COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday announced 163 new positive COVID-19 test results, bringing the statewide total so far to 6,472. Doña Ana County had the most new cases: 40, followed by 39 in McKinley County. In Wednesday's press conference, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and health officials discussed rising cases in nearby El Paso, Texas and the threat they represent to Doña Ana County, as well as the rest of the state.
The state also reported 11 additional deaths, bringing the total fatalities to 294. The latest deaths were in Bernalillo, McKinley and San Juan counties and eight of them occurred in congregate living facilities.
As of today, 205 people are hospitalized. The health department has designated 2,041 COVID-19 cases as recovered.
Pop Quiz: House District 50
Incumbent state Rep. Matthew McQueen, who represents District 50, apparently doesn't like SFR's Pop Quiz series. Nonetheless, he put on his game face and submitted to questions designed to help voters learn which candidates are prepared to take (or stay) in office. In the case of this race, McQueen was the only candidate willing to do so; Democratic challenger Rebecca "Becky" King-Spindle did not respond to repeated requests. Did McQueen know off-book the demographics for his district? Could he recite chapter and verse state budget allocations? Can you? And as long as we're asking questions: Have you filled out your absentee ballot yet? Remember, you can request one through May 28 here.
Gov appoints new Homeland Security Secretary
Yesterday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a new secretary for the state's Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management: Bianca Ortiz Wertheim, who has been serving as chief of staff for US Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM. She was also director of cabinet affairs for former Gov. Bill Richardson and chief of staff for former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez. Ortiz Wertheim succeeds Jackie Lindsey, who resigned last November; Deputy Secretary Kelly Hamilton has been serving as acting secretary. Of the appointment, Lujan Grisham said she was confident "the department will continue to move forward and adapt and prepare for changing threats, whether natural or man-made." For her part, Ortiz Wertheim said in a statement: "Our state's greatest asset is its people, and I will devote myself to doing everything I can to protect their safety and wellbeing."
Law and disorder
Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan was arrested yesterday after he refused to comply with a search warrant for one of his cell phones in connection to an earlier charge that he obstructed an investigation in March. In the earlier case, Lujan allegedly showed up intoxicated to a SWAT scene where he interfered with the case and was subsequently charged with two counts of obstruction. Yesterday, he also resisted and was arrested. "Sheriff Lujan continues to show a pattern of arriving on active scenes in which Española Police personnel are investigating crimes and interfering," according to the criminal complaint from Interim Española Police chief Roger Jimenez. "Sheriff Lujan has offered no assistance that has resulted in a positive outcome."
US Interior prolongs Chaco Canyon comment period
US Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced yesterday he'll extend the public comment period for proposed land management changes in northwestern New Mexico, which includes an area of federal, state and tribal lands, Chaco Culture National Historical Park and portions of the Navajo Nation. Bernhardt announced the decision to extend the comment period 120 days following discussions with Navajo President Jonathan Nez and the All Pueblo Council of Governors about the challenges faced in Indian Country due to COVID-19 and other factors. New Mexico's congressional delegation has proposed bans on future oil and gas development on federal land within a 10-mile buffer zone Chaco Canyon and had previously asked for an extension of the comment period.
Episode 65 of "Your New Mexico Government" explores the changes COVID-19 has wrought for many kinds of love: for family, for friends, for oneself, for longtime spouses, and yes, for lovers. Guests include: Self Serve sex educator and former SFR columnist Hunter Riley, along with a bevy of folks who provide peeks into their home lives and share insights about finding new rhythms with loved ones in the shutdown; learning to love friends and alone time in deeper ways; balancing the need for human connection with safety concerns; and growing closer despite the interpersonal, economic and emotional stresses of the pandemic. "Your New Mexico Government" is a collaboration between SFR, KUNM and New Mexico PBS.
When Santa Fe's restaurants do reopen, they will not be at full capacity as social distancing will be de rigeur until a vaccine becomes available for COVID-19. The Word is fine with not sitting elbow to elbow, but is she fine sitting with a bunch of mannequins? As usual, our cousin newsletter the Fork prompts us to ask searing questions about topics to which we had previously never given one second's thought. In this case: How do we feel about restaurants filling their empty seats with mannequins alongside real-live diners? The Word is older than the Fork and her first thought, sadly, was of this horrible movie from the '80s. At any rate, for more cutting-edge commentary on restaurants, food, diners and chefs in the time of coronavirus, be sure to check out this week's Fork newsletter.
SFI on superspreading
Mass public events—banning them, that is—could be key in preventing a resurgence of exponential growth for COVID-19. So say scientists in this recent Wall Street Journal article that examines specific worldwide events that led to outbreaks, such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans, horse races in Britain and a soccer match in Italy. Among the scientists weighing in: Santa Fe Institute Professor Cris Moore, who posits that so-called "superspreading" events could "reignite the epidemic when the situation appears under control." Moore provides more math on this issue in a post for SFI. You can also read this transcript of a conversation Moore had on CNN with Don Lemon.
Wait…there’s other viruses?
Yes, it's true. Just because there's a worldwide pandemic for a new coronavirus doesn't mean the other ones went away. Yesterday, the health department announced New Mexico's first West Nile Virus case of 2020. In case you've forgotten, West Nile is the one carried by mosquitoes and can also be fatal; New Mexico has had West Nile cases since 2003, when it was first introduced here. According to DOH, last year the state had 40 cases, including four fatal ones, and in 2018 there were seven confirmed West Nile virus cases in the state with one reported death. The first case of this year was a San Juan County man in his 50s who required hospitalization but is now recovering. The best way to avoid contracting West Nile Virus is to avoid mosquitos by using insect repellant, having screen doors, eliminating standing water and staying inside at dusk and dawn when they—and vampires—are most prevalent.
Fair weather, friends
Today's forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with a high near 78 degrees, accompanied by north wind 10 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the morning. As for the long weekend…about the same, but a little more windy on Saturday. We're hanging on to a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms on Monday, which will otherwise feature partial sun and cooler temps: The high will be about 70 degrees.
Thanks for reading! Have a great Memorial weekend. If you're looking for something to read, consider The Paris Review's Quarantine Reads series. The Word will return on Tuesday, May 26.