Coachella Valley Independent

Daily Digest: Dec. 23, 2020

My original plan for this final Daily Digest before Christmas was to write about my personal holiday history. I was going to talk about how Christmases used to be a big family thing, before deaths and distance turned the celebrations into smaller affairs … but then in recent years, the addition of “chosen family” made them into large, joyous events yet again—before 2020 came along.

I was then going to conclude on a hopeful note, saying that my family, biological and chosen, is mostly staying apart in 2020 so we can be together in 2021 and beyond—while expressing confidence that we would, in fact, be together for a happy 2021 celebration.

Yep. That was the plan. But to be honest, I am not feeling it.

Don’t get me wrong: Everything I said above is still true. I do have hope for 2021. I am confident we’re heading toward a better place.

But I have to also acknowledge my other beliefs and feelings. First, I really am concerned about the hell we’re going to have to go through in the immediate future before better times presumably arrive in the intermediate future.

My friend Dr. Laura Rush gave me a heads-up yesterday about the latest state COVID-19 projections. And, my god, they’re horrible.

As of Dec. 20, there were 3,644 COVID-19 patients in the state’s ICUs. The forecast for Jan. 22 is that there will be 10,136 COVID-19 patients in the state’s ICUs. In Riverside County, that number is forecast to go from 229 to 377. And the ICUs are already beyond full. This all equates to 500-plus additional deaths in the county by Jan. 22, if projections are right.

As for reopening businesses … if these models are even close to correct, we won’t have outdoor dining again until February, at the earliest.

This all leads to me another feeling coursing through me right now: anger. A lot of this was preventable. I’m livid that our health-care professionals are having to deal with this right now. I’m crushed thinking about how this is going to affect so many businesses, so many paychecks, so many other things.

So … yeah. That’s where I am at. I am sorry I can’t be more upbeat here. Logically, I know better times are ahead. But concern and anger are what I am feeling right now.

—Jimmy Boegle

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And Now, the News

• Small-business owners, take note: The state has launched the website for the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program. The site lists what will be needed to apply for the grants, which will range from $5,000 to $25,000 Applications will be accepted from Dec. 30 through Jan. 8, with approval notifications starting Jan. 13. So, folks, start getting ready.

• On a related note: An increasing number of business owners in Palm Springs are demanding that the city re-route $3 million being budgeted for the new downtown park—and use that to support small businesses instead. (Read about that controversy here.) The Main Street Palm Springs business group, helmed by Joy Brown Meredith of Crystal Fantasy, posted on Facebook today: “Palm Springs City Council—I am asking you again. Please reconsider using the additional $3,000,000 for the new downtown park. The businesses and employees are in a disastrous crisis. Many will not survive. What good is a park in a town filled with vacant storefronts?” While a number of valley cities have launched grant or loan programs to aid small businesses, Palm Springs notably has not.

• Two days ago in this space, I wrote: “As of this writing, Congress was allegedly getting closer and closer to actually approving, maybe, possibly, a $900 billion coronavirus aid package—as part of a massive overall federal spending bill. Well … that bill did get through Congress—and now it’s unclear whether the president will sign it, because he thinks everyone should be getting $2,000 rather than $600 in direct aid. As The Washington Post puts it: “The continued mayhem Wednesday threw into doubt how quickly help would get in the hands of millions of Americans struggling under the economic weight of the pandemic, including the direct payments that had become one of the most visible provisions of the relief package. … House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Wednesday that Democrats would seek to pass a bill at a short Thursday House session that would provide $2,000 checks, though the measure could easily be blocked by Republicans.”

• Presuming the aid bill actually becomes the law, Coachella Valley Economic Partnership data-cruncher David Robinson says it could inject a lot of money into the Coachella Valley—more than $200 million, in fact, from the stimulus checks.

• In sort-of related news, Trump vetoed a defense-spending bill. Why? As The New York Times explains: “In refusing to sign the bill, Mr. Trump cited a series of provisions, including one that would direct the military to strip the names of Confederate leaders from bases. He has also demanded that the bill include a provision that would repeal a legal shield for social media companies that he has tangled with, a significant legislative change that Republicans and Democrats alike have said is irrelevant to a bill that dictates military policy.”

Meanwhile, the president is running amok with the pardons. On today’s list: Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and other individuals. #lawandorder!

Because why the hell not, here’s Alton Brown’s recipe for bourbon eggnog.

• OK, and now more news: Because I always link to it, I feel obligated to share with you the latest Riverside County District 4 COVID-19 report, for the week ending Dec. 20. So, here ya go, but I think I’ve already made it clear that the news is all bad.

• Because of the scary projections mentioned above, the state is reaching out to foreign countries for medical-staffing help. As The Associated Press explains: “California, which is enduring by far its worst spike in cases and hospitalizations, is reaching out to places like Australia and Taiwan to fill the need for 3,000 temporary medical workers, particularly nurses trained in critical care. ‘We’re now in a situation where we have surges all across the country, so nobody has many nurses to spare,’ said Dr. Janet Coffman, a professor of public policy at the University of California in San Francisco.

• Speaking of bad news, you’ve probably heard about that new SARS-CoV-2 variant in Britain that’s supposedly much more contagious. Well, this explainer piece from CNN may put your mind at ease a bit. Or it may not. In that same vein, here’s what a biology professor, writing for The Conversation, has to say about it.

• And now some good news: The U.S. has purchased another 100 million vaccine doses from Pfizer.

• Oh, hey, we’re going to have a new U.S. senator soon! Our partners at CalMatters take a look at the new senator, and that person’s replacement as well: “(Gov. Gavin) Newsom filled two major positions Tuesday—naming Secretary of State Alex Padilla to the U.S. Senate seat held by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and tapping Assembly member Shirley Weber to replace Padilla as California’s top elections official. The governor will likely fill one more elected office early next year, naming an attorney general to replace Xavier Becerra, whom President-elect Joe Biden has nominated to his cabinet. … In appointing Padilla and nominating Weber, Newsom demonstrated that he’s using his authority to bring more ethnic diversity to state politics, as many Democratic activists urged in a year when Americans poured into the streets to protest racism. Padilla—the son of immigrants from Mexico who grew up to become an MIT-educated engineer—will be California’s first Latino senator. Weber—the daughter of an Arkansas sharecropper who became a scholar of the African diaspora—will be California’s first Black secretary of state.”

• Politico is reporting that President-elect Biden’s team wants to get schools reopened ASAP—and is willing to spend serious money to do so: “President-elect Joe Biden is weighing a multibillion-dollar plan for fully reopening schools that would hinge on testing all students, teachers and staff for Covid-19 at least once a week, according to four people with knowledge of the discussions. The proposal under consideration calls for the federal government to cover the cost of providing tests to K-12 schools throughout the country. These could then be administered regularly by staff at each school, providing results in minutes.”

• This is frustrating. You know the promising COVID-19 antibody treatments that President Trump and Rudy Giuliani received and then touted? Well, it turns out that a whole lot of those treatments are sitting around, going unused. Per The New York Times: “Hospitals and clinics, staggered by the needs of the sick and gearing up to help administer the new coronavirus vaccines, have not focused as much attention on these treatments, which have to be infused into patients in a narrow window of time, within 10 days of when they start showing symptoms, but before they’re sick enough to be hospitalized. Administrators have struggled to identify people who should get the antibody drugs because of delays in testing and a lack of coordination between testing sites and hospitals.”

Our partners at CalMatters explain that counties will have some say in who gets what vaccines, and when: “The California panel is expected to issue its final guidance for the second vaccine priority group this month. Once that happens, state and county officials are expected to abide by that guidance in distributing still-scarce vaccine doses. But in a state as large and diverse as California, individual counties will have some leeway in arranging the line. That has sparked a lot of lobbying by unions and other interest groups who argue their workers are more essential than others.” 

There’s some weird stuff going on between the Biden campaign and Twitter regarding the official government accounts. Rob Flaherty, the Biden campaign’s digital director, tweeted: “In 2016, the Trump admin absorbed all of President Obama’s Twitter followers on @POTUS and @WhiteHouse—at Team 44’s urging. In 2020, Twitter has informed us that as of right now the Biden administration will have to start from zero.The Hill explains the squabble.

• Finally, I bring you something of a happy story, one that proves that media sources at least need to try to be a little accurate. According to The New York Times, one of the voting-machine companies that has been pilloried by right-wing media sources is taking action: “In an era of brazen political lies, (Smartmatic head Antonio) Mugica has emerged as an unlikely figure with the power to put the genie back in the bottle. Last week, his lawyer sent scathing letters to the Fox News Channel, Newsmax and OAN demanding that they immediately, forcefully clear his company’s name—and that they retain documents for a planned defamation lawsuit. He has, legal experts say, an unusually strong case.”

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The Daily Digest will return on Monday, barring some extreme breaking news: Have an amazing Christmas, everyone.

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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...