COVID-19 by the numbers
Over the weekend, New Mexico health officials reported a total of 401 new positive test results for COVID-19: 209 on Saturday and 192 on Sunday. The statewide total thus far is now 11,809. San Juan County had 112 new cases over the weekend, followed by Bernalillo County with 82. Both McKinley and Doña Ana counties had 51 new cases total.
Santa Fe County also continued to report higher numbers of cases than in previous weeks, with eight new cases reported Saturday and 10 on Sunday, bringing the total here thus far to 228, with 125 designated as recovered by the health department.
Cases grew by four at the Otero County Prison facility among state inmates; the facility now houses 438 Corrections inmates and 275 federal ones. New Mexico In Depth reports that all of the state inmates at the Otero County Prison Facility with COVID-19 have something else in common: They are all sex offenders. The state intentionally removed non-sex offenders from the facility and transferred sex offenders in even after COVID-19 began to spread at the prison.
The state also announced three more deaths, two on Saturday and one on Sunday. There have now been 492 fatalities. As of today, 114 people are hospitalized—eight fewer than the day prior—and the health department has designated 5,264 cases as recovered.
Yazzie/Martinez heads back to court
The Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit heads to court today, where state District Court Judge Matthew Wilson will hear arguments from the state of New Mexico as to why its education department, not the judiciary, should oversee education spending. Under a 2018 ruling, the late Judge Sarah Singleton found that New Mexico was insufficiently educating Native American, special-education and low-income students. The state will argue that judicial oversight is no longer necessary. "The intent of the motion to dismiss is not to disagree with the critically necessary rebuilding and restructuring of New Mexico's public education—it is to ensure that educational policy is set by education experts, not by court decree," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's Press Secretary Nora Meyers Sackett says. The plaintiffs in the case disagree. "They're suggesting that they don't need a court order to fix our education system and to simply trust them to do their job," Wilhelmina Yazzie, a Navajo mother of three tells the AP. "But trust is a big word."
Police activists march on
Hundreds took to the streets Saturday night in Santa Fe, calling for defunding of the Santa Fe Police. The latest peaceful demonstration follows several incidents here, including a three-hour delay for SFPD to respond to a hate crime at India Palace. Activists also pointed out that Steven Baca, a white man who allegedly shot a protester in Albuquerque, had been released while Black protester Clifton White remains incarcerated. Santa Fe Police Deputy Chief Ben Valdez says the department is open—not to defunding—but to rethinking processes for how police respond to crises. Meanwhile, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday signed House Bill 5, which establishes the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission. The commission will evaluate and make recommendations about the creation of a civil right of action for violations of state constitutional rights and review the use of qualified immunity as a defense to liability by an employee of a public body.
Three New Mexicans die drinking hand sanitizer
On Friday, the state health department reported on seven people who drank hand sanitizer containing methanol resulting in: three people dying, three in critical condition and one who was permanently blinded. All seven cases were reported to the New Mexico Poison Control Center last month, with the first case reported on May 7 and others since May 29. The US Food and Drug Administration recently advised consumers not to use nine brands of hand sanitizers, all of which were found to contain methanol and can result in poisoning if used in any way. It's unclear yet if any of these brands were involved in the New Mexico poisonings. According to the New York Times, University of New Mexico Assistant Professor Brandon Warrick, who is certified in emergency medicine, medical toxicology and addiction, says in nearly a decade of working at poison centers, these seven cases represent the largest number of methanol poisoning cases he has observed. A health department spokesman told the Times the cases were related to alcoholism; hand sanitizer has a high alcohol content.
Episode 82 of "Your New Mexico Government" ponders the question "How are you?" Why? Because the answer reveals a lot about us. Guests responding to that question include: Sandia Prep junior Santiago Cooper, who talks about his apprehension when it comes to going back to school in the Fall; Mariaelena Lopez, who lost her mother to COVID-19; Kawya Esperanza, who helped organize some of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Albuquerque; Albuquerque Mutual Aid founder Selinda Guerrero; and Executive Producer Marisa Demarco's sister Monica Demarco, who helped build a network of mask sewers for the Southwest Organizing Project.
Funnel cake blues
Just when we think there can't be any more gut-wrenching cancellations…This time, it's the State Fair, which would have run Sept. 10-20 and has never been called it off since it began in 1938. "Like so many others in the fair industry, this crisis has made it difficult for us to continue with our normal operations. While we are heartbroken that there will be no New Mexico State Fair in 2020, we remain committed to putting the safety and well-being of our staff, vendors and our community above all else," General Manager Dan Mourning said in a statement about the decision. Any gate admission purchased for 2020 will be valid for the 2021 or 2022 New Mexico State Fair. If you're disappointed, you're not alone. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham tweeted that she was too: "We didn't ask for this virus, but we've got it, and we've got to beat it—and that means avoiding large groups and events. I'm confident that the state fair will be back next year, better than ever."
Say what you will about the COVID-19 pandemic, it's providing some teachable moments. Particularly for students already learning how to crunch data and model outcomes through New Mexico's Supercomputing Challenge. Open to students in grades 4 through 12 across the state, the Supercomputing Challenge allows teen participants to devote themselves to a science project throughout the year involving high-performance super computers. Participants often tackle issues and problems close to home, so chances are COVID-19 will make its way into next year's projects. To that end, the Supercomputing Challenge is hosting a virtual Summer Science Institute on July 16 that will include lightning talks on topics related to the pandemic (such as epidemiology, virus modeling and machine learning). From the lightning talks, students will then be offered break-out sessions on the topics that interest them most. Who knows, these young scientists may be on their way to solving the next pandemic.
Take the heat
Forecasts call for a mostly sunny day with a high near 88 degrees and southwest wind 5 to 10 mph increasing to 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. The rest of the week looks identical at the moment, with a teensy chance for showers on Friday, 7 million years from now.