COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 229 new positive tests for COVID-19, bringing the statewide total thus far to 21,566. Of those, the health department has designated 8,828 as recovered.

The new cases included 45 in Bernalillo County, 44 in Doña Ana County and 27 in Lea County. Santa Fe County had nine new cases, and has had 610 so far, 241 of which have been designated as recovered.

The state also announced nine more deaths from Bernalillo and Doña Ana counties, as well as the first two deaths for Union County. There have now been 667 fatalities. As of yesterday, 138 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

The state's gating criteria report shows the current effective rate of COVID-19 transmission statewide has dropped to 0.72, well below the established gating criteria of 1.05. The state also remains below its 5% target for case positivity rate at 3.5%. This week's modeling report shows cases, hospitalizations and deaths have all decreased. Among positive cases, visits to restaurants and community gatherings have decreased, but travel remains high.

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.

Employers must tell state of COVID-19 workers within four hours

New Mexico employers must notify the environment department within four hours of any employees who have tested positive for COVID-19. The mandate comes as the result of an emergency rule filed by the department yesterday and will remain in effect for no more than 120 days, unless it's adopted as a permanent rule before then. A news release states NMED's Occupational Health and Safety Bureau is frequently notified of positive cases after employers learn of the cases. So far, there have been more than 600 cases in which an employer knew of an employee with COVID-19 before the environment department did, including 280 times in which the employer knew for at least three days prior. The new rule is intended to allow the state to employ its rapid response program more rapidly. "A critical element of the state's rapid responses is timing—we need to hear as soon as possible when a positive case is identified," NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a statement.

Most SFPS parents want entire school year online

A majority of parents in the Santa Fe Public Schools reportedly want their children to attend school virtually for the entire year, based on the results of a new district survey. According to a news release, more than 4,200 parents responded from 29 SFPS school sites with each parent responding for up to four children, or 5,100 students, all together. Cumulatively, the results show a strong preference for remote learning. For example, 24% of Acequia Madre Elementary School parents want their children to learn remotely compared to 72% of parents at Ramirez Thomas Elementary School. "These results are a game changer for the District," Superintendent Veronica García said in a statement. "Though we still need to contact parents we have not yet heard from, if the percentages hold, we may have to hit a reset button." SFPS students will begin remote instruction Aug. 20, and currently are set to remain online through Labor Day, pending statewide decisions based on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Navajo Nation elders neglected

Freelance journalist and Navajo Nation member Sunnie R. Clahchischiligi wanted to investigate if elders around the reservation have sufficient food and water during the pandemic. She began by interviewing people who live in the Northern Agency in northwest New Mexico, where her family is rooted, visiting with four elders during a peak week of the COVID-19 crisis. Overall, Clahchischiligi found a broken and heartbreaking situation. "Even people who did manage to get a food box might go hungry. Some boxes only contained apples, oranges and onions…Others contained hard foods that elderly people couldn't eat because they so often had missing teeth," Clahchischiligi writes in a story for Searchlight New Mexico published today. "The elders complained very little. It was as if they had accepted this way of life—living in desperate conditions, largely ignored by their community and political leaders. They were used to not being taken care of." Moreover, people were afraid to speak to Clahchischiligi for fear of losing their jobs, and Navajo officials stonewalled her. The story includes photos by Don J. Usner and can be listened to in Diné as well.

Listen up

Spoiler alert: You will definitely want pizza and/or whiskey after you hear these recent interviews from a few of SFR's 2020 Best of Santa Fe food category winners. Pizza Today interviewed Back Road owner and Best Pizza winner Piper Kapin for its "Checking In" series about how Back Road has been navigating the pandemic (SFR spoke with Kapin on this topic back in June as well). And interviewed Best New Mexico Distillery winner Santa Fe Spirits Distillery founder Colin Keegan about the story behind his award-winning spirits and plans for the future. For even more Keegan, check out his recent interview with "My Whiskey Den" as he takes other whiskey lovers through the Colkegan Single Malt line up.

Don’t plant the mystery seeds

Everyone loves mail, right? Not when the mail contains unmarked seeds sent from China. Such seeds have been showing up across the US, and now they've begun arriving in Santa Fe mailboxes as well. New Mexico State University County Extension Agent Tom Dominguez tells SFR he's received a number of calls from Santa Feans who have received such seeds. The New Mexico Department of Agriculture is asking seed recipients to save all shipping labels, packaging and seeds, and contact the department by email (photographs encouraged) or phone at 575-646-3007 (Dominguez also has offered to collect seeds from Santa Fe residents who receive them and will deliver in bulk to NMDA). People should not plant the seeds, NMDA says but, if they have been planted, collect them prior to germination or destroy any emerging plants. According to the US Department of Agriculture, so far the mystery seeds appear to be a "brushing" scam.

New food truck on the block

Rose's Kitchen (1829 San Ysidro Crossing) has a small(ish) menu, but what it offers is focused and enticing. So says SFR Culture Editor Alex De Vore, who visited the new addition to the city's food truck scene and found much to love, starting with the menu, which reads: "Please remember we are on stolen Tewa land. Black Lives Matter. Defund the police (Please ask me more about this! Food and conversation go well together.)" Proprietor Ilana Blankman, who also works for Wise Fool New Mexico, opened July 4. "I was a circus performer and teacher for many years, and I was in this kind of transitional point in my life—not teaching, no work performing—I was kind of going crazy, but I started thinking 'What am I still doing all the time? I'm cooking all the time.'" De Vore sampled and raved about Blankman's organic Frito pie. You'll also find tacos, ramen, a falafel or kefta Mezze plate. But be warned, the menu can change at any time based on what's fresh and what's local. See you there!

Chasing rainbows

Despite a forecast to the contrary, rain appeared imminent for a few minutes yesterday afternoon and, for a brief—possibly delusional—second, it seemed a rain drop or two did indeed fall. As for today, forecasts call for sunny skies with a high near 86 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Despite yesterday's predictions of eternal hot sunny windy days, we are now looking at teensy chances for storms Friday and Saturday.

Thanks for reading! Upon learning of journalist Pete Hamill's death yesterday, the Word pulled her copy of his 1998 book News is a Verb off the shelf to peruse. Though much of Hamill's musings on newspapers have become obsolescent, his thoughts on then-real estate developer Donald Trump now read as prescient (Chapter 5).