Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Today was one of the biggest COVID-19-related news days in quite a while, so let’s get right to the links:

Reopening processes around the country—and in some parts of California—are coming to a halt or being reversed, due to increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. In Texas and Florida, bars are being closed, and other business are being restricted.

San Francisco was planning on allowing hair salons, outdoor bars and other businesses to open on Monday. That move has been delayed indefinitely.

• And most worrisome locally: For the first time since the reopening process began, the state has told a county that it needs to re-impose a strict stay-at-home order—Imperial County, our neighbors to the southeast. And another neighboring county, San Bernardino, is close to running out of non-surge hospital beds

Riverside County is behind the curve at hiring contact tracers. The good news is that as of yesterday, the county was up to 220 of them, with 180 added in the last five weeks, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise. However, the state says we need around 375 of them.

• Dr. Anthony Fauci said the federal government is considering a new way of testing for SARS-CoV-2—pool testing. “The approach works this way: Samples from, say, 20 people are combined into a single pool,” reports The Washington Post. “One coronavirus test is used on the entire pool. If the test comes back negative, researchers know they can move on to another pool of samples. If it comes back positive, only then would each individual be tested.

A Tucson emergency room doctor penned a column for The New York Times with this headline: “I’m a Health Care Worker. You Need to Know How Close We Are to Breaking.”

• While the state-by-state numbers here are probably too small to take too seriously … a recent Axios/Ipsos poll shows that 64 percent of Californians wear masks whenever they go outthe second highest percentage behind New York.

• A JPMorgan study shows a correlation between restaurant spending and the spread of the coronavirus, according to CNBC—and, conversely, “higher spending at supermarkets predicts a slower spread of the virus.” However, experts point out that this doesn’t necessarily mean restaurants are to blame for the spread.

• Also according to CNBC: The number of homeowners delaying their monthly mortgage payments is on the rise again, after falling for several weeks.

Can you shop safely in a brick-and-mortar clothing store? Esquire talked to some experts to get answers. Key quote from Erin Bromage, associate professor of biology and immunology at the University of Massachusetts: “It comes down to how long you spend in the store and how many people are in the store. If you are only in there for a short period of time, and they’re restricting occupancy, then the risk is low.”

From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: University of California campuses are telling students to prepare for a fall semester that will mostly—but not entirely—take place online.

• We’re now moving to our WTF?! portion of the digest, starting with the news that American Airlines is going to stop keeping middle seats open, and resume booking flights to capacity.

• It’s not often that I’ve wanted to tip my hat to Dick Cheney, but here we are: He says that real men wear face masks.

• Did you know North Carolina has an anti-mask law? It’s true—and it’s caused no small degree of confusion. It turns out the law is a decades-old measure meant to crack down on the KKK—but thankfully, it’s been temporarily suspended, at least through Aug. 1.

• Finally, this story is particularly devastating news to those of us here at Independent World Headquarters: Costco has stopped making half-sheet cakes. DAMN YOU ’RONA! DAMN YOU!!!

• No … we take back that “finally”; we can’t end the week on that awful note. So here’s some good news: San Francisco’s Transgender District was “the first legally recognized district in the world dedicated to a historically transgender community.” The economic downturn almost forced the nonprofit to close—but then came the Black Lives Matter protests. Now, the Transgender District is on firmer footing, as “the two movements have converged in a kind of intersectional synchronicity that is bringing renewed attention to the realities of transgender people of color,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Readers, these are scary times. Please, take care of yourself this weekend. Wear a mask when you go out. Check in on neighbors and loved ones. Live in the now and enjoy life, because these days still count against the total number you have on this planet. Right? Oh, and help out the Independent, if you’re able, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will return Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

Jennifer Aniston personifies emotional and physical pain in Cake. She does such a great job of looking and sounding miserable that it wouldn’t be surprising to hear that crew members were driving nails into her feet out of the camera’s view during takes.

Aniston plays a woman named Claire, and the reasons for Claire’s misery are not made clear until well into the film, a wise choice by director Daniel Barnz and screenwriter Patrick Tobin. Not only does this slow revelation provide the film with some decent mystery; it allows the focus to solely be on Claire in the moment, as she struggles with physical back pain and some sort of loss.

The film opens with Claire in a chronic-pain support group. They address the loss of Nina (played by Anna Kendrick in photos and flashbacks), a member who committed suicide by jumping off a freeway overpass. Claire makes a brutally honest observation about the conditions of her suicide—and gets ejected from the group. It’s clear that Claire is a dangerously unhappy person.

Little is revealed about Claire’s background as the film progresses. We learn she has a husband (Chris Messina) who cares deeply for her, but no longer lives at their house. She appears to be taken care of financially, with a supportive housekeeper, Silvana (Adriana Barraza), who endures her mood swings.

For unexplained reasons, Claire fixates on Nina, sometimes dreaming about her, and even hallucinating about her after indulging in too many painkillers. Her obsession leads her to Nina’s house, where she meets Nina’s widower, Roy (Sam Worthington), and her son. Worthington delivers perhaps his best performance yet as a man who is confused by the loss of his wife, and who deals with Claire in a curious, yet amiable, way.

The relationship between Claire and Roy is unorthodox, yet delicately handled. I’ll dare to say it’s even charming, which is surprising, considering their emotional states. Aniston and Worthington are both very much in command of the raw emotion and pain in play between their characters. They even manage to inject a fair amount of humor.

Aniston manages to make Claire a sympathetic character despite her constant unpleasantness. While we only get glimpses of the Claire that might’ve existed before her back and heart became racked with pain, it’s obvious that Claire was once somebody for whom many people cared—and she pushed them away for solid reasons. The pain of her losses never leaves Aniston’s face, even when she is smiling.

Aniston has played dour people before—and she’s played them well. (For example, check out her performance in The Good Girl.) I’ve always viewed her as very talented, so her effectiveness here doesn’t surprise me.

Even though we do find out some of the reasons behind the tragedies Claire has endured, many of the details remain shrouded. Some critics have found this frustrating, and punished the film for it. I think it’s one of the film’s many virtues. Not knowing exactly why Claire is in pain somehow makes her struggle all the more vivid and compelling.

The excellent supporting cast also includes Felicity Huffman as Claire’s therapy-group leader. Huffman has a couple of great scenes, including an odd one involving vodka. (Her real husband, William H. Macy, makes an important cameo.) Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter) is also very good as a physical therapist who has had enough of Claire’s shit.

You’ll probably want to watch a couple of Friends episodes after taking this one in, if only to see Aniston happy and pain free again. Cake is a good movie—but it’s a rough one to watch at times. Just like it should be.

Cake is now playing at the UltraStar Mary Pickford Stadium 14 (36850 Pickfair St., Cathedral City; 760-328-7100), the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342) and the Century Theatres at The River (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-836-1940).

Published in Reviews