COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 161 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total thus far to 26,429. The new cases included the first for De Baca County, previously the only county in New Mexico with no cases. Chaves County led with new cases: 31, followed by Bernalillo County with 27 and Eddy County with 21. Santa Fe County had 11 new cases.
The state also announced three additional deaths, including a man in his 20s from Bernalillo County. Lincoln and McKinley counties also had fatalities; there have now been 816 total deaths. As of yesterday, 80 people were hospitalized with COVID-19,15 of them on ventilators.
During a weekly COVID-19 news conference yesterday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, along with several cabinet secretaries, discussed the precautions schools and early childhood providers are taking as some elementary students head back to partial in-school classes this week. Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart outlined some of the measures—such as regular surveillance; rapid response training and reporting; COVID-safety training; and forthcoming workshops for families. "We're setting a very high bar and pulling out all the stops so our educators, our students and our families can have confidence in the preparations that have been made to bring back students safely," he said.
The governor also said the state's Medical Advisory Team would be offering her thoughts early next week on the possibility of allowing some youth sports and training in the near future.
Voters approve Gov’s pandemic response
In yet more polling from the Albuquerque Journal, 60% of likely voters approve of how Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has handled the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 32% disapproved, with those remaining unsure or unwilling to say. Drilling down, Democrats and Republicans differed widely in their responses: Among Dems, 84% approve of the governor's actions while 10% disapprove (the governor was recently named as a co-chair for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's transition team). As for Republicans, only 28% support the governor's actions and 63% oppose them. Speaking of Republicans, New Mexicans are far less sanguine regarding President Donald Trump's pandemic response, with 36% approving and 55% disapproving his actions. Research & Polling Inc. President Brian Sanderoff says the poll results show the importance voters place on the threat COVID-19 represents, noting that while the restrictions Lujan Grisham enacted "have had tremendous consequences in New Mexico, especially on our small businesses and restaurants," nonetheless, "a majority of voters approve of her handling of the pandemic, which demonstrates that people are really concerned about their health and the safety of their families."
Santa Fe National Forest lifts Stage 1 restrictions
As of today, the Santa Fe National Forest has lifted campfire and smoking restrictions, due to widespread moisture across the forest and decreasing fire danger. Officials implemented Stage 1 restrictions on Aug. 26 while fighting what was ultimately the 4,010-acre Medio Fire and other wildfire starts on the forest, including the 158-acre Caja Fire on the Caja del Rio Plateau. The SFNF closure order for the Medio Fire is still in place. Forest officials say they issued 45 citations for illegal campfires and recorded 39 abandoned campfires during the two weeks the forest was under Stage 1 fire restrictions. "Fortunately, none of those incidents escalated into a wildfire," Acting Forest Supervisor Debbie Cress said in a statement. While Stage 1 restrictions have been lifted, forest managers ask visitors to follow campfire safety procedures. People who abandon campfires are subject to a fine and/or imprisonment and if an abandoned campfire causes a wildfire, violators can also be held responsible for fire suppression costs.
NM settles groundwater dispute with Cannon Air Force Base
The US Department of Defense will pay New Mexico approximately $250,000 in a settlement agreement announced yesterday between the state Environment Department and Cannon Air Force Base. In January, the environment department had issued Cannon an administrative compliance order after Cannon discharged without a groundwater permit and failed to provide NMED with required information about PFAS– a type of manmade chemical with harmful health effects. In addition to the settlement amount, Cannon submitted a complete discharge permit renewal and modification application to NMED, which the public will be able to review and comment later later this year. "Unfortunately, federal facilities in New Mexico have a history of disregarding state environmental laws," NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a news release. The state remains in litigation with the DOD over remedying the PFAS contamination at Cannon and Holloman Air Force Bases.
Yesterday's edition of KUNM's call-in show "Let's Talk New Mexico" homes in on voting rights, focusing on the white supremacist roots of voter suppression and how they have and might affect the COVID-impacted 2020 election. Guests include: Kelly Garcia-Chavez, a member of Justice advisory board ACLU-NM; Justin Allen, a University of New Mexico American Studies undergraduate and intern at America Votes; UNM Associate Professor in American Literary Studies Dr. Finnie Coleman; state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Bernalillo, currently serving as executive director for the state county clerk group; and Eileen Shendo, Jemez and Cochiti Pueblo, founder of Seeded Sisters, Inc., a social enterprise in Jemez.
SITE for sore eyes
The governor's recent announcement that museums can reopen at 25% capacity filled many of us with joy and, indeed, many are now planning how and when to do so. SITE Santa Fe, however, opens today with Displaced: Contemporary Artists Confront the Global Refugee Crisis, a show that initially would have closed after Labor Day but is now on display until Jan. 24, 2021. The Word had the chance for a sneak preview and wholeheartedly recommends making reservations online (walk-ins will receive the next available time slot) for this expansive and powerful show in which 10 international artists examine through a variety of media the issues, questions and complexities inherent in the global refugee crisis. If that sounds heavy or depressing, make no mistake: The show traffics more in transcendence, with objects of beauty, imagined futures and concrete social actions around every corner. The Word is already planning a second visit because there's a lot to take in, but we're all in luck: SITE used the COVID-19 "downtime" to fundraise free admission for the entirety of the show. And the museum's COVID-19 safety practices are extensive and reassuring.
Red or green?
While the sudden dip in temperatures was psychologically confusing, New Mexicans all know what to do when the going gets cold: Eat chile—red, green, Christmas. New Mexico Magazine this month is all about our favorite crop, offering what it calls the "Ultimate Guide to New Mexico Chile." The expansive package (read them all in print form and find some online right now) includes: a feature story on New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute; a tasting and cooking guide for various types of New Mexico chiles; a profile of Santa Fe Farmers Market chile roaster Matt Romero; and a whole lot more.
What month is it?
Today's forecast begins the segue back to seasonally appropriate weather. It might not feel like summer but it will no longer feel like winter. Today will be sunny with a high around 64 degrees and west wind 5 to 15 mph. Saturday and Sunday, temps climb into the low 70s, the skies will be sunny and the air will be breezy. Get it while you can.
Thanks for reading! As soon as the work day/week ends, the Word plans to devour Leslie Jamison's new Atlantic magazine essay on the Donald Judd retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.