COVID-19 by the numbers

Yesterday, New Mexico health officials announced 255 new positive tests for COVID-19. Those new cases bring the statewide total so far to 20,388. Of those, the health department has designated 8,015 as recovered.

Bernalillo County again led the state with new cases: 63, followed by McKinley County with 35 and Doña Ana County with 22. Santa Fe County had 15 new cases yesterday.

The state also reported three more deaths in McKinley and San Juan counties; there have now been 635 fatalities. As of yesterday, 156 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with 33 people on ventilators

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 extends public health order through Aug. 28

While the last few days indicate New Mexico's COVID-19 spread may be stabilizing, daily case counts remain too high for comfort. As such, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has extended the current public health order for a month—through Aug. 28. During a COVID-19 news conference yesterday, Human Services Secretary David Scrase said the state's seven-day averages of daily positive cases shows a dip over the last few days, but it's "too early to declare victory." Generally, Scrase noted, "things have stabilized. They've stabilized at a very, very high level—higher than I think we can sustain in managing—but the good news is, it's not going up." Scrase also reviewed additional gating criteria the state is now using to track its progress against the disease, which include seven-day rolling averages for case counts and positivity rates.

SFPS approves exemptions for high-risk staff

Santa Fe Public Schools will exempt any staff at high risk for COVID-19 from returning to campuses this year. SFPS board members approved last night at a special meeting an agreement between the district and the National Education Association-Santa Fe on the terms for those exemptions, and prioritization for requests. To qualify, people must meet Centers for Disease and Control Prevention criteria for high-risk individuals, which includes people over the age of 65 and those with chronic diseases or conditions, such as cancer, diabetes or obesity. The district reportedly has more than 300 employees over the age of 65. Staff with family who fall into high-risk categories will be given preference for working from home, but doing so is not guaranteed. So far, the district has received 110 exemption requests from teachers. All schools will be starting the semester solely online, but could switch to a hybrid model after Labor Day if the state's case counts decrease.

State Supreme Court creates equity and justice commission

The state Supreme Court announced yesterday it is creating a commission to study issues related to race and bias in the state's justice system, as well as promote diversity among judges and judicial employees. According to a news release, the commission's work will include "analysis of data, education for judges and court staff regarding implicit bias, the creation and improvement of court policies relating to diversity and inclusion, and a commitment to nominate more diverse individuals to serve on the bench." Justice C. Shannon Bacon will chair a steering committee to set the commission's framework. In a letter to the public announcing the new commission, the court writes that the work of the judiciary depends on trust "that each New Mexican will be treated fairly under the laws of this state…Without it, the justice system erodes and crumbles. But we cannot take your trust for granted. We must eliminate the deleterious effects of the poisons of prejudice, bias and racism. We must serve all persons equally, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, income, language, ability or education."

Listen up

ICYMI, yesterday's "Let's Talk New Mexico" program on KUNM focused on the Trump administration's announced deployment of federal agents to Albuquerque. The White House says Operation Legend's purpose is to fight violent crime. Exactly what that means is unclear, with many people concerned the agents will crack down on protesters or target immigrants or target vulnerable communities that have borne the brunt of past police operations. Elected officials, community organizers and the public weigh in on the issue.

The show must go on

The Santa Fe Fiesta Melodrama has been satirizing local happenings for the better part of the century and 2020 will be no different. OK, it will be a little different. Since live audiences are verboten, the Santa Fe Playhouse will be releasing this year's Melodrama in free, live-streamed 15-minute episodes once a week starting Sept. 10. After the final release, the episodes will become available for purchase on DVD or by download. Production Manager Annie Liu tells SFR this year's melodrama, Time Turning Tyrants Taunt Town: A Topical Tale of Tangible Turmoil and Testy Turbulence, will be produced on a "tight, tight budget" because of significant lost revenues. "Unless we get shut down, we are going to make it happen one way or another, with or without the funding," Liu writes to SFR. As for the plot, heroes abound—half of them unemployed due to the virus—who must travel back in time to stop greedy villains from stealing artifacts for their Canyon Road gallery and gentrifying the city.

Stick a fork in it

The Word's cousin newsletter The Fork has oodles to say this week about restaurants. Exhibit A: There's a round-up of readers' picks for the food section of this year's Best of Santa Fe. Plus news regarding the state's federal application to expand SNAP benefits to include certain to-go items from participating restaurants. An entire section devotes itself to apricot-related info (we're not sure why; we think apricot season is over? Maybe not). And don't miss the call to action for folks to send suggestions of places currently offering patio service. And that's not all (but that's all we're going to mention). If you're not already receiving The Fork each week, you can sign up for it and/or any of SFR's other various news missives here.

Weekend weather

Today appears to herald the return of monsoon-like weather. To wit: isolated showers and thunderstorms after 3 pm, some of which could be severe with large hail and damaging winds (but forecasters only call for a 20% chance of precipitation, so only a 20% chance for large hail, aka frozen rain). Otherwise, it will be mostly sunny with a high near 85 degrees and east wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Our chances for rain rise to 40% this evening with scattered showers and thunderstorms primarily before midnight. We have the same chances for storms tomorrow and a 60% chance on Sunday. Enjoy it!

Thanks for reading! The Word thinks we should all take at least an hour off from reading/thinking about the news and read this Paris Review interview with Eudora Welty from its Art of Fiction series instead.