DAILY BRIEFING: Covid conversation, a special report, Legionnaires’ disease, and more

Good morning. It’s Monday, March 14. Expect mainly sunny skies and a high of around 86 degrees today. First, some news you need to know …

Community conversation aims to move discussion around pandemic response forward

The lines form early and often at Cheeky’s and Birba, a pair of Palm Springs hot spots known for creative menus, handcrafted cocktails, and a vibe that lets customers know they’ve arrived in the city advertised as being “Like no place else.”

General manager Felix Tipper and his staff of servers, greeters, chefs, and bartenders create that vibe right alongside red flannel hash and morning margaritas. But as COVID-19 began to cut its deadly and destructive path across the planet two years ago, something else was added to the menu: stress.

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As the state went into lockdown in March 2020, the restaurants’ doors were closed, and the staff joined millions of colleagues worldwide in a state of suspended animation, waiting and hoping for normalcy to return. It didn’t happen.

“Everything really changed for us,” Tipper explained by phone last week. “First, everything closed, and we all experienced that. Then it was, OK, you can come back, but we were only going to be open outside. That message came on a Monday, and we had to be open on Tuesday, so we were trying to call back staff.”

What followed were two years of restrictions that came and went, then came again, then went again. In the middle of it, Tipper and his staff tried valiantly to adjust to regulations and recommendations that seemed to be coming from all directions.

Frequent hand washing and distanced outdoor dining was believed to be the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 at first. Then indoor dining was allowed again, but only at a distance. Eventually, customers who chose to eat indoors were required to wear a mask, but only until seated. In Palm Springs, they also had to show proof of vaccination. Tipper’s staff, however, remained masked — even those in the back of the house toiling over open flames.

“That’s what changed everybody’s game,” Tipper said. ” As it unfolded, we still needed to deliver hospitality. We’re wearing masks, and we’re trying to work, and we’re trying to communicate with customers. Your personality really gets you your tips and keeps regular customers coming back, and it’s hard to show that personality when you have half your face covered. Your morale is a little low when you have to have that mask on.”

Also affecting morale was the confusion of customers, some of whom came from states without any regulations and were caught off guard by rules in Palm Springs. While some heated exchanges occurred, Tipper said he feels fortunate nobody escalated to violence like that experienced at one Palm Springs establishment.

“We spent so much time explaining the city ordinance,” Tipper said. “The front of the house had to police people and explain things for the city. But you pick your battles.”

Morale is better these days, Tipper said, crediting the 100-plus employees who formed a family and stuck with F10 Creative and the mission and vision created by founder Tara Lazar.

Also aiding morale is the fact that recently the city removed restrictions. Customers and staff are now free to remove their masks if they so choose. Proof of vaccination is no longer required.

“I think right now customers are excited, and the staff is also happy, especially the back of the house,” Tipper said. “I’m personally cautiously optimistic. We got to this point before, but then there was a different variant.”

What happens if another variant comes along, or another pandemic entirely will be the topic of the first “Community Conversations” event tonight at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, starting at 7 p.m. The event, titled “Covid: What’s Next?’ will be an informal roundtable featuring a moderated panel of experts and community members — including Tipper — who were on the front lines of the battle against Covid these past two years.

More information: “Covid: What’s Next?” is co-hosted by The Palm Springs Post and the Cultural Center. It’s free and will include time for audience questions and participation. The Cultural Center is located at 2300 East Baristo Rd. The event begins at 7 p.m. For complete details, including a list of roundtable participants, click here.

? Briefly

A ShotSpotter listening device is pictured on top of a light pole in San Diego. Police there deployed the technology in 2016.

A POST SPECIAL REPORT: Think you know what’s happening in Desert Highland Gateway Estates? Think again. The Post spent the past year in the community listening to its leaders and residents, diving into data about all of northern Palm Springs, and reading multiple studies about the neighborhood’s health, especially its children. What we found will dispel many myths about the community but affirm what its residents have known for decades and try to communicate to city leaders in the hope they take action: They need programs for at-risk youth and adults struggling to find work. But they also want a more visible police presence to help stop gun violence. Palm Springs police think they have some solutions, including neighborhood policing methods and technology, such as surveillance systems that can detect gunshots. READ THE FULL STORY HERE:  As police mull listening devices in city’s north end, community asks why city never listened to them first

LEGIONNAIRES’ DISEASE REPORTS: Nearly two dozen cases of Legionnaires’ disease identified in the Coachella Valley going back almost six months, included some in Palm Springs, prompted Riverside County health officials Friday to advise anyone feeling symptoms to seek medical attention. According to the department, 20 cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been confirmed since last fall, resulting in two deaths connected to the illness, though one of those fatalities involved a visitor to the county. Officials said the infected patients were residents of Palm Desert, Palm Springs, and neighboring communities. None of the parties were identified. The respiratory disease typically develops over a two-day to 10-day period and initially begins with headaches, muscle aches and fever of 104 degrees or higher. Those most susceptible to suffering life-threatening impacts are smokers, seniors and anyone who is immuno-depressed, according to officials.

? Today’s events

  • Brain Awareness Week kicks off at the Mizell Center today, starting at 10 a.m. with a quick, interactive event.
  • An adult adoptee peer support group meets online at 3 p.m.
  • A basics of composting lecture is planned online today starting at 3:30 p.m. It features Haley Preston, founder and director of Desert Compost.
  • The Palm Springs Sunshine Sisters holds a game night at a home in Palm Springs tonight, starting at 5 p.m.
  • The Human Rights Commission meets at 5:30 p.m.
  • The Palm Springs Post and Palm Springs Cultural Center present their first free “Community Conversations” event tonight at 7 p.m. The topic is “Covid: What’s next?”
For more events in Palm Springs, check the complete community calendar. Want your event listed? Just click here.

? What to watch for

  • A second homeless services center community meeting is planned for Tuesday evening at the James O. Jesse Desert Highland Unity Center. It starts at 6 p.m.
  • The Mizell Center’s Third Wednesday Speaker Series continues on Wednesday with Bill Goldstein, Larry Kramer’s authorized biographer, discussing Mr. Kramer’s life and work.
  • A Walk of Stars dedication for David C. Lee is planned for Friday at 3 p.m. On Saturday, Lee will join some of the cast of Frasier for an event designed to raise funds to help save the Plaza Theatre. That begins at 1 p.m.
  • The ONE-PS Annual Neighborhood Picnic is slated for Saturday, March 19 at Ruth Hardy Park.
  • Palm Springs The Musical: Born to Sparkle premieres at Desert Rose Playhouse on March 24. It runs Thursdays through Sundays until April 10.
  • A benefit for REAF-Palm Springs and the city’s AIDS Memorial Sculpture is planned for March 26 from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at a private home in the city.
  • Desert Ensemble Theatre begins a two-weekend run of All This Intimacy on March 25.
  • Palm Canyon Theatre is staging Cyrano de Bergerac from March 31 until April 3.

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