COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday announced 88 new positive test results for COVID-19, bringing the statewide total of cases so far to 9,933. Bernalillo County had 27 new cases, more than twice as many as McKinley County, where only 13 were reported.
Santa Fe County had five new cases and now has had a total of 178 cases since the pandemic's start; of those, 106 have now been designated as recovered. Statewide, as of today, 156 people are hospitalized and the health department has designated 4,217 cases as recovered.
The state also reported seven new deaths, three each in McKinley and San Juan counties, and one in Cibola County. New Mexico has now had 447 fatalities.
Alleged protest shooter arrested
Police have arrested former Albuquerque City Council candidate Steven Ray Baca and charged him with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon for shooting Scott Williams multiple times during a Monday night protest over a statue of Juan de Oñate. Williams, 39, was in critical but stable condition, according to the most recent news reports. Baca, 31, ran a losing race for Albuquerque city's council last year and also is the son of a retired Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy. Baca was among attendees at Monday night's protest, which included the presence of New Mexico militia. Those militia have denied any connection to Baca and, indeed, none appear to be facing charges. However, police say they found 13 guns and 34 magazines from just four or five of the militia at the protest. According to Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, who held a news conference on the shooting yesterday, New Mexico State Police will now take over the investigation. The statue itself has been removed for the time being.
Meanwhile in Santa Fe
The city's Arts and Culture Department Director Pauline Kanako Kamiyama tells the Albuquerque Journal the city has no plans to remove any of its monuments or statues, calling the local and national protests "an opportunity to have difficult conversations about colonization of this land and systemic institutional racism. The erasure of history without conversation serves no one." However, a protest organized by Three Sisters Collective demanding the removal of the obelisk on the Santa Fe Plaza is scheduled for 5 pm tomorrow. The city inventoried its statues and monuments three years ago in what was billed as a first step in a process of reconciliation, but nothing ever happened after that.
Lawmakers ready police reforms
Lawmakers intend to push forward several bills to address police reform in the special legislative session kicking off tomorrow. Four Albuquerque Democrats have a bill that would put the state Attorney General in charge of overseeing cases involving police use of force, both expediting such cases and making them more transparent to the public. "It's incredibly important that people be able to see how these investigations and reviews are conducted," co-sponsor state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, says. Attorney General Hector Balderas says he helped craft the bill and supports it. A spokesman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, however, says such large reforms might require more time than is available in the upcoming session, which is primarily intended to address the state's budget shortfall. Other bills would mandate all law enforcement officers wear body cameras; ban chokeholds; and create a clearer path for people to sue officers in civil court.
If you missed it, yesterday was Bloomsday, celebrated by the Lannan Foundation and James Joyce enthusiasts who honored Joyce's masterpiece Ulysses. Joyce scholar Professor James Heffernan presented a lecture on "Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, and the Ghost of Shakespeare." You can watch yesterday's lecture (or listen to it) here.
Court keeps Capitol closed
A divided state Supreme Court yesterday rejected arguments that closing the Roundhouse to the public during the special legislative session starting tomorrow violates the state constitution. The decision upholds new rules approved specifically for this special session by the Legislative Council last week in light of the public health concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The public will have instead access to the session via webcast with participation via Zoom, phone or email. A petition filed by 20 Republican legislators, four Democratic legislators and one private citizen, however, argued remote access isn't constitutionally adequate. Moreover, many New Mexicans live in rural areas without access to the internet, which itself can be unreliable. Case in point: The court's hearing yesterday was delayed by lapsed internet. Nonetheless, the judges upheld the closed session. Chief Justice Judith Nakamura described the decision as "extraordinarily difficult" and said a written opinion will be provided at a later date.
Gov appoints new Film Council members
Gov. Lujan Grisham yesterday appointed several people to the new Governor's Council on Film and Media Industries. "The growth of New Mexico's film industry has been one of the success stories in our attempt to bring clean new industries with good-paying jobs to the state. I welcome the help of these professionals to guide our continued development of this industry. I know their expertise will be invaluable," Lujan Grisham said in a news release. Investment banker James D. Gollin will serve as council chair. "The film and digital media industry is poised to recover rapidly from the COVID shutdown, acting as a short-term spark plug for the rest of New Mexico's economy," Gollin said.
Gov wants fireworks bans
The governor also signed an executive order yesterday urging cities and counties to consider banning the retail sale of fireworks in the state through the summer or until drought conditions improve. According to a news release, approximately 75% of New Mexico is abnormally dry and more than half the state is experiencing at least moderate drought conditions. Significant portions of the state are in a severe or extreme drought, according to the United States Drought Monitor. Several other fire restrictions have already been implemented. The order excludes Fourth of July events, which would need to be scheduled as drive-in events.
Hot and dry
Speaking of hot and dry, today's forecast calls for a sunny day with a high near 86 degrees and north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest 15 to 20 mph in the morning. Sadly, no rain in the offing as of now for the rest of the week.