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Thu10292020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

One day, those of us who survive this crazy time will look back on this year—and particularly this week—and shake our heads at the sheer unbelievability.

The Trump tax thing. That debate. The sudden—and somehow surprising, even though it should have been rather predictable—flood of positive coronavirus tests among prominent people, headlined by the president himself, who is currently being treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

This has all happened since Sunday. And who in the hell knows what’s coming next.

So, on with the gusher of news:

• Today has seen a nonstop stream of updates regarding who has tested positive for COVID-19, and who hasn’t. Here’s The New York Times’ live updates page. It’s worth a follow—and you’ll want to hit refresh frequently.

• A professor of immunology, writing for The Conversation, breaks down why President Trump, who is 74, is more at risk of the coronavirus than people who are younger. Key quote: “As you age, the reduced ‘attention span’ of your innate and adaptive immune responses make it harder for the body to respond to viral infection, giving the virus the upper hand. Viruses can take advantage of your immune system’s slow start and quickly overwhelm you, resulting in serious disease and death.”

• A local news bombshell dropped yesterday: Palm Springs City Manager David Ready will be retiring at the end of the year, after two decades as the city’s chief executive. While Ready’s tenure as city manager was far from perfect—the whole Wessman/Pougnet thing happened under his watch—and his high salary made him a target for detractors, it’s undeniable that the city has grown and thrived, despite three painful recessions, since he took the top city job in 2000. Interestingly, both Indio and Palm Desert are also looking for new city managers right now.

• I have to tip my hat to Riverside County, which has done a fantastic job of issuing relevant and helpful statistical updates regarding the pandemic (even though it’s weird, if understandable, that the county takes weekends off, because the virus doesn’t). Anyway, every weekday, the county releases an updated Data Summary. Here’s today’s, and I want to draw your attention to the little yellow box in the upper right corner of the last page: The county’s positivity rate, after fairly steady declines since mid-July, is heading upward again—fairly rapidly. Is this just a little blip, like we had in mid-August and earlier this month? Or is it something else? Stay tuned.

• Some news that flew under the radar today, because of, well, you know: The grand jury recording in the Breonna Taylor case was released. NPR looks at what the 15 hours of recordings reveal.

• Gov. Gavin Newsom is on my personal shit list right now. Why? Per the Los Angeles Times: “Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have further protected journalists covering demonstrations from physical or verbal obstruction by a law enforcement officer.” The Times explains his justification for the veto, which sort of makes sense, but not really.

• Barring a change of plans, cruise ships will be able to set sail starting next month—even though the CDC wanted to keep them docked until mid-February. The White House vetoed that plan, lest Floridians and its voters get upset.

Wisconsin has become the latest COVID-19 epicenter in the United States. Hospitals are strained, and health officers are panicked. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Before Sept. 17, the state had never recorded a day with more than 2,000 new cases. Over the last seven days, however, it has reported an average of nearly 2,500 new coronavirus cases each day. Those aren't just the highest numbers of the pandemic; they're three times higher than a month ago.

Things are also rough in Puerto Rico—and not just because of COVID-19. According to NBC News: “The increasing demand for grocery boxes … coincides with a looming funding cliff that stands to eliminate or reduce food assistance to 1.5 million Puerto Ricans, including over 300,000 children, according to an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute.” Yikes.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott yesterday restricted the number of places where ballots can be dropped off by hand to one per county. Per NBC News: “Harris County, which includes much of the sprawling city of Houston, has a population of more than 4.7 million people, according to the Census Bureau. The county is home to 25 percent of the state's Black residents and 18 percent of its Hispanic population. Before Abbott's proclamation, the county had created 11 ballot drop-off locations.” Abbott cited security concerns, but really, how can this be viewed as anything but voter suppression?

Amazon said yesterday that nearly 20,000 employees—or 1.44 percent of the company’s workforce—have contracted COVID-19, as of Sept. 19. According to CNBC: “The information comes months after labor groups, politicians and regulators repeatedly pressed Amazon to disclose how many of its workers were infected by COVID-19. Early on in the pandemic, warehouse workers raised concerns that Amazon wasn’t doing enough to protect them from getting sick and called for facilities with confirmed cases to be shut down. Lacking data from Amazon, warehouse workers compiled a crowdsourced database of infections based on notifications of new cases at facilities across the U.S.”

The Paycheck Protection Program continues to be a mess. According to The Washington Post: “The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration have not yet forgiven any of the 5.2 million emergency coronavirus loans issued to small businesses and need to do more to combat fraud, government watchdogs told Congress on Thursday. Small businesses that received Paycheck Protection Program funds, as well as their banks, have been frustrated by the difficulty in applying for loans to be forgiven, despite rules saying that if the funds are spent mostly on payroll they will not need to be paid back.”

• A speck of good news: The supply of remdesivir—one of the most effective drugs in treating COVID-19—has caught up with demand, to the point where the drug-maker, Gilead Sciences has taken over distribution of the drug from the federal government.

The Washington Post has declared the current recession to be the “most unequal in modern history.” In web-graphic form, the newspaper explains how minorities and lower-income Americans have been hurt the most.

Speaking of inequality, check out this lede, from the San Francisco Chronicle: “Federal funding that put money in the pockets of local farmers and organic produce in the mouths of food-insecure families has come to an end. The United States Department of Agriculture launched the Farmers to Families Program during the pandemic to get free food to low-income families while supporting small farms scrambling for more business. But the department recently stopped issuing funds to local community organizations in favor of multinational food distributors like Sysco.” Sigh.

• I was again a guest on this week’s I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast, with hosts Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr. We discuss all things COVID—including sports! Take a listen, even though it was recorded yesterday, which seems like seven years ago, news-wise.

• Finally, if you’re in the mood to read about the inappropriate behavior that reportedly led to Kimberly Guilfoyle’s departure from Fox News, have at it, via SF Gate. Why should you care about Kimberly Guilfoyle? You probably shouldn’t, even if she is Gavin Newsom’s ex, is dating Donald Trump Jr., is the Trump campaign's finance chair, and became well known for her crazy speech at the Republican National Convention. But, boy, the things she allegedly made her poor former assistant—who, according to the New Yorker, was paid $4 million by Fox News to settle a sexual-harassment claim against Guilfoyle—do make for some salacious reading, if you’re into that sort of thing.

That’s all for now. Consider helping us continue producing quality local journalism by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Please, please, please try to unplug and safely enjoy life this weekend. As always, thanks for reading.

Published in Daily Digest

Happy (?) July, all. The news of the day:

The reopening process is moving further backward: Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced that restaurants, movie theaters, family-entertainment centers and other businesses in much of the state—including Riverside County—must shutter all indoor operations for at least three weeks. Bars must completely shut down, and parking lots at state beaches will close for the weekend.

• The governor is also imploring people NOT to have personal gatherings—and threatening to withhold some state funding from counties that disregard the state’s mandates and requests.

He also took a veiled swipe at casinos. The state does not have regulatory power over them, but he said the state is “in deep conversations and will be making public the fruits of those efforts to at least get a rationale of understanding between partners in our sovereign nations and the state of California.”

• The city of Palm Springs is tightening up the mask mandate, making them mandatory when someone is near any business or in any business district; at restaurants when servers or other employees are near a table; and while working out in gyms.

• While the state is rolling back the reopening process, it’s also no longer funding new testing sites, and is closing underutilized sites, according to the Los Angeles Times. What the hell, California?

Apple is temporarily closing another 30 stores, including a bunch in the L.A. area—but for now, the Palm Desert location is remaining open.

• News that a small trial study of one vaccine candidate yielded promising results got the stock market all excited this morning.

CNN took a look at the mess in Imperial County, where Americans who live in Mexico are crossing back over the border for COVID-19 care—and overwhelming the small county’s medical system.

• It’s official: The European Union is allowing travel again—but those of us from the U.S. aren’t allowed in.

• The coronavirus situation has gotten so dire at San Quentin State Prison—more than 1,100 inmates have the virus—that about 20 prisoners have gone on a hunger strike, according to The Appeal.

The virus is spreading among detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, too.

Along other guidelines, the FDA says a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine will need to be at least 50 percent more effective than a placebo in order to be approved for use.

A study at Stanford University is looking into the possibility that Apple Watches, Fitbits and other wearable technology could let people know that they may have the coronavirus before they start to feel sick.

• The Conversation looks at what went wrong in Texas—and what needs to happen for that state to get out of its current COVID-19 spike.

• The Seattle Times reports on yet more evidence that the widespread Black Lives Matter protests have NOT led to spikes in the diseaseoffering pretty convincing evidence that the disease does not spread well among people who are outside and wearing face coverings.

• One of the biggest mysteries of this damn virus: Most people don’t seem to spread it—but a select few REALLY spread it. The New York Times talks to experts who are trying to solve this mystery.

Autopsies are helping scientists better understand the damage being done by COVID-19—and that’s helping doctors and researchers develop better treatments.

• The fight between insurers and pissed-off business owners who want business-interruption payments are heading to the courts. The Wall Street Journal looks at hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed—and explains why some business owners may have precedents on their side.

United Airlines thinks people are in the mood to travel again—and as a result, it’s adding hundreds of flights to its August schedule.

I did not predict this side effect of the pandemic: Pissed-off otters are biting people.

• OK, now for some good news: The Palm Springs Cultural Center is launching a drive-in movie series—and kicking it off with free showings of Hamilton this weekend.

• One activity that’s free and will always be open: skywatching. Independent astronomy columnist Robert Victor explains what the heavens have in store for us this month.

Finally, we all have something to live for: New episodes of Beavis and Butt-head are coming.

That’s the news of the day. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. Become a Supporter of the Independent, please, if you have the funds and you value what we do. The Daily Digest will return on Friday.

Published in Daily Digest

In response to yesterday’s Daily Digest, I received this email from a reader, verbatim:

You read so old lady at times, but the wearing of masks is important but some people cannot and you never say that?

Along with chiding the reader for his ageism and sexism with the “old lady” remark, I responded that the number of people who truly can’t wear masks is small, and that many of those people can wear other forms of a face coverings, like a shield.

The back and forth went another pointless round which I shan’t recap here. Nonetheless … you know what? This reader is right. There are some people who can’t wear face masks.

So, to those of you out there (aside from this cranky reader) who are unable to wear face masks, I’d like to ask: How do you handle this? Do other face coverings work? If you go out somewhere, how do you explain your situation? What steps, if any, do you take to protect yourself—and the people you’re around—from possibly spreading COVID-19?

I’d love to hear from you. Please email me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.); if you don’t want your name or identifying characteristics used, I won’t do so. I’ll recap the responses I get in an upcoming Daily Digest.

Thank you in advance for your time, and for helping us all learn.

Let’s get to the links:

• The big national news of the day: During a call with reporters today, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the agency believes that only a tenth of the coronavirus infections in the country are being reported. Says NBC News: “Currently, there are 2.3 million COVID-19 cases reported in the U.S. The CDC’s new estimate pushes the actual number of coronavirus cases up to at least 23 million.

• Don’t take this as a reason to panic; take this as a call to action: The Desert AIDS Project reports that in one week, the clinic there has seen more positive results that it had in the previous 10 weeks combined.

• I was once again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs Podcast, with hosts John Taylor, Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr, and all sorts of other amazing guests. We lead off by talking with Dr. Laura Rush about the local COVID-19 case increases. Be careful out there, folks.

• What kind of mask is best at preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2? FiveThirtyEight breaks it down.

• If you don’t mind dense scientific articles, this piece, from JAMA Psychiatry, is worth at least a quick skim. It recommends steps we can take, collectively and as individuals, to promote better health during these crazy times. Key quote—and keep in mind this is coming from a media outlet: “Limiting media exposure time is advisable. Graphic imagery and worrisome messages increase stress and anxiety, elevating the risk of long-term, lingering fear-related disorders. Although staying informed is essential, one should minimize exposure to media outlets.”

• For a less-dense scientific read, The Conversation examines how deforestation is a key driver in introducing new diseases to mankind. Sigh.

Texas has put a stop to its reopening process—and ordered hospitals to postpone elective procedures in four of the largest counties—because things there are getting pretty bad.

• Meanwhile, in Arizona, where things are almost as bad as they are in Texas, Gov. Doug Ducey held a press conference today and asked people to wear masks and stay home, but, as KTAR put it, “stopped short … of offering any additional formal action that would help slow the spread of the virus in Arizona.”

• Also in Arizona: Sick people are having problems getting tested there … and that problem is not limited to Arizona. According to The New York Times: “The United States’ coronavirus testing capacity has begun to strain as the pandemic continues to spread, with over 35,000 cases recorded Tuesday. Across the country, more than a dozen public laboratories say they are now ‘challenged’ to meet the demand.

This lede from The Sacramento Bee, via SFGate, should make your blood boil: “More than three months into the coronavirus pandemic, California officials say they still have no plans to collect and publish basic data about COVID-19 testing and outbreaks in local jails, frustrating advocates, families and even some members of the state’s own jail oversight board.”

MedPage Today recently spoke to Dr. Theodore Mazer, the former president of the California Medical Association, about the need for doctors to speak out in defense of public health officials. Key quote: “Public health officers and governments in general have always done things that restrict some activities for the public good. And I don’t mean to get down too deep into that, but we have laws against defecating in the streets. Is that infringing on somebody’s rights or is it a recognition that that brings about things like hepatitis outbreaks?”

• One of the drivers of the recent boost in local COVID-19 cases is believed to be people getting together with friends and family—and then letting down their guard. The Los Angeles Times examines what some health officials say about gatherings between friends and family, and how they can be done as safely as possible.

• Some people with all the usual COVID-19 symptoms still test negative for the disease. One possible reason: False negatives are still a problem.

I am going to present a quote from this Washington Post piece without comment (other than shaking my head, grumbling to myself privately and feeling utter despair): “In recent weeks, three studies have focused on conservative media’s role in fostering confusion about the seriousness of the coronavirus. Taken together, they paint a picture of a media ecosystem that amplifies misinformation, entertains conspiracy theories and discourages audiences from taking concrete steps to protect themselves and others.”

• And now your Disney news roundup: While the Downtown Disney District is still slated to reopen on July 9, the theme parks will NOT reopen on July 17, as was previously announced. Disney is blaming the delay on the fact the state has yet to issue guidelines—but the fact some of the company’s unions were pleading for a delay may (or may not) have been a factor.

• Disney’s Mulan is, as of now, scheduled on July 24 to be the first major film release since, well, you know. However, The Wall Street Journal says that may be delayed, too.

• OK, now, some good news: Riverside County on Monday will begin accepting applications from small businesses for a second round of grants of up to $10,000. This time, sole proprietors and businesses that received EIDL money (but NOT PPP money) will be eligible.

That’s today’s news. Wash your hands. Wear a mask (unless you can’t, in which case, please fill me in). Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you’re financially able, so we can keep producing quality local journalism—and making it available to everyone without pay walls or subscription fees. The Daily Digest will be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest