COVID-19 by the numbers
Yesterday, New Mexico heath officials announced the state had reached 100 COVID-19 cases, with 17 new positive diagnoses. In Santa Fe, two new cases emerged, both men, one in his 50s and one in his 70s. That brings Santa Fe's total caseload to 14. Health officials on Monday said Santa Fe is one of two counties with "community spread" so far, meaning we have cases with no clear cause such as travel or personal contact. Officials recorded five new cases for Bernalillo, the other county with community spread, bringing its current total to 43. Curry County had its first case, clocking the virus in at its 12th county in the state. You can read the county-by-county breakdown here.
Expanded eviction protection
Yesterday, the state Supreme Court temporarily halted evictions for renters across the state who can't pay during the health emergency. Specifically, the court issued an order that stays the writs of restitution under the Uniform Owner-Resident Act. A writ of restitution is the document landlords give to law enforcement in order to evict tenants. Residents who end up in eviction will have to provide evidence to the court that they can't pay rent; similarly, people who have already received eviction notices will need to provide evidence of their inability to pay during a video or phone hearing. Santa Fe residents who need assistance with the eviction process can call New Mexico Legal Aid: 505-633-6694. City of Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber also ordered a halt to evictions for those impacted by COVID-19, although it is unclear how that will be tracked or enforced. The city yesterday also granted short-term rental owners an extension—if they pay a fee—for their permits.
Support for Native residents…pending
While the number of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico rises, state agencies have yet to announce specific plans to support its 23 different pueblos and tribes. People living on tribal lands face the same problems as the rest of the state—toilet paper shortages, food insecurity, testing access—according to the state Indian Affairs Department. But those challenges come without the same resources and variety of incomes as cities and counties. Both Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's and New Mexico Indian Affairs' offices said they were taking a wait-and-see approach on the issue based on what type of federal aid package emerges from Congress. "The department has a very limited budget, so we are working with this administration as well as our federal partners to leverage resources to support tribal communities," New Mexico Indian Affairs Secretary Lynn Trujillo tells SFR via email.
Permanent funds tapped for crisis
Yesterday, the State Investment Council unanimously voted to infuse a new state business recovery fund with $100 million to help with the current crisis. The New Mexico Recovery Fund, funded by the approximately $5 billion Severance Tax Permanent Fund, will provide loans to businesses suffering in the crisis, although the loan terms have not yet been specified. Sun Mountain Capital in Santa Fe, which manages the SIC's direct private equity investments and will also manage the new fund, says they will be targeted at medium and large businesses that are likely to survive the disruption with financial assistance. While some board members expressed concern about using permanent funds, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who chairs the council, said the emergency justified the situation: "We need to do the right things at the right time to make a difference," she said. The nonprofit Small Business Investment Corp., which also receives a 2% allocation from the Severance Tax Permanent Fund, also has a plan to make loans to small businesses through local micro-lending organizations.
The Santa Fe City Council tonight will consider making $500,000 available for as-yet-undetermined COVID-19 expenses, while also extending the current state of emergency by 60 days. The funds, according to a memo from Mayor Alan Webber, would be re-allocated from the Railyard Fund to the General Fund and would "allow the City of Santa Fe to provide essential services to Santa Feans whose health and well-being are most immediately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and assist first responders and critical care providers." City Councilor Carol Romero Wirth, who is sponsoring the bill to extend the city's state of emergency, says the bill will allow council members to focus on the crisis, rather than continually re-ratify the current state of emergency. The bill also will allow City Manager Jarel LaPan Hill to approve contracts of up to $200,000, among other items. Tonight's meeting will stream live on YouTube, and people who wish to participate virtually in any public hearings can call the city at 505-955-6520 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org before 1 pm.
In this episode of NM Government, we hear from tipped service-industry workers about the challenges they're facing as restaurants and bars around the state close their doors and/or shift to take-out mode. And host Khalil Ekulona calls his old boss, Ken Carson, who owns Albuquerque's Nexus Brewery & Restaurant, to talk about shuttering a location because of the impact of the COVID health measures
Violet Crown’s virtual offerings
Miss watching a movie while chowing down with a beer? (We do!) Well, you'll have to supply the beer and the nosh, but Violet Crown is offering a virtual movie-going experience. Go to violetcrown.com, select the Santa Fe theater, and its normal online box office now comes with the option to buy "virtual tickets." Once you've paid, you'll be whisked away to a screening of that film on your tablet, phone, computer etc. The proceeds still go to Violet Crown and the film's distributors as they normally would with in-house screenings. "It's a way for us to stay connected and in the game," theater manager Peter Grendle says. "I've said it before and I'll say it again: Santa Fe has the most intelligent audiences in the country, and to have every single theater in town deleted in a week is a tragedy. But the reason we're doing this is because we love movies. Maybe just squint your eyes, eat a burger, drink a beer and imagine you're at the Violet Crown."
Caring during COVID-19 crisis
La Familia Medical Center's work goes on, says Chief Medical Director Wendy Johnson. That works includes helping some of Santa Fe's most vulnerable people with non-COVID related illness and disease. Johnson tells SFR the clinic has been in overdrive adapting to the new reality and taking precautions to protect its patients and staff. Johnson will be providing advice and answering questions on Facebook live at 7 pm on Sundays. The clinic also is asking for donations, such as cloth face masks, which it will provide to homeless and vulnerable patients.
Santa Fe's Descartes Lab knows data, and data is playing a key role during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent blog post, the lab explains how data collected from satellites, aircraft and other sensors can provide valuable information during the crisis, such as changes in social activity and specific location-based activities, such as airports, malls and casinos. The New York Times recently featured Descartes' satellite data correlating nitrogen dioxide (NO2) to the spread of coronavirus.
As the wind blows
Before we get to the weather, the Word recommends making a point of checking out a sunset or two if you can. This isn't specifically pandemic-related advice, although it sure is nice right now to do so. Meanwhile, today will be mostly sunny, with a high near 65. Northwest wind 5 to 10 mph will become southwest 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Tomorrow may be hella windy, and those chances of rain now look like they might come (20% chances right now) tomorrow night and/or Friday.
Thanks for reading! The Word hopes you caught Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday on MSNBC's news program The 11th Hour talking about free testing and plans to amp up testing. The Word also now wishes she had a Zia-symbol choker necklace.