COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday announced 108 additional positive tests for COVID-19, bringing the statewide total cases thus far to 7,364. As of today, 196 people are hospitalized, 69 on ventilators. The health department has designated 2,684 COVID-19 cases as recovered. The state also reported six additional deaths, including the first for Rio Arriba County.
As of yesterday, the state had conducted 183,544 COVID-19 tests. Come Monday, Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel says the health department will kick off an "an ambitious surveillance" program "to get ahead of the virus." This will involve increased focus on specific settings—some already under surveillance, others new—including: corrections facilities; tribal populations; long term care facilities; special populations, such as homeless and domestic violence shelters; health care and utility workers; grocery and restaurant employees.
Gov OKs gyms, salons to reopen
During a news conference yesterday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state officials announced all of New Mexico has met or is close to meeting established criteria for the next phase of reopening. As such, come June 1 under a modified emergency health order, dine-in restaurants, gyms, barber shops, massage services, tattoo shops and salons can begin offering services, albeit in a limited fashion. Restaurants offering indoor dining will have to remain at 50% capacity, keep 6 feet of distance between tables and adhere to the so-called COVID-Safe practices established by the state. The other businesses can operate only by appointment at 25% capacity. Indoor malls also can reopen at 25% capacity, but food courts will remain closed. The state also is giving the go-ahead to drive-in movies and continuing to open state parks, although overnight camping will not be permitted. "I for one am hoping we see a resurgence in drive-in theaters around the state," Grisham said.
Workforce Solutions wants cash back
An unknown number of self-employed New Mexicans who received unemployment benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program learned this week they must pay at least some of the money back to the government. Bill McCamley, secretary of the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, chalks the mixup to a discrepancy between the tax documents initially accepted by the state when it rolled out the program and federal guidelines released later. McCamley says the department isn't tracking how many people have been impacted by the rule change, or how much they owe in total. But he says his department is in no position to waive the repayments. SFR has learned of at least 15 Santa Feans who were told they owe money.
Court says Grants must follow health order
The state Supreme Court yesterday ruled that Grants Mayor Martin "Modey" Hicks must follow the state's emergency health orders regarding COVID-19. State Attorney General Hector Balderas sought the writ, which bars Hicks from opening city facilities and violating closure laws. Hicks had urged local businesses to open in defiance of the orders and opened the city's golf course. Hicks told the Albuquerque Journal he had not seen the Supreme Court's decision, but "if they are telling me I have to follow their health orders, they're out of their freaking minds. They are violating my constitutional rights." Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said: "The outcome of this flagrant and dangerous attempt to violate those orders was never in doubt – and other repeat violators can expect a similar result."
Episode 68 of "Your New Mexico Government" homes in on New Mexico's June 2 primary election, specifically the pandemic's impact on local and state races, along with voting challenges on tribal lands. Guests include: Common Cause's Amber Carrillo, who has been working with tribes for years on voting access issues; NM Native Vote Executive Director Ahtza Dawn Chavez; Dan McKay from the Albuquerque Journal; and KNME Senior Producer Matt Grubs. "Your New Mexico Government" is a collaboration between SFR, KNME and New Mexico PBS.
Let the mask voting begin
Voting began yesterday in the state's Mask Madness competition and the masks folks have been making are worth perusing for their creativity and, in some cases, audaciousness. You can place one vote for one mask once a day through the end of Wednesday, June 3. The top vote-getters will then be seeded into brackets and New Mexicans will be able to vote for their favorite mask in each match up until a champion is crowned. A prize will be awarded to the best mask in New Mexico. The Word voted for a #Zozobra mask yesterday and she just might do so again today.
Your dining habits, please
As you likely noticed, the state on Wednesday gave restaurants the word they could start serving on their patios and the City of Santa Fe launched a plan to help local eateries find more outdoor space. Next week, eateries also can begin inviting diners back inside their businesses. The Word's cousin newsletter the Fork has a few questions on the topic of restaurants, and those questions are for you, dear readers. Specifically, the Fork wants to know about your take-out habits during the restaurant shut-down and your plans for in-house dining once it's allowed, among other queries. So share your experiences and plans and then look forward to hearing the results of this survey in a future Fork. And while you're answering questions, don't forget: Best of Santa Fe online voting ends Sunday!
Some like it hot
Today's forecast calls for sunny skies with a high near 86 degrees and an east wind around 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. Tonight, another slight (20%) chance for isolated showers and thunderstorms before 9 pm. Look for similar conditions throughout the weekend: highs in the high 80s with 20 to 30% chances of thunderstorms intermittently throughout Saturday and Sunday.
Thanks for reading! Earlier in the week, The Word made her way through the City of Santa Fe's now-closed depressing budget survey in which residents were asked to weigh the various merits of, say, trash pickup versus libraries, as the city contemplates its fiscal emergency. For a more expansive/inspiring view of how our municipal government might approach its current challenges, check out this proposal from local business owner Zane Fischer (a long-ago SFR writer/editor).