COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 307 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number to 17,517 so far, of which the health department has designated 6,870 as recovered.
Bernalillo County continues to have the highest number of new cases, 60 yesteray, followed by Doña Ana County with 49 and Rio Arriba County with 47 new cases. Cases continue to rise in Lea County with 32 new cases. Santa Fe County had six new cases yesterday and has had a total of 436 cases, 181 of which have been designated as recovered by the health department.
The state also reported 10 new deaths, which included the first fatalities in Grant, Lea and Lincoln counties. Bernalillo, Cibola, McKinley and Sandoval also reported deaths. There have been a total of 588 fatalities. As of today, 154 people are hospitalized with COVID-19.
The Washington Post analyzed New Mexico's COVID-19 approach in comparison with neighboring Arizona yesterday. Spoiler alert: We're in better shape.
State releases draft methane rules
On Monday, the New Mexico Environment Department and the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department published draft rules intended to reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sector. Specifically, the rules create emissions standards for volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, the levels of which the state says are currently rising in the San Juan and Permian Basins. Breathing ozone can create a variety of public health issues, including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation and worse. Reducing these emissions reduces methane, one of the greenhouse gases. The rules set a goal for the industry to meet a 98% gas capture rate by the end of 2026, with companies starting to report monthly emissions data next year. The department is taking public comment on the proposed rules through 5 pm, Aug. 20. You can read background on the state's methane strategy here,
Dems out-raising opponents for November election
New Mexico's Democratic congressional candidates are ahead in fundraising for the November election, according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission. Teresa Leger Fernandez, who faces Republican Alexis Martinez Johnson in the 3rd Congressional District, reported having $232,853 cash on hand as of June 30, compared with Martinez Johnson's $6,100; Leger Fernandez has raised $1.6 million to date so far, 57% of which came from in-state donors, according to OpenSecrets.org. US Rep. Deb Haaland of the 1st Congressional District has more than $352,053 cash on hand, a more than 2-to-1 money advantage against Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes. US Rep. Xochitl Torres Small in the 2nd Congressional District has a 10-to-1 advantage against former state Rep. Yvette Herrell with approximately $380,000 cash on hand.
NM senators aim to block federal paramilitary troops in US cities
US Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, D-NM, announced yesterday they are helping introduce the bicameral Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America's Streets Act. The legislation, according to a news release, "would block the Trump administration from deploying federal law enforcement as a shadowy paramilitary against Americans, over the objections of state and local leaders." The legislation follows deployment of federal police in Portland, Oregon where, among other actions, they have been taking protesters off the street into unmarked vehicles.
"The footage coming out of Portland, Oregon, should be deeply disturbing to every single American. Let me be clear—this is not law enforcement. This is fascism," Heinrich, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. CBS News on Monday said it had obtained a memo about which cities Trump next intended to send federal, including Albuquerque. Yesterday, on Facebook, Heinrich said the US Attorney for New Mexico had informed him that "Operation Legend" is coming to Albuquerque. "I let him know in no uncertain terms that this isn't the kind of 'help' that Albuquerque needs," Heinrich said. Heinrich also is calling for Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales to resign, saying Gonzales has invited the Trump administration to send in troops (Gonzales is scheduled to meet with Trump in DC today). All told, Udall said Congress needs to take immediate action: "The situation in Portland, Oregon needs to be deescalated and stopped immediately. And these operations should not be expanded to Albuquerque—period."
In the most recent episode of KUNM's University Showcase, University of New Mexico American Literary Studies Associate Professor Finnie Coleman discusses the origins and the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement and how Afrofuturism can inform the creation of a more just society. Coleman was one of the speakers in an online series of discussions organized by African American Student Services at the University of New Mexico called "Shaking the Room" held in the wake of protests sparked by the police murder of George Floyd and other Black Americans. Most of the videos are available on Instagram under the handle @unmafro and there are plans for more events later this summer and fall. Here's some extra-credit reading: Generation Justice Interview with Finnie Coleman and Afrofuturism is all around us and we don't even know it.
New Mexico's Medical Cannabis Program offices in Santa Fe remain closed to the public for walk-in services until further notice, while staff continue to work and process applications through a secure application drop-box in the lobby. The number of patients in New Mexico's Medical Cannabis Program as of the end of June was 94,102, with 8,504 holding personal production licenses. In Santa Fe County alone, 10,541 people are qualified. Post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain remain the most common conditions for which patients enroll in the program. More than 300 have been qualified for treatment of opiate use disorder, added to the program last summer. If this information whets your appetite for more weed news (and there's plenty of it), check out SFR's most recent edition of the monthly Leaf Brief newsletter, which you can also sign up to receive directly in your inbox.
State awards job training funds
The state Economic Development Department yesterday announced nine companies were awarded funding during the July meeting by the Job Training Incentive Program board (five for new funding and four were amendments to previously awarded amounts). The money will pay for 120 trainees at businesses ranging from gourmet foods to engine manufacturing to technology to transform cremated remains to stones. That latter industry refers to Santa Fe-based Parting Stone, the only Santa Fe recipient, which received close to $32,000 to fund three trainees. A previous JTIP award allowed the company to hire one trainee. "New Mexico has a robust pipeline of businesses looking to expand in the state and relocate here," Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said in a statement. "We know JTIP and other assistance helps businesses bring new and higher paying employees on board, sooner and with more confidence."
Despite yesterday's strong predictions for rain, some of us saw none and felt cheated. We won't get fooled again! Today, the stakes only grow with a 70% chance of precipitation and thunderstorms, primarily after 3 pm. Otherwise, look for a partly sunny day with a high near 83 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. Another chance (60% this time) for showers and thunderstorms this evening, mostly before 9 pm.