COVID-19 by the numbers
Yesterday, state officials announced New Mexico's first COVID-19 related death: An Eddy County man in his 70s died in the hospital last Sunday. "This is a tragic day," said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in a statement, adding: "As we test more people in the state, we will see the number of infections rise. And as we see the number of infections rise, we are likely to see more death." As expected, the state's number of infections grows daily and, as of this morning, had reached 112: 13 new cases were reported yesterday in 15 of the state's 33 counties; three of them in Santa Fe. Public Defender Jennifer Burrill is one of them; her diagnosis shuttered the Santa Fe branch of the Law Offices of the Public Defender yesterday. Burrill talked with SFR about her diagnosis and the difficulty she had obtaining a test.
Cancel that check-up
Two new state orders—geared toward preserving personal protection equipment (PPE)—went into effect yesterday. The first one suspends any non-essential health procedure and applies to hospitals and other health care facilities, as well as dental and orthodontic offices; family planning services are excluded. The second order bars health care providers and wholesale medical suppliers from selling or distributing PPE in any way without prior approval from the New Mexico Department of Health. Both orders, by Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel, carry civil administrative penalties, including fines up to $5,000 per violation and the possibility of criminal penalties as well.
Council gives city manager more leeway
After an hour of debate last night, Santa Fe City Council members agreed to give City Manager Jarel LaPan Hill the ability to sign off on six-figure contracts without their approval; her current authority only allows her authority over fund amounts up to $60,000. The change was part of a larger bill addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and extending the city's state of emergency status up to 60 days. The council also agreed to transfer $500,000 from the Railyard to the general fund for potential community needs during the emergency. The governing body did not meet IRL because of #socialdistancing but, rather, in virtual space. You can watch it here.
Cops check out scofflaws
Closing up shop right now isn't just a good idea—it's the law. Failure to do so? That's a petty misdemeanor. And according to a state police spokesman, the agency—the only law enforcement agency that can enforce the state law—has received 119 calls reporting noncompliant businesses since Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham closed all non-essential services on Tuesday. State police spokesman Officer Dusty Francisco says officers not have issued any citations yet but are focused on educating businesses about the order. Noncompliance with a public health order carries a $100 fine, up to six months in a county jail or both; and each day of violation counts as a new one.
In Episode 28 of Your New Mexico Government, New Mexico parents discuss what it's like to become the primary educators of their kids—and to be at home with them pretty much around the clock. Amy Biehl High School counselor Kathleen Moore offers wisdom and tips on working with your teen in this new world. The podcast is collaboration between New Mexico PBS, KUNM radio and SFR. And in the latest installment of SFR's own Reported podcast, SFR reporters discuss making the news during crises and the importance of journalism.
ER doc: Hospitals aren’t ready
In an essay for Vice magazine, Albuquerque emergency room doctor Frank Huyler details health care workers' preparations for an increase of COVID-19 cases and the inevitable shortage of N95 masks and ventilators. Moreover, he talks about the lack of unifying plans for hospitals around the country and what that will mean in New Mexico if/when cases here ramp up. "We need whips and torches. But somehow we are still waving wands and penlights, cautious and timid and late, reactive and mild, as if secretly unwilling to see what lies so clearly ahead," Huyler writes. His latest book, White Hot Light, publishes in August. He also is the author of a previous novel and a collection of essays on emergency medicine.
Food and care for everyone
Numerous organizations that normally focus on feeding Santa Fe are continuing to do so during the pandemic, with modifications and invigorated efforts. The Food Depot has opened three weekly drive-through food distribution centers in Santa Fe to help maintain social distancing while getting food to those in need. Outside of Santa Fe, The Food Depot announced yesterday that Pueblo of Pojoaque's Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino and Hilton Hotels are providing safe and secure storage, as well as volunteer space. Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo's Ohkay Casino will offer the use of their parking lot for a drive-through food distribution that is open to the public. SFR also checks in with Solace Crisis Treatment Center, about its continued work to help people for whom stay-at-home orders represent increased threat from domestic and sexual violence. While Solace's offices are closed, people can seek help through its hotline, 800-721-7273, and website.
Like the wind
On the bright side, today will be partly sunny with a high near 67. On the other side, batten down the hatches. It will be windy, specifically a southwest wind 10 to 20 mph increasing to 20 to 30 mph in the afternoon, and winds could gust as high as 40 mph. Rain predictions have evaporated; tomorrow's forecast drops the high temp to 57, remains partly sunny and, yes, remains windy as well.
Thanks for reading! The Word is trying to stay positive but finds it hard to believe the state Department of Transportation believes it can teach New Mexico drivers to take turns merging into traffic at construction zones. On the other hand, the Word is a terrible driver. She is taking a break, therefore, from thinking about COVID-19 and studying the ZipperMerge website.