CVIndependent

Sun07052020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Back on May 1, we wrote: “Welcome to May 2020—which should be one of the most fascinating months in American history.”

Well, May sure lived up to that statement, didn’t it?

It’s now May 29. Here in the Coachella Valley, retail stores, restaurants, some casinos and—as of this afternoon—some vacation rentals are again open for business. So far … so OK, I guess.

Nationally, however, the country is in crisis—but not because of COVID-19, though the virus remains as deadly as ever. No, the culprit is good ol’ fashioned police brutality and racism.

As of this writing, protests are continuing to grow in cities including Atlanta; Washington, D.C., Chicago; San Jose; and beyond, after rough nights last night in Minneapolis, Louisville and other cities.

I am hoping—naively, perhaps—that some good may eventually come out of this. Derek Chauvin—the Minneapolis police officer who we’ve all seen pinning down George Floyd on that awful video—has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Meanwhile, police leadership around the country is speaking out, swiftly and strongly, in condemnation of what we all saw on that video.

These are gut-wrenching times, for so many reasons. We, as a country, need to fight to make sure we come out of this better—because we need to be better.

If you agree with that statement—and I sure hope you do—it’s time to ask yourself: What am *I* going to do be better?

Today’s news links:

• The big local news of the day, as mentioned above: Riverside County announced that short-term rentals can resume taking reservations immediatelyalbeit with restrictions. While some cities, like Rancho Mirage, are continuing to restrict them, the city of Palm Springs has clarified that they are, in fact, now allowed in P.S. This is a welcome boost to the economy. As for what it means for COVID-19 … we’ll just have to wait and see.

• And now for the bad-if-unsurprising local economic news of the day: The August edition of Splash House is officially cancelled.

CVS has opened free drive-through testing sites in Coachella, Palm Springs, La Quinta and Indio. Here’s the list and the details.

Los Angeles has been given the go-ahead for retail, restaurants and barber shops/salons to reopen.

• Gov. Newsom today defended the surprisingly fast reopening processes taking place in much of the state. Key quote: “Localism is determinative. We put out the how; counties decide the when."

• Another stimulus/relief bill is in the works. But Mitch McConnell says this’ll be the last one. NPR explains.

• Meanwhile, in the middle of the world’s worst pandemic in 102 years, the most prosperous country on the planet is completely pulling out of the World Health Organization. At least that’s what the president said today, because—as we keep saying—NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.

From Bloomberg News comes this astonishing lead: “One farm in Tennessee distributed COVID-19 tests to all of its workers after an employee came down with the virus. It turned out that every single one of its roughly 200 employees had been infected.”

• NBC News reports that during “the first media briefing from the CDC in more than two months”—and I will remind everyone that WE ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PANDEMIC—it was revealed that the coronavirus began its spread in the U.S. in late January, a month or so before anyone noticed.

• One of the keys to keeping the virus contained may be antigen tests. What are they, and how do they differ from the diagnostic tests you know about, and the antibody tests? The Conversation explains.

• Spending is way down, and savings is way up, according to CNBC: Americans who are fortunate enough to have cash are holding onto it.

That’s enough for the day! Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. Please consider helping us continue to do quality independent, local journalism by becoming a Supporter of the Independent, if you can afford to do so. We’ll be back Monday, at the latest.

Published in Daily Digest

When Carol Dahmen discovered the CVS receipt draped across the counter of her Carmichael kitchen, she couldn’t resist pulling out her tape measure to document it.

Her husband had purchased one single prescription. The receipt, she discovered, stretched on to contain 11 coupons before topping out at an astonishing 4 feet, 8 inches—the height of Olympic champion gymnast Simone Biles.

“This receipt is ridiculous and unnecessary,” Dahmen tweeted, endorsing the idea of scrapping paper receipts for emailed versions.

California lawmakers are considering just such a proposal—a bill by Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco that would make emailed receipts the default for businesses grossing more than $1 million beginning in 2022. Businesses breaking the rule could be fined $25 a day, and up to $300 a year. Customers could still get a paper receipt, but they would have to request one—which some would undoubtedly do, rather than share their email addresses with many merchants.

The state already bans single-use plastic bags and this year, and mandated that plastic straws be available by request only. If the default e-receipt bill passes, California would once again become the first in the nation to crack down on another ubiquitous product of modern existence.

“They’re wasteful, and they’re toxic,” Ting said about receipts. “Their lack of recyclability really makes them problematic.”

Receipts increasingly are made of thermal paper, and thus printed without ink. A chemical sometimes used to coat thermal paper, Bisphenol A (BPA), mimics estrogen and has been linked to cancer; in 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned its use in baby bottles. Receipt paper now more commonly contains Bisphenol S (BPS), a replacement for BPA that some recent studies, including one from UCLA, indicate may be just as harmful.

Opponents say this is yet another hurdle for California small businesses, and a privacy concern for customers.

“It’s trying to reduce paper waste, and that’s commendable, but we just want to make sure that in the process, we’re not creating a big digital trail for everyone who goes into a drug store,” said Bennett Cyphers, a staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit digital rights group. “If the business needs to collect some kind of contact information, what do they do with that data? It’s going to be a field day for data brokers, data about what people buy, and who’s buying what and when. We’d really like that not to be the case.”

Receipts account for millions of pounds of trash waste, and an estimated 9 billion gallons of water, according to Green America, an environmental group supporting the bill.

“We don’t really need to use that paper and definitely that water,” Ting said. “We can really save those resources for something else.”

Advocates say Ting’s bill is an easy remedy. “It’s tackling one of the lowest hanging fruit,” said Nick Lapis, director of advocacy for Californians Against Waste.

Others suggest the bill could go even further. Republican Heath Flora of Ripon said in a written statement the bill could apply to more than just businesses.

“I’m open to the idea of doing away with paper receipts, but right now, this bill only applies to businesses and not the state government,” he said. “We should also have a conversation about what to tell the folks who aren’t very tech-savvy, or who otherwise don’t have access to internet services.”

But some say the bill could burden businesses in more rural parts of the state. Just 59 percent of rural households have broadband internet access, according to a report by the Public Policy Institute of California.

“To do it electronically and mandate that for everybody is, quite frankly, going to be burdensome on business,” said GOP Assemblyman Brian Dahle of Bieber. “Every day, it’s something new with the labor code. Every day, it’s something new with the regulatory environment, and this is just one more add on, making it tough to stay in business in California.”

Dahle contends that counties in his district don’t have the infrastructure in place to rely that heavily on the internet. He said his wife ran a plant nursery, and while the business had internet, the connection was weak.

Data breaches might make customers hesitant to dole out their email. Prominent business chains such as Chipotle and Whole Foods have experienced data breaches, as did Target, impacting 41 million customers.

“Our emails have been shared with the world and I don’t like that,” Dahle said. “At the end of the day, there are a lot of us who don’t want the whole world having our email.”

For those hesitant to surrender their emails to every business they patronize, Ting said, customers could simply request paper receipts.

Other opponents say the bill would make it harder for customers to locate proofs of purchase.

“Unlike other retailers, we’re subject to this state law where we’ve actually encouraged people to bring in their own bags or not use bags,” said Aaron Moreno, the senior director of government relations for the California Grocers Association. “We need to have a way to tell whether someone has bought something.”

As other retailers go, CVS is easily lampooned for printing human-sized proofs of purchase—and not just by Dahmen, a political advertising consultant who isn’t working on Ting’s bill. Customers have shared countless memes about the practical uses they have discovered for their voluminous CVS receipts (an Ohio man unfurled one as a replacement for a missing strip on the vertical blinds in his bedroom) and obscure "facts" about CVS receipts (“the sun is approximately 8 CVS receipts from earth”).

While the company does allow customers to receive electronic receipts upon request, many customers are not aware of that option or may not want to use it.

Last year, a CNBC reporter put the CEO of CVS on the spot while pulling out her own voluminous CVS receipt.

“What are we going to do about this?” CNBC’s Bertha Coombs asked.

CEO Larry Merlo urged her to enroll in the company’s digital receipt program. Coombs said she already was. Merlo smiled, and said: “Point taken.”

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Environment