COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 221 new positive tests for COVID-19—32 fewer than yesterday—bringing the total number of cases statewide thus far to 13,727. Bernalillo County had, by far, the most new cases: 88 of them. San Juan County had 34 and Doña Ana County, which had 85 new cases the day prior, was down to 24 new ones.
Santa Fe County had eight new cases for the third day in a row and has now had 283 cases, of which 143 have been designated by the health department as recovered. Statewide, as of today, 133 people are hospitalized and the health department has designated 5,986 COVID-19 cases as recovered.
The state also announced four new deaths from Bernalillo, McKinley and San Juan counties; there have been 519 fatalities all together.
Legislature to investigate COVID-19 spending
The Legislative Council voted yesterday to employ lawyers to investigate whether Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham needed legislative authority before spending $30 million in state funds to combat COVID-19. The governor's office utilized an emergency law for the spending and argues it did so appropriately and effectively to ward off the greater damage the pandemic has wrought on other states. "If the Legislative Council would prefer a different mechanism for responding to life-and-death emergencies under the laws they write, they are empowered to make one," the governor's Press Secretary Nora Meyers Sackett said. Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said using those emergency powers for a health crisis of this magnitude is unprecedented and "it's important that the two branches of government have a discussion about appropriation authority, especially because this crisis is far from over."
Gov signs bill to help businesses, local governments
Yesterday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Small Business Recovery Act of 2020, which allocates $400 million from the state's $5 billion Severance Tax Permanent Fund for loans to small New Mexico businesses and nonprofits, as well as nearly $50 million for loans to local governments. Eligible businesses and nonprofits may borrow two times their average monthly expenses up to a maximum of $75,000. Businesses or nonprofits must have had 2019 annual gross revenues of less than $5 million and had April or May income reductions of 30% or more compared to the same month in 2019 to be eligible. For local governments to be eligible, they must have experienced at least a 10% decline in operating revenue in fiscal year 2020 due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus disease. The New Mexico Finance Authority will administer the program.
Desert Academy suspends operations
Santa Fe private school Desert Academy announced it's suspending academic operations for grades 6-11 for the upcoming academic year, following a Monday vote by school's board of trustees. Only 63 students planned to return to the school in grades 6 through 12 for the fall semester, cutting the school's enrollment by about half, according to a news release. The drop served a final blow to an institution that was already on shaky ground after a lawsuit over missed mortgage payments, budget cuts and a change in leadership earlier this spring. Desert's former Head of School Yann Lussiez announced he would step down last April. At the time, the school faced budget cuts of at least 30% due to the pandemic and a lawsuit over the school's inability to make agreed payments on the property housing the Desert Academy Campus off of the Old Santa Fe Trail. Newly appointed Head of School Pat Preib says Desert is working on a socially distanced program for this year's incoming seniors to complete their diplomas. Desert Academy was founded in 1994.
The New Mexico Civil Guard has received notable media attention of late, including a controversial profile in the Albuquerque Journal (here's one of the Twitter threads), as well as an NPR story that aired July 6. KUNM News chose not to air NPR's piece because, they write, "we feel it left out crucial information, mischaracterized events that KUNM has covered, and provided a platform for thinly veiled racism." Instead, KUNM News Director Hannah Colton speaks with Melanie Yazzie, an assistant professor of Native American Studies and American Studies at the University of New Mexico, about media coverage of white militias and how these groups evoke a history of vigilante violence against Native Americans in the region.
HSD announces SNAP benefits for children
This week, the state Human Services Department will mail out $67 million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to approximately 168,000 New Mexico families whose children receive free or reduced-price lunch at school. The benefits will be issued on Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer cards in the name of the oldest child in each household. The program falls under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides assistance to families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. According to a news release, the families of more than 87,000 New Mexico school children have already received nearly $35 million in food benefits issued in May. "The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer program is an important way to ensure that children will get the nutrition they need, especially when schools are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic," Karmela Martinez, New Mexico Income Support Division director said in a statement. "We have been working hard with the Public Education Department to get these benefits out to the right families as quickly as possible."
NM arts receive federal grants
The National Endowment for the Arts has awarded $550,000 to 11 arts organizations across the state as part of $75 million appropriated for the NEA through the CARES Act. Locally, SITE Santa Fe, Wise Fool New Mexico and Parallel Studios (aka Currents New Media) each received $50,000. The Pojoaque Pueblo also received $50,000, as did AMP Concerts, which produces concerts both in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. New Mexico's all-Democrat congressional announced and heralded the awards, with US Sen. Tom Udall saying: "New Mexico's vibrant arts scene is not only part of the foundation of our state's unique culture and traditions, but is a significant economic driver, employing thousands of New Mexicans. But this unprecedented global pandemic has forced many arts organizations to shut their doors as we stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. We must continue to ensure that our creative economy and the arts organizations that are the foundation for that growing sector can weather this economic storm…"
The New Mexico Health Department yesterday issued a heat stress advisory as forecasts call for most of the state (with exceptions for high mountain regions over 7,000 feet, which includes Santa Fe, but just barely) to experience temperatures approaching or even above 100 degrees. The advisory includes advising New Mexicans to get rest, water and shade and, as ever, to avoid leaving pets or children in parked cars. "While for many, warnings about leaving children and pets in hot cars may seem like common sense, these accidents happen, with a record number of children (53) dying in hot cars in the US in 2018," Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said in a statement. "We're all vulnerable to extreme heat at one point or another, so please do your best to seek out cool indoor places and stay well-hydrated even in these difficult times with COVID-19." You can find tips for spotting heat stress here and you can take a gander at a video that is part of the state's new "Stay Hydrated New Mexico" social media campaign here.
Today's forecast calls for a mostly sunny with highs in the mid 90s and west winds 15 to 20 mph. As noted, the rest of the week through the weekend is looking very hot. Santa Fe can expect mid to high 90s the rest of the week and (gulp) a high around 100 degrees on Saturday. Needless to say, it will be hotter in Roswell, but still. According to this Washington Post article, the heat "is originating from a sprawling ridge of high pressure, called a 'heat dome.'"
Thanks for reading! The Word did not (and will not) watch Tiger King, due to a zero-tolerance for anything involving animal abuse, but was interested in this recent Vox podcast about why so many people watched it: friends' recommendations or Netflix' vaunted algorithm? Have a listen.