COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday announced 127 more positive tests for COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to date to 7,252. San Juan, McKinley and Bernalillo counties continue to report the highest number of new cases: 37, 33 and 24, respectively. The state also reported four more deaths, bringing statewide fatalities to 329.
Doña Ana County, which officials say they are watching for rising cases, had 13 new ones. The state's latest modeling report shows the Southwest region, of which Doña Ana is part, has the highest effective rate of transmission in the state: 1.24, and it is the only region of the state where percent positives have increased throughout May.
Native American voting threatened
The pandemic has hit Native Americans harder than any other group in the state. As a result, many Pueblo and tribal governments have closed their lands to non-residents and established curfews in an effort to slow transmission of the virus. Fewer polling places and interrupted mail services could mean Native Americans' voting rights also will be imperiled in Tuesday's primary election. "We're worried," Native American Voters Alliance Executive Director Ahtza Dawn Chavez says. For example, San Juan County, which covers part of the Navajo Nation in the northwest corner of the state, usually has 32 voting convenience sites between early voting and election day, but that number has been reduced to nine in order to increase safety for poll workers and voters, according to Arlenta Horse-Dickie, the liaison for the Native American Elections Information Program in the San Juan County Clerk's Office.
DA candidates on police shootings
Both Democrats running to replace First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna (who is running for Congress) agree the way the office handles police shootings needs to change. SFR's Jeff Proctor takes a look at DA candidates Mary Carmack-Altwies, who runs the Special Victims and Violent Crimes units under Serna, and Scott Fuqua, a former prosecutor who now focuses on civil consumer cases from his Santa Fe base. Both say police shooting reviews need to be faster, more accountable and more transparent. One case serves as a focal point for this discussion: the death of 24-year-old Anthony Benavidez, nearly three years ago, after Santa Fe Police shot through his window. The shooting sparked criticism and claims of excessive force when video emerged, and raised questions about how the department responds to people in the midst of mental health crises, such as Benavidez. It also led to a $400,000 settlement in a civil case brought by Benavidez's family against the city.
No more free parking
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber re-upped the city's public health emergency earlier this week and declared a fiscal emergency as well. That fiscal emergency comes to the tune of a $100 million deficit for the 2021 fiscal year. To that end, Webber's new declaration directs the city manager "to identify opportunities for cost savings, additional revenue streams." Speaking of which, say goodbye to free street parking, which has been in place for the last several months. Paid metered parking kicks in again on June 1. Garage parking opens the same day, but will remain free until July 1. The modified city order also extends the prohibition on residential evictions and continues the policy of no shut-offs for water, although any charges accrued will be owed. The Santa Fe City Council last night confirmed Webber's emergency proclamation, approved a few development projects, and agreed on a plan some say is "risky" to use reserves from the city's medical fund to offset a projected $1.56 million increase in medical insurance benefits for city employees.
Episode 67 of "Your New Mexico Government" focuses on New Mexico's small business owners as New Mexico phases reopening the economy amid COVID-19. Guests include: SFR journalist Katherine Lewin, who discusses last week's cover story on the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses; Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley; new Peruvian restaurant owners Diego and David Diaz; The Grove Cafe & Market owner Lauren Green; The Burque Bakehouse owners Sarah Ciccotello and Chris McQuary; and WESST Enterprise Center bilingual regional manager Margarita Guarin, who discusses how WESST is helping Spanish-speaking and immigrant small business owners survive the pandemic closures.
Pandemic tourist season
What does a Santa Fe summer tourism season look like without Indian Market, the Santa Fe Opera or any of the other beloved local and visitor gatherings? Tourism officials hope it looks like a chance to enjoy a beautiful setting and support local businesses while respectfully observing social distancing and mask-wearing protocol. This week's SFR cover story looks at how city leaders and business owners hope to pivot their tourism strategies and attract at least some visitors this year. If this Reuters' article is any indication, New Mexico seems to be a popular driving choice for those whose European vacation plans were slashed.
Check your mail
While state officials have encouraged New Mexicans to utilize absentee voting and avoid in-person polling places for the June 2 primary election, a possibly foreseen wrinkle has emerged: slow mail. Absentee ballots must be received by county clerks by the time polls close at 7 pm Tuesday in order for them to count. But some voters say they have been waiting weeks just to receive their ballots. As such, US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-NM, wants Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to agree to accept ballots after election day. This, however, would not be legal and, therefore, will not be happening. Voters can drop off their absentee ballots in person either prior to or on election day (the Word did this after it took 10 days to receive her absentee ballot). They can also forego absentee voting and vote in person. Toulouse Oliver will be answering election questions today at 4 pm on Facebook live.
Make it rain
Today will be mostly sunny with a high near 79 degrees. However, we've also got a 40% chance of scattered showers and thunderstorms after noon. The forecast also includes light and variable wind becoming southeast 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon. Right now we have slight chances of rain straight on through next Wednesday, with the highest probability (50%) on Saturday night.
Thanks for reading! The Word is sort of picking and choosing which dumpster fire she warms her hands by these days, but the co-mingling of Twitter, white privilege and the New York Times cooking section, aka the rise and fall of Alison Roman, has been a spectacle. Here's Slate's recap.