to over 2,000. There were 376 canceled American Airlines flights as of 1:30 p.m. ET Monday, representing 13 percent of the airline’s scheduled flights, according to the flight tracker site Flight Aware. Another 375 flights were delayed. … On Saturday, American Airlines Chief Operating Officer David Seymour said in a staff note obtained by CNBC that the problems began with high wind gusts Thursday that cut runway capacity at its hub at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, creating a domino effect that resulted in crew members unable to be in position for their next flights. Pilot and flight attendant availability was listed as the reason for most of the cancellations on Saturday and Sunday, according to internal tallies, which were seen by CNBC.”

• In other airline news: A Southwest Airlines pilot is being investigated after apparently using the phrase “Let’s go Brandon” during an in-flight announcement. If you don’t know what in the heck this means, ABC News is here to explain: “The phrase took off after an Oct. 2 incident at a NASCAR race in Alabama won by Brandon Brown, a driver who was being interviewed by an NBC Sports reporter. The crowd behind Brown was chanting something, and the reporter suggested it was saying ‘Let’s go, Brandon’ to cheer the driver. But it became increasingly clear to viewers that the crowd was saying, ‘F—- Joe Biden.’ Some conservatives have pointed to the episode as an example of U.S. media covering for Biden. Since then, the phrase has been uttered on the House floor by a Republican lawmaker and used frequently by Biden critics on social media and at protests to slam the Democratic president.” Eek. This country is a mess.

The Los Angeles Times reports on a water mess involving Central Valley communities that wound up having statewide consequences: “‘Town’ is Exeter, less than a mile away. It’s where many of Tooleville’s 340 residents shop and go to school. Yet, for more than 20 years, the vibrant citrus-belt community has refused to connect Tooleville to its water system. The engineering is simple: 0.7 miles of pipe. The human risk of not doing it is high. Tooleville water is contaminated with the carcinogen hexavalent chromium (chrom-6), and sometimes nitrates linked to agriculture and bacteria. Big plastic bottles of drinking water sit outside Tooleville homes. They are delivered every two weeks, paid for with emergency state funding passed during the California drought that ended in 2016. Residents pay $40 a month for running water they can’t drink, cook with or even use for brushing their teeth. Among a slew of water bills signed in September was one inspired largely by Tooleville’s struggle. Called the ‘proactive water solutions bill,’ SB 403 gives the state the power to mandate and fund consolidation when there is an at-risk water system. Exeter’s refusal to aid Tooleville may have given hope to the more than 1 million Californians who live in communities without clean, affordable drinking water, which by law in California is a basic human right. Most of the communities, like Tooleville, are in the agricultural Central Valley. Their residents are often Latino farmworkers and their families.”

• And finally ... as Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley celebrate Greater Palm Springs Pride this week, and as the World Series comes to a climax this week, it’s worth noting that no Major League Baseball player has ever come out during his playing career. A professor of politics, writing for The Conversation, poses the question: “How much longer will Major League Baseball stay in the closet?” Key quote: “There is a strong current of fundamentalist Christianity within baseball, which could make life uncomfortable for openly gay players. One study of Bible verses in pro athletes’ Twitter bios concluded that major league baseball players were ‘far and away the most overtly religious group of athletes of the four major sporting leagues.’ There are also lingering strands of explicit homophobia.”

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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...