CVIndependent

Fri07032020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Happy Monday, everyone.

I’d like to start off the week, to use that old cliché, by tooting our own horn and shining a spotlight on two recent Independent stories.

The first one, posted at CVIndependent.com earlier today, looks at the fact that thousands of Coachella Valley families lack reliable internet access—which presents big problems, especially in the middle of a pandemic, when students can’t go to physical schools.

“These are the families and the students who can least afford for their children not to be engaged, (which could) ultimately widen the achievement gap,” said local Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. “Someone called this a civil rights issue—because without (broadband), you are severely disadvantaged.”

In addition to Garcia, staff writer Kevin Fitzgerald talked to all three local school district superintendents, as well as a community-broadband expert, for the 2,200-word-plus piece. (One flaw: We didn’t talk to any students. Kevin was working on tracking down a student or two, but we ran out of time before our July print-edition deadline hit.)

The problem is especially pronounced in the east valley’s Coachella Valley Unified School District, which partnered with the city of Coachella to buy thousands of Verizon Wireless mobile hotspots to make some progress.

“We are trying to find ways to get more hotspots and more devices (for) our students,” said CVUSD Superintendent Dr. Maria Gandera. “We estimate that about 40 percent of the households in our district did not have connectivity. We could probably use double the amount (of hotspots)—and we still might have some issues with connecting.”

While Kevin talked to at least five people for his story, Independent music contributor Matt King only talked to two for his story, posted on Friday, about live music at restaurants in the era of COVID-19—because four restaurants we reached out to never returned our various messages.

California’s guidelines for bars and restaurant re-openings make it very clear that, for now, concerts and performances are a no-no. “Restaurants, bars and wineries must discontinue this type of entertainment until these types of activities are allowed to resume modified or full operation,” say the state guidelines.

Nonetheless, some local restaurants have brought live music back to their stages—while others are doing the right thing and following the guidelines, even if it affects their bottom line. Matt reached out to five restaurants that have touted live music on social media—and only Lana Ristich, the owner of Chef George’s Restaurant in Bermuda Dunes, got back to us.

“Virus is virus,” Ristich said. “I know it’s killing people, but people still have to live their life. If someone is sick, they are not going to go out. Older people should stay home, but younger generations with better immune systems might get sick from something worse by just staying home.”

Meanwhile, at The Hood Bar and Pizza—one of the valley’s foremost entertainment venues during “normal” times—owner Brad Guth is choosing to follow the guidelines.

“I take both my health and the health of my employees and customers very seriously,” Guth said. “The county is discouraging large crowds, and we are doing the same. We’ve cut hours and limited space, and we just want people to be safe.”

As always, if you have any thoughts on these stories, or anything else we do, drop me a line—and thanks for reading.

Today’s news links:

The latest countywide hospitalization stats are, well, still not great. It’s too early to call what’s happening a “spike,” and the county as a whole is tiptoeing close to the state’s watch-list metrics … but the trend isn’t good.

The latest District 4 report (including the Coachella Valley and points eastward), covering the week ending yesterday, is a mixed bag. I must admit I find these reports confusing, but here’s what it says: The weekly local positivity rate is a still-too-high 14.6 percent, but it’s down from the 16 percent reported the week before. The number of new local cases dropped significantly to 292 (from 771, 942 and 1,182 in previous weeks), with 6,073 new tests reported. So, there ya go.

As for local hospitalization numbers: They’re slowly but steadily rising. We went from 106 local confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, to 108 in Friday, 113 on Saturday, and 116 on Sunday. Not a “spike” but not good. Wear a damn mask.

The San Francisco Chronicle profiled eight people who got sick with COVID-19, but have recovered … at least somewhat. These stories show how this disease isn’t just a bad flu—instead, it’s unpredictable and often permanently damaging.

• The feared increase in coronavirus cases due to the Black Matters Lives protests has not yet materialized … yet. MedPage Today talks to some experts who explain what this all could mean. (Spoiler alert: Staying outside + wearing a mask = prevention?)

• Speaking of wearing face coverings … NPR looks at the science and the anecdotal data, and concludes that mask-wearing is somewhere between helpful and a pandemic game-changer

• Again speaking of wearing face coverings … the local convention and visitors bureau is pleading with local businesses to insist that customers wear masks and take other precautions—and is asking those local businesses to take the “Safer Together, Greater Together” pledge. The Independent has done so, for the record.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said today that more than a third of California’s COVID-19 cases have come in the last two weeks. While this is a big reminder that we’re still very much in the first wave of this pandemic, the news—at least on a statewide level—is not all bad.

Riverside County is going to contact 3,500 random residents and ask them to take part in an antibody study. “We are asking those who are contacted to strongly consider taking part in the study,” said Kim Saruwatari, director of Riverside County Public Health, in a news release. “It’s important to know the extent of the spread of the virus. … That information is vital as we move forward.” Get more details here.

• This is dense but important: A nonprofit called the Open Technology Fund acts as an intermediary between the U.S. government—specifically the US Agency for Global Media—and vitally important open-source tech tools. Well, it appears the Trump administration is attempting to steer funding away from that agency—and direct it toward closed-sourced (read: corporate) companies. As a result, the agency’s head has resigned, and a whole bunch of nonprofits are very worried.

• The state tourism bureau claims that California could lose more than $2 billion in revenue from travelers through mid-July who opt to go to more-open neighboring states like Nevada and Arizona.

The New York Times looks at the wildly varying costs of COVID-19 tests. Key quote, regarding how some unscrupulous companies are spending our tax dollars: “Insurers have paid Gibson Diagnostic Labs as much as $2,315 for individual coronavirus tests. In a couple of cases, the price rose as high as $6,946 when the lab said it mistakenly charged patients three times the base rate. The company has no special or different technology from, say, major diagnostic labs that charge $100. It is one of a small number of medical labs, hospitals and emergency rooms taking advantage of the way Congress has designed compensation for coronavirus tests and treatment.”

Also from The New York Times comes this head-shaker of a headline: “Coronavirus Attacks the Lungs. A Federal Agency Just Halted Funding for New Lung Treatments. The shift, quietly disclosed on a government website, highlights how the Trump administration is favoring development of vaccines over treatments for the sickest patients.”

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Fight injustice. And please, if you’re going to be anywhere near other people, wear a mask. If you’d like to support local, quality journalism—made free to all, never with paywalls—please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Happy Monday, everyone. We have more than 20 story links today, so let’s get right to ’em:

• It was a big news day for the U.S. Supreme Court. In a landmark 6-3 ruling, the court ruled that gay, lesbian and transgender workers are protected by federal civil-rights lawsand Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch (!) wrote the majority opinion. The court also more or less upheld California’s sanctuary law by declining to hear a challenge to it.

• This just in, from the city of Palm Springs: “In an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, continue to flatten the curve and keep residents and visitors safe, the city of Palm Springs would like to notify the community that this year’s Fourth of July fireworks spectacular has been CANCELLED. ‘Due to the fact that the state of California is prohibiting large gatherings there will be no fireworks this year,’ said Cynthia Alvarado-Crawford, director of Palm Springs Parks and Recreation. ‘We thank our Palm Springs residents for their understanding.’”

T-Mobile—and possibly other wireless services—suffered a major outage today. Details are unclear on what exactly happened as of this writing.

• OK, now this is weird: The mayor of Indio apparently told KESQ News Channel 3 that even though Coachella and Stagecoach have been cancelled, Goldenvoice is still considering putting on a large, Desert Trip-style festival in October. We have no idea how such a large gathering would be possible, but as we’ve repeatedly said in this space, nothing makes sense anymore, so who knows.

• Despite rising case numbers, California is still doing OK as a whole in terms of COVID-19 metrics, Gov. Newsom said today.

• Yet again, the president has made a baffling remark regarding COVID-19: “If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.” Sigh …

• The Los Angeles Times takes a look at the reopening debate taking place in Imperial County, which borders Riverside County to the southeast, and has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the state. Despite the high rates, some people there want to start the reopening process anyway.

• Hmm. Three large California police unions announced a plan yesterday—via full-page advertisements in some large daily newspapers—to root out racists and reform police departments. While some will scoff at this, the fact that police unions are suggesting such reforms is nothing short of stunning.

• Also stunning: A major Federal Reserve official said yesterday that systemic racism is holding back the U.S. economy.

• Sign No. 435,045 that we know very little about the disease: At first, scientists feared common hypertension drugs could make COVID-19 worse in people who took them. Fortunately, now they’ve changed their minds.

• Sign No. 435,046 that we know very little about the disease: Scientists from UCSF and Stanford say that “super antibodies,” found in less than 5 percent of COVID-19 patients, could be used to treat others battling the disease—and may help in the development of a vaccine. That’s the good news. The bad news, according to Dr. George Rutherford, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle: “Between 10 percent and 20 percent of patients with COVID-19 show no antibodies in serological tests, Rutherford said. The remaining 75 percent or more of coronavirus patients develop antibodies, he said, but they aren’t the neutralizing kind, indicating immunity to the disease might not last long in most people.

• The FDA has revoked the emergency-use authorization for hydroxychloroquine, aka the president’s COVID-19 drug of choice.

Tesla—and other companies—refuse to disclose coronavirus stats at their workplaces. Neither will county health departments. Why? They’re citing federal health-privacy laws as a reason—even though that’s not necessarily how federal health-privacy laws work.

• Writing for The Conversation, a professor of music explains why for some churches, the inability to sing is a really big deal.

• Also from The Conversation, and also religion-related: Indian leaders are using Hindu goddesses in the fight against the coronavirusand it’s not the first time they’ve used deities to battle disease.

• The Riverside Press-Enterprise writes about local public-health officials, people who normally work fairly anonymously, but who have now been thrust into the limelight—and a large degree of public scrutiny, often undeserved—thanks to the pandemic.

• The Legislature is in the process of passing a budget today—even though they’re still negotiating things with Gov. Newsom. Why the urgency? Well, they have to pass a budget by today if they want to continue being paid. In any case, there’s disagreement on how to deal with a $54 billion deficit caused by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

The 2021 Academy Awards are being delayed two months due to the fact that most movie theaters remain closed, and most movie productions have been suspended because of, well, you know.

• This column from The Washington Post may leave you beating your head against the wall: “Are Americans hard-wired to spread the coronavirus?

• The pandemic has led some companies to institute the four-day work week. NBC News looks at the pluses and minuses—and finds mostly pluses.

China’s embassy and consulates have been engaging in displays of kindness—like free lunches and donations of medical supplies—in U.S. communities where they’re needed. NBC News looks into this interesting tidbit.

That’s the day’s news. Wash your hands. Please, please PLEASE wear a mask whenever you’re around other people. Fight injustice. Be kind. If you value honest, local journalism, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

10,000.

That’s the milestone Riverside County reached today—the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. It’s a sad milestone, and it’s not the last sad milestone we’re going to hit before this pandemic is over.

Folks, there are so many things in life we can’t control. However, there’s a lot regarding this pandemic we can control—and you know what those things are: Wearing a mask when around other people. Washing your hands frequently. Staying home if you may be sick.

Do it.

Today’s links:

• Speaking of people not doing what they can control: During Las Vegas’ reopening week, Los Angeles Times writer Arash Markazi saw some people taking precautions … and a whole lot of people not doing so. He said the Cosmopolitan was especially bad: “… as I scanned the casino floor, I was the only non-employee wearing a mask.

• One of the nation’s largest cities is openly discussing re-invoking stay-at-home orders—and reopening a football stadium for use as a possible COVID-19 hospital. Keep your fingers crossed for Houston.

• Oh, and an expert from Harvard says that 200,000 Americans could be dead from COVID-19 by September. And he called out the federal government for not doing enough.

On the I Love Gay Podcast today, Dr. Laura Rush and I joined hosts Brad Fuhr, Shann Carr and John Taylor to discuss the reopening process. We all agree: Precautions are not only good; they’re downright necessary. But shaming is bad and highly unnecessary.

L.A. County made it official today: Hollywood productions can resume tomorrow. However, that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of work left to do before that meaningfully happens.

• Since hotels reopen here tomorrow, it’s worth asking the question: How safe are hotels (and, for that matter, short-term rentals)? One of the experts writing for The Conversation says she feels it’s pretty safe; the other isn’t so sure.

• The Los Angeles Times explains what will have to happen for a vaccine to be available by the end of the year, with a little help from Dr. Anthony Fauci.

California began waiving bail for people arrested for non-violent crimes when the pandemic hit, in an effort to keep jails less crowded, and people safer. Well, that’s coming to an end on June 20—even though COVID-19, alas, is not coming to an end by then.

Tesla doesn’t think its employees need to know when other employees test positive for COVID-19, proving yet again that Elon Musk is a dick.

Voter-registration numbers have plummeted since the pandemic arrived, according to USA Today.

•It’s worth keeping an eye on Seattle, where something truly weird has happened: For the past several days, protesters have taken over a portion of the Capitol Hill area—including a police precinct building—that they’re calling the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone. So far, things are peaceful, but Trump’s tweeting about it; there are now-denied rumors that businesses in the area are being extorted by the protesters; and there’s other strangeness surrounding the whole thing.

• Several dozen people protested today in Riverside, demanding the removal of Sheriff Chad Bianco. That’s not going to happen, of course, even though the protesters are making some good points.

• So … Donald Trump has defended white supremacists and defended symbols of white supremacy. Now he’s chosen, as the city for his first rally in three months, the site of the worst episode of racial violence in American history … on a date that marks the emancipation of slaves in the Confederacy. Sen. Kamala Harris doesn’t think this is a coincidence at all.

• A&E’s wildly popular show Live P.D. has been cancelledafter the producers mysteriously erased footage involving the death of a Black man, Javier Ambler, while being arrested in Austin, Texas, last year.

That’s enough for the day. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Fight injustice. If you can spare a few bucks to support quality local journalism, with no paywalls, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Toward the start of the stay-at-home order, I remember telling a friend (on a Zoom chat, of course) how much I looked forward to that wonderful day when the lockdown was over, and we could meet for happy-hour and hug again.

Ah, how naïve I was. If only it could be that simple.

We could meet for that happy hour again on Friday, as bars will be reopening that day. However, the scene would not be like it was in my mind’s eye. When I imagined that wonderful day, I didn’t imagine face masks and socially distanced tables—nor did I imagine the agonizing, scary dilemma going out to a bar would present.

And that hug? It’s definitely too soon for that.

Nothing seems simple in this pandemic-tinged, half-assed world in which we now live. On one hand, I keep seeing justifiably optimistic announcements on social media about gyms and cocktail lounges and movie theaters and even Disneyland reopening soon.

On the other … I keep looking at the local COVID-19 stats, and sighing at the across-the-board increases—which, predictably, people are freaking out about on social media. According to the state, our local hospitals have 85 coronavirus patients as of yesterday—the highest number I have seen a while.

But there’s a dilemma within this dilemma: The experts have said all along that when we reopened, cases would begin to rise. As Gov. Newsom said yesterday: “As we phase in, in a responsible way, a reopening of the economy, we’ve made it abundantly clear that we anticipate an increase in the total number of positive cases.

He’s right. They did say that. The goal is to make COVID-19 a manageable problem as life resumes. But it’s still a problem—a potentially deadly one—and nobody’s sure if we’ll be able to keep it “manageable” or not.

Today’s links:

• It’s official: Coachella and Stagecoach are cancelled for 2020. Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County’s public health officer, officially pulled the plug this afternoon. “I am concerned as indications grow that COVID 19 could worsen in the fall,” said Kaiser in a news release. “In addition, events like Coachella and Stagecoach would fall under Governor Newsom’s Stage 4, which he has previously stated would require treatments or a vaccine to enter. Given the projected circumstances and potential, I would not be comfortable moving forward.”

• If you’re one of the people who is sniveling about masks, or denying that they work … it’s time for you to stop the sniveling and the denying.

Palm Springs City Councilmember Christy Holstege and the Palm Springs Police Officers’ Association are in the midst of a war of words. Here’s the brief, oversimplified version what happened: On Monday, Holstege wrote an open letter to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in support of Supervisor V. Manuel Perez’s proposed resolutions to condemn the killing of George Floyd (which barely passed), and request the Sheriff’s Department to review its own policies (which failed when Perez couldn’t get a second). In it, Holstege wrote, among other things: “Like most communities throughout Riverside County, in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, we have a long history of racial segregation and exclusion, racial violence, racist city policies and policing, and injustice and disparities in our community that exist today.” This did not sit well with the officers’ union, which today accused Holstege of not bringing up any problems with the department until now, as well as “vilify(ing) our officers and department.” Holstege has since responded with claims that the union is mischaracterizing what she said. All three statements are recommended reading.

• Related-ish: San Francisco’s public-transportation agency recently announced it would no longer transport police officers to protests. The San Francisco Police Officers Association’s response? Hey Muni, lose our number.

• From ProPublica comes this piece: “The Police Have Been Spying on Black Reporters and Activists for Years. I Know Because I’m One of Them.” Wendi Thomas’ story is a must-read.

• The Black Lives Matters protests are resulting in a lot of long-overdue changes. One shockingly meaningful one was announced today: NASCAR will no longer allow confederate flags at its racetracks.

And Walmart has announced it will stop keeping its “multicultural hair care and beauty products” in locked cases.

And the Riverside County Sheriff announced today it would no longer use the use the carotid restraint technique.

• The government is understandably rushing the approvals processes to make potentially helpful COVID-10 treatments available. However, as The Conversation points out this is a potentially dangerous thing to do.

Also being rushed: A whole lot of state contracts for various things needed to battle the pandemic. Our partners at CalMatters break down how this created—and forgive the language, but this is the only word I can think of that sums things up properly—a complete and total clusterfuck.

• Provincetown, Mass., is normally a packed LGBT haven during the summer. However, this year, businesses there are just starting to reopen—and they’re trying to figure out the correct balance between income and safety.

Your blood type may help determine how you’ll fare if you get COVID-19. If you have Type 0, you may be less at risk—and if you have Type A, you may be more at risk.

Wired magazine talked to three vaccine researchers for a 15-minute YouTube video. Hear the voices and see the faces of the scientists behind the fight to end SARS-CoV-2.

A study of seamen on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt—where there was a much-publicized COVID-19 outbreak—offers hope that people who recover from the disease may have immunity.

If it seems like groceries are more expensive, that’s because they are—about 8.2 percent more expensive.

What fascinating times these are. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Black Lives Matter. Please help the Independent continue what we’re doing, without paywalls, free to all, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will likely be back tomorrow—Friday at the latest.

Published in Daily Digest

Let’s get right to the day’s news:

• I owe Supervisor V. Manuel Perez an apology. In this space last Friday, I called his attempt to get the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department to review its own policies “pretty weak,” because, well, he was asking THEM to review THEIR OWN policies, more or less. Here’s what’s happened since. First, the department’s union announced they were opposed to the idea because, in the words of the union president, “There is no need to suggest or invent problems that do not exist in the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.” Then Sheriff Chad Bianco—the one who has recently been on Fox News—said he didn’t want a “political” process, and pointed out that the County Commission doesn’t have authority over him. Second, Perez’s motion by the County Commission failed, because he couldn’t get a second. Yeesh. Key quote from Bianco, to the supervisors: “It's not your job to tell me what to do.”

• From the Independent: We spoke to Angel Moreno, one of the organizers of the June 1 Black Lives Matter protest in Palm Desert: “What’s happening right now is just really unacceptable, and we just wanted to do this protest so our words could be heard.”

• The TV show Cops’ 33rd season was slated to premiere next week. That’s not going to happen now.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently asked an epidemiologist how long it’ll take to determine whether the Black Lives Matter protests will cause a spike in COVID-19 cases. Key quote: “(Dr. George) Rutherford is encouraged by what he sees in Minnesota, which is where the protests started on the week of May 25. It has been almost a full two weeks since the protests began, and the number of new confirmed cases statewide is actually trending downwards.”

The Conversation uses science to explain that COVID-19 deaths and the killing of George Floyd (and many other Black men and women over the years) have something in common: Racism.

• The state announced late yesterday that movie theaters could reopen—at 25 percent capacity—on Friday. However, most of them probably won’t open that soon. Deadline explains the reasons why.

• Meanwhile, The Living Desert is reopening on Monday. Here’s what the people who run zoo and gardens are doing to reopen as safely as possible.

• Yesterday, we discussed how a WHO doctor created a furor by claiming asymptomatic SARS=CoV-2 infectees don’t spread the virus all that much. Well, today, WHO did a whole lot of backpedaling.

• One of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the state is taking place right now in a prison in this very county: Almost 1,000 inmates at the Chuckawalla Valley State Prison have tested positive, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Why is COVID-19 killing more men than women? The Conversation examines what we know, what we don’t know, and, uh, why we don’t know the things we don’t know.

• Some people who are making the very wise decision to stay home while the world around them reopens are getting shamed, according to this USA Today columnist.

Even though you might think the opposite if you’re a loyal viewer of NBC Palm Springs, Amazon’s coronavirus response has been rather problematic. Therefore, it’s a good thing that the retail giant is going to soon start testing its workers a whole lot more.

• Yet another analysis of SARS-CoV-2 mutations explains why the San Francisco Bay Area was briefly such a COVID-19 hotbed: The virus entered the area from all sorts of different places as it started to spread.

A company that’s on the leading edge of the vaccine race just got all sorts of government cash to work on a treatment to battle COVID-19 designed around antibodies.

• On a recent interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he was “almost certain” more than one vaccine being developed would work against the disease he called his “worst nightmare.” He also made it abundantly clear that we’re nowhere near the end of this damned pandemic.

All of the state’s DMV offices will soon be open again. (Well, except for the one damaged by looters in San Bernardino.)

• This story probably has no application to your life whatsoever, but we’re presenting it here because it’s so damned weird. The Business Insider headline: “People are paying as much as $10,000 for an unlicensed remdesivir variant for their cats, in a thriving black market linked to Facebook groups.”

• Finally, on his Netflix show Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj explains why a whole lot of local newspapers are in trouble—and how essential they really, truly are.

That’s the news for this Tuesday. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Fight injustice. Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you have the means to do so. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

It was an insanely busy news day, so let’s get right to the links:

• First, a correction: In the emailed version of yesterday’s Daily Digest, I had the month portion of the date wrong for the city of Palm Springs’ “Restaurant, Retail, Hair Salon & Barbershop Re-Opening Guidance for Business Owners” webinar. As a few eagle-eyed readers pointed out: The webinar is taking place at 9 a.m., May 28—in other words, tomorrow. Get info here, and please accept my apologies for the mistake.

• Other Palm Springs news: The City Council voted yesterday to extend the eviction moratorium through June 30.

• While this news is certainly not surprising, it’s an economic bummer for sure: Goldenvoice is reaching out to artists slated to perform at the already-delayed Coachella festival, and trying to book them for 2021 instead. Translation: A Coachella cancellation announcement may be coming soon.

If you’re going to read only one piece from today’s Daily Digest, please make sure it’s this one. Yesterday, we talked about the appalling lack of journalistic integrity NBC Palm Springs showed by airing an unvetted fluff piece—multiple times—provided by Amazon talking about all the great things the company is doing to keep its workers safe. In reality … at least eight workers have died. Today, the Los Angeles Times brings us the story of one of those eight fallen workers. Grab a tissue before you get to know the story of Harry Sentoso.

• Gov. Newsom announced today that more information regarding gym/fitness center-reopening guidelines would be released next week, as the state moves further into Stage 3.

• The Coachella Valley Economic Partnership just released a new survey of local businesses regarding the impact of the pandemic … and the only word that comes to mind is “yikes.” One takeaway: 99 percent of businesses have experienced a reduction in revenue—and 56 percent of those declines were between 91 and 100 percent

• It’s well-known that a number of COVID-19 antibody tests are flawed, but now there are concerns about the accuracy of the diagnostic tests. NBC News looks into the matter.

• Well, this could be interesting: President Trump, angry that Twitter placed a fact-check notice on an obviously untrue statement of his, apparently plans on taking some sort of action against social media companies via executive order. Will tomorrow be the day our democratic republic comes to an end? Tune in tomorrow! 

• In Pennsylvania, Democratic lawmakers are accusing GOP lawmakers of covering up the fact that a lawmaker had tested positive for COVID-19—possibly exposing them in the process. Republicans say they followed all the proper protocols … but didn’t feel the need to tell Democrats about the positive test, because of privacy. Jeez. The barn-burning video of Rep. Brian Sims expressing his extreme displeasure is horrifying.

• From the Independent: While tattoo shops remain closed (at least legally) across the state, they may be allowed to reopen soon, as we move further into Stage 3. The Independent’s Kevin Allman spoke to Jay’e Jones, of Yucca Valley’s renowned Strata Tattoo Lab, about the steps she’s taking to get ready.

• An update on what’s happening in Imperial County, our neighbors to the southeast: A coronavirus outbreak in northern Mexico is causing American citizens who live there to cross the border for treatment—and overwhelming the small hospitals in the county. The Washington Post explains how this is happening, while KESQ reports that packed Imperial County hospitals are sending patients to Riverside County hospitals for care.

• Don’t let the headline freak you out, please, because it’s not as horrifying as it sounds, although it remains important and interesting: The “coronavirus may never go away, even with a vaccine,” explains The Washington Post.

Nevada casinos will begin coming back to life on June 4. The Los Angeles Times explains how Las Vegas is preparing for a tentative revival.

• Another business segment is also making plans to reopen in Nevada: brothels. The Reno Gazette-Journal explains how brothel owners are making their case to the state.

• Given that Santa Clara County health officer Dr. Sara Cody issued the nation’s first stay-at-home order, it’s 1) interesting and 2) not entirely surprising that she thinks California’s reopening process is moving too quickly.

• Some of us are naturally inclined to follow rules; some of us bristle at them. University of Maryland Professor Michele Gelfand, writing for The Conversation, explains how these primal mindsets are coming into play regarding masks and other pandemic matters.

The Trump administration is still separating migrant families—and often using the pandemic as an excuse to do so, explains the Los Angeles Times.

• The New York Times reports on the inevitable upcoming eviction crisis. Eff you, 2020.

Some Good News, John Krasinski’s feel-good YouTube series, has been sold to ViacomCBS. Here’s how and why that came about.

• Finally, here’s an update on increasing evidence that sewage testing may help governments stop new coronavirus outbreaks before they blow up.

That’s all today. I am going to now go raise a toast to the life of Harry Sentoso and the other 100,000-plus Americans this virus has claimed so far. Please join me if you can. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

I have spent most of the last two days basically doing two things:

1. Getting everything ready to send the Independent’s June print edition to press.

2. Checking the state’s “Resilience Roadmap” page every 15 minutes for updates on the counties allowed to move further into Stage 2 of the reopening process—meaning stores can let customers inside, and restaurants can have dine-in customers.

As of 6:45 p.m., 43 of the state’s 58 counties have been given the go-ahead … and Riverside County is NOT one of them, even though the county posted the paperwork to move ahead last Friday.

This really could change at any time; San Joaquin County was added to the list since I started writing this, and about a half-dozen were added last night after business hours—including San Diego County.

Why is this such a big deal? Well, we are heading into Memorial Day weekend, and if Riverside County gets its blessing soon, some restaurants and stores could possibly allow customers inside—with restrictions and social distancing—by the time the weekend arrives. After all, some places are already open in San Diego after word came down late last night.

Also, whether or not you think we should be reopening this much already (and my feelings are beyond mixed), this whole process is undeniably fascinating.

We’ll keep watching and hitting the “refresh” button.

Today’s news:

• What if a second wave of COVID-19 washes across the country? The president said that even if that happens, he won’t close things down again (although, thankfully, it isn’t his call to make).

• A Catch-22, sort of: Educators say budget cuts caused by the pandemic will jeopardize their ability to safely reopen schools in the fall

• From the Independent: Missing concerts? Well, some people have started to do drive-in concerts—including a weekly Sunday show as the sun sets on 15 gorgeous acres in Yucca Valley. Matt King has the details.

• Consider yourself warned that this piece is depressing: According to Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom, a large portion of the jobs lost due to the pandemic are never coming back—even though as of now, employers intend on rehiring most of the people. “We know from the past that these aspirations often don’t turn out to be true,” he told The New York Times.

• Depressingly related: Mitch McConnell said the feds would not extend a boost in unemployment benefits when that increase expires.

• Why are people acting, well, so darn weird? Two psych experts, writing for The Conversation, say that when people are confronted with their own mortality, core beliefs—good and bad—get amplified. It’s a deeply interesting look at human psychology.

• While restaurants have been able to stay open to do takeout, and will be allowed to have customers inside in advanced Stage 2, bars have not, and will not. As the San Francisco Chronicle points out, a lot of bar owners think that’s decidedly unfair.

• Another primer on how numbers can be deceiving: Reported coronavirus cases have been sharply rising in California … while the infection rate has been heading downward. The reason? Significantly increased testing.

• Per usual, I took part in the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast/videocast today. The hosts and I chatted with the fantastic Dr. Laura Rush; events expert Hugh Hysell; and designer/retailer Christopher Kennedy.

• How weird it is to be a reliable media source these days! Readership is waaaaaay up—but revenue is waaaaaay down. The latest media company to announce layoffs: The Atlantic.

• The CDC now says that you don’t have to worry too much about catching the coronavirus from contaminated surfacesalthough perhaps you should still worry a little bit.

• ABC News and the Mayo Clinic teamed up to see how reliable the various antibody tests are. The results? Not so great.

• The Wheels Are Coming Off, Chapter 987: Some 1,200 pastors across the state say they’ll hold in-person church services on May 31, whether the state allows them or not.

Augustine Casino will not be joining the Agua Caliente properties and Morongo in reopening this weekend: General manager Jef Bauer says a mid-June reopening date is more likely for the Coachella property.

• Local small businesses impacted by the pandemic could get grants of up to $10,000 that do not need to be repaid, according to Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, thanks to the county receiving a big chunk of CARES Act money. Expect more details at the June 2 Board of Supervisors meeting.

Changes are coming to the airport-security process as a result of the virus, the Transportation Security Administration announced today.

Hollywood productions—for starters, all of your favorite TV shows—have been shut down, like most everything else, as a result of COVID-19. The Los Angeles Times looks at what it’s going to take to get things running again.

• What have Americans been spending their stimulus checks/deposits on? CNBC takes a look.

Please be safe. Please be kind. Please wear a mask when you’re out and anywhere near other people. If you like this Daily Digest, and want to support it and the other quality local journalism the Independent provides, think about becoming a Supporter of the Independent, if you’re able. We’ll be back tomorrow.

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Yesterday, we reported that Gov. Newsom had asked casinos to kindly reconsider their reopening plans.

The response? More casino reopening announcements—including word that Morongo and Spotlight 29 will be reopening their doors this Friday.

Meanwhile … that curve is not as flat as we’d all like it to be in parts of Southern California.

We mentioned yesterday that Gov. Newsom had revamped the state’s criteria for counties to move deeper into Stage 2—meaning retail stores could have customers inside of them, and restaurants could welcome dine-in customers. Riverside County representatives expressed optimism that we’d qualify. While the governor’s office made no announcements on that front today (at least as of our deadline) … one of the new criteria is: “stable hospitalizations of COVID individuals on a 7-day average of daily percent change of less than 5 percent OR no more than 20 COVID hospitalizations on any single day in the past 14 days.”

Well, here’s the stat line over the last three days in Riverside County for the number of reported COVID-19 hospitalizations:

Friday: 184

Monday: 186

Tuesday: 195

While there’s a lot these numbers don’t tell us, they do tell us that since Friday, the total number of hospitalizations is up by 11, or 5.978 percent. Which is more than 5 percent.

Not great. Even more alarming is this news out of Imperial County, our neighboring county to the Southwest, courtesy of Inewsource:

Imperial County’s two hospitals no longer are accepting additional COVID-19 patients after seeing a rise in cases overnight.

Adolphe Edward, CEO of the El Centro Regional Medical Center, announced Tuesday morning on Facebook Live that the county’s emergency rooms are on “divert”—meaning ambulances will take patients elsewhere if they have the coronavirus. Emergency rooms at the El Centro hospital and Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley remain open for walk-ins and illnesses other than the virus, he said.

“We want to make sure we don’t overwhelm either one of the hospitals and overwhelm the system with COVID patients to the point that we can’t take care of you,” Edward said on the Facebook video.

Yikes.

As the reopening process continues—and it’s continuing whether you think it should or not—we all need to take precautions, because COVID-19 remains a very real danger.

Today’s news:

Wear. A. Damn. Mask. Yet more research indicates that masks—surgical-grade, in this case, but still—can drastically cut down on coronavirus transmission.

• From the Independent: For the latest installment in our Pandemic Stories series, I spoke to three local restaurant-delivery-app drivers about what it’s like for them during this “new normal.” While access to bathrooms for these drivers is down, business is up. Unfortunately, so is racism.

• While this will be the quietest Memorial Day weekend in the Coachella Valley in decades, it won’t be completely dead. First: A bunch of downtown Palm Springs retailers have joined forces to celebrate their socially distanced, curbside-pickup reopenings this weekend—and they’re donating 10 percent of sales to the Palm Springs Animal Shelter.

• Second, downtown PS breakfast mainstay Cheeky’s is reopening for takeout on Saturday and Sunday, and they’re offering a pancake breakfast—with all the proceeds going to the great local businesses that are part of Keep Shining Palm Springs. Get the details here.

• The Trump administration plans on ending the deployments of more than 40,000 National Guard members who are helping with all sorts of pandemic-related tasks across the country, from stocking food banks to assisting at testing sites, on June 24. It turns out that’s the day before they’d qualify for GI Bill benefits. Yes, really.

• The pandemic has apparently killed off another already-teetering retail chain: So long, Pier 1.

• However, it’ll apparently take more than a pandemic to kill off buffet-chain mainstay Golden Corral. While there are no valley locations, a lot of us know about Golden Corral (for better or for worse)—and in places where they’re allowed to reopen, they’re reopening.

• As businesses reopen, one of the biggest obstacles to maintaining social distancing guidelines involves their bathrooms. The Washington Post explains.

• One of the biggest challenges for schools that want to reopen come fall: They need more space. The Conversation breaks it down.

• The Intercept reports that as scientists try to nail down concrete information on SARS-CoV-2’s origins—knowledge that could help us battle the damn virusthe Trump administration, shall we say, is being less than helpful.

• If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, the state wants you to donate your plasma.

The Oscars could be postponed or even cancelled in 2021. While Variety got the scoop, Esquire brings the snark regarding the matter.

• Did you know air traffic has increased a whopping 123 percent in the last month? Really, it has. However, that means it’s back to 9 percent of what it normally is. The New York Times points out that now more than ever, we need to be careful about how people try to spin statistics, because what we’re going through is so completely unprecedented.

• Interesting: A person who had the OG horrifying coronavirus—SARS—back in 2003 has antibodies that are battling the current coronavirus. Live Science explains what this may mean for treatments going forward.

• Finally, for your viewing pleasure, John Krasinski’s Some Good News is back with a final episode before it goes on hiatus.

• And Randy Rainbow is also back, this time with a chat with the president … and DISTRACTION!

That’s the news for the day. Wash your hands. Wear. A. Mask. If you own a local business, consider our $199 advertising special; the deadline for the June print edition is this week! If you can afford to support independent, local journalism, including this Daily Digest, please consider doing so; learn more about becoming a Supporter of the Independent here. Back tomorrow.

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Riverside County seems poised to move into the second part of the state’s Stage 2 reopening process—meaning people may soon be able to shop in stores, and dine in at restaurants.

This news comes as a result of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement today that he’s revised the state’s somewhat odd reopening criteria—and that “roughly” 53 of the state’s 58 counties would soon qualify.

Of course, he did not announce which of the 53 or so counties qualify. So I checked the state’s county-variance website for updates throughout the afternoon to see if Riverside County had qualified, and I got excited when the page with the list of counties crashed for about an hour. I thought maybe it was being updated … but that was not the case. Boo!

Anyway, this afternoon, Supervisor V. Manuel Perez said in a Facebook video that he was confident the county would meet Newsom’s revised criteria. So … ready or not, here we probably go, maybe!

More news from the day:

Joshua Tree National Park reopened over the weekend. The Los Angeles Times has the details.

• The county has opened yet another free testing site in the Coachella Valley, this one at the Cathedral City Library.

• Some very, very promising news on the vaccine front: The volunteers who participated in a study for biotech company Moderna’s vaccine developed antibodies, and the vaccine caused no harm to the participants. You all know the rule about rushed studies these days—they need to be taken with that gigantic figurative grain of salt—but the news could not have been any more encouraging. CNN has the news on that.

More vaccine news, from the San Francisco Chronicle: One potential vaccine, being designed by a Northern California company, is actually administered via a patch. Science!

• Other news from Gov. Newsom from today and over the weekend: He’s asked the state’s casinos to reconsider their opening plans for now. And in something of a surprise, he said pro sports will probably be able to return to the state—in empty stadiums—come June. Also possibly coming in a couple of weeks: Haircuts!

Highly recommended: Fareed Zakaria’s “take” from his Sunday CNN show. He powerfully makes the case that the reopening debate has its roots in class and income. This is a must-watch—especially if you’re a college-educated person who is still employed and who has no doubts whatsoever that the reopening process is being rushed across the country.

Yes, we really are living in the worst timeline: So the president came out today and said he’s been taking a disproven, dangerous drug to prevent COVID-19. Then the speaker of the House criticized him for doing so, in part because the president is, in her words, “morbidly obese.” Ladies and gentlemen, your federal government!

• From the Independent: Our resident sommelier, Katie Finn, has been holding wine tastings via Zoom—and they’ve been a blessing. But they can’t replace the real thing.

What is the future of restaurants? The San Francisco Chronicle takes a multimedia look at what to expect when we’re allowed to finally dine in.

• If you want to break the rules, you rebel you, and see your friends despite the continuing stay-at-home order, the Los Angeles Times breaks down the risks you’ll be facing.

• NBC News looks at how COVID-19 patients are helping each other in ways that medical professionals cannot.

• NERDS! I say that with tons of love, even though we Stanford folks are trained to dislike anything UC Berkeley: After the college’s graduation ceremony was cancelled, students wound up replicating the campus and having a virtual ceremony via Minecraft.

• A unique idea from a Maryland bar to make sure customers maintain social distancing guidelines when it’s time to reopen: Everyone wears innertubes on wheels!

That’s certainly enough for today, no? Wash your hands. Wear a mask when you leave the house, because more and more science is coming out showing that it drastically cuts down on virus transmission. If you own a local business, or want to support a local business, check out our $199 advertising special. If you can afford to support local journalism, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow!

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Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to play the exciting game that is most definitely NOT sweeping the nation: Six Degrees of Separation: Whackadoo Conspiracy Theory Edition!

However, Kevin Bacon was not available, so we will be seeing how many degrees of separation you—YES YOU!!!—are from the newest conspiracy star in all the pandemic-stricken land!

We’ll start off with Judy Mikovits, Ph.D. She’s the star of that new documentary you’ve likely seen some of your friends posting on social media, even though they really should know better. In an effort to be fair and open-minded, I actually tracked it down and watched it today. My Impression: The documentary is 1) well-crafted and slick, 2) undeniably interesting and 3) completely packed with easily refutable and deeply-harmful-if-believed nonsense! I’ll never get that almost-half-hour of my life back! Is it time for a cocktail yet?

First degree of separation: Judy Mikovits, before she became a celebrity on the anti-vaccination circuit, worked at the Whittemore Peterson Institute, a nonprofit based in Reno, Nev., that does research into myalgic encephalomyelitis (aka chronic fatigue syndrome) and other neuroimmune diseases. I won’t go into all the details of Mikovits’ work there, other than to say that 1) one of the studies she published while there wound up being so shoddy that the digest which published it had to later retract it, and 2) she was arrested and accused of stealing materials from the lab after she was fired by the institute. What fun! Anyhow, one the founders of the Whittemore Peterson Institute is Harvey Whittemore, a Reno attorney who was once one of the most powerful lobbyists in the state of Nevada. (Then he was convicted of three felonies and sent to prison for a couple of years for violating campaign-contribution laws. Oops!)

Second degree of separation: Harvey Whittemore has five kids, one of whom is DJ Whittemore, a perfectly nice guy who is a collegiate baseball coach. He graduated from Earl Wooster High School in 1993.

Third degree of separation: Jimmy Boegle, the editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent, and the humble scribe of this Daily Digest, is also a member of the Earl Wooster High School class of 1993. What a small and sometimes horrifying world!

Fourth degree of separation: YOU are reading this Daily Digest, written by Jimmy Boegle.

Congratulations! You are a mere four degrees of separation from Judy Mikovits! I am so very sorry about that!

Today’s links:

• The big state news of the day: Gov. Newsom offered more information on which businesses can begin to reopen as early tomorrow. He was actually rather light on the specifics, according to the Los Angeles Times.

• The other big state news: As expected, the state is facing a massive budget deficit—far bigger than anything the state faced during the great recession. That means some deep cuts are coming.

• The big national news: The Trump administration has decided not to follow the reopening guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because, you know who needs science and knowledge and experts and stuff?

• The other big national news: The Justice Department is dropping the case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. This line, from The New York Times, earns the Understatement of the Day Award: “The decision for the government to throw out a case after a defendant had already pleaded guilty was … highly unusual.

• I, per usual, took part in the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast today. Hear what the knowledgeable Dr. Laura Rush has to say about the coronavirus in the Coachella Valley.

One of the president’s personal valets has tested positive for the virus. The president says he has tested negative, however, and will continue to get tested daily.

More than 12,000 Catholic churches (out of 17,000) in the U.S. received federal Paycheck Protection Plan loans that were supposedly meant for small businesses. Wait, what?!

• Also from the “Wait, what?!” files: Frontier Airlines is making people pay extra to be socially distanced.

• The California Restaurant Association has sent to Gov. Newsom a proposed plan on how to reopen the state’s restaurants. Get more details, via The Associated Press, here.

A group of hair salons is getting ready to sue Gov. Newsom over the fact that they have not been allowed to reopen yet. (Search for hair salon after clicking the link.)

• Finally, some good news: While nothing is sure yet, there’s increasing evidence that almost all people who recover from COVID-19 indeed have antibodies—and that MIGHT mean they have at least temporary immunity.

• Oh, and there’s increasing evidence blood thinners may help some people who get critically sick from COVID-19.

• The Wheels Are Coming Off, Chapter 96: Some Southern California churches are starting to have in-person services, the law (and possible spread of the virus) be damned.

Coronavirus survivors will be disqualified from joining the military. Yes, really.

The DMV is opening 25 offices—including the one in Palm Desert—for in-person service tomorrow. However, you’ll need an appointment.

• Could lasers soon be used to test for COVID-19—and other diseases, too? The Conversation breaks down how that is a possibility.

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Wear your mask. Don’t spread easily disproven conspiracy theories. Buy our amazing Coloring Book. Chip in a few bucks, if you can afford to do so, to help us continue doing what we’re doing. Back tomorrow!

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