COVID-19 by the numbers

Yesterday New Mexico reported 24 new COVID-19 cases, the most in any single day thus far, bringing the state's total to 136. There are now 13 people hospitalized as a result of the illness. Santa Fe County had five new cases, bringing our total up to 22. Bernalillo and Santa Fe have the highest number of cases—Bernalillo has 55—and community spread, according to state health officials. Also yesterday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham formally requested the US Defense Department deploy a staffed 248-bed US Army combat support hospital to Albuquerque. Lastly, the governor's office announced a new All Together NM Fundestablished by the New Mexico Coalition of Community Foundations, to help New Mexico respond to and eventually recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read all of SFR's COVID-19 coverage here. If you've had experiences with testing or the virus, we would like to hear from you.

Extending school closures

At 10 am today, the governor, Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel and Education Secretary Ryan Stewart will be announcing an extension to public school closures, which began March 16 and were originally slated through April 6. No details have been released regarding the duration of the extended closure, but the state has applied for federal waivers that would eliminate standardized testing for students. While it's unclear right now if New Mexico's school closures will last for the rest of the year, it's indisputable that students across the globe have had their educations interrupted. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, more than 87% of the world's students have been impacted, and the shift to online learning has emphasized the digital divide. Santa Fe Public Schools sent its students home before spring break with Chromebooks and iPads, and is expected to kick off online learning on Monday.

Sen. Udall: Native relief insufficient

Many of the sovereign nations in the US struggle with housing and healthcare shortages, both of which are likely to be exacerbated as COVID-19 cases increase on tribal lands. As of March 25, the Navajo Epidemiology Center of the Navajo Department of Health had reported 69 instances of COVID-19 in Arizona and New Mexico. The US Senate's unanimous approval of a $2 trillion emergency relief bill now heading for the House—which hopes to take it up today—allocates $10 billion for the nation's Indigenous peoples. That's not enough, says US Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM: "We were asking for a lot more, we think the need is a lot bigger than $8 billion." The US Senate unanimously passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on Wednesday and the House is expected to do so today. Udall has a breakdown of its components here.

Foster care victory

Yesterday, New Mexico settled a 2018 lawsuit over foster care, agreeing to numerous provisions that will essentially revamp what plaintiffs described as a "broken system." The New York Times details those changes, which include early trauma screenings and treatment; access to behavioral health services; long-term placements; and more training on the impacts of trauma for those involved in the system, such as foster parents, caseworkers and mental health professionals. Advocates say the settlement agreements and subsequent changes "could serve as a national model for foster care reform."

Listen up

In Episode 29 of "Your New Mexico Government," learn about all the people who are creating resources and helping out in their communities. These include the Mutual Aid network, the Navajo and Hopi COVID-19 relief project, and a network of people sewing reliable masks for folks in the state. Speaking of folks making stuff to help, a new initiative called New Mexico Makers United is 3-D-printing and assembling face shields for healthworkers. Check it out! "Your New Mexico Government" is a collaboration between New Mexico PBS, KUNM radio and SFR.  

ICYMI, on Wednesday, SFR's Jeff Proctor interviewed New Mexico public defender Jennifer Burrill, whose positive COVID-19 diagnosis shut down the Law Offices of the Public Defender earlier this week. Despite being at high risk due to her work in the prison system, as well as symptomatic, Burrill was unable to get tested for weeks. The latest installment of SFR's "Reported" podcast features that interview.

Chew on this

What do grocery store employees need you to do right now? Well, buy your groceries, don't try to hoard their time or supplies and basically act the way you'd want customers to act if you were working in a grocery store during a pandemic. Our cousin newsletter The Fork talked to some grocery store employees and breaks down what they're dealing with and how you can help. Although our food newsletter is light on restaurant news, for obvious reasons, we do have an ongoing list of all the places offering take-out, and the Fork also dishes up (sorry) other food-related news out there in the rest of the world.

Pollution pause

Southside asphalt company Associated Asphalt and Materials, LLC had hoped to consolidate its plants at one location and operate around the clock. Residents' concerns about air quality and an ongoing state investigation into possible violations mean the company will need to make its case for doing so at a formal hearing tentatively slated for late spring, which Air Quality Bureau Chief Elizabeth Kuehn tells SFR will be attended by Environment Department Secretary James Kenney.

Spring to mind

As predicted, yesterday was crazy windy! But did you catch that sunset? The Word had been thinking it was particularly vivid because of the wind whipping up dust and whatnot but, apparently, that's not very scientific. In fact, according to meteorologist Stephen Corfidi, "large particles in the lower atmosphere tend to mute and muddy the colors because they absorb more light and scatter all the wavelengths more or less equally." Speaking of the weather, the rain prediction has returned. We have a 20% chance of precipitation today with possible showers between 9 am and noon, then a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. It will somehow also be mostly sunny (so…rainbows?), with a high near 55. "Breezy," along with wind gusts as high as 35 mph. Clear weekend, with a sunny Saturday and high temps near 52 and partly sunny Sunday with a high near 59.

Thanks for reading! The Word is finding soothing Sir Patrick Stewart's daily reading of a Shakespeare sonnet