Coachella Valley Independent

Daily Digest: Feb. 12, 2021

Yesterday was a good day, as far as the pandemic was concerned.

I took a media tour of the new vaccination site at the Palm Springs Convention Center—you can read more about that in the “From the Independent” section below—which opened to the public today. Some 350 people were slated to get shots there today; another 500 are on Monday. (Appointment slots are being released carefully, as vaccine demand is still overwhelming the supply; watch Curative.com over the weekend, as it’s possible more appointment slots for next week will be released.)

The tour took place just hours after Dr. Anthony Fauci went on the Today show and said that by April, vaccine appointments would start to be open to everyone who wants one.

The tour took place around the same time as President Biden was announcing that the country had secured enough Pfizer and Moderna shots, slated to be delivered by the end of July, for every adult in the U.S. to be vaccinated.

Lots of hope there, huh?. But, of course, COVID-19 couldn’t possibly allow all the news to be positive, could it?

Later in the day came the news that some L.A. vaccination sites—including the massive one at Dodger Stadium—had to close up early for the week, because they’d ran out of vaccine. And President Biden today tried to lower expectations on vaccinations, saying that while the country would have the vaccine supply to make sure everyone’s vaccinated by the summer, logistical hurdles could very well make it impossible to get all those shots in arms by then.

Sigh.

Those bummers aside … according to The Washington Post’s vaccine tracker, almost 11 percent of Americans—and more than 13.5 percent of Americans age 16+—have gotten at least one shot. An average of 1.61 million doses a day were administered in the last week—a number that’s rising substantially. Two months ago, those totals were zero.

Hope.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

More Shots in Arms: A COVID-19 Vaccination Site Opens at the Palm Springs Convention Center

By Jimmy Boegle

February 12, 2021

The clinic is located in the easternmost section of the convention center’s Oasis ballroom, just off the lawn area adjacent to Avenida Caballeros. It is […]

Unsung Heroes: Celebrating 10 Years, Boo2Bullying Teaches Kids How to Combat All Forms of Bullying

By Madeline Zuckerman

February 12, 2021

Boo2Bullying fills an important need: Some 280,000 students are attacked in U.S. secondary schools each month. Nearly 42 percent of kids report having […]

The Weekly Independent Comics Page for Feb. 11, 2021!

By Staff

February 11, 2021

This week’s alternative comics page looks at history in schools, Hank Aaron, hungry giraffes, Lou Dobbs—and more!

And Now, the News

• For those of you who are eligible—if you’re 65+, or you work in fields such as education, emergency services, law enforcement, agriculture or food—keep watching the various sites as more appointments open up. Again, here’s the appointments link to the Palm Springs Convention Center site; as of Friday afternoon, no slots were available, but more could be released sometime this weekend. Here’s the link to the county-run clinic site; as of Friday afternoon, there was quite a bit of availability for folks 65+ at clinics between Feb. 17 and Feb. 23—including some in Indio. Doctor’s offices and many pharmacies have openings here and there, too.

• The state has come to its senses. After saying that California would be soon basing vaccine eligibility primarily on age, officials have backtracked, and announced today that people with high-risk medical conditions would be eligible to be vaccinated—but not until March 15. According to our partners at CalMatters: “Under the new guidelines, people ages 16 to 64 with serious health conditions—such as heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes, cancer and weakened immune systems—or with physical disabilities will join older Californians, food workers and educators beginning March 15. Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s secretary of health and human services, said at a press briefing today that delaying for a month will allow the state to build its vaccine supply, develop ways to determine eligibility and figure out how to reach people who are homebound.”

• Worried about the possibility that the damned variants will mess up all the progress being made with the vaccinations? Me too! However, this piece from the Los Angeles Times made me feel quite a bit better. Key quote: “Mounting evidence that several vaccines are less efficient at neutralizing the strain from South Africa is ‘disturbing news,’ but ‘all is not lost,’ said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. Vaccination ‘still suppresses the virus,’ he said. … Numbers matter, and even an elusive target like the South Africa variant is unlikely to completely escape the overwhelming numbers of antibodies generated by current vaccines or a previous infection, (Larry Luchsinger, a scientist at the New York Blood Center), said.”

If you know of any families who are in need of diapers, take note: “FIND Food Bank and the city of Palm Springs will host a free diaper distribution for local families on Monday, Feb. 15 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The drive-thru event will be held from 3:30-6:30 p.m. in the Convention Center parking lot on Avenida Caballeros and East Amado Road. Diapers will be available in medium, large and extra large. Anyone in need is invited to attend.”

• Here’s something I hope the U.S. can learn from. Per The Associated Press: “In a pandemic, homeless people face being more forgotten than they already are. But not by doctors like Dr. Anil Mehta, who is on a mission to bring the coronavirus vaccine to those hardest to reach and often most at risk of getting sick in east London. Mehta, a general practitioner, and his small team of doctors and nurses have been showing up at homeless centers in his local area, a COVID-19 hot spot, offering a free jab to dozens who might otherwise get left behind in Britain’s mass vaccination drive.”

The CDC today released its much-anticipated school-reopening guidance. CNN reports that the guidelines “focus on five key COVID-19 mitigation strategies: the universal and correct wearing of masks; physical distancing; washing hands; cleaning facilities and improving ventilation; and contact tracing, isolation and quarantine. Vaccines and testing are not among the ‘key’ strategies the agency lays out, calling them ‘additional layers’ of COVID-19 prevention.”

• While there are already two approved vaccines—with a third one likely coming soon—others are still in the midst of clinical trials. As a result, things like this are happening: “Talk about a shot in the dark. Two weeks ago, a nurse injected me with what may—or may not—be the experimental Novavax COVID-19 vaccine as part of a phase III clinical trial. I don’t know which one it is, but I do know that the publicly available Pfizer and Moderna vaccines appear to work. So I may—or may not—drop out of the trial when one of those becomes available to me,” Randy Dotinga writes for MedPage Today.

• Pandemic stresses can cause problems for people in relationships—and even more so, it turns out, for people in a relationship/relationships with more than one person. A digital rhetoric and writing studies professor, writing for The Conversation, discusses her research: “One finding soon emerged: People practicing polyamory were facing a totally different set of pandemic-related dilemmas than those who practice monogamy. At the same time, their experience navigating the complexities of having more than one partner had put them at a particular advantage when it came to managing pandemic-specific dating issues.”

• Heading in the other direction, sort of: Another writer for The Conversation reports on how some people dealing with loneliness have gotten help by chatting with artificially intelligent bots: “Therapeutic bots have improved users’ mental health for decades. Now, psychiatrists are studying how these AI companions can improve mental wellness during the pandemic and beyond.”

• Did you know there’s a serious microchip shortage going on right now, thanks to factors including the pandemic and former President Trump’s trade war with China? If not, do some learnin’ via CNBC: “On Tuesday, GM said that it would extend production cuts in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico until the middle of March. They join a long list of major automakers, including Ford, Honda and Fiat Chrysler, which have warned investors or slowed vehicle production because of the chip shortage. But it’s not just the automotive industry that’s struggling to get enough semiconductors to build their products. AMD and Qualcomm, which sell chips to most of the top electronics firms, have noted the shortage in recent weeks. Sony blamed the chip shortage for why it’s so hard to get a PlayStation 5 game console.”

• Could this be another tool in the battle against COVID-19? CNBC says: “A drug used to treat people with rheumatoid arthritis appears to reduce the risk of death in hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19, especially when it was combined with the steroid dexamethasone, researchers at the University of Oxford said Thursday. Oxford researchers found that the drug, tocilizumab, an intravenous medication manufactured by a division of Swiss drugmaker Roche, also shortened patients’ length of stay at hospitals and reduced the need for a ventilator. The study was part of the Recovery trial, which has been testing a range of potential treatments for COVID-19 since March.”

• The scarcity of vaccines and the rigid rules surrounding them keeps leading to ethical quandaries—including one that resulted in a Houston doctor getting fired. The New York Times reports on the fascinating case of Dr. Hasan Gokal: “The Texas doctor had six hours. Now that a vial of COVID-19 vaccine had been opened on this late December night, he had to find 10 eligible people for its remaining doses before the precious medicine expired. In six hours. Scrambling, the doctor made house calls and directed people to his home outside Houston. Some were acquaintances; others, strangers. … After midnight, and with just minutes before the vaccine became unusable, the doctor, Hasan Gokal, gave the last dose to his wife, who has a pulmonary disease that leaves her short of breath.”

• I returned to the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week. Dr. Laura Rush and I joined hosts John Taylor, Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr to talk about the news of the week—including vaccine updates!

• Finally … while President Joe Biden’s press office has received high marks from most over the first few weeks of his presidency, a concerning incident came to light late this week. Vanity Fair reports: “A White House official tried to quash a story about his relationship with a reporter by issuing threats and using derogatory language to another reporter pursuing it, according to two sources familiar with the incident. In a sympathetic profile Monday, People revealed that White House Deputy Press Secretary TJ Ducklo is dating Axios political reporter Alexi McCammond, who covered the Joe Biden campaign. But behind the scenes, Ducklo had previously lashed out at Politico reporter Tara Palmeri, who was reporting the story, exhibiting behavior that led to tense meetings between the Washington news outlet’s editors and senior White House officials. After Vanity Fair published this account, the White House announced that Ducklo would be suspended for one week.” If the reports are true about what Ducklo did, he deserves far more than a one-week suspension.

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Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. A native of Reno, Nevada, the Dodgers fan went to Stanford University intending to become a sportswriter—but fell...