New Mexico COVID-19 Cases Hit 363 as Hospitals Prepare for Surges

Plus: Navajo Nation confronts the virus, Supreme Court will deal with election conflict and state says bike repair shops can remain open

COVID-19 by the numbers

Yesterday, state health officials announced New Mexico now has 363 COVID-19 cases, an increase of 48 since the day prior. Those new positive cases include six new cases in Santa Fe County, bringing the total here to 48 cases. The state also reported a new death from the virus, the state's sixth: A female in her 90s from Sandoval County who died Tuesday, March 31. She had been hospitalized and had underlying medical conditions. As of today, 31 people are hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19; 26 have been designated as recovered by the state health department.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other state officials reviewed the state's viral status and shared projections in a Tuesday evening briefing (you can watch the video here and review the graphics from the presentation here). Leaders say they are preparing for 250,000 to 1.25 million New Mexicans to contract the virus, which will require a significant boost to hospital resources. Hospital staff say they are assessing and preparing; Christus St. Vincent Regional Hospital, for instance, has 10 ICU beds and 24 ventilators, but is assessing "other options within our facilities in the event of a surge," according to hospital spokesman Arturo Delgado. Hospital execs from Presbyterian, Lovelace and the University of New Mexico also discussed how they are preparing for a surge during a 90-minute Albuquerque Journal online panel discussion last night.

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.

Navajo Nation COVID-19 reporting

Yesterday, the Navajo Department of Health and Navajo Area Indian Health Service, in conjunction with the Navajo Epidemiology Center, announced the Navajo Nation has a total of 214 COVID-19 cases; these include cases in McKinley, San Juan and Cibola counties in New Mexico. Navajo leaders reiterated the need for testing supplies and for members to heed the advice to stay at home. "We're two weeks into this pandemic and we need many more test kits, we need testing labs in our communities so we can get results much quicker. The public needs to be mindful that these numbers are going to continue to increase if every family, every individual does not follow the advice of health care experts," President Jonathan Nez said in a statement.

The Navajo Nation has had seven confirmed deaths due to COVID-19. On Monday, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham discussed the Navajo Nation's rising case numbers, and told President Donald Trump COVID-19 could "wipe out" the some of the state's tribes without greater federal resources. Also yesterday, US Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and numerous other senators wrote to Trump requesting that federal agencies implementing portions of the COVID-19 emergency legislative CARES Act respect tribal sovereignty.

Bike on!

In response to outrage from the biking community, a push from Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and a story by SFR, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office yesterday decided to let bicycle repair shops stay open. Under the new orders: Customers can't enter the bicycle shops; retail sales are banned; payments must be made by credit card or debit card remotely; customers must leave and pick up bicycles outside the store; and the bikes have to be disinfected before being brought inside. Staff must also wear protective equipment and the stores have to be routinely disinfected.

State Supreme Court will intervene

New Mexico's Supreme Court said yesterday it will seek a solution to a conflict over how to conduct the state's June 2 primary elections. County clerks, with Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver's support, want the court to order a mail-in-ballot only election—aka absentee voting for all—in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The state's Republican Party objects, and wants a special legislative session to consider how it would be executed. The clerks—and the state—believe the health risks of a legislative session would be prohibitive. The Supreme Court now wants to know what the governor, legislators, the League of Women Voters and the Democratic and Libertarian parties think should happen, and have asked for written suggestions. It plans for an April 14 hearing.

Listen up

Episode 33 of "Your New Mexico Government" delves into the obstacles tribes are facing in battling COVID-19, including bureaucratic hurdles in accessing billions in federal funding. National Native News anchor Antonia Gonzales shares her reporting on the topic, as well as her interviews with Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and National Indian Health Board CEO Stacy Bohlen. In addition: Host Khalil Ekulona interviews Cabinet Secretary Lynn Trujillo of the state's Department of Indian Affairs; Shiprock Chapter President Chili Yazzie discusses his top concerns; and Sanostee, NM community organizer Brad Charles talks about what life is like right now on the Navajo Nation. The podcast is a collaboration between SFR, New Mexico PBS and KUNM radio.

Hashtags for science

Social media sites may be a certain kind of hell for some of us, but for Laurent Hébert-Dufresne, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Vermont's Complex Systems Center, they provide key data in forecasting outbreaks such as COVID-19. Building on work he began as a postdoctoral fellow at the Santa Fe Institute in 2015, Hébert-Dufresne recently co-authored a February Nature Physics paper on how biological viruses interact with informational memes. SFR recently spoke with Hébert-Dufresne about this work.

Home alone

What does Santa Fe Art Institute Executive Director Jamie Blosser recommend you read during self-isolation? Decolonizing Wealth by Edgar Villanueva, about the accumulation of wealth and resulting inequitable philanthropic structures. That makes sense given SFAI's 2020 Labor residency. Indeed, all the local folks we asked for recs for reading, listening and watching had personal and professional reasons for their picks. In fact, author James Reich feels so strongly about Simple Minds: New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84), he won't be your friend if you don't like it. Check out all the home-entertainment advice and more in SFR's "Guide to Isolation."

Bid March farewell

If you like weather, you're in luck. Today features mostly sunny skies, a high near 66 degrees, a slight chance of "sprinkles" after 3 pm and, of course, wind. Wind, wind, wind, specifically a west wind 10 to 20 mph increasing to 20 to 30 mph in the afternoon with gusts potentially as high as 45 mph. Tomorrow looks mostly the same except with a little less of that blasted wind.

Thanks for reading! The Word was genuinely moved and amused by the responses to the Getty Museum's online challenge for people to recreate artworks using household items. It would be cool if a New Mexico museum or art institution put forth a similar initiative.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.