CVIndependent

Wed08122020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Today was one of the biggest COVID-19-related news days in quite a while, so let’s get right to the links:

Reopening processes around the country—and in some parts of California—are coming to a halt or being reversed, due to increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. In Texas and Florida, bars are being closed, and other business are being restricted.

San Francisco was planning on allowing hair salons, outdoor bars and other businesses to open on Monday. That move has been delayed indefinitely.

• And most worrisome locally: For the first time since the reopening process began, the state has told a county that it needs to re-impose a strict stay-at-home order—Imperial County, our neighbors to the southeast. And another neighboring county, San Bernardino, is close to running out of non-surge hospital beds

Riverside County is behind the curve at hiring contact tracers. The good news is that as of yesterday, the county was up to 220 of them, with 180 added in the last five weeks, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise. However, the state says we need around 375 of them.

• Dr. Anthony Fauci said the federal government is considering a new way of testing for SARS-CoV-2—pool testing. “The approach works this way: Samples from, say, 20 people are combined into a single pool,” reports The Washington Post. “One coronavirus test is used on the entire pool. If the test comes back negative, researchers know they can move on to another pool of samples. If it comes back positive, only then would each individual be tested.

A Tucson emergency room doctor penned a column for The New York Times with this headline: “I’m a Health Care Worker. You Need to Know How Close We Are to Breaking.”

• While the state-by-state numbers here are probably too small to take too seriously … a recent Axios/Ipsos poll shows that 64 percent of Californians wear masks whenever they go outthe second highest percentage behind New York.

• A JPMorgan study shows a correlation between restaurant spending and the spread of the coronavirus, according to CNBC—and, conversely, “higher spending at supermarkets predicts a slower spread of the virus.” However, experts point out that this doesn’t necessarily mean restaurants are to blame for the spread.

• Also according to CNBC: The number of homeowners delaying their monthly mortgage payments is on the rise again, after falling for several weeks.

Can you shop safely in a brick-and-mortar clothing store? Esquire talked to some experts to get answers. Key quote from Erin Bromage, associate professor of biology and immunology at the University of Massachusetts: “It comes down to how long you spend in the store and how many people are in the store. If you are only in there for a short period of time, and they’re restricting occupancy, then the risk is low.”

From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: University of California campuses are telling students to prepare for a fall semester that will mostly—but not entirely—take place online.

• We’re now moving to our WTF?! portion of the digest, starting with the news that American Airlines is going to stop keeping middle seats open, and resume booking flights to capacity.

• It’s not often that I’ve wanted to tip my hat to Dick Cheney, but here we are: He says that real men wear face masks.

• Did you know North Carolina has an anti-mask law? It’s true—and it’s caused no small degree of confusion. It turns out the law is a decades-old measure meant to crack down on the KKK—but thankfully, it’s been temporarily suspended, at least through Aug. 1.

• Finally, this story is particularly devastating news to those of us here at Independent World Headquarters: Costco has stopped making half-sheet cakes. DAMN YOU ’RONA! DAMN YOU!!!

• No … we take back that “finally”; we can’t end the week on that awful note. So here’s some good news: San Francisco’s Transgender District was “the first legally recognized district in the world dedicated to a historically transgender community.” The economic downturn almost forced the nonprofit to close—but then came the Black Lives Matter protests. Now, the Transgender District is on firmer footing, as “the two movements have converged in a kind of intersectional synchronicity that is bringing renewed attention to the realities of transgender people of color,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Readers, these are scary times. Please, take care of yourself this weekend. Wear a mask when you go out. Check in on neighbors and loved ones. Live in the now and enjoy life, because these days still count against the total number you have on this planet. Right? Oh, and help out the Independent, if you’re able, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will return Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

Happy Monday, everyone. We have more than 20 story links today, so let’s get right to ’em:

• It was a big news day for the U.S. Supreme Court. In a landmark 6-3 ruling, the court ruled that gay, lesbian and transgender workers are protected by federal civil-rights lawsand Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch (!) wrote the majority opinion. The court also more or less upheld California’s sanctuary law by declining to hear a challenge to it.

• This just in, from the city of Palm Springs: “In an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, continue to flatten the curve and keep residents and visitors safe, the city of Palm Springs would like to notify the community that this year’s Fourth of July fireworks spectacular has been CANCELLED. ‘Due to the fact that the state of California is prohibiting large gatherings there will be no fireworks this year,’ said Cynthia Alvarado-Crawford, director of Palm Springs Parks and Recreation. ‘We thank our Palm Springs residents for their understanding.’”

T-Mobile—and possibly other wireless services—suffered a major outage today. Details are unclear on what exactly happened as of this writing.

• OK, now this is weird: The mayor of Indio apparently told KESQ News Channel 3 that even though Coachella and Stagecoach have been cancelled, Goldenvoice is still considering putting on a large, Desert Trip-style festival in October. We have no idea how such a large gathering would be possible, but as we’ve repeatedly said in this space, nothing makes sense anymore, so who knows.

• Despite rising case numbers, California is still doing OK as a whole in terms of COVID-19 metrics, Gov. Newsom said today.

• Yet again, the president has made a baffling remark regarding COVID-19: “If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.” Sigh …

• The Los Angeles Times takes a look at the reopening debate taking place in Imperial County, which borders Riverside County to the southeast, and has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the state. Despite the high rates, some people there want to start the reopening process anyway.

• Hmm. Three large California police unions announced a plan yesterday—via full-page advertisements in some large daily newspapers—to root out racists and reform police departments. While some will scoff at this, the fact that police unions are suggesting such reforms is nothing short of stunning.

• Also stunning: A major Federal Reserve official said yesterday that systemic racism is holding back the U.S. economy.

• Sign No. 435,045 that we know very little about the disease: At first, scientists feared common hypertension drugs could make COVID-19 worse in people who took them. Fortunately, now they’ve changed their minds.

• Sign No. 435,046 that we know very little about the disease: Scientists from UCSF and Stanford say that “super antibodies,” found in less than 5 percent of COVID-19 patients, could be used to treat others battling the disease—and may help in the development of a vaccine. That’s the good news. The bad news, according to Dr. George Rutherford, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle: “Between 10 percent and 20 percent of patients with COVID-19 show no antibodies in serological tests, Rutherford said. The remaining 75 percent or more of coronavirus patients develop antibodies, he said, but they aren’t the neutralizing kind, indicating immunity to the disease might not last long in most people.

• The FDA has revoked the emergency-use authorization for hydroxychloroquine, aka the president’s COVID-19 drug of choice.

Tesla—and other companies—refuse to disclose coronavirus stats at their workplaces. Neither will county health departments. Why? They’re citing federal health-privacy laws as a reason—even though that’s not necessarily how federal health-privacy laws work.

• Writing for The Conversation, a professor of music explains why for some churches, the inability to sing is a really big deal.

• Also from The Conversation, and also religion-related: Indian leaders are using Hindu goddesses in the fight against the coronavirusand it’s not the first time they’ve used deities to battle disease.

• The Riverside Press-Enterprise writes about local public-health officials, people who normally work fairly anonymously, but who have now been thrust into the limelight—and a large degree of public scrutiny, often undeserved—thanks to the pandemic.

• The Legislature is in the process of passing a budget today—even though they’re still negotiating things with Gov. Newsom. Why the urgency? Well, they have to pass a budget by today if they want to continue being paid. In any case, there’s disagreement on how to deal with a $54 billion deficit caused by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

The 2021 Academy Awards are being delayed two months due to the fact that most movie theaters remain closed, and most movie productions have been suspended because of, well, you know.

• This column from The Washington Post may leave you beating your head against the wall: “Are Americans hard-wired to spread the coronavirus?

• The pandemic has led some companies to institute the four-day work week. NBC News looks at the pluses and minuses—and finds mostly pluses.

China’s embassy and consulates have been engaging in displays of kindness—like free lunches and donations of medical supplies—in U.S. communities where they’re needed. NBC News looks into this interesting tidbit.

That’s the day’s news. Wash your hands. Please, please PLEASE wear a mask whenever you’re around other people. Fight injustice. Be kind. If you value honest, local journalism, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

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

Let’s jump right into the news, some of which merits some discussion:

• Yesterday, we mentioned that Riverside County COVID-19 hospitalizations had gone up almost 6 percent from Friday (184) to Tuesday (195). This fact is important for all sorts of reasons, one of which is the fact that “stable hospitalizations of COVID individuals on a 7-day average of daily percent change of less than 5 percent,” whatever that means, is one of the new criteria for counties to move further into Stage 2 of the reopening process.

Well, according to today’s numbers, 189 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county—a drop of six yesterday. This means the county may meet this criterion. Although, seriously, I don’t know what “stable hospitalizations of COVID individuals on a 7-day average of daily percent change of less than 5 percent” means. Do you? Anyone?

Meanwhile, the county government is still waiting to hear from the governor office to see if the state will accept their attestation, sent Friday, that Riverside County is supposedly ready to move further into Stage 2 (which means retail stores and restaurants can have customers inside of them). No word on that yet. However …

• The state has, as of this writing, given 32 counties the go-ahead to move further into Stage 2—including the first Southern California county, Ventura County.

• Tulare County, which had not get gotten the go-ahead, has decided to skip the second part of Stage 2 and barrel into Stage 3—something the state called “hasty and careless.”

• Here in the valley, the Agua Caliente casino properties in Rancho Mirage and Palm Springs have announced they’ll be open for business come Friday. Read the details here

• While most Southern California casinos obviously didn’t heed Gov. Newsom’s plea to hold off on reopening, the Riverside Press-Enterprise is reporting that one has: San Diego County’s Casino Pauma will remain closed for now.

• Among all of the reopening news, a sobering note: According to the World Health Organization, more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported to the agency in the last daythe most since the pandemic began.

• An update: Hospitals in Imperial County (our neighbor to the southeast) are again taking COVID-19 patients, after being overwhelmed yesterday. Inewsource explains what happened.

• Here are more details on the Memorial Day weekend celebration downtown Palm Springs retailers are having—in a curbside-pickup, responsible manner, of course.

• A new Stanford study makes it clear that, no, you probably didn’t have the coronavirus back in the fall.

• From the Independent: The Coachella Valley Water District has obtained $3.3 million in state funds to extend water service to east valley areas that badly need it. While the funding seems secure for now … nothing is a sure thing in this COVID-19 world.

• Can you imagine dealing with a disaster in the middle of a pandemic? Keep the people dealing with a dam failure in Michigan, and a powerful cyclone in India and Bangladesh, in your thoughts.

• Meanwhile, in Florida, it appears the government may be trying to fudge the coronavirus numbers, which is a very bad thing. A similar but different thing is happening in Georgia, too.

• As testing becomes more wildly available … should everyone consider getting tested? A Los Angeles Times writer goes through the process—and talks to the experts.

• AAP—Food Samaritans lost its huge Evening Under the Stars fundraiser due to the shutdown—but the excellent nonprofit organization is holding a great online auction June 1-7. Check out the goods, or just contribute.

Prejudice and fear regarding people who have recovered from COVID-19 are real things. The New York Times explains.

• What is the pandemic like for people with multiple partners living in separate homes? Agence France-Press, via Yahoo! News, talks to some Muslim men in Kuwait dealing with this situation.

• Gosh darn it, now there’s a garlic shortage? Sigh.

• Shakespeare’s Globe theater is another possible casualty of the pandemic.

That’s today’s news. Buy our amazing coloring book! Please consider supporting local journalism, if you can afford to do so, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll return 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