COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 212 new positive tests for COVID-19, bringing the statewide total thus far to 21,773. Of those, the health department has designated 8,950 as recovered.
The new cases included 42 in Bernalillo County, 36 in Doña Ana County and 23 in Lea County. Santa Fe County had eight new cases, and has had 618 so far, 249 of which have been designated as recovered.
The state also announced two more deaths from Bernalillo and San Juan counties. There have now been 669 fatalities. As of yesterday, 138 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 28 were on ventilators.
In a news conference Thursday afternoon, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other officials confirmed the COVID-19 picture in New Mexico is improving. While it's too early to say New Mexico is "out of the woods," Lujan Grisham said the state is moving in "the right direction."
Case numbers are dropping and the state is meeting five of its seven gating criteria for reopening. The effective rate of transmission has dropped to 0.72, below its 1.05 target. The state is testing approximately 7,500 people daily, far above its goal of 5,000. The test positivity rate is below the 5% objective at 3.5% and hospitals have both adequate ICU beds and Personal Protective Equipment. The final two criteria, which have not yet been met, involve contact tracing times, but those, also, are coming closer to fulfillment.
Visitation can resume at some long-term care facilities next week
In addition to delivering good news about declining COVID-19 cases, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other state officials yesterday announced that starting next week, nursing homes and other congregate facilities will be allowed to have in-person visits if they are in counties with less than a 5% test positivity rate and fewer than 10 average daily cases per 100,000 residents. Of the state's 33 counties, 21 currently meet that criteria, including Santa Fe County. To have visits, facilities must be free of active COVID-19 cases and visitors themselves must be healthy. Those visits will occur outside with social distancing and PPE, either through open windows or with plexiglas visitation stations. "It's really important to us that we get this right," Cabinet Secretary for Aging and Long-Term Services Department Katrina Hotrum-Lopez said. "This is a very, very critical population…very vulnerable population, so making sure we are opening slowly and that we don't have an invitation for all facilities to make sure that we're doing this right is really important." The governor yesterday also revised an executive order regarding quarantines for people coming from out of state, lifting self-quarantine requirements for New Mexicans who leave the state for medical procedures or for less than a day for parenting obligations.
Back to school shopping weekend
Just because students aren't going back to school physically doesn't mean they don't have back-to-school needs. The tax-free holiday to accommodate such needs starts today and continues through the end of Sunday. Qualifying purchases—clothes, computers, school supplies, for example—won't have gross receipts tax, a savings of 8.4375%. According to the state Taxation and Revenue Department, shoppers historically save approximately $4 million per year each year from the tax-free weekend. "This weekend's tax holiday helps make back-to-school expenses a little more manageable," Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke said in a statement. "Of course, this year is different than any other, and back-to-school school needs may be different than in years past. If you do decide to go shopping in person this weekend, mask up and minimize the number of people shopping to keep your family and our entire community safe."
Audit critical of city finances
A new audit of the City of Santa Fe's finances indicates ongoing problems with managing both its internal accounts and federal funds. In the case of the former, the audit of the city's finances for the fiscal year that ended in June 19 found "significant deficiencies" and "material weaknesses." Regarding federal programs, the audit issued a "qualified" opinion, which could jeopardize future funding. The latest audit follows years of financial management issues at the city. State Auditor Brian Colón tells the Santa Fe New Mexican he remains "deeply concerned" about the issues raised. "We do anywhere from 800 to 1,000 audits and agreed-upon procedures on any given year. I sit in on just a handful of entrance conferences and a handful of exit conferences," Colón added. "The city of Santa Fe is concerning enough that I sat in on the exit conference. That gives a sense of my level of concern with their financial house and lack of order."
SFR's 2020 Best of Santa Fe bookstore winner Collected Works hosts a 90-minute celebration and fundraiser 5 pm MST, this Sunday, Aug. 9. Hosted by Ali MacGraw, "Keep the Pages Turning" will feature 22 authors, poets and cartoonists, including Sandra Cisneros, Terry Tempest Williams, Hampton Sides and Arthur Sze (to name a few). The virtual event, which takes place via Zoom, costs $15 per ticket or $5 for students. Participants can also adopt a section of the store for $250, which includes access to the event as well as inscribed copies of the book/s by the author/s representing that section at the event. Described as a "shelf-preservation project," the store says the ultimate goals are "keeping your book orders fulfilled, keeping book readings for authors free, and keeping our team employed."
Reading the revolution
Next week, the Pueblo Revolt, New Mexico's homegrown revolution, turns 340 years old. Between Aug. 10 to 21, 1680, most of the Pueblo people rose up and drove out Spanish colonial oppressors. SFR's book columnist Molly Boyle honors "the legacy of Indigenous resistance" in her Reading in the Arroyo books column this week with a Pueblo Revolt reading list. This includes collections of essays by Pueblo elders and scholars; historical writing; a screenplay; and a good dose of poetry. The latter comes from Simon Ortiz' collection Woven Stone. Boyle writes: "Ortiz, who is 79, writes of spiritual survival with an eye toward the continuing Indigenous fight against environmental exploitation. In Fight Back, he strips it down to this: 'We have been told many things/but we know this to be true:/the land and the people.'"
SFAI turns 35
For its 35th anniversary this year, the Santa Fe Art Institute had ambitious plans for strengthening its local identity, continuing to host international artists for its themed residencies and continuing to work on plans for its role on the Midtown Santa Fe campus where it's located. The COVID-19 pandemic thwarted some of those ideas, but the emphasis it has placed on social and racial justice issues is providing SFAI the opportunity to spotlight and magnify the work the organization—and its artists—have been doing for years. SFAI currently hosts online discussions, podcasts and other programming for the public, while continuing to push forward as a member of the Midtown Arts Alliance, which hopes to anchor arts and activism on the campus. SFR takes a look at the institution's past, present and future for this week's cover story.
Today's forecast calls for "increasing clouds" and highs near 89 degrees. Saturday should be mostly sunny with a high near 89 degrees and north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon—sounds like a nice day to visit the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, which reopens on Saturday after a four-month closure (reservations required). We have a 20% chance for showers and thunderstorms Saturday evening before midnight. Back to sunny with highs near 90 degrees on Sunday and more wind, this time northeast 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon.
Thanks for reading! The Word has scant interest in fashion but could not pass up reading "Sweatpants Forever" in the New York Times Magazine. Turns out, US clothing sales fell in April by 79 percent—the largest dip in history—but purchases of sweatpants grew by 80 percent. Apparently no one gets dressed anymore.