COVID-19 by the numbers
Over the weekend, New Mexico health officials reported 494 new COVID-19 cases: 291 on Saturday and 203 on Sunday. There have now been 13,256 cases so far. Bernalillo County added 144 new cases over the weekend, followed by Doña Ana County with 94 and McKinley County with 54. Santa Fe County had six new cases on Saturday and eight on Sunday; there are now a total of 267 cases here, 140 of which have been designated as recovered.
Statewide, as of today, 119 people are hospitalized and the health department has designated 5,860 cases as recovered.
The state also announced two new deaths on Saturday, both women from McKinley County. No deaths were announced on Sunday. There have been 513 total fatalities.
Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel announces retirement
ICYMI, on Friday, New Mexico Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel announced she plans to retire, but will remain in her position through the current "wave" of the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham plans to conduct a nationwide search for Kunkel's replacement. In a statement, Kunkel, 69, said: "Every single day of this public health crisis has been a physically and mentally exhausting ordeal—not just for the Department of Health, not just for the thousands of health care professionals putting their lives and livelihoods on the line to protect New Mexicans, but for all of us as the people of this state." She described herself as "incredibly proud of the work done by the Department of Health and indeed the entire state of New Mexico in addressing this virus, in mitigating its spread and in doing everything we can to keep New Mexicans safe and healthy. That work will continue until we've seen ourselves through to the other side of this crisis."
Corrections Department wants more sewing machines
The state Corrections Department has submitted a purchase order to spend more than $130,000 on sewing machines inmates would use to make masks and other COVID-19 protective gear. Specifically, the department wants to avoid competitive bidding in order to buy 45 commercial grade sewing machines and 20 "finishing" machines from an Alabama supplier. Currently, inmates make between 40 cents and $1.50 per hour to make the masks. A Corrections Department spokesman says the masks sell for between $1.50 and $2, while cloth gowns are priced at $16.95 to $17.95. The proceeds benefit Corrections Industries, which sells inmate-produced products to state agencies, tribal governments and nonprofits. According to the purchase order, the department only has 30 sewing machines, which it is says is insufficient to keep up with demand.
Catua and Omtua statue’s future unclear
While the City of Santa Fe grapples with conflict over its current statues and monuments, the future of one donated statue remains in limbo. The city accepted a statue from Tesuque Pueblo more than two years ago, created by sculptor and former Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. George Rivera, which depicts two young Tesuque Pueblo men who ran to the pueblos to spread the word of the uprising against the Spanish in 1680. Due to the pandemic-caused budget crisis, installation plans for the bronze sculpture of Catua and Omtua have been put on hold indefinitely. The $46,000 for landscaping costs to install the piece on the northwest corner of the plaza area between City Hall and the Santa Fe Community Convention Center was slated to come out of the Arts in Public Places budget. That budget has not yet been finalized.
KNME journalist Megan Kamerick recently kicked off a new podcast, "New Mexico and the Vote," exploring our state's role in electoral history. The first episode explores New Mexico's unique role in the American Southwest during the women's suffrage movement, as well as the characters who played key roles during that era. "New Mexico and the Vote" is part of a project in conjunction with PBS's American Experience "The Vote," which airs on New Mexico PBS at 8 pm today and tomorrow.
Local restaurants temporarily shut due to COVID-19 concerns
Local favorite Mexican restaurant Maria's temporarily closed last week in order to test the staff for COVID-19 after discovering an employee had tested positive. Rick Redram, president and COO of Santa Fe Dining, Maria's parent company, says all other staff tested negative, and the restaurant is scheduled to return to normal business hours today. At Second Street Brewery's Rufina Taproom, operations also came to a halt over concerns that an employee who works at another unnamed restaurant might have come in contact with the virus. Reportedly, that employee ultimately tested negative but, in a statement made online (and taped on the Rufina Taproom door last week), owners and managers say the business will remain closed until 100% of its staff can get tested. "We want our employees to feel safe and supported at work, and our customers to know they are in a safe environment when they visit Second Street," the statement reads.
Back Road Pizza owner talks pandemic
Back Road Pizza owner Piper Kapin swiftly switched to takeout only when the pandemic hit and, for now, intends to stay closed to sit-down diners. "The decision came from a very fortunate place of being able to pivot our business model and do well with it," Kapin tells SFR. "Pizza going out the door and no contact service is working really well. I'm super aware a lot of other restaurants and models don't pivot that way, but pizza's like a model citizen for takeout, so I was able to make that decision from the place of being fortunate. We were already financially doing OK, and honestly, that was kind of it. While I understand the tension around the economy versus health versus science, it just didn't feel like it was time to open."
Don't get your hopes up, but today's forecast calls for scattered showers and thunderstorms after noon with a 50% chance of rain (so get half your hopes up, perhaps). Otherwise, look for a mostly sunny day with a high near 87 degrees. Tonight could bring more of those scattered showers and thunderstorms before midnight—at least there's a 30% chance. Tomorrow also has potential storms in the offing, but the rest of the week, as of now, looks hot, hot, hot.
Thanks for reading! The Word both enjoyed and was surprised by some of the stats in the latest COVID-19-centric "Harper's Index," particularly the one-in-five chance that "an American worker stockpiled alcohol in anticipation of having to self-isolate." Kind of would have thought it was higher.