COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 180 new positive test results for COVID-19, bringing the statewide total number of cases to 22,816. According to a state news release, the health department has designated 9,744 of those cases as recovered.
Doña Ana County had the most new cases yesterday: 37, followed by Lea County with 35 and Bernalillo County with 31. Santa Fe County had three new cases.
The state also announced two additional deaths yesterday, both from McKinley County; there have now been 695 fatalities. As of yesterday, 119 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Health department says mask-exemption cards fake and illegal
The state health department says fraudulent cards exempting the holders from abiding by the public health order requiring face masks are being distributed in Santa Fe County. They are fake, the health department says, and creating or using them could result in being charged in a fourth degree felony for forgery. According to a news release, the health department is working with the state Attorney General's Office "to ensure anyone issuing fraudulent exemption cards is prosecuted appropriately." A health department spokesman tells SFR the state was alerted to the use of the cards by a constituent. While the cards appear to have the state Health Department and US Justice Department logos, both agencies have issued alerts regarding their illegitimacy.
Santa Fe mulls different policing approach
Discussions on how to shift policing are gaining momentum in Santa Fe, with much of the focus on finding different ways to address people who are in the midst of mental health crises. It's not a move to defund or abolish the police—as some cities have considered in response to renewed calls from activists after the May police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis—but it would mark a change. The idea: a new "alternative response" unit that would bring together a paramedic, a cop and a social worker to respond to 911 calls with a behavioral health component. The proposal surfaced during the City of Santa Fe's July's budget hearing in response to community calls for police reform. While the proposal would not divert money away from the Santa Fe Police Department, the city added $758,600 to its community services budget in July to fund initiatives such as the new team.
Union votes no confidence in Mayor Alan Webber
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3999 has issued a "no confidence" vote in Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber. Chris Armijo, a council representative organizer for AFSCME, told the Albuquerque Journal that 240 of the union's 696 members voted in favor of the resolution and 12 voted against it. Grievances listed in the resolution include city furloughs of more than 1,000 employees in April; failure to pay the Public Employment Retirement Authority for two and a half months; and a recent audit critical of the city for not following general accounting rules for federal funds. The resolution calls for city councilors to remove the mayor, which they don't have the authority to do. In lieu of that, Armijo says the union will seek a recall vote.
Lawmakers will keep probing gov’s COVID-19 spending
New Mexico lawmakers will continue investigating and gathering information about Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's emergency spending during the pandemic. During a Legislative Council meeting yesterday, Democrats pushed for continued investigation while Republicans said they should take the governor to court. In late July, legislators asked Lujan Grisham to explain her funding due to concerns about her authority to spend at the levels she had without legislative approval. Lujan Grisham responded last week that her spending was proper and called lawmakers' criticisms pedantic rather than substantive. Lawyers who investigated the issue for the Legislature disagree with the governor's assessment. "We don't believe that this is a trivial matter, and we certainly don't believe it's a pedantic exercise to fulfill our constitutional responsibilities of not only oversight but appropriation," Santa Fe attorney Thomas Hnasko, a lawyer with Hinkle Shanor LLP, says. The lawyers investigating, however, also recommended continued investigation versus litigation.
Mark your calendars: In August and September, the School for Advanced Research is producing a special Indian Market series of live artist talks on its Instagram page, featuring Native artists in residence at the SAR's Indian Arts Research Center. Upcoming 6 pm Monday talks include painter Mateo Romero (Cochiti Pueblo) on Aug. 17; sculptor Adrian Wall (Jemez Pueblo) on Aug. 24; and Navajo weaver Marlowe Katoney on Aug. 31. You can find the whole schedule here and a behind-the-scenes look into the life of Oneida painter and 2015 Dobkin fellow Dawn Dark Mountain on Instagram from earlier this week.
La Boca chef navigates the pandemic
Shifting his restaurant to take-out and outdoor dining required a bit of work, but was well worth it, says La Boca chef and owner James Campbell Caruso. "To me, it's empowering to think we have the power to mitigate the spread, and if everybody understands that, we do better," Caruso tells SFR. With its adjoined dining room Taberna on the opposite side of the building, Caruso has 22 seats on the Taberna patio and 14 in front of La Boca. "I feel really fortunate," Caruso says. "I look at other restaurants that don't have any outdoor space at all." La Boca isn't going anywhere, but Caruso—like other restaurant owners—says allowing to-go alcohol sales would really help. "That's a no-brainer, and people would really appreciate it," he says. "These laws about wine are so barbaric in this state—the way we corral [patrons] in, my patio had to have a four foot fence, as if they'd have a glass of sangria and go insane." Specifically, he says, La Boca's sherry cocktails would make excellent pre-packaged to-go options. We wholeheartedly agree.
Au revoir L’Olivier
In less positive pandemic-restaurant news, downtown French eatery L'Olivier announced yesterday it will be closing at the end of the month. Opened in 2013 by owner/manager (and Level 1 sommelier) Nathalie Bonnard Grenet and her husband and chef Xavier Grenet, L'Olivier was the food service vets' first foray into ownership and was named one of SFR's 25 Faves in the 2018 Restaurant Guide. An email blast announcing the closure said: "It is with a heavy heart, that we have come to the decision to shut down by the end of August…It has been a great adventure filled with beautiful encounters and friendships. Chef Xavier and I are proud of these past seven years as we worked hard to serve you and to share our French culture. It just has been too much of a challenge to stay open with only the patio."
Fighting private prisons with art
A new artist/activist collective in Albuquerque, Fronteristxs, has joined the fight to divest the state's educator retirement fund from private prisons and detention centers. The group launched #NMERBdivest last week with a digital billboard on East I-40 in Albuquerque near Carlisle Boulevard and projections of images and text on the former county jail in downtown Albuquerque. The campaign is part of the collective's larger efforts to abolish prisons, made urgent by the rapid spread of COVID-19 in prisons. #NMERB encourages New Mexico educators and administrative staff to attend the virtual NMERB investment meetings today from 1 to 3 pm and Friday at 9 am to support divestment from prisons. Though official public comment for the meeting is closed, Fronteristxs organizers believe a strong presence will convince NMERB to pull its investments and attendees may have an opportunity to comment via chat box.
So much for the high 80s
Despite forecasts earlier this week indicating our high temps wouldn't break the 80s this week, today will purportedly be mostly sunny with a high near 94 degrees and north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon.
Thanks for reading! Due to an aversion to taxidermy, the Word almost missed out on Outside Editorial Director Alex Heard's recent and excellent story "If Taxidermy Is Wrong, I Don't Wanna Be Right."