CVIndependent

Sun07052020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

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

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.

Published in Daily Digest

Last Friday’s Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting and its aftermath were simply remarkable—one of the most stupefying series of political events I’ve ever witnessed.

Here’s the short version: The supes voted unanimously to revoke three of county health officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser’s orders, as well as most of a fourth. Instead, the county will now defer to the state’s weaker (and, in some cases, less-clear) orders.

Frankly … the revocation of the orders involving golf courses and short-term lodging, and the partial revocation of the order involving schools, won’t change much. But that fourth one … in terms of sending a message, at least, it’s a doozy: The supervisors voted to revoke Cameron’s requirement that face masks be worn, and social distancing protocols be followed, in businesses and public places. Instead, face coverings and social distancing are now just “strongly recommended.” (They’re still required in Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs and some cities, for the record.)

Here’s what is remarkable about the vote, and what followed:

• Local supervisor V. Manuel Perez voted with the rest of the supervisors to revoke the orders, and he hasn’t explained why. Before the vote, Perez signaled that he wanted to keep the face-mask requirement in place … but then he voted to revoke it. Since the vote, he’s been quiet on his social media. We asked his office for an explanation of his vote over the weekend, and have not yet received a response as of this writing. Therefore, all we have to go off of is a Facebook video posted on Sunday by Greg Rodriguez, Perez’s government affairs and public policy advisor … and it’s not very helpful. First: Although Rodriguez uses the term “we” throughout the video, he starts off by saying he is not speaking for Perez, so we should take him at his word. And second: Rodriguez never explains why Perez voted how he did anyway. Rodriguez says around the 4:35 mark: “You’ve got to have a majority of votes to pass something, and we did not have those votes to support what our stance was.”

So … Perez voted for something he was against?

My guess was that Perez was bowing to the wishes of the local business community, including the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce (of which the Independent, I should disclose, is a member—and a less-than-happy one, FWIW), which has been clamoring for Perez to push for a faster reopening. But that’s just speculation.

Mr. Perez, you have some explaining to do.

• Perez was excoriated by his usual political allies after the vote. I don’t use the term “excoriate” lightly here. Perez is a progressive Democrat, and other progressive Democrats were not shy about openly criticizing him. On a Facebook post by Rodriguez, Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors commented about Perez: “He failed by voting to overturn all of the public health orders of the county’s public health officials which will delay our ability to reopen more businesses, hurt workers on the front lines and harm more residents’ health. How disappointing! To allow those who don’t want to wear face coverings to infect grocery workers is not something to be proud of. Glad Palm Springs City Council adopted our own rules to protect workers’ and residents’ public health.”

• The vote occurred after the county sheriff had already said he would not enforce the health orders anyway. Sheriff Chad Bianco—in a speech littered with falsehoods—had previously told the supes that the state had gone too far and had inappropriately taken away people’s constitutional rights with the shutdown order. He also at one point implied the virus really wasn’t a threat to healthy people (?!). So, therefore, he said, he wasn’t going to enforce the county’s orders. He then went on Fox and Friends and said similar things. So, yeah, holy shit.

• The supervisors, at this crazy meeting, did make some good points regarding the unfairness of Gov. Newsom’s reopening criteria. When Gov. Newsom announced what benchmarks counties would need to meet to further reopen, one of the requirements was that there be no COVID-19-related deaths for two weeks. If this requirement were truly followed, some of California’s larger counties might not be able to reopen until SARS-CoV-2 was more or less eradicated. Fortunately, Newsom has since signaled that the state would be a bit more flexible.

Expect more drama to unfold as soon as tomorrow, when Newsom is expected to offer more information about further business openings—including a possible timeline for in-restaurant dining.

Hang on, folks.

Today’s links:

• Remember the rule about studies these days—they need to be viewed veeeeeery skeptically—but, getting back to masks: A new study shows that consistent mask wearing may by itself be able to solve much of this COVID-19 mess we find ourselves in. From Vanity Fair: “Among the findings of their research paper, which the team plans to submit to a major journal: If 80 percent of a closed population were to don a mask, COVID-19 infection rates would statistically drop to approximately one twelfth the number of infections—compared to a live-virus population in which no one wore masks.” We say this with that figurative huge grain of salt, but wow.

• More encouraging health news: A clinical trial at Stanford is examining whether injections of a safe compound called peginterferon lambda-1a, when given early after a COVID-19 diagnosis, can reduce both deaths and patient recovery time.

• Also, some ER docs, writing in The New York Times, say checking at-risk people’s blood-oxygen levels early and often can help medical professionals get a jump on the virus.

• And according to this piece from The Wall Street Journal: Maybe ventilators aren’t the way to go with treatment?

• CBS’ 60 Minutes reports that the Trump administration is slashing the funding of some scientists working on a cure for COVID-19, because, again, nothing makes sense anymore.

Gov. Newsom and other Western governors are asking the feds for trillions in financial help. Yes, trillions with a “T.

• Meanwhile, in Shanghai, Disneyland is open again.

• The San Francisco Chronicle wonders: Are food trucks the future of dining in SF? (Follow-up question: Can we get some in the Coachella Valley? Please?)

• Also from the San Francisco Chronicle (which, in recent years, has improved to the point where it’s now one of the country’s most underrated newspapers): A data analysis shows that almost half of the coronavirus deaths in the state involve nursing homes.

• The Washington Post broke this story over the weekend, and it should really piss you off: A Texas company on Jan. 22 wrote the federal Department of Health and Human Services and asked if his company should ramp up production to make 1.7 million more N95 masks a week. He was ignored. Repeatedly. And that company’s still not making masks at capacity. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.

United Airlines touted the fact that it would leave middle seats open because, you know, social distancing. Turns out that’s not always the case.

• The Wheels Are Coming Off, Chapters 157, 158 and 159: There was a packed rodeo in Shasta County. And two people were arrested after attacking a Van Nuys Target employee who insisted they wear masks. And Elon Musk continues to be a dick.

• Meanwhile, doctors are having problems getting remdesivir—and sometimes having to decide which patients get it, and which ones don’t.

Is it possible the Florida governor knew what he was doing when he was slow to close down the state, and quick to reopen it? The Washington Post takes a nuanced look at Ron DeSantis.

• Finally, John Krasinski and some friends from The Office are here with your weekly dose of Some Good News.

That’s enough for today. In fact, we think this is the longest Daily Digest we’ve ever done. So, yay, news! Anyway, buy our Coloring Book, because it’s awesome. Also, if you can afford to support 1,300-word-plus Daily Digests like these, plus all sorts of other awesome local journalism, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. Back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

This has been one hell of a news day—one of the busiest news days since this whole mess started, I’d say—so let’s get right to it:

• Big news item No. 1: The state’s reopening process is slated to begin on Friday, with, for starters, retail stores allowed to open for pickup. Here are the details on Gov. Newsom’s announcement today, from our partners at CalMatters.

• Big news item No. 2: According to The New York Times, a Trump administration projection anticipates deaths from COVID-19 will skyrocket over the next month. Meanwhile, states—many of which are currently seeing a rise in cases—are continuing the reopening process. Meanwhile, nothing makes sense anymore, and I need a cocktail.

• Big news item No. 3: Arizona, aka our neighbors to the east, are pushing the accelerator on the reopening process, with salons able to open on Friday, and restaurants able to open for dine-in service a week from today.

• Big news item No. 4: The continuing debate over Riverside County supervisors’ possible move tomorrow to cancel the orders of its own health officer, in favor of aligning with the weaker state orders. Earlier today, local supervisor V. Manuel Perez released a Facebook video in which he explained his thinking. I listened to all 37-plus minutes of it, and as far as I can tell, he is leaning toward rescinding some of Dr. Cameron Kaiser’s orders (on school closures, for example), and keeping at least parts of others (on face coverings and short-term rentals). He also announced the county would be opening two new testing sites in our valley—in Mecca and Desert Hot Springs—and touched on plans for the county to mobilize 200 contact-tracers. After listening to the whole thing, I now need another cocktail.

• This just in: The Coachella Valley Economic Partnership just released a report on the economic damage being wrought locally by the pandemic. I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing yet, but, well, the news is pretty terrible. Read the report yourself here.

• From the Independent: Kevin Fitzgerald recently spoke to Allen Monroe, the CEO of The Living Desert, about where the Palm Desert zoo stands, and what the future holds. Interesting takeaway: The Living Desert had made emergency plans regarding earthquakes and fires—and that helped the zoo handle the pandemic, in some ways.

• There was a world summit today focusing on the effort to come up with a coronavirus vaccine. The U.S. didn’t take part.

• Testing on the rise: The Desert AIDS Project is now offering COVID-19 testing to anyone who wants it, even people who are asymptomatic. However, you need an appointment. Get the details here.

• OK, after all of that stuff, here, look! John Krasinski’s Some Good News is back with a new, graduation-themed episode.

• Feeling better? Good! Unfortunately, we now have to tell you that, according to this Washington Post headline: “The coronavirus pandemic is pushing America into a mental health crisis.”

• The Wheels Are Coming Off, Chapter 58: A security guard was shot and killed after telling a Family Dollar customer in Flint, Mich., to put on a face mask.

• The Wheels Are Coming Off, Chapter 59: Another restaurant—this one in Orange County—was packed after opening its doors this weekend.

• In other Orange County-related news, the governor decided to stop picking on them, and is allowing the beaches there to reopen.

• If you miss live music, and you’re not worried about the virus, Missouri is the place for you: Concerts can be held there now, as long as attendees are socially distanced.

Our friends at the Create Center for the Arts were burglarized recently. Sigh. However, they’re keeping up their efforts to make personal protective equipment for local medical professionals by using 3-D printers

• Do you find yourself at times needing to take a break from all the pandemic news? You’re most certainly not alone.

• According to The Conversation, if the world gets an effective vaccine, and vaccine-deniers refuse to take it, that could be very, very bad for all of us.

Donald Trump had an uncle who was legitimately a brilliant scientist. A friend of the late John G. Trump said he’d be horrified by his nephew’s antics.

More promising news on the drug front, this time regarding a flu drug called favipiravir, made by Japanese company Fujifilm.

• If you’re starting to look like a mountain man, or perhaps a Muppet (or, in my case, a Muppet mountain man), consider these self-care tips from Esquire.

That’s more than enough. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. Buy your coloring book. Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you can afford to do so, so we can continue doing quality local journalism. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

All I can say is that I hope everything goes well with the various “reopening” maneuvers that are taking place around the country.

Really. I hope Texas’ plans to start reopening businesses this week is not met by a serious COVID-19 uptick. Same goes for Georgia’s plans. Closer to home, I hope Ventura County discovers everything is hunky dory after it allows some businesses to reopen, as well as groups of five or more to gather again. And here in the Coachella Valley, if golf courses are indeed allowed to reopen tomorrow, I hope that causes no ill effects.

Yes, and I really, really hope Dr. Anthony Fauci is wrong when he says all of this could backfire horribly.

Oh, one other thing: I hope all of these moves to quickly reopen aren’t being driven by the protests that have taken place in recent days … because these protesters really shouldn’t be given much attention.

While the protests have gotten a lot of ink, pixels and airtime in various media sources, they won’t here. Here’s why: They’re not worth the ink, pixels and airtime. God bless these protesters, who have every right to exercise their First Amendment rights (although depending on the locale, they could and perhaps should be ticketed for violating orders regarding masks and social distancing, but I digress). But their numbers have been small, for the most part—and they’re definitely not speaking for the majority of us.

As CNN points out, recent polls show that the vast majority of us—more than 80 percent of Americans—believe stay-at-home orders are a good idea. You know how hard it is to get 80 percent of the country to agree on ANYTHING these days? Yet here we are.

Still … I am being genuine when I say I hope that these tentative reopening steps go well. The sooner we open things back up safely, the better. However, the key word there is “safely.” And if these openings go well, it will be despite the experts’ warnings and overwhelming public option. In other words, it’ll be due to dumb luck.

But, hey, this country is due some dumb luck. Right?

Today’s links:

• From the Independent: The news out of most small businesses in the valley is dire—but such is not the case for a La Quinta record store, whose owner picked the perfect time to go online. In the latest piece in our Pandemic Stories series, get to know Matt Lehman of Finders Thrift and Vinyl/Spatula City Records.

• Yet another study, this one out of Los Angeles County, shows that if antibody tests are accurate, a stunning number of people have already been infected with COVID-19—and didn’t know it.

• New York Magazine examines the baffling battle between hospitals and the Trump administration for needed personal protective equipment.

• The New York Times talks to a bunch of experts about the country’s immediate-intermediate future. Warning: It’s alarming.

• OK, after that bit of horror, here’s a salve, also from the NYT: You can calm down, just a little, about the chance the coronavirus will get you by lurking on the surfaces of clothes, newspaper, mail and the like.

• If you’re not one of the 2 million-plus people who’ve seen it already, you should know the fourth episode of John Krasinski’s Some Good News puts on a prom.

• While you’re on YouTube: The valley’s very own Pom Squad offers up this video for people in assisted living or in nursing homes—or those of us of all ages who are stuck at home.

• Here’s the latest on the whole pets and COVID-19 matter, from The Conversation. The short version: Yes, pets can get the virus, but you probably don’t have much to worry about.

• Speaking of pets: Some dogs in the UK are being trained to test whether humans have COVID-19 by using their sense of smell. Yes, really.

• The local American Outreach Foundation has started a petition for the federal government to support health-care workers who die from COVID-19.

That’s all for today. Buy our Coloring Book—and support the Independent, the CREATE Center for the Arts and the participating artists themselves while doing so! Or consider adopting a small business and giving them the gift of some dirt-cheap yet extremely valuable Independent advertising! Wash your hands. Wear a mask when you must go out. Be safe. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Some days are OK. Other days, not so much.

That seems to be the experience most of us are going through as we approach the three-week mark of California’s stay-at-home order. (Yeah, the statewide order hasn’t even been in place for three weeks yet; it came down Thursday, March 19.)

Yesterday was an OK day for me. I got up and did some work. I took a nap. I did a little more work. I made a delicious dinner—shrimp-and-scallop ceviche, and London broil—and then the hubby and I watched Last Week Tonight With John Oliver and various cooking/food videos on YouTube. My mood throughout the day was, while not exactly exuberant, OK.

Today, not so much.

My funk started off with what should have been fantastic news: My orthopedic doctor cleared me to resume playing softball. I dislocated my right elbow almost nine weeks ago, and while my arm is not yet 100 percent, it’s stable and healthy enough to play, albeit with some restrictions and cautions.

Logically, this is wonderful. It means all the physical therapy and the at-home exercises and hard work I’ve put into my right arm has paid off. But emotionally, it was a stark reminder that there’s no softball anymore—or, well, anything else outside of the house anymore—at least not for the foreseeable future.

Then the news about Boris Johnson hit me. Now, I am not a fan of Boris Johnson. In fact, I think he’s kind of a putz. But the fact that a prominent world leader—the prime minister of Great Britain!—is fighting for his life in an ICU because of COVID-19, for some reason, smacked me upside the head. Again, I don’t know why it did. It just did.

Then I read this. In yesterday’s Daily Digest, I referred to a story about a tiger in a New York zoo that apparently got this damn virus from a zoo employee. Well, yesterday, the American Veterinary Medical Association—while making it clear there’s very little evidence pets can be threatened by, transmit or get ill from SARS-CoV-2—said this: “Out of an abundance of caution and until more is known about this virus, if you are ill with COVID-19 you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just as you would restrict your contact with other people.”

Dammit. That was it for me. The funk was solidified. F--- this damn virus.

I debated just saying screw it and going to bed. But I didn’t. Instead, I listened to more silly ’80s music, and then I watched a couple of videos that, while making me weepy, managed to make me feel a little better.

As for the first video, you may have seen it already, given it’s already gotten nearly 4.2 million YouTube videos in less than 24 hours: the second episode of John Krasinski’s Some Good News. It’s worth the not-quite 17 minutes of your time it’ll take to watch it, I promise.

The second is more personal. Here’s a 90-second video from a TV news station in Reno, Nevada. It’s about a family that gets dressed up in unicorn costumes and wanders around nearby neighborhoods every night—just to bring good cheer. The matriarch of the family, Jaunice, has been a friend of mine since middle school; her husband, Matt, has been a friend since we were in high school. I may have been the best man at their wedding. Anyway, at the -54 second mark, they visit a woman in a little maroon-colored house. That woman is my mom, and that visit came at the tail end of a scary illness, involving a lot of coughing, that my mom picked up a couple of weeks ago. (What was that illness? Dunno. She was never tested. I just know it scared the hell out of my family.) I requested that the Unicorn Squad make her a visit a while back, and they obliged. That visit made my mom’s month.

I hope these videos make your day—or at least make it a little better, as they did for my day.

And now, today’s links:

• Our beer columnist points out that there’s never been a better time to make your own beer at home. If you’re interested in homebrewing, here’s how to start.

• Want to know why it’s good to wear a mask, and why it may or may not be good to wear gloves, when you go to a store? A UC Riverside epidemiologist explains it all.

• Seen ads or news about an at-home COVID-19 test? They’re not really a thing, at least not yet, according to the Los Angeles Times.

• The Desert AIDS Project continues to help lead the way in the local battle against the effects of COVID-19. The latest move: DAP has started a support group for people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

• In related news, our friends at Wabi Sabi Japan Living have started a virtual food drive on the Desert AIDS Project’s behalf.

• Some good news: Gov. Newsom says the state has enough ventilators for now, so he’s loaning some to states, including New York, that currently don’t have enough.

• While we humans stay inside, animals keep on keepin’ on—including the mountain goats at The Living Desert. Meet one of the baby mountain goats that was just born.

• Here are more specifics on Palm Springs’ eviction moratorium. And this literally came in just as we were about to hit send: The state Judicial Council has halted evictions statewide.

• The California Desert Arts Council and the La Quinta Arts Foundation have created a $50,000 fund to help artists. It’s called Keep Art Alive.

• Because so few people are driving these days, Allstate insurance is giving $600 million back to its auto-insurance customers.

• First, Dr. Drew Pinsky made the TV rounds, dismissing COVID-19 as a threat. Now he’s trying to use copyright laws to erase videos of him making these dangerous and irresponsible comments from the internet.

A lot of people won’t get stimulus checks because of their tax status. NBC News explains.

• Rep. Raul Ruiz gets some love from The New York Times, in this piece about doctors and medical experts in Congress—and how some of them, if not all of them, have been speaking out.

• More video cheer: Randy Rainbow is back with another delightful song parody. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Andy!

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. If you’re an artist, send us art for our coloring book by Friday. If you can spare a buck or two, help us continue to do quality local journalism that’s free to all. Be safe. Reach out to an old friend and see how they’re doing. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

OK, so who here is dealing with seasonal allergies right now?

Aaaand who here is being freaked out by those seasonal allergies right now?

Any other year, the congestion, the occasional runny nose and the couple-times-per-day sneezes would be mere minor annoyances—I’d take a Claritin and move on with my day. But the universe has made it annoyingly freaking clear this is NOT any other year, and as a result, every time I have the slightest sniffle, my paranoid brain goes OMG! I MIGHT HAVE THE VIRUS OMG HELP ME, further damaging my already-wobbly psyche.

Who’s with me here?

Of course, logically, I have no reason to actually believe I have the virus. I’ve been having the same damn allergies every spring for more than a decade now. My temperature is normal. I’ve been basically staying home, and have been washing my hands, on average, 34 times per hour. Aaaand then there’s the fact that these damn allergy symptoms aren’t the standard COVID-19 symptoms.

Yet I just sneezed—and damn near had a panic attack. I repeat: Who’s with me here?

My fellow allergy sufferers: You’re fine. Really. I promise. Probably. Anyway, the next time a light congestion sniffle causes you to freak out a little, please know: You’re not alone. (Even if you actually, well, are alone.) Your fellow allergy suffers, like me, are right there with you. So hang in there. Now go wash your hands.

Meanwhile … a huge thank you to all of you who have joined the ranks of Supporters of the Independent in recent days. In tomorrow’s Daily Digest, I’ll list the names of all of you who have chipped in during the month of March (which was a doozy of a month, no?) to help us keep doing what we’re doing. I am truly grateful to all of you.

To those of you who have requested mail delivery of the print edition: I’ll be sending out the orders we have so far tomorrow. Before I do, I am going to attack my desk with Lysol wipes; wash my hands four times (minimum); put on fresh gloves; and get everything together. (Not joking!) In other words, they’ll go out, as safely as possible, in tomorrow’s mail. If you want a copy or copies sent to you, details can be found here.

To those of you who get some yummy takeout/delivery from a local restaurant: We’re looking for Reader Indy Endorsements! Our Indy Endorsement feature has always showcased fantastic dishes at Coachella Valley restaurants … and now we’re asking you to help. If you enjoy an amazing appetizer, entrée, dessert or drink from a local restaurant, please 1) take a pic of the dish (unless you’ve already devoured it and have no plans to get another, in which case we’ll either go without a pic or request one from the restaurant); and 2) send us your writeup on why the dish is so gosh-darned splendid (250-350 words, usually … but we won’t be sticklers); and 3) we’ll edit it and publish it at CVIndependent.com, and link to it in a Daily Digest! We’ll also run a selection of them in our May print edition, room permitting. The goal here is to give our give our fantastic local restaurants a PR boost—and build community while doing so. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

And now, on with the news:

• The state is asking recently retired health professionals AND medical and nursing students—yes, current students who have yet to graduate—to sign up to join the fight (paid!) against COVID-19.

• Some Instacart and Amazon workers are on strike. Here’s why.

• If you’re looking for an academic deep dive into the reasons why the U.S. is behind on COVID-19 testing, the Harvard Business Review has you covered.

• MIT is developing plans to show people how to build emergency ventilators for about $100.

John Krasinski has launched a new YouTube series called Some Good News which, well, highlights good news during these messed-up times. For his first episode, he talked The Office with Steve Carell.

• If you’re obsessed with how the nationwide COVID-19 stats curve is going, Time magazine is updating its Coronavirus Chart—for the U.S. and five other countries—on a daily basis.

• Good news: Johnson and Johnson has announced a rapid COVID-19 vaccine-development plan, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Unfortunately, “rapid” means it still would not be available until early 2021.

• Palm Springs favorite TRIO Restaurant is planning a virtual happy hour at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, April 1—no foolin’.

• Here’s an update from Friday on what Riverside County courts are and aren’t doing right now.

• Wow, this is awesome: Palm Desert’s City Wok restaurant is feeding unemployed restaurant workers for free.

• The Atlantic has been doing an amazing job at covering the pandemic in a thoughtful, intelligent, telling-hard-truths way. Here’s another fantastic piece, on the dangers of the coronavirus culture wars we’ve all seen sprouting up on social media.

• In Spanish: Here’s a primer on Spanish-language films being offered online—many for free.

• The San Francisco Chronicle offers up this primer on manners in this age of coronavirus.

Is it safe to take ibuprofen during the pandemic? According to Wired, it probably is.

That’s enough news for today. Wash your hands. Support local journalism. Send us your Reader Indy Endorsements! Enjoy life. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Noise-intolerant neighbors are taken to all-new levels in A Quiet Place, a new horror film from director John Krasinski.

Krasinski also stars as Lee, a father trying to protect his family in a post-apocalyptic world besieged by horrific aliens who will tear you apart if you make so much as a peep. The opening sequence shows Lee, wife Evelyn (Krasinski’s real-life wife, Emily Blunt, aka the next Mary Poppins) and three children taking a very quiet walk home from a drug store. One of them makes a sudden noise—and the results are pretty scary for a PG-13 movie.

The aliens are blind, so they hunt by sound—not, say, the sound of a river running or a bird chirping, but sounds that are more “interruptive,” like fireworks, a person screaming after stepping on a nail, etc. The gimmick lends itself to some faulty logic at times, but it does provide an interesting premise: If you speak audibly in relatively quiet surroundings, you will get your head bitten off. It’s as if everyday life is a hellish library where the penalty for gabbing or dropping something is death.

Krasinski’s film gives no real back-story about the aliens. A few glimpses of newspaper front pages share that the world has been wiped out by the species. One look at them (they are a cross between Ridley Scott’s aliens and the Cloverfield monster), and you know that just a few days with these things running around would decimate the population.

Blunt gives the film’s standout performance as somebody forced to keep quiet after not only a painful injury—but while giving birth in a bathtub while an alien claws nearby. It’s scenes like this, and one involving a crying baby in a flooded basement, that give Blunt a chance to call upon myriad facial expressions that will chill your blood. She pulls you into every moment with an earnestness that is real and relatable.

The film, Krasinski’s second as a director, shows true ingenuity behind the camera. He’s done well with family drama before (2016’s The Hollars was a good if little-noticed movie), but this one takes his directorial value into the stratosphere.

The monsters themselves are stellar CGI creations—a nice achievement, considering the movie was made on a relatively low budget. Charlotte Bruus Christensen provides excellent camerawork, while Marco Beltrami’s score actually offers something to listen to. The performers communicate mostly through sign language and whispering, which makes for a pretty quiet movie (unless you are watching the movie next door to an IMAX screening of Ready Player One—bad planning from the theater manager, I say).

Krasinski complements his directing chops with a fine performance as a guy doing everything to keep his sanity and protect his family, which includes a young deaf daughter (the superb Millicent Simmonds, who is actually deaf) and son (Noah Jupe, the little guy who broke your heart in Wonder). The kids are terrific, so Krasinski gets more kudos for casting. Did I mention he co-wrote the screenplay, too?

Apparently, there was some talk of making this a Cloverfield movie, but that got scrapped early in production. That’s a good thing, because this one stands on its own. Given it made a big pile of dough on its opening weekend, it’s a safe bet a sequel will get the green light. Lee observes signal fires from other survivors during the early part of the movie, so perhaps a story with another family could happen. I hope not; they should leave well enough alone.

While there are some “Yeah, right!” moments in which the screenplay’s own rules about the aliens are broken, there are far more sequences that are extremely well-done. Krasinski and Blunt combine for a movie that you won’t soon forget—one that will have you being a little quieter around the house after seeing it.

A Quiet Place is showing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Actor John Krasinski’s second directorial effort is a decent film with a first-rate cast. Krasinski stars in The Hollars as John Hollar, a man working a dead-end job for a publishing company when his girlfriend (the always-great Anna Kendrick) informs him his mom (a terrific Margo Martindale) is sick—and that he needs to fly home to see her.

Once there, John has to deal with his weird brother Ron (Sharlto Copley), the oddball nurse who is also his old girlfriend’s new husband (Charlie Day) and his weepy dad (Richard Jenkins). The script goes through some familiar territory, but the performers put new spins on the situations—especially Martindale, who takes the part and really runs with it.

Krasinski does a good job of handling the script’s many mood swings, and the relationships feel real … that strange kind of real.

The film manages to get laughs, even when the subject matter goes to dark places. It deals with the lousier side of life without getting totally depressing—something that could’ve happened easily. Krasinski makes it all work.

The supporting cast includes Randall Park, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Josh Groban in small but memorable roles. The soundtrack is stellar, featuring Josh Ritter, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes and Wilco.

The Hollars opens Friday, Sept. 30, at the Camelot Theatres (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 760-325-6565).

Published in Reviews

I have liked exactly three Michael Bay films in the past: Bad Boys 2, The Island and the goofy Pain and Gain. That’s it. No Transformers. No The Rock. Keep that spastic shit far away from me.

Today, I like exactly four Michael Bay films: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is Bay’s best film yet. Is it the great film this true story deserves? No, it isn’t. It is, however, a strong, competent effort from a guy whose action films are usually incomprehensible and schmaltzy.

Why is it his best film? Because the cast totally rocks from start to finish, and, to put it bluntly, Bay keeps himself … uh, at bay with this one. He actually tells a story—a harrowing one—and keeps over-baked action-film trickery to something resembling a minimum. There’s real, palpable tension in this movie, something I’ve never felt during a Bay film before (unless frustrated, confused nausea counts as tension).

Bay’s tricks are still there: We have rapid-paced editing, gratuitous shots of a buff John Krasinski glistening in the moonlight (Lucky girl, Emily Blunt!) and unnecessary slow-motion shots that make everything look like a car commercial. However, these tricks aren’t as distracting as they were in previous Bay action films; this one seems properly modulated. It also has an appropriately gritty feel, as opposed to the shimmering sheen of most of his previous efforts.

The film is based on the book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, written by Mitchell Zuckoff with the cooperation of the CIA contractors who fought during the attacks. Some of the characters in the film retain the actual names of those contractors, while others have aliases.

The movie gets right to it: A CIA security force in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, must try to protect an American ambassador during a terrorist attack on U.S. compounds. The security force finds itself dealing with a bunch of red tape that prohibits it from flying into action—and possibly preventing it from receiving assistance from the U.S. military.

Krasinski plays Jack Silva (an alias for one of the contractors), a former Navy SEAL stationed in Benghazi who deeply misses his family back in the U.S. Amid reports of possible terrorist attacks on U.S. compounds, Silva remains on security detail, walking through the streets of Libya posing as an American agent’s husband.

Other CIA contractors depicted in the film include Tyrone “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale), Kris “Tanto” Paronto (Pablo Schreiber, half-brother of Liev), Dave “Boon” Benton (David Denman), John “Tig” Tiegen (Dominic Fumusa) and Mark “Oz” Geist (Max Martini).

When a Libyan gang busts through a security gate and attacks the compound where ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher) is staying, the contractors, after unfortunate delays, try in vain to rescue him. The action then goes to another outpost, where the contractors battle hordes of attackers all night—a night that culminates in fatal mortar attacks.

There’s going to be a lot of back and forth on what’s fact, embellished fact and pure fiction in this film. Bob (David Costabile), the CIA chief portrayed in the movie, is already crying foul about the depiction of his actions, so it would be a stretch to call 13 Hours a definitive portrayal of the Benghazi events.

It isn’t a stretch, however, to say the actors are all quite good, especially Krasinski and Schreiber. The attacks are terrifying, with the soldiers often not knowing whether the people approaching them are friends or enemies. Bay does a nice job of keeping things off-balance and scary.

In the end, Bay delivers a fine action film. While there’s a certain lack of depth to this movie—it lacks the heft of Zero Dark Thirty, for example—there’s no denying it’s a fairly strong piece of action entertainment.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

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