CVIndependent

Thu08132020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Happy Juneteenth, everyone.

Here’s today’s news:

• Gov Gavin Newsom said today that he intends for the statewide face-coverings order to be persuasive—but didn’t rule out punishment, via the Division of Occupational Safety and Health and the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. “We’re not looking to fine people. We’re looking to educate people, encourage people,” Newsom said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “And to the extent that people flaunt and abuse, which may be the exception, then we have many tools in the tool kit.”

• It’s a good thing the state is willing to find ways to enforce the ordinance if needed. Later in that article, the Orange County sheriff said he didn’t think it was the job of law enforcement to make sure people comply, and the Sacramento County sheriff said his agency would not enforce the law, “due to the minor nature of the offense, the potential for negative outcomes during enforcement encounters, and anticipating the various ways in which the order may be violated.”

There’s face-covering progress being made in Arizona, aka our neighbor to the east, aka the nation’s newest COVID-19 hot spot: Gov. Doug Ducey recently revoked an order forbidding local governments from issuing face-mask requirements stronger than the state’s (non-) requirements—and as a result, various cities, including Tucson and Phoenix, are now requiring face coverings. Lives. Being. Saved.

• Meanwhile, in Nebraska, Gov. Pete Ricketts is being a complete idiot: “He’s told counties that they won’t receive any of the $100 million in federal COVID-19 money if their ‘customers’ are required to wear masks,” according to the Omaha World-Herald.

• LG’s Prime Steakhouse is closing both of its locations for a couple of weeks after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus. Read the company’s statement here—and don’t be surprised to see more such announcements as the pandemic rolls on.

• Gov. Newsom has signed into law a bill requiring that every active voter get a mail-in ballot for November’s election.

• Disneyland is planning on reopening in several weeks. However, unions representing 17,000 Disneyland employees don’t think it’s safe to do so yet, and are asking Disney to delay

Remember that aircraft carrier captain who walked off his coronavirus-stricken ship to thunderous applause, when he was removed after expressing concerns about the outbreak? Well, his firing has been upheld.

The New York Times points out there was a lot of coronavirus business news today: Apple is closing stores in four states where cases are rising (but not here) (yet?); and AMC reversed course and said it’ll require customers to wear face coverings, after the CEO (stupidly) said yesterday the theater would not.

• Carnival Cruise Line had previously said it would start resuming some cruises on Aug. 1. However, that company—and all other major cruise lines—announced today that they’d voluntarily suspend operations until at least Sept. 15.

Medpage Today offers a fascinating if wonky look at a study in China of asymptomatic people with COVID-19. Remember that all studies these days need to be looked at skeptically and with that grain of salt we keep talking about, but takeaways include: “Asymptomatic individuals carrying SARS-CoV-2 shed the virus longer than those with COVID-19 symptoms,” and asymptomatic people were less likely to develop certain antibodies.

• Apparently, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth can help you battle viral infections. Who knew? A UCLA professor, writing for The Conversation, explains that it has to do with nitrous oxide.

• Are you worried about welcoming back housekeepers or other workers who come into your home? You’re not alone; The New York Times explains how to do so in the safest way possible for everyone.

• A bunch of big-name artists are calling on the federal government to help save our country’s independent music venues—which remain closed for the foreseeable future. Here’s hoping Congress heeds their call.

The Chinese government throws some serious shade at the president in this short, weird YouTube video.

The New York Times takes a wonderful look at the role of comedy in addressing police brutality—especially the comedy of the late, great Richard Pryor. Check it out.

• Finally, pray for Tulsa. Tomorrow very likely is going to be a dangerous day there, because the chief executive of the country has decided he doesn’t need to listen to experts anymore, and he wants to have a damn rally.

That’s enough for today. Please have a fantastic—and safe—weekend. Wear a mask. No, really, wear a mask. Wash your hands. If you appreciate quality local journalism, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will be back Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

A group of people—mostly born and raised in Indio—organized a rally on Tuesday, June 9, at Miles Park to fight for racial equality and urgently needed policing reforms.

The group called itself We Are Indio—and called the event #NoMoreHashtags.

One of the organizers was Erin Teran, a nurse at a local hospital.

“There were five of us,” Teran said about the organizing group. “Three of us have grown up together. (Indio City) Councilmember Waymond Fermon and I have been friends since kindergarten, and April Skinner and I have been friends since we were really young, too. Our parents were even friends. They’re both people I talk to all the time, and we always support each other.”

The other two members of the team are Maribel Pena Burke and Kimberly Barraza, Teran said.

“When the whole George Floyd incident happened, I was so upset and emotional about it, because one of the things that Waymond and I talk about all the time is (his fear) that it could have been him, and that could have been his fate,” Teran said. (Fermon is Black.) “I think people forget that, and I just felt so emotional and sad. We just really wanted to do something. I think part of it for me was that it’s important I acknowledge the privilege that I have because of my white skin and blond hair. So I think it’s important that I’m standing with my friends and my community to say, ‘This isn’t OK.’”

The rally was initially scheduled to take place on Monday, June 1—but just hours before the scheduled start time, Riverside County invoked a 6 p.m. countywide curfew.

“Part of the group felt that we should just do it and hold (the vigil) anyway,” Teran said. “But we also wanted to be respectful. We felt that we needed to respect the policy (decisions) even when we didn’t agree with them. We did feel that we should have the right to go out and peacefully assemble, but sometimes you just have to do the right thing, even when you feel like it’s wrong, so we decided to go ahead and reschedule it. It took a lot of work, so it was very frustrating—but there were some positive things that came out of having to postpone the event. There were people who couldn’t come on the original date, who we really wanted to have participate. Once it got rescheduled, we were able to get some of those people. We had more time to do some things, like go out and write the names in chalk of (victims of police brutality) who had passed over the last years. That was something small, but for us, it was meaningful.”

The We Are Indio team received some criticism after announcing the event.

“Originally, I think somebody put out a flier that matched ours, and it said people shouldn’t attend this vigil, because it was being organized by white people and the police,” Teran said. “It was obviously upsetting to see that. I’m actually a Latina, but I have blond hair, and I’m very fair-skinned. I felt that we were trying to say that it doesn’t matter who you are: Right now is the time to stand up and have a voice, and to say that Black Lives Matter. It’s just such a really important cause to me. I know a lot of the stories that my friends have experienced, and it’s very emotional to hear those things.

“I know some of the things that (Fermon) experienced as a young man. He’s been on the side of being in law enforcement, but he’s also been on the side of having the barrel of a gun pointed at him. When you hear those things, obviously, you want to stand up for your friends. But it’s more than just your friends. This is an issue nationwide, and it needs to be addressed. It’s been going on for far too long.”

Teran said she asked Fermon what they should do about the negative feedback.

“He said, ‘You know what? Just keep going. We know what we’re doing. We’re just going to focus on having a positive event in our community.’ And I think that’s what we did. I think we were able to accomplish that.”

Indeed, Teran said she was pleased at the turnout.

“Although I believe there were a couple of outsiders who did show up, we had a lot of people (attending) who grew up in Indio, and they knew that our intentions were to have a peaceful gathering and to really be able to come together as a community,” Teran said. “Something so different about Indio is that we all grew up with a very diverse mix of friends. Although we all know that we have different colors of skin, it’s just something that we didn’t pay attention to. There are people who grew up with us who are now part of the police department, but when we come together, we come together as one. So when those outsiders (who may have had ill intentions) showed up, there were (attendees) who made it clear that’s not what we were looking for. It was great to see people coming up to speak to the City Council members, and I even saw some people go to talk with the police chief (Mike Washburn, who attended) about some of the issues that they were facing. That’s what we were trying to do. We wanted to create a dialogue and have transparency and (talk about having) oversight over the policies taking place. We want to create an environment where we can see positive change and look forward to the future.”

As for that future: Teran said people need to stay engaged.

“We had several community members reach out to us to say, ‘We’ve got to keep this going. This was so wonderful,’” she said. “So one of the things we’ve discussed is trying to do some kind of community barbecue in the future. We definitely need to encourage members of our community to be out there and to have a voice.

“It’s more important than just one day of action. Going to a protest or a rally is so very important, because we have to be able to assemble and have a voice—but young people have to understand that you need to have a voice at City Council meetings and Board of Supervisors meetings, too. You need to call in and comment to make sure that you’re heard. It can become very important in the decision-making process. We did have voter registration out at our event, and we kept trying to impress the fact that it’s not just important to register to vote—but it’s so important to come out in November and actually vote. Work on a campaign; make some phone calls; help to mobilize and organize, because we have to get those people out of positions of authority who are not willing to be transparent and work with the community.”

Teran also emphasized how important social-distancing guidelines were at the vigil—and will continue to be moving forward.

“For us, it was really important to follow the social-distancing guidelines—and I’m a very big advocate of wearing facial masks,” Teran said. “We took a lot of precautions cleaning, and each speaker or performer had their own microphone cover. We designated places for people to sit, so we really did follow social guidelines. I think it’s important for people to know that (COVID-19) is a very real thing, and it’s very important to follow those guidelines.”

For more information on We Are Indio, visit www.facebook.com/groups/2656275024692257.

Published in Local Issues

Toward the start of the stay-at-home order, I remember telling a friend (on a Zoom chat, of course) how much I looked forward to that wonderful day when the lockdown was over, and we could meet for happy-hour and hug again.

Ah, how naïve I was. If only it could be that simple.

We could meet for that happy hour again on Friday, as bars will be reopening that day. However, the scene would not be like it was in my mind’s eye. When I imagined that wonderful day, I didn’t imagine face masks and socially distanced tables—nor did I imagine the agonizing, scary dilemma going out to a bar would present.

And that hug? It’s definitely too soon for that.

Nothing seems simple in this pandemic-tinged, half-assed world in which we now live. On one hand, I keep seeing justifiably optimistic announcements on social media about gyms and cocktail lounges and movie theaters and even Disneyland reopening soon.

On the other … I keep looking at the local COVID-19 stats, and sighing at the across-the-board increases—which, predictably, people are freaking out about on social media. According to the state, our local hospitals have 85 coronavirus patients as of yesterday—the highest number I have seen a while.

But there’s a dilemma within this dilemma: The experts have said all along that when we reopened, cases would begin to rise. As Gov. Newsom said yesterday: “As we phase in, in a responsible way, a reopening of the economy, we’ve made it abundantly clear that we anticipate an increase in the total number of positive cases.

He’s right. They did say that. The goal is to make COVID-19 a manageable problem as life resumes. But it’s still a problem—a potentially deadly one—and nobody’s sure if we’ll be able to keep it “manageable” or not.

Today’s links:

• It’s official: Coachella and Stagecoach are cancelled for 2020. Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County’s public health officer, officially pulled the plug this afternoon. “I am concerned as indications grow that COVID 19 could worsen in the fall,” said Kaiser in a news release. “In addition, events like Coachella and Stagecoach would fall under Governor Newsom’s Stage 4, which he has previously stated would require treatments or a vaccine to enter. Given the projected circumstances and potential, I would not be comfortable moving forward.”

• If you’re one of the people who is sniveling about masks, or denying that they work … it’s time for you to stop the sniveling and the denying.

Palm Springs City Councilmember Christy Holstege and the Palm Springs Police Officers’ Association are in the midst of a war of words. Here’s the brief, oversimplified version what happened: On Monday, Holstege wrote an open letter to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in support of Supervisor V. Manuel Perez’s proposed resolutions to condemn the killing of George Floyd (which barely passed), and request the Sheriff’s Department to review its own policies (which failed when Perez couldn’t get a second). In it, Holstege wrote, among other things: “Like most communities throughout Riverside County, in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, we have a long history of racial segregation and exclusion, racial violence, racist city policies and policing, and injustice and disparities in our community that exist today.” This did not sit well with the officers’ union, which today accused Holstege of not bringing up any problems with the department until now, as well as “vilify(ing) our officers and department.” Holstege has since responded with claims that the union is mischaracterizing what she said. All three statements are recommended reading.

• Related-ish: San Francisco’s public-transportation agency recently announced it would no longer transport police officers to protests. The San Francisco Police Officers Association’s response? Hey Muni, lose our number.

• From ProPublica comes this piece: “The Police Have Been Spying on Black Reporters and Activists for Years. I Know Because I’m One of Them.” Wendi Thomas’ story is a must-read.

• The Black Lives Matters protests are resulting in a lot of long-overdue changes. One shockingly meaningful one was announced today: NASCAR will no longer allow confederate flags at its racetracks.

And Walmart has announced it will stop keeping its “multicultural hair care and beauty products” in locked cases.

And the Riverside County Sheriff announced today it would no longer use the use the carotid restraint technique.

• The government is understandably rushing the approvals processes to make potentially helpful COVID-10 treatments available. However, as The Conversation points out this is a potentially dangerous thing to do.

Also being rushed: A whole lot of state contracts for various things needed to battle the pandemic. Our partners at CalMatters break down how this created—and forgive the language, but this is the only word I can think of that sums things up properly—a complete and total clusterfuck.

• Provincetown, Mass., is normally a packed LGBT haven during the summer. However, this year, businesses there are just starting to reopen—and they’re trying to figure out the correct balance between income and safety.

Your blood type may help determine how you’ll fare if you get COVID-19. If you have Type 0, you may be less at risk—and if you have Type A, you may be more at risk.

Wired magazine talked to three vaccine researchers for a 15-minute YouTube video. Hear the voices and see the faces of the scientists behind the fight to end SARS-CoV-2.

A study of seamen on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt—where there was a much-publicized COVID-19 outbreak—offers hope that people who recover from the disease may have immunity.

If it seems like groceries are more expensive, that’s because they are—about 8.2 percent more expensive.

What fascinating times these are. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Black Lives Matter. Please help the Independent continue what we’re doing, without paywalls, free to all, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will likely be back tomorrow—Friday at the latest.

Published in Daily Digest

Let’s get right to the day’s news:

• I owe Supervisor V. Manuel Perez an apology. In this space last Friday, I called his attempt to get the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department to review its own policies “pretty weak,” because, well, he was asking THEM to review THEIR OWN policies, more or less. Here’s what’s happened since. First, the department’s union announced they were opposed to the idea because, in the words of the union president, “There is no need to suggest or invent problems that do not exist in the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.” Then Sheriff Chad Bianco—the one who has recently been on Fox News—said he didn’t want a “political” process, and pointed out that the County Commission doesn’t have authority over him. Second, Perez’s motion by the County Commission failed, because he couldn’t get a second. Yeesh. Key quote from Bianco, to the supervisors: “It's not your job to tell me what to do.”

• From the Independent: We spoke to Angel Moreno, one of the organizers of the June 1 Black Lives Matter protest in Palm Desert: “What’s happening right now is just really unacceptable, and we just wanted to do this protest so our words could be heard.”

• The TV show Cops’ 33rd season was slated to premiere next week. That’s not going to happen now.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently asked an epidemiologist how long it’ll take to determine whether the Black Lives Matter protests will cause a spike in COVID-19 cases. Key quote: “(Dr. George) Rutherford is encouraged by what he sees in Minnesota, which is where the protests started on the week of May 25. It has been almost a full two weeks since the protests began, and the number of new confirmed cases statewide is actually trending downwards.”

The Conversation uses science to explain that COVID-19 deaths and the killing of George Floyd (and many other Black men and women over the years) have something in common: Racism.

• The state announced late yesterday that movie theaters could reopen—at 25 percent capacity—on Friday. However, most of them probably won’t open that soon. Deadline explains the reasons why.

• Meanwhile, The Living Desert is reopening on Monday. Here’s what the people who run zoo and gardens are doing to reopen as safely as possible.

• Yesterday, we discussed how a WHO doctor created a furor by claiming asymptomatic SARS=CoV-2 infectees don’t spread the virus all that much. Well, today, WHO did a whole lot of backpedaling.

• One of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the state is taking place right now in a prison in this very county: Almost 1,000 inmates at the Chuckawalla Valley State Prison have tested positive, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Why is COVID-19 killing more men than women? The Conversation examines what we know, what we don’t know, and, uh, why we don’t know the things we don’t know.

• Some people who are making the very wise decision to stay home while the world around them reopens are getting shamed, according to this USA Today columnist.

Even though you might think the opposite if you’re a loyal viewer of NBC Palm Springs, Amazon’s coronavirus response has been rather problematic. Therefore, it’s a good thing that the retail giant is going to soon start testing its workers a whole lot more.

• Yet another analysis of SARS-CoV-2 mutations explains why the San Francisco Bay Area was briefly such a COVID-19 hotbed: The virus entered the area from all sorts of different places as it started to spread.

A company that’s on the leading edge of the vaccine race just got all sorts of government cash to work on a treatment to battle COVID-19 designed around antibodies.

• On a recent interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he was “almost certain” more than one vaccine being developed would work against the disease he called his “worst nightmare.” He also made it abundantly clear that we’re nowhere near the end of this damned pandemic.

All of the state’s DMV offices will soon be open again. (Well, except for the one damaged by looters in San Bernardino.)

• This story probably has no application to your life whatsoever, but we’re presenting it here because it’s so damned weird. The Business Insider headline: “People are paying as much as $10,000 for an unlicensed remdesivir variant for their cats, in a thriving black market linked to Facebook groups.”

• Finally, on his Netflix show Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj explains why a whole lot of local newspapers are in trouble—and how essential they really, truly are.

That’s the news for this Tuesday. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Fight injustice. Please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you have the means to do so. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25, parks and streets around the country and world have become staging grounds for massive outpourings of frustration and anger over systemic racism in the United States.

On Monday, June 1, a Black Lives Matter protest took place at Palm Desert’s Civic Center Park, organized by a self-described band of “newbie” community organizers who wanted their voices heard. Their Instagram account is called Coachella Valley Activists.

The group originally called for an evening protest on El Paseo. However, on the day of the gathering, the group moved the event to Palm Desert’s City Hall-adjacent Civic Center Park—and made the start time earlier in response to a countywide curfew.

“For everyone, it was their first time staging a protest rally,” said Angel Moreno, one of the organizers. “Our team is more than 20 people. It’s a big group. But, actually, it started with an idea between my friend and me. All of our friends talked about how there should be a protest on El Paseo in Palm Desert, but nobody ever took the initiative to make one (happen). So, we had the idea of making one, and he made a page (on Instagram). I helped set it up, and I was contacting everyone to spread the news to actually make a protest in Palm Desert. Everyone agreed, and shared and talked to people.”

Moreno said his group wanted to “wake up the people in the valley” about unacceptable things going on in the world.

“A lot of lives are being lost, and a lot of police brutality is happening, and the police are not being held to account for it,” Moreno said. “This group is very diverse. We have white, Mexican, Black, Asian (and) gay (members)—and it hurts our African-American friends more. I’m Latino, and I do feel it, but it hurts to see them hurt. And now, even with everything that’s going on in the world, Latinos are getting abused by police and discriminated against. What’s happening right now is just really unacceptable, and we wanted to do this protest so our words could be heard.”

When the group’s Instagram post announcing the protest started getting attention, various people and media sources—the Independent included—reached out and asked who the Coachella Valley Activists were. There was no response before the protest; we asked Moreno why.

“That’s just because there were a lot of messages going on,” Moreno said. “We didn’t expect our page to blow up, but when it did, there were so many messages and comments, and we were really just overwhelmed. We tried to get to as many as we could, but only my friend and I have the account.”

Moreno said he is happy the group decided to move the protest from El Paseo to Civic Center Park. After rioting and looting took place in cities around the country over the weekend—and after a quickly retracted Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce Facebook post the night before inaccurately claimed “busses are arriving already with people”—concerned El Paseo business owners boarded up windows and braced for the worst.

“It was a great thing that we changed the location, and not just due to the fact that everyone was asking us to please not do it on El Paseo because of all the businesses,” Moreno said. “We weren’t going to do anything, but then we thought, ‘Well, let’s move to another area, because we don’t want to cause any problems.’ Even though we weren’t going to (cause problems), people thought we were. So we wanted them to know that we heard them. That’s why we decided to move it.

“Also, we were getting a lot of followers and people saying that they were going to come, and we knew we’d need a bigger area.”

That surprising level of engagement, coming from an Instagram account just a few days old, continued to grow right up to the start time.

“When my group and I first showed up,” Moreno said, “we saw protesters there already, even before the scheduled start time, which was really surprising. We said, ‘Oh my god, this is a whole lot of people.’ There were at least 150 people already there, and as time went by, it just kept increasing more and more. It was so amazing to see so many people. We didn’t expect it to be this big. Not at all. I mean, we were just amazed.”

The rally itself was, by design, a free-form event.

“Here’s the thing: We didn’t want it to be about ourselves,” Moreno said. “We didn’t want to say, ‘Hey, we’re the protesters, and we made this (demonstration).’ We didn’t want that. We wanted the people to be heard. Everyone could take a turn speaking and talking. It was just amazing how organized it was—for not being organized. It was truly amazing, because it was really peaceful. There was no violence at all. Everyone just took turns talking, chanting and speaking their truth. Eventually, we thanked everyone for attending, and then we started marching down Fred Waring past Monterey towards Highway 111.”

Moreno described what happened as the 6 p.m. countywide curfew approached.

“We turned around and went back to City Hall, because we wanted to keep protesting,” Moreno said. “Then, once it hit 6 p.m., which was the curfew time that came out that day, we told everyone that they should leave for their own safety. But a lot of people wanted to stay. We kept telling people to leave, because we didn’t want anybody to get hurt at all. We didn’t want the police to do anything. But, thankfully, people did stay after 6 p.m. … While I was being interviewed (on TV news) exactly at 6 p.m., the crowd kept going eastward on Fred Waring, and they stopped close to downtown Palm Desert. I was asked then if I thought all the (attendees) were leaving, or if they were going to continue to protest. I told (the news) they didn’t want to leave, because this was very important to them, and they wanted their voices to be heard.

“I got interviewed for just a few minutes, and then we followed the rest of the group. That’s when the police started covering the street (around us), and we told people not to do anything stupid and just keep our distance. We had, like, six car lengths of distance (between the line of police and the group of demonstrators), and we weren’t doing anything. We were kneeling down and chanting when out of nowhere, the police threw a smoke grenade. First one, and then around four more of them started throwing (the smoke grenades). People took it easily, because it was just smoke. They backed up away from the police and tried to get out of the smoke. So, everyone wasn’t running or (being) violent or anything. They were just trying to move out of the way.”

Moreno admitted the COVID-19 pandemic was indeed a concern.

“But it would be hard to tell people to stay six feet away from each other, and also to be in formation (while demonstrating),” he said. “So we were concerned about the coronavirus, but we told people before the protest even happened to not touch each other, and that they should wear masks. We wanted people to be safe, but the protest was happening, and it was more important than the pandemic right now. I don’t think people are even thinking about the pandemic while they’re protesting, because they’re speaking out of anger. They’re speaking from their hearts.”

What’s next for the Coachella Valley Activists?

“Right now, we’re supporting other protests that are happening around the Coachella Valley. Also, we’re (gathering a list and) sharing the names of black-owned businesses. Because our page blew up so big, we now have a lot of followers in the valley, and we just want to share our platform with other groups.

“I do want to say that we did this not for ourselves, but for everyone around the world,” Moreno said. “We want to be part of the change that’s happening right now, and we want the people in our cities to be heard. We don’t want to be silenced, and we just want peace. That’s all we want.”

For more information, visit www.instagram.com/coachellavalleyactivists.

Published in Local Issues

Before we get into the news of the day, I have one simple little request for some of you out there in social-media land: Can everyone please stop with the posts in which you’re rooting for the reopening effort to fail?

I get it: A lot of people, including many smarter than I am, think that the state is reopening too fast, too soon. I also understand that many humans have a burning desire to, when proven right, gloat and say, “I told you so.”

However … using just one example I saw recently, it does nobody any good to—on a business page announcing reopening plans—comment with a “Coronavirus likes this” image.

We know sooooooo very little about this virus and this disease—we’ll be getting into that more in a moment—that we really don’t know how all of this is going to go. Yes, it’s quite possible we’ll see a debilitating spike causing another shut-down; after all Arizona—you know, the state just to the east of here—is in the midst of a COVID-19 spike so serious that the state health director has told hospitals to activate their emergency plans.

However, I sure hope we don’t have a second wave (or, more likely, a second spike in the first wave)—because you know what will happen if we do have another shutdown? A whole lot of people will be hurting, in a whole lot of ways. It means more sickness and death. It means financial loss and the destruction of dreams. It could mean chaos—even more than we’re seeing now.

By all means, speak out, but do so with love and concern. Be kind—and don’t root for failure.

Today’s links:

• Here’s last week’s District 4 COVID-19 report from the county. (District 4 more or less = Coachella Valley.) The numbers are, in some cases, not great. Hospitalizations are up, as is the 7-day positivity rate. On the other hand, the ICU numbers remain fairly low; the valley saw one COVID-19-related death in the week.

• This New York Times headline will make you want to go bang your head against the wall: “Hospitals Got Bailouts and Furloughed Thousands While Paying C.E.O.s Millions.” Do a search in the article for Tenet, the owner of Desert Regional Medical Center, JFK Memorial Hospital in Indio, and the Hi Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree. You won’t like what you read.

• Sign No. 345,969 that we know very little about the disease: A recent study seems to indicate that the actual spread of SARS-CoV-2 started later than previously thought.

• Sign No. 345,970 that we know very little about the disease: The Conversation reports on science showing that 80 percent of coronavirus cases are spread by just 20 percent of people infected with the virus—including, it is believed, some people who are asymptomatic.

• Sign No. 345,971 that we know very little about the disease: Meanwhile, a high-ranking World Health Organization doc says asymptomatic people actually DON’T spread the virus much. NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.

• Sign No. 345,972 that we know very little about the disease: The New York Times polled 511 epidemiologists on when they expect to do what used to be “normal” things again—like go out to eat, or travel, or hug someone. Well, the results were all over the damned place.

This article is almost a month old, but worth a look, given the news about a vaccine has been encouraging as of late: Even if we do have a vaccine, we may not have enough glass vials to put the doses in. Sigh.

• The state superintendent of public schools today announced guidance for school reopenings. Things will be quite different.

The Washington Post today reported on a new study indicating that the shutdowns may have prevented 60 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S. Wow.

• Las Vegas is open again. How is it even possible for large Vegas-style casinos to operate in the midst of an active pandemic? The New York Times takes a look.

• From the Independent: I attended the June 6 “Enough Is Enough” rally and protest at Ruth Hardy Park. It was a moving, inspiring experience. Here’s our photo gallery—and you’ll be hearing more from several local protest-organizers in the Independent in upcoming days.

• The “Justice in Policing Act” was introduced by congressional Democrats today. NBC News offers some details.

• Here’s where the United States is in June 2020: Teen Vogue has just run a story on how law-enforcement tactics, like the use of tear gas and the seizures of masks, at the protests against systemic racism are worsening the spread of COVID-19.

• OK, I am going to repeat that again, because it’s so awful, and weird, and slightly inspiring (go Teen Vogue!), but mostly awful, that it bears a second look: Teen Vogue has just run a story on how law-enforcement tactics, like the use of tear gas and the seizures of masks, at the protests against systemic racism are worsening the spread of COVID-19.

• OK, here’s a CNN headline that perfectly illustrates the toxicity in sooo many law enforcement organizations across the country: “Florida police organization offers to hire cops who were fired or resigned over police misconduct.

That’s enough. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Fight injustice. If you have the means, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’re back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

A crowd of around 1,000 people—brought together by Young Justice Advocates, a newly formed group of young adults "speaking out and trying to make a change in this world"—protested systemic racism during the "Enough Is Enough" rally at Ruth Hardy Park in Palm Springs, on Saturday, June 6.

After a series of chants, the crowd marched around the park, holding signs and repeating those chants.

"No justice, no peace!"

"Hands up! Don't shoot!" 

"Black lives matter!"

"I can't breathe!"

"Say his name! George Floyd! Say her name! Breonna Taylor!"

After the march, various members of Young Justice Advocates, Rep. Raul Ruiz and several others addressed the crowd.

Below is a series of photos from the "Enough Is Enough" protest.

Published in Snapshot

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you. End of mini-rant. 

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

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

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

OK? OK!

Now, for the news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Daily Digest

Nathaniel Johnson walked past a CVS pharmacy in Hollywood with his phone camera trained on men running out of the looted store with armfuls of stolen goods.

After a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, Johnson had protested police brutality for two days while dressed in civilian clothes. But that afternoon, he decided to change into the uniform he wore for five years—his Army fatigues.

He had no idea that—across the street and two stories above him—a porn star and former reality show actress with 2 million Instagram followers was recording the events on her phone. 

“Get out of the CVS; you’re criminals,” shouted Farrah Abraham in a 57-second video posted to Instagram. ”Get out of CVS!”

She turned her camera to Johnson. “This guy in the Army uniform is literally with them!” she shouted. She later took credit for sending 20 people to jail with her video, adding “I’m blessed there’s people like me on this earth.”

But Johnson, 30, wasn’t looting. He was recording both the thieves and the police who raced to the scene on Monday afternoon. His goal: show the police response while distinguishing between peaceful protests and the kind of destruction and theft that was taking place across the country.

Though he was a toddler in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots in 1992, Johnson said the city’s long history of racial injustices and uprisings is leading to police and observers painting all black people with the same broad brush.

“We’re looters, rioters, criminals to them,” said Johnson, 30, an Army combat engineer and mechanic who was stationed overseas in Germany.

In other words, Johnson said, he faces the same kind of fear and endemic racism that led to Floyd’s death and the protests in the first place.

The incident provides a unique snapshot of a protest and civil unrest in Los Angeles: A celebrity influencer in an expensive Hollywood apartment, yelling at people, all black—some guilty of vandalism and burglary, some innocent—28 years after the deadliest riots in modern U.S. history.

The imagery of this week’s protests in Los Angeles—buildings burning against a night sky, people running and screaming, cars on fire—evoked memories of the 1992 riots, in which 63 people died. But the worries and hopes and raw fury of Californians who took to the streets this week show that all protests, like politics, are local. Throughout the state, protesters had their own motivations, their own methods, and their own issues with their police force and their city.

In Merced, protesters asked why the north side of town remains wealthy and safe, while the south side wilts. In Sacramento, protesters demanded the firing of police officers who fatally shot a black man in 2018 in his grandmother’s backyard while he was holding a cell phone. And in Salinas, a police department three years into its own reforms is gleaning modest praise—as well as complaints.

Uniting all the protests throughout California, as well as the rest of the nation, is the idea that police must reform—or be forced to reform—treatment of black people.


In Merced: ‘Politics has to happen at home’

Merced isn’t really a protest town. The usual demonstration in the Central California town will draw maybe 100 people. But last weekend, nearly 400 people of all races showed up. What’s changed? Protesters said the combination of the toll the pandemic is taking on people of color, the battles over immigration and the killing of Floyd brought them out.

“I think the last four years caused that difference,” said Katrina Ruiz, who is in her 30s and lives nearby in Los Banos. “We have a president whose rhetoric perpetuates stereotypes against people of color. We have this pandemic, and the response to the pandemic was atrocious. It has gotten increasingly worse to be a black person in the last four years because of who we have in office. People are just outraged, and they don’t know what to do.”

Locally, the city is divided along class and racial lines, Ruiz said. In north Merced, there’s investment, a new high school, grocery stores and easy public transit.

“You go to south Merced (and) there are no grocery stores. There are no sidewalks. The schools are heavily policed, and there’s no investment in the community,” Ruiz said. “There’s investment in law enforcement.”

South Merced has a majority of people of color, with blocs of Latinos, black people and Hmong. The Merced County Sheriff’s Office has drawn the ire of activists over its cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We have a department sheriff that, one, won’t speak to people in ICE custody, who says the sheriff’s department doesn’t cooperate with Homeland Security,” Ruiz said, “but there’s records to prove otherwise. 

“I think this is a call to action for local and national leaders,” she said, “because politics has to happen at home.”

A day later and 56 miles southeast, Shannah Albrecht, a 24-year-old student at Fresno City College, said the 3,000-person assembly in Fresno on Saturday was her first protest.

“It was so diverse,” she said. “There were white people, Asian people, Hispanic people. There were people of all different ages. Everybody was there to support the black community and show they have allies, that everybody’s there for the same purpose, to show that they have people out there that do care and want all this to stop.

“It’s me finally getting to the point where enough is enough.”


In Sacramento: The specter of a shooting

Sacramento was the focal point of marches and protests in the summer of 2018, when two police officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, 22, as a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department helicopter hovered overhead, recording the incident. The officers fired 20 rounds and later said they believed Clark had a gun. It was a cell phone. An autopsy found that three of the seven rounds that struck Clark hit him in the back.

The specter of Clark’s death hung over the protests in Sacramento this week.

“People are mad and rioting and looting, rightfully so, because they’re angry,” said Thongxy Phansopha, who attended vigils for Floyd and ferried supplies to protesters last week. “They haven’t been given the proper space to grieve.”

Officers who have killed or injured Sacramento residents need to be held accountable, said Phansopha, including those who fatally shot Clark. But that’s not enough. “Reforms are great short-term,” Phansopha said, “but it’s not the way for the future.”

Phansopha, who uses gender-neutral pronouns, didn’t know that they would become a victim, too, when they headed last Saturday to the capitol’s Midtown district to deliver a final round of snacks and water to friends protesting there.

As Phansopha turned a corner on foot, a chaotic scene awaited. Officers on one side of the street fired flash grenades and rubber bullets at protesters on the other side. Tear gas hung in the air.

Phansopha said they paused for a moment to inspect an empty tear gas canister on the ground. Suddenly, Phansopha felt an object collide with their head—another canister. Blood poured from Phansopha’s face, and they collapsed slowly to the ground, started to crawl away and was swept to safety by other protestors. Phansopha said officers continued to shoot rubber bullets.

In the emergency room, Phansopha discovered the extent of damage: seven rubber bullets struck their face, neck, arm, shoulder, back and hip, leaving a bloody gash above their eyebrow, a fractured cheek bone and three skull fractures.

In the long term, Phansopha said activists should try to change how city money is spent and who decides how to spend it. In addition to fewer police officers, Phansopha said less money should go to the county jail, and those dollars should be spent on community-led alternatives, along with mental health services.

How that money is spent should be up to the community to decide, with “really big investments into the neighborhoods that really need it.”


In Salinas: Already rebuilding trust

At the rodeo grounds in Salinas on Monday evening, Selena Wells, a 24-year-old black and Mexican woman, stood quiet witness in the back of the crowd. She was there supporting her sister, a poet who read some of her work at the start of the protest; and her mother, who would speak later.

Even though her mother isn’t black, she raised Wells and her sister with the knowledge of what it is like to be black in America, Wells said. She taught them they would be discriminated against because of the color of their skin, that they had to hold themselves differently in certain cases, that they needed to be more careful if they were pulled over by the police, and so on, Wells said.

She called for accountability for city police in particular.

“To be discriminated against based on the color of our skin, it’s wrong; it shouldn’t ever happen,” she said.

Salinas has a fraught history with police, which the department has worked to turn around in the last six years. After four residents were fatally shot by officers in 2014, tensions between police and residents of East Salinas set off widespread protests.

A 2015 review by the Department of Justice found troubling deficiencies in how Salinas police worked with people with mental illness, used force and built community trust and engagement. 

In response, under Salinas Police Chief Adele Fresé, the department has focused on hiring women and people of color as officers, as well as hiring people from the community. The Salinas Police Department also revamped its approach to training, emphasizing de-escalation and community outreach.

The county District Attorney’s Office began an independent review process of every officer-involved shooting, a significant milestone for activists.

At Monday’s rally, Fresé said she believed the steps the department had taken in recent years to emphasize trust and community-building between law enforcement and civilians was essential.

Still, memories are long, and relationships between the community and police remain frayed in Salinas. 

Fresé faced some brief heckling Monday night when, during her remarks, a handful of protesters called for justice for Brenda Rodriguez, a new mother who was shot and killed by Salinas police in March 2019 after an eight-hour standoff with officers who responded to a domestic-violence call at her boyfriend’s mother’s house. 

Rodriguez was shot after she “pointed a realistic-looking airsoft pistol directly at” officers, said Monterey County Managing Deputy District Attorney Christopher Knight at the time.

Local activist organizations held protests in Rodriguez’s name in the following months.

The officers involved in the shooting death were found to have acted appropriately by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office.


In Los Angeles: A military presence

Johnson hoped the power of his uniform might protect him on Monday. Last Saturday and Sunday nights, when Johnson dressed in regular clothing, “I came out as a civilian, a protester, and I was met with tear gas; I was met with batons; I was met with violence,” he said. “They just saw us as criminals and thugs. I felt like I was in a war.” 

So he came out Monday in fatigues.

“I approached (the police and National Guard) with my military ID and my dog tags. They’re the same people I was when I was serving,” he said. “I’m a soldier. It never goes out of you.” 

But he said it didn’t make a difference. The protest on Monday in Hollywood ended the same way: tear gas, threats of rubber bullets and arrests.

One of Johnson’s chief complaints was the use of the National Guard to quell protests, along with President Trump’s threat to send the military onto American streets.  

“Having been trained like them, I’m a soldier. The kind of torture they put you through in the military is to make you say, ‘I can do it; I can kill,’” Johnson said. “And when they get out, what jobs do we give them? Police.”

The use of tear gas and rubber bullets has drawn the ire of civil-liberties advocates. But in protest after protest during the unending week of unrest in Los Angeles, police in full suits of body armor, face shields and military hardware acted as crowd control long before the shooting starts.

Protests are, ultimately, a negotiation between those protesting and the government they’re seeking to reform. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had proposed an increase to the LAPD in his 2020 budget proposal. Then Floyd was killed and the protests began, many of them focusing on the fact that the police department would take up more than 53 percent of the city budget.

After several nights of unrest, Garcetti on Wednesday reversed course, proposing a $150 million cut to the department.

The next day, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore was already pushing back by questioning how his department could afford the cuts.

It was clear that the messy, public business of negotiating the future of policing would continue, perhaps even intensify.

That night, more people took to the streets across the state, their protests far from over.

Nigel Duara and Jackie Botts are CalMatters reporters; Manuela Tobias is a reporter with the Fresno Bee; and Kate Cimini is a reporter with The Californian. This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.

Published in Local Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Las Vegas is again open for business.

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

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

Published in Daily Digest

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