CVIndependent

Mon08102020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

The state of California’s response to the pandemic, as of late, has been a big mess.

First: The state’s COVID-19 data reporting is all messed up. According to the Los Angeles Times, the state is dealing with a backlog of up to 300,000 test results—and is in the process of developing a whole new tracking system, because the current one is not up to the admittedly massive task:

“(Dr. Mark Ghaly, the California Health and Human Services secretary) said the state would work through the backlog of records, which include COVID-19 tests and other health results, over the next 24 to 48 hours. He said state missteps compounded a problem that began with a server outage and promised a full investigation.

“The data failure set off alarm bells this week as total deaths surpassed 10,000 in California, a state that leads the nation in COVID-19 cases despite the undercount and has struggled to mitigate the virus. The delayed results could significantly increase the confirmed spread of COVID-19 from a total of 540,000 cases in the state as of early Friday.”

Sigh. Meanwhile, county health officials—already upset about the state’s arbitrary and odd reopening criteria—are being left in the figurative lurch without accurate data from the state.

Second: The state was tardy in issuing guidance to the state’s colleges and universities on how to handle student housing, in-person instruction and other important matters. Again, according to the Los Angeles Times: “Many campuses, including USC and Claremont McKenna, say the lack of clear and timely state guidance has caused them to spend enormous energy and money preparing for varying reopening scenarios—without knowing what will be allowed amid a surge of COVID-19 infections.

For the record, the state finally released that guidance today. Check it out here—if you’re bored, crazy or into dense 34-page lists of rules.

In the state’s defense, this pandemic and its effects are so huge, all-encompassing and unforeseen that mistakes and delays are not only understandable; they’re inevitable. But still … state officials need to do better than this.

Also worth noting: Gov. Gavin Newsom gave a news conference on Monday, when he touted the news of statewide COVID-19 case decreases—news that we now know may not have been accurate, because of the data mess, which people began learning about on Tuesday.

Newsom hasn’t given a news conference since. Not good, governor.

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Here are some stats we can trust … we think: The COVID-19 stats at Eisenhower Medical Center are trending in the right direction.

The extra federal unemployment boost has ended. PPP loans are running out. And our federal government can’t agree on what to do about it. Sigh.

• Per usual, I was a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week, with hosts Shann Carr, John Taylor and Brad Fuhr. Hear me rant more about the state data fustercluck, as well as the crappiness of most talk radio!

• As more and more vaccine candidates get closer to what we all hope are successful finish lines, we’ve been bombarded with news about them—often spun by the profit-driven manufacturers themselves. Well, MedPage Today just published a nice, concise look at these vaccines, how they’re different, and what we do and do not know.

• The Washington Post today posted an excellent interactive piece examining what it will take for the United States to reach herd immunity, be it by letting the virus run its course, or via a successful vaccine. The piece also looks at where we are now regarding antibodies and possible immunity. Spoiler alert: If you’re someone who thinks we should adopt the Sweden 1.0 approach and just let the virus run amok … that’ll likely mean a million or more dead Americans.

• So after the vaccines (hopefully) arrive … then what? HuffPost asked some experts to predict what life in the U.S. will be like in the years that follow a successful vaccine. Hint: Don’t expect a return to a February-style “normal.”

• According to Desert Healthcare District CEO Conrado Barzaga, the district is focused on “strengthening our healthcare infrastructure, improving our community’s health, and providing protection to vulnerable populations while still fighting a pandemic.” If you are involved with an entity that can help do any of that, take note: The DHCD will be holding a webinar at 3 p.m., Monday, Aug. 10, via Zoom to introduce five new strategic funding areas, and to demonstrate how to apply for grants or mini-grants. You need to RSVP; get details here.

A partisan elected official is responsible for writing the wording of each ballot proposition … and, well, that partisanship often affects what is written. This leads to numerous lawsuits—but judges almost never step in to change what Attorney Xavier Becerra’s office has come up with. Our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent, look at this mess—and possible solutions.

More airlines are getting very serious about mask use. Hooray.

Two stories about this week’s devastating explosion in Beirut worth reading: A Los Angeles Times reporter writes about his experience surviving the explosion; he notes that he probably should be dead, but a motorcycle helmet saved his life. Meanwhile, for you science nerds out there: A blast-injury specialist examines the physics of the blast, and compares it to what we know about the only other comparable non-nuclear explosion on record, which happened in 1917 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

• Also from Wired: The magazine recently sat down for an interview with Bill Gates, who does not have nice things to say about the federal response to the pandemic. Beyond that, he has a lot of other revealing things to say. Key quote: “Now whenever we get this done, we will have lost many years in malaria and polio and HIV and the indebtedness of countries of all sizes and instability. It’ll take you years beyond that before you’d even get back to where you were at the start of 2020.

According to The Conversation, it’s becoming more and more apparent that wearable fitness devices may be able to let you know if you’re suffering from possible early coronavirus symptoms.

• Federal employees, including some who work at prisons, are suing the federal government. Why? They think they deserve hazard pay, according to NPR.

• Related: State prison employees are also taking legal action: Their union has filed a grievance claiming the state’s misdeeds have led to uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreaks in the state’s prison system.

• CNBC talked to experts regarding legitimate medical reasons people could possibly have to not wear a face mask while around other people. The conclusion? Unless you have a specific facial deformity or a “sensory processing disorder,” you should be masking up.

• Much has been written about Donald Trump’s … uh, baffling moves to ban TikTok. Well, as MarketWatch points out, his executive orders went well beyond TikTok—and could hamper everything from Tesla to streaming sports to the world’s most popular videogames.

Oregon voters will decide in November whether to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of all drugs.

• Barring a change of plans, the Mission Inn Festival of Lights in Riverside will indeed happen this year—albeit without the crowd-gathering events and parties.

The Apple Fire continues to burn, with some residents of Pioneertown and Morongo Valley being told to prepare to evacuate.

• And now for something completely different: Regular readers of the Independent have enjoyed Keith Knight’s comics, (Th)ink and The Chronicles, for years. Well, a new show based on his life is coming to Hulu on Sept. 9. Check out the trailer for Woke here—and congrats, Keef!

Have a safe and happy-as-possible weekend, everyone. Be safe. The Daily Digest will return Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

Earlier this week, we asked you, our amazing readers, to answer a short, six-question survey about this Daily Digest—and more than 200 of you took the time to do so. We thank all of you who did.

Here are some takeaways:

• The majority of you (53.8 percent) said you preferred getting the Daily Digest three days per week—while 36.3 percent said you’d ideally like to receive it five times per week. However, some of the comments led us to believe that a lot of you who said you preferred three days per week did so because we talked about the time constraints we were under. So, moving forward, we’ll continue to do the Digest at least three days per week.

• More than 61.3 percent of you said you’d like the Daily Digest to include all news, not just COVID-19-related news. Therefore, in the coming weeks, we’ll broaden the range of news links included.

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Enough yammering about ourselves. Here’s the news of the day:

• I was again a guest on the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast this week. I joined hosts Shann Carr, John Taylor and Brad Fuhr to talk to Dr. Laura Rush and Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors. Other guests joined the podcast as well; check it out!

• We previously mentioned that the city of Palm Springs had said that bars (serving food) and restaurants in the city (currently operating only outdoors) have to close at 11 p.m. for the time being. Well, after receiving some complaints, the city has extended that closure time to midnight.

RIP, Herman Cain. The former GOP presidential candidate and COVID-19/mask-wearing skeptic, who attended President Donald Trump’s infamous rally in Tulsa, died yesterday at the age of 74 due to the virus.

• It’s official: The national economy during the second quarter suffered from an unprecedented collapse due to the coronavirus and the resulting shutdowns.

• Wisconsin yesterday became the latest state to require that people wear face masks in public. However, Republicans in the state Legislature there seem determined to strike down Gov. Tony Evers’ order. Sigh.

Vanity Fair published something of a bombshell yesterday, saying that a team led by Jared Kushner had developed a comprehensive COVID-19 testing plan—but it was shelved, in part, because the coronavirus then was primarily hitting Democratic-led states.

• Please pay attention to this, folks, as it’s really important: U.S. Postal Service backlogs continue to amount, as the Trump administration attacks and starves the agency in multiple waysand this could cause huge problems with mail ballots during the election.

• Pay attention to this, too: The U.S. Census Bureau is being pressured by the Trump administration to wrap up the oh-so-important once-a-decade count earlysomething that has Democrats rather alarmed.

A sad milestone: For the first confirmed time, a Californian under the age of 18 has died from the coronavirus.

• Listen to the president! Yes, really, in this instance: On the heels of reports that the FDA is getting ready to allow a more-widespread use of convalescent blood plasma to treat COVID-19 patients, President Trump yesterday encouraged people who had recovered from COVID-19 to donate.

Got goggles? Dr. Anthony Fauci recommended wearing them in addition to a face covering, if possible, to offer more protection from this nasty virus.

• The Wall Street Journal takes a look at the first wave of lawsuits being filed against employers who allegedly did not do all they could to protect their employees from SARS-CoV-2.

An NPR investigation found that a multi-million dollar contract the Trump administration awarded to a company to collect COVID-19 data from hospitals—something the CDC had already been doing capably—raises a whole lot of alarming questions.

• The $600 in extra unemployment benefits from the federal government is expiring, in large part due to claims that it’s acted as a disincentive for people to go back to work. However, a new Yale study indicates that those claims are not based in reality.

• The government has 44 million N95 masks stockpiled, with another half-billion on order. However, those masks aren’t getting to the professionals who need them in a prompt manner. Key quote: “It’s like we’re in the middle of a hurricane here. They should not be stockpiling PPE,” said Bob Gibson, vice president of the 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest such union in Florida. “It should be given to the frontline health workers. They have been in this fight for five months now, and they are exhausted.”

The U.S. Mint kindly requests that you spend the coins you have, because there aren’t enough of them in circulation right now.

• Remember that huge Twitter hack several weeks back that essentially shut down all verified accounts? Well, feds say they’ve arrested the mastermind … 17-year-old Graham Ivan Clark.

• If you’re a baseball fan like me … savor this weekend’s games, as things could get shut down as soon as Monday, according to the MLB commissioner.

Hong Kong is postponing legislative elections for a year due to the coronavirus—something that has pro-democracy folks quite alarmed. That couldn’t happen here. Right?

• Experts writing for The Conversation say that some 800,000 low-income households may have recently had their electricity disconnected. Blame the COVID-19-related shutdown—and lawmakers who aren’t doing enough to intervene.

• Also from The Conversation: Older, under-maintained schools in poorer areas were dangerous to begin with—and they’ll be even more dangerous if students are forced to return to them as the pandemic rages.

• We’ve talked in this space a LOT about the various vaccines being tested—but it’s likely that those vaccines, even if proven to be generally effective, won’t work on everyone. Well, MIT is using machine learning to design a vaccine that would cover a lot more people.

• Sweden has not done a whole lot to shut down its economy—and a lot of people have died there from COVID-19 as a result. Still … the curve is being flatted there. How and why? Will it last? MedPage Today looks into it.

An Arenas Road bar is poised to reopen (for outdoor dining) on Aug. 9, thanks to a brand-new kitchen. See what Chill Bar has planned.

• Finally, from the Independent: Get outside when temps are only in the 90s and check out what the skies have to offer in August—including the Perseids meteor shower

Folks, we’ve survived another month. Who knows what August will bring? Stay tuned to find out. Have a great weekend; the Daily Digest will be back Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

On this week's Emmy-nomination-snubbed weekly Independent comics page: The K Chronicles pays tribute to a civil rights great; This Modern World brings us the latest tales of The Unbelievable Trump; Jen Sorensen invites the world to come visit the United States; Red Meat gives a pet some treats; and Apoca Clips admires the genius of Li'L Trumpy.

Published in Comics

Happy Friday, all. We survived another week!

Today’s news links:

• Under pressure from the Trump administration, the CDC has released new school-reopening guidelines that The New York Times callsa full-throated call to reopen schools.” Yeesh. 

• The governor today announced that the state would take more steps to protect essential workers. Key quote: “The governor said his administration has fallen short in educating businesses on how to safely reopen, and he's trying to make up for that with a new public information campaign targeted at employers. The state launched a new handbook for business owners and employers to support a safe, clean environment, with guidance on everything from cleaning guidelines to what to do in an outbreak.”

• The much-needed next round of stimulus spending—including a possible extension of extra federal unemployment benefits, which will run out in mere days—is likely several weeks away, according to the Senate majority leader.

• Related: NPR and Bloomberg both offer updates on the impending nationwide eviction crisis.

Also related, here’s some good news locally, from The Desert Sun: The city of Palm Springs has extended its eviction moratorium through Sept. 30.

• So … if/when that glorious day comes when there’s a coronavirus vaccine available, who will get the first doses? How will that be decided? The New York Times looks at the matter. Spoiler alert: The word “lottery” comes into play.

• The FDA has now recalled some 77 different types of hand sanitizer that federal regulators say are toxic.

• This is a nasty virus. NBC News reports that the CDC revealed today that many people who get COVID-19, but are not hospitalized, can have lingering effects from the illness for weeks or even months.

• Orange County is quickly becoming the state’s coronavirus hotspot—and beleaguered experts there are having a hard time figuring out the cause, according to the Los Angeles Times. This quote from the county’s acting health officer, Dr. Clayton Chau, speaks volumes and will make you want to bang your head against the wall: “It’s quite difficult, even the person themself would not know,” he said during a briefing Thursday. “‘Well, I was at the bar; I was at the beach; I was here; I was there, where did I get infected?’ It’s a very difficult question to decipher, and all case investigators and tracers do their best to try to ask people, ‘Where were you at so we can pinpoint?’ But, as far as I know, we can’t really pinpoint.”

• Meanwhile, the virus continues to spread in Los Angeles—largely among people of color.

• McDonald’s is the latest large businesses to say it’s going to start requiring customers to wear face coverings. What took ya so long?

• Riverside County plans on giving out 10 million masks via local nonprofits, churches and businesses. They’re calling it the Masks Are Medicine campaign.

Meanwhile, they’re getting serious about masks in Indiana: As of July 27, people not wearing masks there could be charged with a misdemeanor.

• Related: There have been a lot of recent news articles about the science behind masks. NPR cites scientists saying that if 95 percent of people wore masks, coronavirus transmission would decrease by at least 30 percent; meanwhile, CNBC says the more layers a mask has, the better.

• Many so-called experts have declared that the pandemic has essentially ended the era of the office, in favor or working at home. However, The Conversation says not so fast. Key quote: “Organizational life is founded on relationships. Sure, the current remote work experiment has demonstrated that more jobs can be done virtually than many managers previously assumed. But jobs are comprised of tasks; organizations are comprised of relationships. And relationships require ongoing—and often unintended—interactions.”

• Also from The Conversation: The U.S. coronavirus testing system is a mess—but you probably knew that already … and it isn’t going to be easy to fix.

• Speaking of testing: Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services, says tests soon will be able to look for both SARS-CoV-2 and the flu. Yay?

• The lost year of 2020 continues: The Dinah, the huge party weekend for lesbians and queer women every year, will not be held this year.

• How much of 2021 will be lost, too? This just in from the county, via a news release: “The 2021 Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival, set for February 12-21, has been canceled and hopes to resume in 2022 with its 75th year celebration. In addition, the Queen Scheherazade Scholarship Pageant, scheduled for November 2020, is also being canceled. Queen Scheherazade and her court act as goodwill ambassadors leading up to, and during, the Fair in February.”

Movies keep getting pushed back, too: Disney has delayed the release of Mulan, and all Star Wars and Avatar films are being delayed a year.

• And finally, now for something completely different: The New York Times yesterday published a piece on the Pentagon’s Office of Naval Intelligence—the secretive agency that looks into UFO reports. The Times botched the piece by writing it in such a droll and formal fashion—and by burying some holy-shit-level revelations about some of the office’s findings. Key quote: “Eric W. Davis, an astrophysicist who worked as a subcontractor and then a consultant for the Pentagon UFO program since 2007, said that, in some cases, examination of the materials (gathered from purported UFO crashes) had so far failed to determine their source and led him to conclude, ‘We couldn’t make it ourselves.’

That’s enough for the week! Stay safe. Wear a mask. Enjoy the weekend, as best you can—safely, of course. Oh, and if you can spare a buck or two, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent; we’re giving you great local journalism free of charge … but it isn’t cheap to produce! The Digest will be back Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

Good science journalism is hard to do. And SARS-CoV-2 is a tricky S.O.B.

Those are today’s lessons, brought to you by The New York Times and The Washington Post, two undeniably great newspapers, which today brought us these online headlines:

Can You Get Covid Again? It’s Very Unlikely, Experts Say.

Can you get coronavirus twice? Doctors are unsure even as anecdotal reports mount.

Yep: Here we have two stories, impeccably sourced and well-written, that on the surface come to two entirely different conclusions—on a question of utmost importance.

“While little is definitively known about the coronavirus, just seven months into the pandemic, the new virus is behaving like most others, (experts) said, lending credence to the belief that herd immunity can be achieved with a vaccine,” says the Times.

“As the United States marks its sixth month since the arrival of the virus, (WNBA player Sophie) Cunningham’s story is among a growing number of reports of people getting COVID-19, recovering and then falling sick again—assertions, that if proved, could complicate efforts to make a long-lasting vaccine, or to achieve herd immunity where most of the population has become immune to the virus.”

Sigh.

Anyway … if you dig a little deeper into the stories, you’ll find that the two entirely different sets of experts the writers spoke to indirectly come to the same conclusion: Nobody knows for sure whether or not someone can get COVID-19 twice. Various experts have different opinions, some stronger than others … but the figurative, hopefully-mask-wearing jury is still out.

Other news from the day:

• We’re No. 1. Crap! California today passed New York to become the state with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19. Meanwhile, the state is working to get more personal protective equipment, as complaints about shortages begin to mount.

• The city of Palm Springs is calling on the state to do a better job of distributing federal stimulus money. According to a news release by the city, “the largest 13 cities (in the state) are receiving between $85 and $174 per resident while cities like Palm Springs are receiving just $12.28 per resident” in federal funds. The city is asking Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assemblyman Chad Mayes, State Sen. Melissa Melendez and U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz to fix this inequity for those of us who live in cities of less than 300,000 people

• From the Independent: Can the show go on? The valley’s theater companies are in limbo, not knowing when they’ll be able to reopen—or, in some cases, if they’ll survive that long. In an effort to support each other, some—but not all—companies have banded together to form the brand-new Alliance of Desert Theatres. Here’s what people in the know have to say about the uncertain future of Coachella Valley theater.

• Also from the Independent: Anita Rufus’ Know Your Neighbors column introduces Michael “Mick” McGuire, an elder-law attorney—who’s quite upset about the nursing-home mess in the country, a mess that’s been exposed in horrific fashion by the coronavirus. Key quote: “It should be a red flag that out of all the developed countries in the world, we’re (the only one) without a plan. We can talk about it all academically, but when it’s your family member, the whole thing changes.”

More than 100,000 people have signed up to be vaccine test subjects so farsomething that makes Dr. Anthony Fauci happy, reports The Hill.

• Related-ish: Can states or employers force people to get a coronavirus vaccine? Surprisingly, according to a law professor writing for The Conversation, in a lot of cases, they can.

Another legal expert, also writing for The Conversation, says the same thing goes for mask requirements.

• More vaccine news: The federal government has agreed to pay Pfizer and its biotech partner nearly $2 billion for 100 million doses of its now-being-tested coronavirus vaccine—with delivery by the end of the year.

MIT scientists have designed a reusable face mask that’s just as effective of N95 masks, according to CNBC.

• After four deaths and more than 1,000 COVID-19 infections at the Lompoc prison complex, a U.S. District Court judge has demanded that the prison release medically vulnerable inmates to home confinement, according to the Los Angeles Times.

• The Washington Post declares: “The inflatable pool is the official symbol of America’s lost summer.” Has there ever been a sentence so wholesome and depressing at the same time?

• Finally, Randy Rainbow is back with another song parody: “Gee, Anthony Fauci!

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Enjoy yourself (safely, of course). If you value free-to-all journalism like this Daily Digest and our aforementioned stories on the theater scene and the elder-law attorney, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Thank you.

Published in Daily Digest

Happy Friday! Here’s the latest:

• First, a little good news: Local hospitalizations are beginning to finally move downward, after consistently rising for weeks. You can see Eisenhower Medical Center’s stats here. Now, whether this is a blip or a trend remains to be seen. A key quote from a Facebook post from Eisenhower yesterday: “Today we have only 56 COVID inpatients; a couple of weeks ago we had a high of 85, so a promising sign. We also have 1,533 positive patients that are at home in isolation because they did not need to be in the hospital. We are very worried that they might be spreading the virus to family and friends.”

• After rumblings that some counties where cases are spiking could try to send kids back to school in fall, Gov. Newsom stepped in today and said that, no, that’s not going to happen in counties on the state’s watch list. The Los Angeles Times explains. Key quote: “We all prefer in-classroom instructions for all the obvious reasons—social, and emotional foundationally. But only, only if it can be done safely,” Newsom said.

• From the Independent: The shutdown forced the McCallum Theatre this year to cancel its annual Open Call shows, which showcase amazing local talent. Well, the show must go on—so the theater is showing off these talents in a half-hour show, recorded near The Living Desert, airing tomorrow night on KESQ. Matt King has the details.

• Related and maddening: The White House is blocking officials from the CDC from testifying in front of a House committee next week regarding school reopenings. Why?!

• Similarly horrifying: Federal agents, without agency IDs, have started tear-gassing, shooting (non-lethal ammunition) and detaining protesters in Portland, Ore.—even though city and state officials do not want the federal agents there. According to The New York Times: “The aggressive federal posture has complicated the mission of the Department of Homeland Security, an agency that has spent much of its history focused on foreign terrorism threats and is supposed to build collaborative relationships with local law enforcement partners. And it raises questions of whether it is appropriate for federal authorities to take up the policing of an American city against the wishes of local leaders.” (Spoiler alert: It’s not appropriate.) 

• This weird story broke yesterday: A group associated with Russian intelligence has tried to hack into vaccine-research efforts in the United States, Great Britain and Canada. Needless to say, intelligence agencies in those countries aren’t happy.

Some alarming news out of the Desert AIDS Project: They’re seeing a spike in HIV infections, as well as sexually transmitted infections. “Steadily rising rates of HIV, syphilis, and chlamydia in the Coachella Valley are showing that the last five months of living in the “new normal” has interfered with people taking care of their sexual health,” the organization says.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg announced today that she’s getting chemotherapy after a recurrence of cancer. Keep the Supreme Court justice in your thoughts, please.

• If you have type-A blood like yours truly, you can breathe a sigh of relief: Further research into whether one’s blood type affects susceptibility to COVID-19 shows a weak link, at best, according to The New York Times.

• I returned this week to the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast/videocast, with hosts John Taylor, Shann Carr and Brad Fuhr, to talk with Dr. Laura Rush about the fustercluck that is the state of the coronavirus in the Coachella Valley.

• Several days ago, we mentioned that the results from Moderna’s small vaccine trial were encouraging. But how encouraging are they, when put in the proper context? An infectious-disease expert from Vanderbilt University, writing for The Conversation, breaks it down. Key quote: “So they are good results; they are promising results; but they are pretty early in the game, so to speak.

• Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said today that he’s in favor of forgiving up to ALL Paycheck Protection Program loans—and that businesses may not even need to verify how the money was spent. Flexibility is good … but this may go a bit too far.

Is fighting the coronavirus as simple as shutting down indoor bars and getting people to wearing masks? That’s what Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health, said yesterday. Per CNBC: “Being indoors, in close quarters, over long periods of time, is just a recipe for spread,” he said, adding that outdoor seating for restaurants and bars is “probably really safe.”

• Related: Dr. Anthony Fauci has a message for local and state governments: “Be as forceful as possible in getting your citizenry to wear masks.

• Related and good news: The nation’s top nine retailers all now require masks, according to The Washington Post.

The Trump administration appears to be ignoring a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling by rejecting new applicants for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

• Major League Baseball appears to be ready to start its delayed, no-fans-in-stands, 60-game season next week, after its latest round of testing revealed few players had the virus. Meanwhile, NFL players want financial guarantees and all preseason games to be cancelled before their season is scheduled to start in September.

That’s enough news for what’s been a crazy week. Wear a mask! Be safe. Check in with a loved one and see how they’re doing. Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep doing what we do—offering quality local journalism, free to all. The digest will return Monday; have a great weekend, everybody.

Published in Daily Digest

Make no mistake: SARS CoV-2 is ravaging the Coachella Valley, with highs in cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

In fact, hospitalizations are so high in the Coachella Valley that a federal medical team has arrived at Eisenhower Medical Center to ease the burden on the hospital’s overwhelmed staff.

Now is the time to take action: Stay home if you can. Wear a mask when you can’t. And wash your hands.

We’ll get through this (again?) (still?); really, we will. But it’s bad right now. So take care of yourself, OK?

More news:

• After that depressing introduction, let’s start off with some good news: More testing facilities are coming—specifically, to RiteAid, including Coachella Valley locations in Indio, Coachella and Desert Hot Springs.

• More good news: After multiple lawsuits and furious university officials spoke out, the Trump administration reversed a mandate that foreign students must return to their home countries if their schools are only holding classes online.

• Yet more good news: The county is reopening applications for its rental-assistance program. Residents who have been unable to pay their rent can receive up to $3,500. Learn more from KESQ, or just head straight to the application website; the deadline for this round is July 25.

Even more good news: Some common antiviral drugs used to treat people with hepatitis C may help patients with COVID-19.

• Let’s keep the good news coming: A scientist writing for The Washington Post offers up these six reasons for optimism as we battle COVID-19.

• And here’s some more: Moderna says its vaccine produced strong antibodies in all—yes, ALL—of the patients who received it. We’re only talking about 45 people—but the news could not be any more encouraging.

• Related and also good: Oxford’s vaccine candidate is ahead of all others, schedule-wiseand, in fact, it could be through human trials by September.

• And more: Walmart is making masks mandatory in its stores. This should have been done three months ago or so, but hey, we’ll take it.

• Oh, and so is Best Buy.

• And more good news! The Palm Springs Cultural Center is now scheduling drive-in movies for Fridays, Saturdays and some Sundays for the foreseeable future. Get the schedule here.

• From the Independent: Our resident cocktail columnist thinks y’all should be cut off after packing bars and causing them to close again so soon—so here are some tips and tricks on how to use fresh herbs and spices to make delicious and even healthy non-alcoholic drinks at home. (Editor’s note: I ain’t cutting myself off, and you should know fresh herbs and spices are yummy in boozy drinks, too.)

Wear. A. Mask. The evidence keeps coming in showing that this one thing, if people did it, could stomp down this pandemic.

More on testing, from our partners at CalMatters: Due to supply shortages, California yesterday announced new guidelines for testing, giving priority to the vulnerable and people with symptoms. The fact testing has come to this is NOT good!

How effective will a vaccine need to be to stop this damn pandemic—considering a disturbing number of anti-vax Americans say they will refuse to be vaccinated? The Conversation crunched the numbers, and here’s what they found.

The possible implications of this are horrifying: The Trump administration has ordered hospitals to stop sending COVID-19 patient info to the CDC—and has told them to instead send it to a Health and Human Services Database.

For the first time since World War II, the New Year’s Day spectacle/tradition that is the Rose Parade has been cancelled.

• If you ever needed more proof that journalism is important: The Washington Post looked at the cases of eight people who were blinded in one eye during the Black Lives Matter protests on May 30—and videos of the incidents often contradict police accounts of what happened. Same goes for The New York Times, which just published an online package proving that even though the NYPD says it used restraint during the protests, it often did not.

Much of Twitter is down as of this writing, after a whole bunch of big-name Twitter accounts were hacked—indicating that the social-media company has a serious security flaw.

Methane levels in the atmosphere are at an all-time high. Great. Just great.

The pandemic has helped revive the market for single-use plastics—which, of course, is bad news for the environment. The Conversation examines whether or not this trend will continue.

At a time when dependable, inexpensive mail delivery is more important than ever (because, you know, we’re all broke and stuck at home), the Trump administration is making yet more moves to hobble the post office. Sigh.

• Another sigh: The Wall Street Journal reports on large companies that are making employees return to the office—even if that may not exactly be the safest thing to do.

• A first, and not a good one: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has become the first governor to announce he has COVID-19. Key quote: “He resisted calls to roll back Oklahoma’s reopening plans, which are being tested by a viral resurgence.” Ugh.

The federal government is offering up to 13 weeks of extra unemployment once state benefits run out—but people may need to reapply to receive them, according to this CNBC report.

American Airlines has given 25,000 employees a heads-up that job cuts may be coming.

Apple just released a six-minute sorta-comedy video about what it’s like to work from home these days. It’s … amusing, if you don’t mind product placement.

Seeing as there are more than 30 links in this Daily Digest, that’s enough for the day. If you value this digest and the other things the Independent does, and you’re fortunate enough to have a buck or two to spare, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Stay safe, all!

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A while back, a reader complained that I never discussed the plight of people who are unable to wear face masks—so I asked readers who deal with that plight to write in, and explain how they handle (or don’t handle) that dilemma.

Even though this Daily Digest is emailed to 4,000 people, and available to the entire world at CVIndependent.com, I received a grand total of … zero replies from people who say they won’t wear a mask.

I did, however, receive replies from some people who said they have difficulties wearing masks—but do so anyway.

“I have COPD, and it is VERY uncomfortable to wear a mask,” said one reader, who asked not to be identified. “It is hard to breathe through a paper or cloth mask.”

This reader mentioned mask and oxygen options that would help—but are out of the reader’s price range—before concluding: “Anyways, I do wear a mask when out in public and try to keep my breathing slow and steady which helps.”

I also received this from a reader: “Don’t like Newsom. Don’t like gay marriage. Don’t like anarchy. Don’t like looters. Don’t like Biden. Trump is stupid about masks, but he is better than Biden on the issues in my opinion. However, if I am within six feet of a person or going into any store, bar, etc. I will wear a mask.”

OK then!

I’ll conclude this non-debate with this advice from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, as stated in some of the agency’s news releases: “People with medical conditions that prevent safe use of a face covering are asked to wear a face shield.”

Translation: One way another, cover your gosh darned face. There’s no excuse not to.

Today’s links:

Here’s the latest District 4 report from Riverside County. (District 4 includes all of the Coachella Valley, plus the vastness between here and the state line to the east.) The numbers, simply put, are not good. Please note that the cases are presented here based on the testing date, NOT the report date, so the more-recent weeks’ numbers will always seem smaller than they actually are, given the length of time it takes to get test results back.

• However, I do want to point out one encouraging sign: For the third straight week, the weekly positivity rate has decreased. As of the week ending July 5, it’s 12.2 percent—still too high, as the state wants that number below 8 percent, and preferably much lower. However, that’s down from 14 percent as of the week ending June 28; 14.6 percent as of the week ending June 21; and 16 percent as of the week ending June 14. I am still waiting on an explanation from the county on how, exactly, this number is calculated—but lower numbers are always good, and I am crossing my fingers tightly that is evidence that the measures we’re taking locally are finally starting to slow down the COVID-19 spread.

• From the Independent: Kevin Fitzgerald recently spoke to Desert Healthcare District CEO Dr. Conrado Barzaga about his declaration that systemic racism is a public health crisisand we’re seeing that play out in the eastern Coachella Valley during the pandemic, as COVID-19 cases there are sky high compared to the rest of the valley.

• Sigh. Squabbles between Moderna Inc. and government scientists are responsible for the delay in one of the most-promising vaccine candidates, according to Reuters.

The Palm Springs Unified School district plans on starting the school year on Aug. 5 with all-online instruction, before moving to a hybrid model within a month or so, if the pandemic allows it. 

• Related and utterly unbelievable: The president is threatening to withhold funding from schools that don’t reopen for in-person classes in the fall, and his administration is forcing the CDC to issue weaker guidelines for school openings. Why?!

• The results are in regarding Sweden’s grand experiment to keep society mostly open and let the virus run its course: The death rate there is sky-high, and the country’s economy is no better off than the economies of its neighbors that did shut down.

Related: Is the cure worse than the disease? Experts writing for The Conversation crunched the numbers—and came to the conclusion that, no, shutdowns were better for society overall than letting the virus run amok.

Also from The Conversation: The feds’ plan to send home foreign college students if they can’t attend in-person classes would be very bad for the economy.

• Oh, great! Our partners at High Country News are looking at the possibility that North American bats could get SARS-CoV-2. Key quote, from the subheadline: “This is bad news for bats and humans.

• CNBC put a weird spin on this story: “Apple Maps driving activity is slowing again in warning sign for the economy.Yeah, but if more people are staying home, isn’t that a good sign for battling the coronavirus?

• The Washington Post has revealed that at the government-run Southeastern Veterans’ Center, in the Philadelphia area, patients received a “COVID cocktail” including hydroxychloroquine—which has some pretty terrible side effects. According to the Post: “Though precise estimates vary, the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs said about 30 residents received the drug. Several nursing home staff members placed the number higher. The Chester County coroner, who reviewed the medical records for some of those who died, said at least 11 residents who had received the hydroxychloroquine treatment had not been tested for COVID-19.” Yikes!

NBC News looks at what it’ll mean for the United States to pull out of the World Health Organization. Key quote: “Apart from the effect on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. exit from the WHO also puts at risk a polio vaccination program that has long been a priority for the U.S. across several administrations. Trump’s decision comes just as doctors believe polio is on the verge of being eradicated from the planet.”

• Equinox—which operates 23 gyms in Southern California—is asking some of its teachers to do a lot more for a lot less, with a lot more risk mixed in, according to BuzzFeed. Key quote: “Despite the risk, Equinox is asking its group fitness instructors to come back to the gym and teach classes at a discounted rate, keeping the teachers at their 75 percent pay, rather than restoring their pre-COVID-19 rates. Instructors have also been asked to help clean the group fitness studios after classes, without additional pay, as part of an effort to more frequently deep-clean the studios.”

• Finally, Randy Rainbow is back with another Trump parody video: “Poor Deplorable Troll.”

That’s today’s news. Please consider supporting honest independent local journalism by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Be safe. Be kind. Wear a mask. The Daily Digest will return on Friday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On this week's slightly less open weekly Independent comics page: (Th)ink explains Trump's confusion over "bounties"; This Modern World looks yet again at Life in the Stupidverse; Jen Sorensen carefully considers anti-mask arguments; Apoca Clips is horrified as Li'l Trumpy finally agrees to wear a mask; and Red Meat enjoys some delicious peanut butter.

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