COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 352 new positive tests for COVID-19, bringing the statewide total so far to 20,136. Of those cases, the health department has designated 7,817 as recovered.
Cases continue to mount at Cibola County Correctional Center, where 76 more people being held in federal custody tested positive. That brings the total number of cases at that private-prison facility—which houses people for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and US Marshals Service—to 266.
At the county level, Bernalillo County had 87 new cases, more than twice as many as the next highest county, Doña Ana County, which had 38 new cases. Santa Fe County had 11 new cases and has now had 535 cases, of which the health department has designated 212 as recovered.
The state also announced six new deaths from Bernalillo, Chaves, McKinley and Rio Arriba counties. There have been 632 fatalities. As of yesterday, 158 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
City Council passes budget
Late last night, the Santa Fe City Council approved a new $320.7 million budget for the 2021 fiscal year that cuts spending by 18% by drawing heavily on the city's cash reserves to avoid layoffs and reduced services. Nearly two dozen Santa Fe residents waited through five hours of unrelated agenda items to comment via phone and internet on what they characterized as a misallocation of funds for the Santa Fe Police Department, while representatives from two employee unions raised concerns about the mayor's proposal to reorganize city departments. The council passed the budget unanimously just after 11 pm, but the governing body's official vote on the proposal to reorganize city government won't take place until a public hearing scheduled for Aug. 26.
PRC approves renewables plan
The Public Regulation Commission yesterday unanimously agreed to a plan that will use renewable energy sources to replace electricity from the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station. The Public Service Company of New Mexico will stop using electricity from San Juan in 2022 and will replace it with renewable energy sources, such as solar power, to meet the state's Energy Transition Act requirements. The ETA requires 80% renewable energy standards by 2040 and zero carbon by 2045. Hearing examiners recommended the plan, proposed by the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, as the one that meets ETA requirements most effectively. The plan invests approximately $1 billion in San Juan, Rio Arriba and McKinley counties to build new solar farms. A group of Four Corners community and tribal organizations, conservationists, business and social justice groups all praised the decision. "The PRC's decision to invest in clean renewable energy here in the Four Corners will transform our communities," Joseph Hernandez from the Native American Voters Alliance Education Project, based in Shiprock, said in a statement. "It means new investments in our school district, hundreds of jobs for tribal families, and economic transition at a time when we need it more than ever."
School meals will continue
Yesterday, the state Public Education Department reiterated that school meals will continue even as public schools reopen virtually. According to a news release, the department has provided almost 9 million meals to New Mexico children through their school districts since in-person learning ended March 16. Schools provide meals to students through two federally funded programs: the National School Lunch Program, which provides free and reduced-price meals to children who qualify and the Seamless Summer Option, which provides free meals to all children. New Mexico has been using the summer program since March to provide grab-and-go meals. In addition, the Early Childhood Education and Care Department's Summer Food Service Program has provided free meals to children across the state; the department is seeking a federal waiver to continue the program into September.
All things being equal, the Candyman Strings & Things' summer Rock Camp youth musicians would have recently performed for the masses at Tumbleroot, and it would have been awesome (and, based on past shows, really cute). Well, all things are not equal, but the show must go on. Chris Diestler at KBAC talks with the first round of 2020 graduates about their experiences this summer in COVID-safe Rock Camp and plays some of their tunes. You can listen to that here; you can watch some Zoom performances on the Candyman's Facebook page; and catch some behind-the-scenes footage on YouTube.
Jeff Bezos’ Burque beginnings
Yesterday, Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon's CEOs testified remotely before Congress to defend their companies against allegations of anti-competitive business practices after a year-long House investigation into such concerns. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest person in the world, released his testimony in advance of delivering it, leaning heavily on his Albuquerque roots to introduce himself: "My mom, Jackie, had me when she was a 17-year-old high school student in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Being pregnant in high school was not popular in Albuquerque in 1964. It was difficult for her. When they tried to kick her out of school, my grandfather went to bat for her. After some negotiation, the principal said, 'OK, she can stay and finish high school, but she can't do any extracurricular activities, and she can't have a locker.'" His father, Miguel, came to the US from Cuba when he was 16 and adopted Bezos when he was 4 years old. The initial start-up capital for Amazon.com came primarily from Bezos' parents, he said, "who invested a large fraction of their life savings in something they didn't understand." Lawmakers did not seem particularly moved by Bezos' story.
Baby, you’re the best
As a wise friend recently noted, "It doesn't feel very celebratory right now because it's kind of a shit show." Indeed. Still, SFR believes Santa Fe, even during a pandemic, has too many wonderful people, places and businesses worth celebrating to take a year off. And you, dear readers, clearly agree, shit show or not. As usual, thousands of you weighed in for the annual Best of Santa Fe edition and offered your thoughts on everything from best chile to best taxidermist (we kid: There is no taxidermy category…yet). So grab a cuppa, peruse this year's winners, congratulate and patronize them if you can, buy a commemorative T-shirt (and read all about this year's BOSF cover artist Erin Currier) and be glad we get to live in an awesome—albeit kinda shut down—town.
Sun, heat, wind
Today will once again be sunny, nary a cloud in the sky, with a high near 91 degrees and north wind 5 to 15 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon. But tonight has isolated showers and thunderstorms on tap after midnight with a 20% chance of precipitation and a return to at least the promise of monsoon-like weather straight on through Monday.
Thanks for reading! The Word gleefully devoured the Atlantic Magazine's recent piece proclaiming "Hygiene Theater is a Huge Waste of Time" because she appreciates any argument against cleaning.