DAILY BRIEFING: January 3, 2022

Good morning. It’s Monday, January 3. Expect sunny skies and a high of 65 degrees today. First, some news you need to know …

Testing tent proves more and more popular as COVID-19 variant spreads

Area residents looking to be tested for COVID-19 are scrambling to find methods, reporting a scarcity of take-home tests, long waits for appointments, and other barriers. But Joshua Berk has a solution.

Berk has been operating a testing tent outside Smoke Tree Village Shopping Center off East Palm Canyon Drive for three months. Lately, lines have started to form as word spreads that no appointment, no money, and no proof of insurance is needed to be tested for the disease.

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“We are doing about 50 a day right now,” Berk said one morning as a line began to form at his tent. “We had been steady at about 20 a day until recently.”

Demand is higher at the Palm Springs tent and others seen throughout the area for many reasons, Berk explained. First came the holiday travel season, requiring many travelers to show proof of a negative test at their destinations. Secondly, many employers require testing every three days for those who choose not be vaccinated, and have increased enforcement as the Omicron variant continues its rapid spread.

Berk’s testing site is aligned with a medical group more experienced with pain management and addiction treatment than infectious disease. The entire Palm Springs operation fits in the trunk of a car. So you wouldn’t blame anyone for questioning its legitimacy. But the test results are real and valid, done by a laboratory in Houston, and the nonprofit behind the effort, SOSYES.org, is in good standing with the California Secretary of State.

“There was nothing here that was free and easy,” Berk said, explaining why the nonprofit, based in San Diego, expanded to Palm Springs.

Test status usually arrives in the form of a text or email within 48 hours of testing at the East Palm Canyon Drive site. And while results may not be delivered as quickly as some hope, the testing itself takes only minutes. Berk simply pops the cap off a tube, collects saliva for a PCR test, and overnights the tube to the Houston lab.

“We use a system called PreciseQ,” Berk said, explaining the technology behind the testing. “I don’t even see the results. You just spit in the tube and the results come 48 hours later, sometimes a lot quicker.”

Collecting details needed to map each test taker with results takes the bulk of the time for visitors to Berk’s tent. If you have insurance, he will need that information, but you will not receive a bill. If you don’t have insurance, that’s fine as well, as the test is free.

“You can take as many tests as you like,” Berk said. “It’s free. Some people come back two times a week if that’s what they need.”

More information: The COVID-19 testing tent is located outside at 1801 East Palm Canyon Dr. It’s open from 9:30 AM until 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Another COVID testing site is located at Palm Springs International Airport (See here for more information). To make an appointment at any of the free testing locations in Riverside County, visit this website. The city of Palm Springs offers this website with a list of all testing locations in the Coachella Valley, including major pharmacies and health clinics.


Adriana Espinoza holds her son, Mateo, who is the first baby born in the Coachella Valley in 2022. (Photo courtesy Desert Care Network)

FIRST BABY OF 2022: An Indio family welcomed a new addition on New Year’s Day with a claim to fame: Their baby is the first born in the Coachella Valley in 2022, and they welcomed him to the world in Palm Springs. Mom Adriana Espinoza and dad Angel Sanchez welcomed their son Mateo to the world at 12:37 a.m. at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. Mateo weighed in at 6 pounds, 15 ounces, and measured 19 inches long. Mom and dad report Mateo will soon join his three sisters at home in Indio and that they can’t wait for him to arrive.

COVID AFFECTS VENUES, EVENTS: The Purple Room Supper Club in Palm Springs became the latest entertainment venue or event to alter its plans Sunday, announcing that it will close for two weeks in light of the rapidly spreading COVID Omicron variant. “The health and safety of our employees, artists, and audience is our primary concern,” said Purple Room spokesman David Perry. “We urge everyone to get vaccinated and boosted, practice social distancing and be extra vigilant with all COVID protection methods, especially in light of the Omicron surge. We look forward to reopening as soon as is safe.” Last week, officials at the Palm Springs International Film Festival announced that event was cancelled. In addition, AsiaSF/Palm Springs canceled its New Year’s Eve event, and Dezart Performs, which operates out of the Pearl McManus Theatre at the historic Palm Springs Woman’s Club, said its season-opener is being delayed, and the season itself will be shortened

SUSPECT ENTERS PLEA:A 41-year-old man accused of causing a multi-vehicle collision in downtown Palm Springs that left one person dead and six others injured pleaded not guilty last week to murder and DUI charges. Andrew Watson Hibbard of Portland, Oregon, was arrested on Dec. 27 following the multiple crashes around 5 p.m. at the intersection of North Palm Canyon Drive and Alejo Road, according to the Palm Springs Police Department. The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office charged Hibbard with one felony count each of murder and DUI causing bodily injury as well as sentence-enhancing allegations of injuring multiple victims. Hibbard, who has prior DUI convictions in Palm Springs and Oregon, appeared at the Larson Justice Center and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was subsequently scheduled for a felony settlement conference on Feb. 16. He remains held on $2 million bail at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio. The family of the victim, Leon Reynoso, 36, of Chula Vista has started a fund to cover his funeral expenses. READ THE COMPLETE STORY HERE.

LUMINARIES WE LOST IN 2021:Palm Springs and the surrounding desert cities are well-known for celebrities and others who have left their mark both locally and internationally. Last year we lost several, including Ric Supple, Gavin MacLeod, Annette Bloch, Anne Rice, and more. Legendary entertainment writer and columnist Bruce Fessier has an encyclopedic knowledge of them all, and he shared memories of those we lost in 2021. READ THE COMPLETE STORY HERE.


MIZELL CENTER: The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, hosts a widows or widowers group, a Scrabble and cribbage players, an Alzheimer’s caregiver support group, and more, starting at 8 AM. You can find a complete list of all today’s classes online here.

ARCHITECTURE: The city’s Architectural Review Committee meets at 5:30 PM, via Zoom. Information on how to participate in the meeting, or simply view it, can be found here.


Curious about when various governmental agencies meet or if trash collection will be delayed? We’ve compiled the list below in an effort to help with the most common questions our neighbor have. Is something missing? Let us know at editor@thepalmspringspost.com

City of Palm Springs calendar of events | Official city contacts

Palm Springs Library calendar of events

Palm Springs Unified School District calendar | Board meetings

Desert Healthcare District Board of Directors meeting agendas

Mizell Center calendar of events

Desert Water Agency calendar

ONE-PS calendar of events

Police reports | Submit a police report

Code compliance reports | Report a code violation

Current road projects and closures

Street sweeping schedule

Palm Springs Disposal pickup schedule

Currently active development projects

FIND Food Bank mobile market schedule

Well in the Desert daily meals | Food distribution

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