COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 239 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 28,224. Bernalillo County led with new cases: 58 of them, followed by Doña Ana County with 29 and Eddy County with 23. Santa Fe County had 10 new cases.
The state also announced two additional deaths from Bernalillo and Cibola counties; there have now been 859 fatalities. As of yesterday, 66 people were hospitalized, 16 of them on ventilators.
Pointing to rising case counts and rapid responses, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham described both as "poor indicators about where we're headed," during her weekly COVID-19 update. "I want every New Mexican to see this: We have to do better. What happens if we don't? More people die, more people get sick…"
Secretary of State offers election assurances
During yesterday's weekly COVID-19 briefing, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver previewed key dates related to the upcoming Nov. 3 general election. Although no specific mention was made to ongoing and recent comments by President Donald Trump critical of mail-in ballots and the electoral process, Toulouse Oliver did stress the reliability of New Mexico's election process. "This election is happening in a highly polarized political environment during a global pandemic," she said, "but voters should rest assured that you will be able to cast your ballot safely and securely no matter where you live in New Mexico or which method you use." Toulouse Oliver also noted that voter registration had surged past 1.3 million voters in August and 247,725 New Mexicans have already applied for absentee ballots. She reminded people that any election results on election night are unofficial and described the certification process, noting that election workers are mandated to stop counting ballots at 11 pm on election night. "This is really important because it's being implemented to prevent the fatigue of election workers," she said. "Fatigue leads to errors and mistakes, which leads to inaccuracies. The most important thing is to give voters of this state accurate election results." New Mexicans have until Oct. 20 to request an absentee ballot, which county clerks will begin mailing to voters on Oct. 6. Find more information on voting at the state's Voter Information Portal.
Meow Wolf employee group opposes union attempt
With the fate of the nascent Meow Wolf Workers Collective uncertain, a group of employees has emerged in opposition to the union. Identifying themselves as "Meow Wolf employees who are members of the bargaining unit," the group recently launched a website titled Reunion for Meow Wolf, which sets forth reasons they believe a union is the wrong approach for the company at this time. SFR requested comment from the new group, which requested questions in writing prior to an interview and then canceled the interview. Meow Wolf's management, which has declined to recognize the union, released a statement to SFR in support of employee dialogue regarding the union attempt ("This is the Meow Wolf way"). MWWC organizers say they also support the dialogue, but "believe a union will allow for a happier, healthier and more equitable workplace." After Meow Wolf said it would not voluntarily recognize the union, organizers announced (via social media) they had filed for an election through the National Labor Review Board; a date has not yet been set.
Medio Fire wrap-up
Because monsoon season had basically ended prior to the Medio Fire, the likelihood of post-fire flooding in the area is minimal, according to the US Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) Team, which announced its findings yesterday. According to a news release, the BAER team used satellite imagery to map the burn severity of the roughly 4,000-acre fire and found approximately 49% burned at low severity, with 16% at high severity and 14% at moderate severity. The remaining 21%, including 24 acres of rock outcrop, was unburned. "Based on the BAER Team's analysis, we are anticipating minimal immediate effects from the fire," Acting Forest Supervisor Debbie Cress said in a statement. "Once the snow melts next spring, we have the option to initiate a second phase of BAER analysis…" Continued closure of the Medio Fire area, which includes the entirety of the Rio en Medio Trail #163, remains the most after-effect. Trails in the high-severity burned areas were impacted by the fire rendering the area unsafe for public entry. SFR's cover story this week, "After the Burn," takes an in depth look at the Medio Fire and what lessons it may hold for the public.
In the first in a series of conversations from the Center for Contemporary Arts about classic films, writer/director/producer Joan Tewkesbury leads a conversation featuring editor Paul Barnes and researcher Mara Fortes about Víctor Erice's Spirit of the Beehive, described by The Guardian as one of the top 25 arthouse films of all time. The free event takes place at 7 pm tonight; register online. You can watch the film trailer here. Check out the rest of CCA's upcoming Living Room series (including a Sept. 29 celebration of Oliver Sacks) here.
Zozobra by the numbers
The report is in on the 96th annual burning of Zozobra and organizers say the crowd-free event succeeded across numerous metrics. A report from Event Chairman Ray Sandoval includes the following stats: Number of glooms burned: 113,013; Number of viewers (Zozobra aired on KOAT 7's channel and website): 321,337; Number of COVID-19 infections: 0. As for the last figure, Sandoval says the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe intentionally waited 14 days to share the event's results, during which time five of Zozobra's essential workers –– three who volunteered and two chosen at random –– were tested for COVID-19: all were negative. "As we celebrate the continuation of our cherished New Mexico tradition," Sandoval writes, "we are heartened by producing our event with no volunteer illness." Next year's Zozobra is scheduled for Sept. 3, but if you're not ready to let go, be sure to watch this year's drone footage.
Schools, cities turn to contact-tracing apps
While state officials have intermittently expressed interest in digital contact-tracing apps throughout the pandemic, implementation has yet to come to fruition. "We're not there yet," Health Department Acting Deputy Secretary Donnie Quintana tells SFR. Other entities and schools, however, are giving contact-tracing apps a go. Both the City of Santa Fe and United World College are using the NOVID app, developed at Carnegie Mellon University. UWC student Alex Bavalsky helped lead the charge to use NOVID on campus, largely to avoid another shutdown. "My closest friends are here, my education is here…I think I speak for every single student and faculty member, [closing in March] was really sad and I would never want that to happen again." New Mexico State University computer science students developed their own app, the Aggie-COVID-19 app, recently approved for use just on the NMSU campus, and New Mexico Tech adapted NMSU's source code to use on its own campus.
Nothing new under the sun
If you're having trouble letting go of summer, today's forecast will make you happy: Sunny with a high near 85 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 15 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon. As for the weekend: same/same.
Thanks for reading! The Word thought the drone footage from Zozobra was cool but refuses to imagine any scenario under which she would buy a drone for her home.