COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 130 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total thus far to 12,276. Both Bernalillo and San Juan counties led the state with 38 new cases each. McKinley County had 17 new cases. Santa Fe County had three new cases and has now had 240 total.

As of today, 127 people are hospitalized, 38 on ventilators. The health department has designated  5,514 COVID-19 cases as recovered.

The state also announced three additional deaths, which brings the total number of fatalities to 500.

You can read all of SFR's COVID-19 coverage here. If you've had experiences with testing or the virus, we would like to hear from you.

Gov announces mandatory travel quarantines, face-mask fines

With COVID-19 cases increasing across New Mexico, growing among young people and the rate of transmission also rising, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced yesterday during a news conference 14-day quarantines for everyone coming from out of state through a new executive order and $100 fines for anyone not wearing a mask. The new rules come alongside renewal of the current public health order, now in place through mid-July with any future re-openings on pause. While hospitalizations and deaths have been decreasing, COVID-19 cases continue to rise in all regions across the state, with the last five or six days being "particularly steep," said Human Services Secretary David Scrase, who described the picture of COVID-19 in New Mexico as "bad news."

The governor also warned residents to forego any July 4 festivities. "I am sure that is going to be the hardest news to hear today," Lujan Grisham said. "The behavior this weekend alone can be sufficient to create incredible transmission and risk for everyone else in the state."

SFPS board extends superintendent contract

The Santa Fe Public Schools Board voted this week to extend Superintendent Veronica García's contract by two years, through June 30, 2023. The board agreed to do so unanimously even though García's current contract won't expire for a year. García's annual $195,570 salary won't change with the new contract. She served as superintendent once before—from 1999 to 2002—before returning in 2016. "The Santa Fe Public Schools feels like my home and my family, and I'm very committed to this district," she said. "It's a real honor to serve as your superintendent. Thank you for your faith and belief in me. And I will continue to give it my very best."

Behind the pardons

Jeffrey Holland was sentenced to three years in prison for a string of larceny and conspiracy charges in the late 1990s. Last Friday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham pardoned Holland and 18 others, including folks who'd been convicted of drug offenses, burglaries, auto thefts and more. Many had applied for mercy under previous governors and been denied. SFR spoke with Holland this week and documents SFR's long-running legal saga in accessing the previous administration's pardon records, cited in the current governor's decision to grant the first pardons in many years. As for Holland, the announcement was a "quiet" victory: "It's kind of the removal of the scarlet letter, right? I know I'm not the most deserving person of this. There are people of color and wrongly incarcerated individuals both in and outside the system who are way more deserving, and I truly and with all of my heart hope that all of those situations can be rectified. But for me personally, I'm a native New Mexican, born and raised here. I'm a graduate of Highland High School. And I want to be an upstanding member of my state on as many levels as possible."

Listen up 

While the Santa Fe Opera sadly had to cancel its 2020 season, yesterday it announced Songs from the Santa Fe Opera, a digital performance series to celebrate the opening nights of the five originally-scheduled operas that would have been part of this summer's schedule. Susan Graham, acclaimed mezzo-soprano and Santa Fe Opera audience favorite, hosts the opening night of the season and a celebration of Rossini's The Barber of Seville from the stage of the Santa Fe Opera tomorrow at 7 pm. Then, from July 11 through Aug. 1, viewers can tune in each Saturday evening for well-known arias by artists who were scheduled to perform on the Santa Fe Opera stage, along with insights from conductors, directors and more. Free to watch, each video will premiere on the Santa Fe Opera's Facebook page, YouTube channel and website at 7 pm MST, and will remain available to view thereafter.

Taking charge

The US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration has identified the stretch of Interstate 25 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque as the state's first electric vehicle and compressed natural gas ready "alternative fuel corridor." The designation means that there are direct current fast charging stations located at least every 50 miles along the highway between the two cities. Previously, New Mexico was one of only four states without a single  alternative fuel corridor. "This designation is very important to helping us take those next steps to push the state forward with alternative fuels," says Colin Messer, the director of the Land of Enchantment Clean Cities Coalition, an organization that worked with the state and with Public Service Company of New Mexico to apply for the alternative fuel corridor designation. Messer tells SFR the designation will increase the state's eligibility for grants and other funding in the future as well as raise public awareness of alternative fuels as a viable option.

Jeffrey Epstein “statue” mysteriously appears

Albuquerque residents yesterday spotted a mysterious bronze statue of convicted and deceased sex-offender Jeffrey Epstein that appeared downtown at the old city hall. The statue included a plaque with Epstein's background, reading in part: "He had a home in New Mexico, Zorro Ranch. He was also a rapist who died in prison." The "statue" was actually a painted mannequin courtesy the Antlion Entertainment "Art" Collective. City workers removed the statue and Mayor Tim Keller said he had no knowledge of its origins. "There's a lot of mystery, this doesn't even make any sense." Keller said.

Make it rain

Today's forecast calls for isolated showers and thunderstorms after 3 pm with a 20% chance of precipitation (better than nothing, in other words). Otherwise, it will be mostly sunny, with a high near 86 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. We have the same slight chance for storms tomorrow after noon and then all weekend long up until Sunday evening.

Thanks for reading! Yesterday, the governor said she would be celebrating Fourth of July by watching a patriotic movie. The Word is going to celebrate by taking tomorrow morning off. This newsletter will return on Monday. Have a fun, safe holiday weekend. Here are some other ideas for celebrating that don't involve crowds.