CVIndependent

Sat07042020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Happy Friday, everyone.

I have to warn you that today’s Daily Digest is pretty depressing … so proceed with caution. I am sorry to send you off into the weekend with such concerning news, but that’s my job—so here we go.

Today’s news:

• My friends, I beg of you: Please take precautions against COVID-19. As more and more of the Coachella Valley reopens, the numbers are getting worse and worse. The number of COVID-19 patients at Eisenhower Medical Center as of Wednesday is nearly twice as high as it had ever been before an uptick in cases began there around the start of the month

• Horrifyingly related: The Los Angeles Times reports that some people are so opposed to the idea of wearing masks, they’re lashing out in crazy ways. In fact, Orange County’s health officer resigned after receiving a death threat related to her since-rescinded mask order. I just don’t understand some people.

• Also related: The CDC made it very clear today that if you’re going to be part of a large gathering, you really should be wearing a mask.

• Meanwhile, San Bernardino County is on the state watch list due to alarming COVID-19 increases there. (Based on what I am seeing, I would not be surprised to see Riverside County on this list soon.)

A senior care community in Rancho Mirage is dealing with an outbreak.

• Scientists are examining the possibility that a mutation in the coronavirus may allow it to infect more cells. However, scientists aren’t even sure what that would mean if it were true.

• However, the reopening process rolls on: Nail salons, tattoo parlors and massage businesses can reopen a week from today in counties that give the OK.

• Augustine Casino deserves credit for being the first area casino to close, the last to reopen, and for taking social distancing so seriously that table games have been removed for the time being. The Coachella casino will open its doors on Monday.

• Lawmakers are upset about all of the executive orders Gov. Newsom has issued since the pandemic began—and some of them are fighting back. In fact, in response to a suit filed by two Republican legislators, a Sutter County judge put a hold on his order to send a mail ballot to all registered voters for this November’s election.

• Some hope is provided by this University of Chicago poll, showing that the vast majority of Americans insist they’re taking the necessary precautions during the pandemic.

• However, these findings from that poll conflict with cell-phone data showing that in some parts of the country, people are moving around as much as—or even more than—they were before the pandemic began.

• It’s theoretically possible that a smart phone could be used to test for COVID-19. How? ZDNet explains.

• Even though movie theaters have gotten the go-ahead to start reopening in California and some other states, the studios keep delaying major movie releasesincluding some big delays announced today.

• Due in part to systemic racism, COVID-19 and the resulting economic downturn has killed off 41 percent of Black-owned businesses in the U.S., according to research out of UC Santa Cruz.

Palm Springs Police Chief Bryan Reyes released a statement following the squabble between his officers’ union and Palm Springs City Councilmember Christy Holstege, as well as last night’s City Council meeting. Key quote: “We must discuss our history to have a better understanding and we must be willing to discuss current real or perceived experiences of racism within our community and police department. This must occur if we have any hope for meaningful change. I am confident the Palm Springs Police Officers Association, our City Council and our community will work on this very important issue as we move forward.

Netflix has released a new special by Dave Chappellefilmed just six days ago. Early reviews say the set by the renowned comedian—in which he discusses the killing of George Floyd and the resulting protests—is quite powerful.

• And finally, the Trump administration continues to show how inhumane it is by erasing protections for transgender people against discrimination from the health-care industry. This was announced on the fourth anniversary of the massacre at Pulse Nightclub. Happy Pride Month.

That’s the news for the week. Live in the now, and enjoy yourself this weekend—in a responsible fashion, of course. If you have the means, please consider helping us produce quality local journalism, made available free to all, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back Monday—and in the meantime, watch CVIndependent.com over the weekend for some excellent new stories.

Published in Daily Digest

Two quick notes before we launch into the day’s news (and, boy, there’s a lot of it):

• A plea to journalists and public officials who keep citing the number of reported COVID-19 cases, sans context: Please stop it.

Without knowing other data points—such as the number of total tests, with which we can determine the positivity rate—knowing the number of cases (aka positive COVID-19 tests) doesn’t tell us much.

Locally, given the much larger number of testing sites now—run by the county, the state, CVS, local health organizations, etc—we should expect the number of cases to rise somewhat. More testing means finding more cases (including asymptomatic ones).

When looking at data reports, look for the positivity rate and the number of hospitalizations; that information is much more useful. (By the way, both are on the rise, locally and in Riverside County, and THAT tells us something—specifically, that the pandemic is nowhere near over, and we all need to take precautions.)

Thank you. End of mini-rant. 

• A mental-health shout-out to all of you out there who also deal with depression and/or anxiety: If this has been a tough couple of weeks for you, please know that you’re not alone.

This is, simply put, a bonkers time. The reopening process, the continuing pandemic, the civil unrest … it’s a lot.

Please, hang in there. Do what you can—and nothing more. Realize it’s OK to feel anxious and sad. Remember to live in the now, and take care of yourself.

OK? OK!

Now, for the news:

• We’ll lead with the COVID-19 news today, most notably that summer camps, bars, gyms, hotels, museums, zoos and more in approved counties could reopen as soon as next Friday. The state guidance for all of these sectors is being posted toward the bottom of the page here, if you want to check it out. As for what didn’t make the cut yet: Nail salons, tattoo parlors, movie theaters, live theater, nightclubs and more.

• Key question: Will Riverside County be one of the counties to move further into the reopening process next week? Right now, we’re one of the approved counties, but we’re right on the cusp of the positivity rate criteria from the state, and hospitalizations are on the rise, too. Next week’s gonna be interesting.

The city of Palm Springs is cracking down on the mask requirement: As of today, all businesses must “post signage at entrances advising of the face covering and social distancing requirements.” Get the details here.

• More promising vaccine news: Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca could have vaccines available as soon as September or October—with up to 2 billion doses available by early 2021. There’s only one problem: While signs are encouraging, nobody knows for sure if it’ll work; manufacturing and testing will take place simultaneously.

• Take this one with that figurative grain of salt we keep talking about, and in this case, the grain should be the size of a house: A 10-person study showed that famotidine—aka Pepcid—helped people with COVID-19 recover. This comes on the heels of other encouraging science. So, here’s a tentative “Yay!” with crossed fingers.

• CNBC’s Jim Cramer—yeah, the guy with the buttons and whistles who shouts a lot—says that the pandemic has led to “one of the greatest wealth transfers in history,” thanks to the fact that the bulk of government aid has gone to big business, not us little folk. Grrrrr.

• Oh, great. In addition to COVID-19, fires, earthquakes and the heat, now the Coachella Valley gets to deal with West Nile virus, too.

Lowe’s has announced it’s ponying up $25 million in grants to help minority-owned businesses reopen.

• If you’ve gone to a protest, or plan on going to a protest, not only should you wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer and social distance as much as possible; after a few days, you should also go and get tested for COVID-19.

• If you can get past the occasionally incoherent verbiage, you can read here that Supervisor V. Manuel Perez will introduce a resolution next week to ask Sheriff Chad Bianco to review his agencies policies and report what he finds. Uh … OK, sure. We’ll see what’s in the actual resolution on Tuesday, but this sounds pretty weak, at least at first glance.

• Meanwhile, the Legislature is going to consider clarifying when and how rubber bullets can be used. According to the Los Angeles Times, “although the legislation has not yet been drafted, comments by lawmakers indicated their goal is to curb the use of rubber bullets for crowd control against peaceful protesters and those breaking city-imposed curfews.” It seems strange we need to legislate that projectiles shouldn’t be used against PEACEFUL PROTESTERS, but here we are.

However, the state may very well do more than that. Gov. Newsom called today for more action, including restrictions on crowd-control techniques and “carotid holds.”

• From the Independent: Our partners at CalMatters talked to four different protesters across the state about why they’re speaking out. What they had to say—and what they’ve experienced—is quite revealing.

• If you’re going to the protest in Palm Springs tomorrow—starting at 9 a.m. at Ruth Hardy Park—wear a mask; wear sunscreen; bring water; and be safe, please.

• Finally: I heard from some people that they had problems with the link to the Palm Springs ShortFest info we had in yesterday’s Daily Digest. As far as I can figure, the link was correct, but the extra stuff that the email system puts in for tracking purposes didn’t jibe with the Film Fest’s website. As a work-around, Google “Palm Springs ShortFest” and click on the first link. My apologies for the snafu.

That’s all for today. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Fight injustice. If you like what we do, and can afford to help us continue producing quality local journalism that’s free to all, consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back on Monday, if not before—and watch CVIndependent.com over the weekend.

Published in Daily Digest

We have more than 25 news links today—a new Daily Digest record—so let’s get right to it:

• On the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week, I joined hosts Brad Fuhr, Shann Carr and John Taylor to discuss the various news with Dr. Laura Rush; The Standard Magazine publisher Nino Eilets; and Clifton Tatum and Andre Carthen from Brothers of the Desert. Check it out.

• Protests force change! Some members of Congress are developing “a sweeping package of police reforms,” according to NBC News.

• Unfortunately, the Trump administration, showing a clear inability to “read the room,” doesn’t seem too interested in reforms. “Apart from supporting a federal civil rights investigation into Floyd’s death, the president has offered no proposals for changing how police use force, train new officers or interact with their communities,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

More change being forced by the protests: Los Angeles is considering cutting up to $150 million from the police budget to instead invest in communities of color.

• Yet more change: The chancellor of California’s community college system—where 80 percent of the state’s police officers get training—wants to change the curriculum to address systemic racism.

• Observers in Washington, D.C., have noticed a very disconcerting thing: law-enforcement officers with no visible affiliation or personal identities. This. Is. Scary.

• Also scary: The number of incidents of police violently using force against peaceful protesters continues to grow.

• Twitter is an odd mix of community, fun and simply terrible people. Well, community and fun won the battle against simply terrible people today: A bunch of K-pop fans took over the white-supremacist #WhiteLivesMatter hashtag by using it to share their fave stars, videos and memes—meaning the hate was hard to find among all the K-pop.

• As if I needed more proof that I should have picked another damned profession (kidding) (mostly), the United States is now on Reporters Without Borders’ list of deadliest countries for journalists.

• Also from the journalism world: Newsrooms around the world are currently in the midst of a debate: Should our coverage show protesters’ faces?

• Meanwhile, journalists at two major newspapers are none too pleased with the actions of their editors: Journalists of color at Philadelphia Inquirer are taking a “sick and tired” day to protest a recent “Buildings Matter, Too” headline, while journalists at The New York Times are speaking out against an op-ed mentioned here yesterday by Sen. Tom Cotton that called for the feds to use the military to tamp down on the protests.

• Independent contributor Keith Knight—he does The K Chronicles and (Th)ink comics that appear on the weekly Independent comics page—shared with us this list of “anti-racism resources for white people.”

• Not a cause for panic, but a reminder that we all have to take precautions: Eisenhower Medical Center confirmed it’s seeing more positive COVID-19 tests from the community in recent days.

• COVID-19 testing sites in Los Angeles County were either closed or limited due to the protests and curfews. This has public health officials—and others—concerned.

• We’ve all seen that graph of the various waves of death caused by the flu pandemic of 1918-19. While it’s possible we may see similar patterns with COVID-19—although let’s hope not—this is a very different time, and a very different virus, according to The Conversation. That’s both a good thing, and a bad thing.

• Hmm … Riverside County did not update its COVID-19 stats today. According to a tweet from Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the public health officer: “Due to technical issues, we were not able to access local data from the state's CalREDIE website. We apologize for this delay, and will strive to have updated #COVID19 data and information for you tomorrow, June 4.” (He meant tomorrow, June 5, we assume.)

• The Trump administration continues to use COVID-19 as an excuse to roll back environmental protections permanently.

• Hooray for … Chuck Grassley? The Iowa senator has pledged to block two Trump nominations until his administration explains why Trump fired two different watchdogs.

The Pentagon got billions in stimulus money to fight the pandemic. However, much of that money has gone unspent … and some of it that has been spent has been spent rather strangely.

• National employment numbers continue to rise (albeit it a slower pace)—and now the government layoffs are beginning—including in Palm Springs and La Quinta.

• We’ve mentioned in this space the dangers of (necessarily) rushed science taking place in the battle against COVID-19. Well, a major study regarding hydroxychloroquine—President Trump’s COVID-19 drug of choice—was just retracted by its authors.

• Schools reopened in Israel two weeks ago. However, students are testing positive for the coronaviruscausing some schools to close. In fact, there’s discussion of closing all of them again.

• From the Independent: The latest piece in our Pandemic Stories series looks at the Palm Springs Power, the collegiate baseball team that plays at Palm Springs Stadium every summer. The team’s season was supposed to start last week, but was—to nobody’s surprise—delayed. However, team management is keeping fingers crossed for some sort of season to take place at some point.

Las Vegas is again open for business.

• And finally, let’s end on a brighter note: The Palm Springs International Shortfest has announced its official selections for 2020! Because the in-person event is not happening this year, not all of the selections will be shown—but some will be streaming online between June 16-22. Get all of the details here.

That’s all for today. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Fight injustice. If you have the means, and you value independent local journalism, we kindly ask you to consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

I’ve been asked several times why we don’t regularly post COVID-19 stats here in the Daily Digest, and the answer is simple: Statistics, when put in the proper context, are important and revealing. When they’re not, however … they can be confusing and misleading.

Take the total number of COVID-19 cases, for example. As of this writing, according to Riverside County, there have been 5,618 confirmed cases in the county. Since the start of April, that number has been increasing at a pretty steady pace—there have been a few peaks and valleys, sure, but overall, the pace has been pretty consistent for the last six weeks now.

So … what does this tell us? Well, it tells us SARS-CoV-2 is still a problem. But that’s about all it tells us.

One of the reasons the number has kept going up at this pace is that the county, and the medical organizations within it, have done a fine job of ramping up the amount of testing done in the county—and more tests means more positive results.

What about deaths? Alas, 242 people in Riverside County have died from the virus, according to the county. That’s 242 individuals who loved, were loved, and made some sort of a mark on our world. That number represents a lot of loss. But in terms of what the number of deaths tell us about the disease’s spread … deaths are a lagging indicator, reflecting what was happening two to six weeks ago … maybe more. Also, there’s increasing evidence a whole lot of deaths due to COVID-19 aren’t being reported properly anyway.

One of the best, most-contextual statistics out there—a number, alas, that is hard to find—is the R-naught number. It tells us how many people, on average, one person with COVID-19 is infecting in a certain place. If we keep that number below 1, progress is being made in stemming the virus’ spread. If it’s above 1, the virus’ spread is increasing. But, as the San Francisco Chronicle points out, even the R0 number has its limitations.

I’m not saying all of the stats being thrown at us by government officials or news sources should be disregarded or ignored. However, I am saying these numbers need to be looked at in the proper context—and they’re usually not.

Today’s news:

The Desert Sun talked to some local media types, including yours truly, about the struggles of the media in the Coachella Valley.

• From the Independent: Our beer writer points out a small positive that’s come about as a result of the stay-at-home order: It’s easier than ever for beer-lovers to get amazing craft beer from across the state.

• For the first-time ever, the House of Representatives has changed its rules to allow remote voting. Like almost everything else these days, the vote was along party lines.

A new survey of older men living with HIV, primarily in the Palm Springs area, by a UC Riverside researcher, has results that are both sad and frightening: Not only are many of these men anxious and depressed; it’s causing them to miss taking their medications.

Can we learn something from Georgia? The state started reopening three weeks ago now, and things so far … are going OK?

• Eisenhower Medical Center just released some new Coachella Valley-specific stats about COVID-19. The hospitalization numbers had not yet been updated as of this writing, but scroll down for other numbers, and you’ll see the valley is doing OK.

• Up in Anza, the new Cahuilla Casino Hotel plans on opening 12 days from today.

• Millions of Americans are still waiting on the unemployment benefits they need to survive, according to Bloomberg News.

Paycheck Protection Program loans could come back and bite a lot of businesses in the you-know-what, due to restrictions on spending, as well as reporting requirements. SFGate breaks it down.

• Good news! It’s been proven safe for people suffering from COVID-19 to receive plasma from people who have recovered—and early results on the practice’s effectiveness are encouraging.

• Bad news! The Navy is reporting that five sailors aboard the Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier have tested positive for the virus for a second time. Nobody’s quite sure what that means yet.

• Sad and scary news: A couple of Ralph’s employees in the Los Angeles area have died from COVID-19.

• Frustrating news: More and more government agencies are using the pandemic as an excuse to disregard public-information laws.

• Baffling news: No matter your politics, you have to admit some of President Trump’s recent statements about COVID-19 testing have been simply bonkers.

A study out of Berlin has recommendations on how orchestras can situate its members and safely play again.

Is a vaccine made with tobacco really going to save us all? A vaccine made from the stuff is heading to human trials, because—repeat after me—nothing makes any sense anymore.

• Finally, Sylvia Goldsholl is one of my new heroes. At 108 years old, she’s lived through two pandemics—and just beat COVID-19.

That’s all for the week! Buy our fantastic Coachella Valley Coloring Book. If you can afford to do so, please consider becoming a supporter of the Independent, and help us continue doing great local journalism without the annoying article limits or paywalls you find on other websites. Wash your hands. Be kind. Wear a mask when going out. The Daily Digest will be back on Monday, at the very latest—and we will be updating CVIndependent.com with great stories all weekend.

Published in Daily Digest

For my friend Matt, it was the permanent closure of Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes—a restaurant where he had his first job—that made him fully realize the world we knew in early March was gone forever.

“I actually cried a few times yesterday, and it’s not just over big-chunk chicken-noodle soup and focaccia bread,” Matt wrote on Twitter. “It’s the realization that our lives will not ever ‘go back to normal.’ Our world is rapidly changing, and change is inevitable. I just didn’t expect it to be this fast.”

So many places, institutions and businesses are going to be wiped out by the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn—which may very well qualify as a depression by the time all is said and done. We are going to see a lot of closed-for-good announcements in the coming weeks and months—like the one we got today, from Cathedral City’s Desert Ice Castle. Many of the places, institutions and businesses that do survive may be changed drastically, too.

However … not all of these changes will be bad.

For example, the Seattle Times is reporting that 20 miles of streets in that city—initially closed to make it easier for people to be socially distant—will now forever be closed to traffic, changing them into permanent places for people to walk and bike safely.

Closer to home, I have been hearing that Palm Springs and other cities are looking into the possibility of closing down some streets and parking lots so they can be used by bars and restaurants. If the science continues to show that the virus doesn’t nearly spread as well outdoors, then this would be a perfect way for businesses to reopen in a safer and more-delightful way.

It’s up to all of us to speak out, advocate and do whatever we can to make sure our “new normals”—both during the fight against COVID-19 and afterward—are the best possible “normals” we can have.

So … let’s get to work!

Today’s news:

I was the guest on today’s edition of the Los Angeles Times’ Coronavirus in California podcast. I talked with my friend Gustavo Arellano a couple weeks ago about the state of local media today—and how completely jarring it was for April in the Coachella Valley to be so darned quiet.

• As of this writing, the county meeting regarding Dr. Cameron Kaiser’s health orders was still going. Will the county Board of Supervisors side with the good doctor or the impatient business community? Watch this link, from the Riverside Press-Enterprise, to find out.

• Gov. Newsom announced today that all California voters will be asked to vote by mail in November—although some polling places will remain open for those who insist on voting in person.

• How long will it be until we can get haircuts again? Mid-June, perhaps? This is what Gov. Newsom had to say about that today: “Phase 3 (which includes the opening of hair salons and barbers) is not a year away. It’s not six months away. It’s not even three months away; it may not even be more than a month away. We just want to make sure that we have a protocol in place to secure customer safety, employee safety and allow the businesses to thrive in a way that is sustainable.”

• OK, OK, maybe mid-July for that haircut? A Los Angeles Times analysis reveals that per Gov. Newsom’s stated criteria, almost all California counties are nowhere near being able to properly move to Phase 3.

• Eisenhower Medical Center has started releasing Coachella Valley-specific hospitalization numbers. The takeaway—we’ve flattened the curve here—but it remains flat, and we’re not on the downside yet.

Yet another person within the White House’s inner circle has the virusKatie Miller, who is Mike Pence’s press secretary, and Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller’s wife.

• From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: Counties and cities in California are facing massive, unprecedented budget deficits. Expect horrible cuts and yet more layoffs to come.

• Good news: After a public outcry and a whole lot of negative media attention, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey decided to let the COVID-19 modelers at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University keep doing their work after all.

• The country is heading for a rental crisis, according to this sobering article from Politico.

• From the “We Are Not Making This Up” files: We have verified this TMZ report that 2020 U.S. quarters feature … a bat. Yes, really.

• As predicted, the federal government’s distribution method for promising COVID-19 drug remdesivir has become a fustercluck, or something like that.

• If your iPhone has been acting stupid lately, we have some good news: Apple Store locations are starting to reopen. Aaaand the bad news: The ones in California remain closed indefinitely.

• Even though we’re not sure how this would work in 108-degree weather, we implore the good folks at the Palm Springs Cultural Center and D’Place Entertainment to look into the fact that the coronavirus has made drive-in movie theaters a thing again.

That’s all for today! Please buy our Coloring Book, because it’s 1) awesome, and 2) sales benefit the Independent AND the Create Center for the Arts’ efforts to make PPE items AND local artists. Also, please consider supporting independent local journalism if you can spare a buck or three. Barring anything huge, the Daily Digest will take the weekend off, and we’ll be back Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

It was a fabulous party. My house was packed with people.

I decided I was hungry. I walked past a bunch of people and went into the kitchen. I opened the freezer, and a frozen-pot-pie box fell out; it skidded across the floor and came to rest under a bar stool. I jokingly chided my friend who was sitting on the stool about being a terrible goalie.

I retrieved the pot pie and put it back. I pondered heating up a frozen pizza but decided against it, and instead went over to talk to some friends who were standing in front of the stove. Brad Fuhr was biting into a slice of another pizza that he’d apparently just pulled out of the oven. He started to say something—and one of the slices on the plate he was holding fell on the floor. We laughed, and as he began to clean up the mess, I started talking to another friend, Daniel, about an NFL player, recently in the news, who we both thought was attractive.

The conversation was suddenly interrupted by the sound of my iPhone alarm.

I woke up, confused at first, as the dinner-party dream had been so vivid. Soon, however, reality set in. The party and the amazing time I was having—neither were real. And they won’t be real again for quite some time.

Feeling sad, I sat up. As I continued to awaken, I checked the social media on my phone. About every third post dealt with President Trump’s remarks during yesterday’s COVID-19 press briefing, when he suggested that the virus could be combated by people injecting disinfectants.

I sighed, got up, and headed toward my real kitchen to make coffee. I paused briefly, but did not stop, as I passed our bottles of liquor. Somewhere down the line, there will be real parties again, after all, and I want to be functional for those. And besides, I had work to do.

Today’s links:

• No, seriously, we really are living in the timeline in which we’re six weeks into a crippling pandemic, and Lysol and Clorox need to issue statements telling people to please not inject or ingest their products, because confused people are calling health hotlines after the president said something bonkers on live TV.

• Also in this timeline: Facing a recession that could be as bad as the Great Depression—hell, in some ways, it could be worse—and with the country facing mind-blowing spending deficits, we’re giving rich people and large companies yet another humongous tax break.

• OK! We’re not walking past the bar this time! If you drink, join me in having a classic Manhattan. If you don’t drink, a tip o’ the hat to you, and instead, here’s info on Disney’s just-released Dole Whip recipe.

• Now, back to the news, and this fascinating piece on how Australia and New Zealand’s leaders—about as politically far apart as two people can get—have each seemingly put politics aside to help their countries make great strides in battling COVID-19.

• From the Independent: Kevin Fitzgerald recently talked to Rep. Raul Ruiz about how he’s been able to combine two areas of expertise—medicine and politics—during the coronavirus crisis.

• News you can potentially use: Riverside County—Palm Springs included, in this case—is allowing HOA and apartment pools to reopen, but only one person can be in them at a time.

• The 10-cent charge for bags at grocery stores is a (temporary) thing of the past.

• Very interesting: Gov. Newsom today announced an effort to deliver seniors in need three meals per day—with the government hiring out-of-work restaurant employees to make those meals at restaurants.

• If you’re someone who’s having a hard time adjusting to working from home, you’re far from alone.

• You know all these “grassroots” protests popping up here and there to demand we reopen everything, virus be damned? The Conversation reveals that these protests aren’t so grassroots after all.

• Some people have jokingly referred to COVID-19 as “the plague.” Well, this piece—again from The Conversation—looks at a diary from the time of a severe bubonic plague outbreak in 1600s London, and reveals that there are some surprising similarities in terms of what we’re all going through.

Eisenhower is continuing its series of lectures and online classes—but now via Zoom, of course. Check out a calendar of events here.

• A cautionary tale that just so happens to come on the same day as Georgia is starting to reopen things: Here’s what happened when the Japanese island of Hokkaido lifted lockdown orders too soon.

What will it look like when schools finally reopen? Here’s NPR’s take.

That’s enough for today. Buy our awesome coloring book here. If you can afford to support the Independent, and can help us continue producing free-to-all, quality journalism for the Coachella Valley, please go here. Please stay safe. Wash your hands. Wear a mask when you go out. Be nice. Unless there’s major breaking news, or the president announces that COVID-19 can be cured by using weedwackers or something, we’re taking the weekend off, and we’ll be back Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

The worst of times can bring out the best in people—and all over the Coachella Valley, folks are coming together (virtually, mostly) to aid health-care workers and first responders in need of personal protective equipment (PPE). These are just a few of the ongoing efforts under way to help protect our protectors.

C.V. Mask Project

When entertainer and philanthropist Lucie Arnaz got wind of the valley-wide need for personal protective equipment, she reached out to her idled entertainment industry pals, who set up a command center at The Five Hundred building in Palm Springs. Crafty costumers put their skills and ingenuity into play to source the fluid-resistant material needed to make isolation gowns. Enter Lowe’s, The Home Depot and others with donations of landscape weed barrier (talk about a “grassroots” approach!) and upholstery-lining fabric.

That got the pipeline flowing.

“We are fortunate that we have a community that comes together when the need is there,” Arnaz said. “What started as a small network of people who were willing to step up is now growing quickly, as everyone wants to help. In a very short period of time, we have brought together the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of community leaders and people of incredible talent and passion.”

The head honcho at The Five Hundred building, John Monahan, helps coordinate the cutting, packing, pickup, delivery and administration of this volunteer assembly-line operation. Sewers pick up gown components and return the completed articles. Transport folks whisk the precious cargo off to medical staff on the front lines.

Even if you can’t sew, you can find out how to volunteer or make a donation through the website: www.cvmaskproject.com.

Coachella Valley Mask Makers

Shelley Blume, Judi Britt and Kay Gerhardt have recruited well more than 1,000 volunteers who are, in turn, recruiting more helpers in dozens of individual communities and neighborhoods to fashion no-sew masks from common items like shop towels. Makers get kits to make 25 masks at a time; materials and instructions are included. All you need is a glue gun! Pickup and delivery is coordinated by captains in each community. Check the website to see if there’s a group in your neighborhood, or find out how to start your own: www.cvmaskmakers.com.

In less than a month, the group has created a partnership with Eisenhower Health Foundation to accept donations at www.eisenhowerhealth.org/covidfund; received in-kind donations from the Indian Wells Golf Resort, Ace Hardware, Staples, Decorators Depot and others; and fielded requests to share their game plan with groups in two-dozen states and several countries around the world.

Others

Meanwhile, other groups have found their own ways to get involved. Eisenhower Medical Center Auxiliary members were sidelined when COVID-19 restrictions prevented them from volunteering at the hospital—so they commandeered bolts of fabric normally used to make volunteer-services smocks and got to work making face masks. They’ve made a commitment to provide each of the 4,000 Eisenhower Health staff members with two masks.

“We are not in the mask business, so we are definitely learning as we go along,” said Aadila Sabat-St. Clair, one of the volunteer project coordinators. “What’s been wonderful to see is how volunteers, many of whom do not know each other, have collaborated over email on making the perfect mask and have offered advice as needed. It is rather fitting that during the month of April, we celebrated volunteers nationally. The efforts of the volunteers reflect, once again, how incredible all volunteers everywhere are.”

When the 25-member Vietnamese Choir at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in La Quinta was forced to stop singing together, they decided to turn their energies toward sewing together. Even though some of the choir members had never used a sewing machine, one of their own, Jade Nguyen, said they found a helpful YouTube video.

“We coached each other through the steps to make face masks,” Ngyuen said.

The singers each work up to 11 hours a day with cotton material they’ve purchased or found, to honor their commitment to make 10,000 masks. They are well on their way and have so far donated more than 2,000 to local hospitals and front-line healthcare workers all over the valley.

Several thousand medical and non-medical volunteers have signed up with the Riverside County Coronavirus (COVID-19) Workforce to answer the call for all types of manpower assistance at sites throughout the county. The volunteer workforce is filling in as drivers, custodians, office staff, food service workers and security guards. Go to rc-hr.com/volunteer-workforce if you can join in.

Published in Features

Today was the day my sadness turned to anger.

I don’t know if this is a stages-of-grief thing, or whether it was just the news of the day, or maybe a little bit of both. Whatever the cause, after weeks of feeling more sadness than anything else regarding the pandemic, today, I’m pissed.

The thing that set me off was the news that after a few short weeks, all of the small-business-loan stimulus loan money is gone, at least for now. That’s $349 billion, so long, goodbye. The $10 billion in disaster loans is gone, too.

Then there is the news that hedge funds—yes, hedge funds—are applying for and getting some of this money—money, that according to the name of the program, is supposed to protect paychecks.

“Ironically, hedge funds are designed to employ as few people as possible so star traders don’t have to share millions of dollars in fees. The industry gets its name from the premise it can generate gains even when markets fall,” says the Bloomberg news story.

It’s also worth remembering that the president fired the inspector general who was supposed to watch over all this money, among other moves the executive branch made to limit oversight of how this taxpayer money was being spent.

Then I read a story about the parent company of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, which has 5,000 employees, getting $20 million in Paycheck Protection Program money. Wait … wasn’t the Paycheck Protection Program supposed to help smaller businesses?

“The loans were intended for businesses with fewer than 500 employees, but language in the $2 trillion stimulus bill allows restaurants and hotel chains to participate regardless of how many people they employ,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, many local restaurant owners I know are wailing on social media that they haven’t received a dime yet.

Folks, the virus is bad enough. The fact that first our president fired the pandemic response team a couple years ago, then constantly downplayed the threat before it was too late, and is now doing everything in his power to lessen oversight of an unbelievably shitty and ineffective stimulus bill has me livid.

People are scared and dying. Businesses are dying. Meanwhile, instead of trying to ease fears or show empathy for his sick and/or frightened constituents, Donald Trump is tweeting falsehoods about political rivals and continuing his assaults on the media.

It doesn’t matter what your politics are—the ineptitude of the federal government should have everyone furious right now.

Today’s links:

• Earlier today, before my mood when to crap, I was again was part of the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast with Dr. Laura Rush, with guest David Perry. Thankfully, Dr. Rush is optimistic about things.

• Remember what we said earlier about federal-government ineptitude? That, alas, extends to the Treasury Department and the IRS regarding getting stimulus funds to a whole lot of people who need help.

• Remember what we said earlier about federal government ineptitude … again? Check out this quote, from The Washington Post, about the effort to find effective treatments in the U.S.: “It’s a cacophony—it’s not an orchestra. There’s no conductor. My heart aches over the complete chaos in the response.”

• As if this wasn’t all scary enough, it appears COVID-19 is causing serious neurological problems in some people, according to this pants-wetting article from Wired.

• Oh great! Time Magazine reports that other countries’ militaries are messing around with us at this time when the U.S. is focusing on the coronavirus.

• Oh great! The rate of testing in the country is actually slowing down, according to Politico—even though commercial labs aren’t at full capacity.

• In California, like much of the rest of the country, COVID-19 is taking a disproportionately large toll on African-Americans.

Chef Thomas Keller has been one of the leading voices in the fight to get insurance companies to pay restaurants who have business-interruption insurance. Here’s his direct take, via NBC News.

• OK, let’s take a happier turn toward some hopeful signs: Some neighboring counties plan to start letting some businesses reopen later next month, per the Los Angeles Times.

• A recent update from Eisenhower Health shares good news on the medical side, and not-so-good news on the financial side.

• Armistead Maupin, the San Francisco author whose Tales of the City have delighted people for decades, is reading stories from his new home in London several times per week.

That’s all we have for today. Please make sure your virtual events are included in our online calendar. If you can spare a few bucks, and value independent, quality local journalism, please consider becoming a supporter of the Independent, since we’re clearly not getting any small-business loans anytime soon. Wash your hands. Wear a mask when you go out into public. Be safe. Back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

I have a slight bone to pick with Dr. Cameron Kaiser.

I say “slight,” because overall, the public health officer for Riverside County has done a fantastic job of handling what is, most certainly, an unprecedented health crisis. He was quick to declare a public health emergency. He’s been ahead of the figurative game on many moves—like a mandate to wear masks when leaving home. And the county health system has been good about updating the COVID-19 case numbers on a daily basis, and even including city-by-city breakdowns—something that’s not being done in many places.

So, to repeat: He’s doing a fantastic job overall—but when it comes to keeping the public informed, in some ways, he and his staff could be doing better.

On April 7, his office released some information that was well, scary as hell: a projection that the county, at current capacity, would fill up all 131 ICI beds by April 14; we’d run out of hospital beds by April 23; and we’d run out of ventilators by April 26.

The county also projected that by early May, the county would need 3,000 ICU beds. Again, the county’s current capacity, 131.

Excuse my language … but holy shit! The graphic made it clear that the projections would change based on reported cases, bed availability and resources, but still, there’s a huge difference between 131 and 3,000.

As April 14 has come closer—that’s four days from now, AKA TUESDAY—I’ve been watching for an update to the information. But … there has been no update. Yes, the main counts have been updated daily, but not the pants-wetting ICU-bed projections. Given that we are hearing better things on both a Coachella Valley-specific level and a statewide level, I’d really like an update.

A footnote: It’s also worth noting that one of our writers reached out about a week ago to Dr. Kaiser’s office for an interview. Our writer received a two-sentence response: “I'm sorry. Dr. Kaiser is not available.”

I have no doubt that Dr. Kaiser is bonkers-busy right now. I can’t imagine how busy he is right now. I understand.

But there aren’t that many functional news operations these days in Riverside County—sad, but true—and all we need is 15 minutes, tops. So on Monday, I am going to personally call Dr. Cameron’s office and ask for an interview. I’ll let you know how that goes.

And hey, if Dr. Cameron or someone on his staff is reading this: Can we get an update on those ICU beds, please?

Today’s links:

• I have mixed feelings about this: According to The Verge: “Apple and Google announced a system for tracking the spread of the new coronavirus, allowing users to share data through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmissions and approved apps from health organizations.” At least there are fewer privacy concerns with this method than the methods used in other countries’ tracking apps.

• The Riverside County mobile app has been updated to allow people to report people and businesses who are not complying with health orders.

• Important, if you didn’t file taxes for 2018 or 2019, and/or you don’t receive various federal benefits: The IRS has set up a website for you to sign up to get your stimulus payments.

• One of the biggest unknowns in this pandemic: How many people may have had COVID-19, but never knew it? A test in Los Angeles County of 1,000 people will help us start to figure out how much the coronavirus has really spread.

• Remember the jackass biotech exec who was sent to prison after jacking up the costs of HIV/AIDS medications? Martin Shkreli wants to be furloughed from prison to help with the fight against COVID-19.

• Even though nursing homes have been the sites of some of the worst coronavirus outbreaks, the federal government isn’t doing a great job of tracking them. So NBC News did their best to fill that gap.

• The Greater Coachella Valley Chamber Commerce is having a call-in legislative and COVID-19 update with Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia at 11 a.m., Wednesday, April 15. Details here.

• KESQ News Channel 3 talked to Coyote StageWorks founder Chuck Yates about the financial havoc the pandemic is causing for local arts organizations. You can read about the week when local theater came to a halt in this Independent piece.

Confused about face coverings, and good practices when it comes to using them? Eisenhower Health has some answers.

• I found this piece fascinating: You know which groups are doing a fine job at combating the spread of the coronavirus around the world? Some militant and criminal gangs!

• The pandemic has ripped a hole in the budgets of many LGBT pride organizations. They’ve banded together to create a Pride Operational Support Fund—and they need donations.

• It’s undeniable: Some people have been hit harder than others by the pandemic and the resulting health and financial crises. But, as this Wall Street Journal piece eloquently points out, this has been hard on almost all of us, in some way.

• The Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center have joined other art-house theaters in offering a curated selection of indie films that you can purchase tickets for to watch at home! Not only can you watch great films; you can support the Palm Springs Cultural Center while doing so!

• Yesterday, we talked about the new Palm Springs Zoom backgrounds being offered by the local tourism bureau. Well, if those aren’t your cup of tea, Nickelodeon is offering some backgrounds that are a little more, well, cartoony.

• You know things are tough when the Hilton corporation, in a lovely gesture to help us feel better (if perhaps a bit fatter), releases what was heretofore a fiercely kept secret: The recipe for the famous DoubleTree chocolate-chip cookies.

• Wiping down food containers after going to the grocery store? Good idea. Washing your fruits and vegetables with soap? Not so much.

• Stressed? Well, calm down by getting together, for free, with the immortal Bob Ross, and paint some happy trees.

• By the way, if you wanted to submit art for our Coloring Book project, but haven’t gotten around to it yet, good news: A couple of artists asked us for more time, so we have extended the deadline to Tuesday, April 14. Get all the specs and details here.

That’s all for the traditional work week! Wash your hands. If you have a virtual event—a Facebook live concert, or a drag show, or a story time, or whatever—add it to our online virtual event calendar. Then go wash your hands again. Then if you value local, independent journalism, and are fortunate enough to have the means to do so, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep what we’re doing, and making it free to all—at a time when most of our advertisers have had to go on hiatus. Now make sure you’ve properly washed your mask, and make sure you wear it out in public. Tomorrow’s my sanity day off; we’ll return Sunday.

Published in Daily Digest

It’s been a crazy-busy day here at Independent World Headquarters in rainy downtown Palm Springs—for some very exciting reasons.

Because the day has been so busy, and because there’s so much news to get to—much, but alas, not all of it, good—I am going to keep this intro brief. And tomorrow, I’ll share the exciting news—I promise.

Today’s links:

• Regular readers know we don’t focus too much on the numbers and stats here, for two reasons: First, the numbers don’t always tell the full story; and two, you can get the numbers everywhere else. However, here are the countywide numbers. And now, the full story, courtesy of resident expert Dr. Laura Rush: “You all are doing great here in Coachella Valley so far. And we are coming up on eight days with no doubling of cases yet. No new cases in PS last 24 hours. … Keep it up; it’s working!” So, keep staying at home and wearing masks and #flatteningthecurve!

• From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: Gov. Newson has touted reliable COVID-19 antibody testing as a key to helping California get back to something resembling normal. However, that’s not as easy to accomplish as it sounds.

Eisenhower Health posted a fantastic update on Facebook yesterday, detailing all the numbers and information regarding how the hospital is faring during the COVID-19 crisis. While there are a lot of big numbers, there’s also a lot of encouraging news within.

• Excellent news: The Desert AIDS Project has started telephone and drive-up COVID-19 screening. Get the details here.

• Former Independent wine columnist (and good friend) Christine Soto has joined forces with all sorts of other amazing people to found Keep Shining Palm Springs, “a fund helping the hands that feed, imbibe and provide for us—small business in Palm Springs and beyond. Learn more about the fundraiser—which includes some really awesome apparel—here.

• The IRS is warning everyone about scammers emerging as the stimulus money starts to arrive in people’s bank accounts. Here’s what to be aware of, via the AARP.

• Speaking of shady dealings: The Conversation points out how government agencies are using the pandemic as an excuse to keep more things secret—and this is a very bad thing.

• And speaking of shady dealings and very bad things and government secrecy: The president has canned the person responsible for overseeing how the Trump administration spends the trillions of dollars in pandemic relief money.

• And speaking of … well, all that stuff above, this story from the Los Angeles Times explains how “the federal government is quietly seizing orders, leaving medical providers across the country in the dark about where the material is going and how they can get what they need to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.” Yikes!

• Your Women’s Circle, a fantastic local business group that connects lesbians to lesbian-owned businesses, has launched a hotline for local lesbians in need of assistance. Learn more here.

• The city of Palm Springs is holding a town hall webinar “for local residents impacted by COVID-19, featuring information on worker benefits and resources related to tenant rights, mortgage relief, evictions, unemployment benefits, utility relief, food and local volunteer resources,” at 9 a.m., Thursday, April 9. Register here.

• College of the Desert would like to remind you of its Partnership and Community Education program, where you can take relatively inexpensive online classes—and do some learnin’!

• Stay-at-home parents and guardians who are dealing with stressed-out kids, or who are struggling to explain what’s going on to their young ones: Check out this fantastic resource library from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Apps that anonymously track the spread of coronavirus have been used successfully in other countries—and could help us get back to normal here. But there are privacy concerns, as you may expect. NBC News explains.

• June’s Splash House, to nobody’s surprise, is cancelled. However, former Independent scribe Brian Blueskye explains in The Desert Sun that organizers are holding out hope for the two scheduled August weekends.

Lady Gaga is doing some cool things. Not only is she helping arrange a worldwide virtual music festival for April 18; she’s raised $35 million in a week for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

• We have reached the “Let’s get weird!” portion of the Daily Digest. First off, this headline from the Los Angeles Times: “How a Discovery That Brought Us Viagra Could Help Those Battling the Coronavirus.” (It’s actually a fascinating story on how nitric oxide is being used as an experimental COVID-19 treatment.)

• The hubby sent me this link with this comment: “Art Museum for Gerbils.” ‘Nuff said.

That’s it for today! Get us your submission for the Coachella Valley Independent coloring book project. If you’re able and appreciate what we do, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep doing what we do—honest, reliable local journalism. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

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