COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 387 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 31,756. Bernalillo County continues to lead with the most new cases: 101 yesterday, followed by 65 new cases in Curry County and 57 in Doña Ana County. Santa Fe County had 20 new cases.

The state also announced three additional deaths from Doña Ana, Eddy and Luna counties; there have now been 899 fatalities.

As of yesterday, 119 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 18 on ventilators. Hospitalizations have increased by 38% since Oct. 1.

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.

Gov warns of uncontrollable spread

Speaking yesterday afternoon from the governor's residence in Santa Fe where she is currently quarantined, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham reported she and her fiancé Manny Cordova were re-tested Wednesday and remain free of COVID-19, as do other staff members. The custodial worker who tested positive last week is doing well, she said, and only has moderate symptoms. That was the end of the good news in the briefing, delivered by the governor and Human Services Secretary David Scrase, as daily caseloads, infection rates and other indicators show New Mexico at "extreme risk of uncontrollable spread," the governor said. With the current public health order set to expire Oct. 16, both Lujan Grisham and Scrase emphasized there is still time for residents to curtail at-risk behaviors and stem the surging cases—New Mexico's spike is now the third highest in the US over the last two weeks. Urban areas such as Bernalillo and Doña Ana County have been driving the surge, as have rising cases in the southeast. Scrase pointed, as well, to a "huge amount of disease activity on Texas border."

Santa Fe Mayor emphasizes city’s COVID-19 success so far

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber's virtual State of the City address yesterday, which aired on the city's YouTube channel, detailed ways in which the City of Santa Fe has been relatively successful in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, while calling for continued vigilance: "Now with COVID-19 spiking again—and alarmingly so—I'm calling on all of us to re-dedicate ourselves to stopping the spread of this terrible virus," Webber said. The mayor stuck to the usual narrative approach for State of the City addresses, highlighting the positive and minimizing the negative from the last year. In addition to the city's pro-active response to the pandemic, Webber also noted national recognition for the city's green building code; 2,533 filled potholes; and 47 relocated prairie dogs. He steered clear from delving into his conflict with the union over proposed reorganization of city government; unresolved tension over the downtown obelisk; and a report detailing the city police's mishandling of evidence.

Median house prices pass $500,000 mark

For the first time, the median house price in Santa Fe County passed the half-million mark, hitting $536,995 over the summer, a 19% jump over 2019's third quarter and a record-high. During that quarter, 558 single-family homes sold in Santa Fe County, the most since 2005. The third quarter also marked the lowest inventory of houses on record. Californians fleeing their state account for a new surge of home-buying interest here, according to real estate agents, adding to the standard Texan interest in Santa Fe's market. Jama Fontaine, general manager of Keller Williams International for New Mexico and team leader for the Santa Fe office, reports receiving "a call almost every day from somebody in California." The trend here echoes rising home costs across the country, and rising population growth in the West. But Santa Fe in particular appears to be appealing to people fleeing urban environments. "Santa Fe is a gorgeous place to live," Susan Orth, president of the Santa Fe Association of Realtors, tells the Santa Fe New Mexican. "People all over the country know that. They say: 'I've been wanting to live in New Mexico and Santa Fe, and now is the time.' "

Listen up

This week's SFR cover story about the Gila River diversion, "Dead in the Water," comes from environmental journalist extraordinaire Laura Paskus, and gives us the opportunity to give a shout-out to the long-time SFR contributor's new book, At the Precipice: New Mexico's Changing Climate. Tonight at 6 pm, Paskus and Valerie Rangel, author of Environmental Justice in New Mexico: Counting Coup, will discuss their books and environmental issues in a Collected Works Bookstore event on Zoom. You can also hear a discussion by Paskus on her book during a recent episode of Dave Marash's podcast, Here and There.

Rock on!

A listing for an underground bunker in Farmington tailored for a post-election hideaway caught the attention of the Washington Post yesterday. Hotels.com is apparently promoting the opportunity to vacation "Under a Rock," in an isolated cave apartment 50 feet below ground. "After you've cast your ballot (by mail, absentee, early voting, etc.!), you can check out of the news feed negativity and check in to a man-made cave built 50 feet below ground," Hotels.com said in a statement. While the underground dwelling has Wifi and electricity, the listing encourages folks to come and unplug. "We're transforming an age-old idiom into a bookable experience, so individuals can relax, recharge, and recover…because who knows what else 2020 has in store for us," Hotels.com Vice President Josh Belkin said in the statement. Booking starts today at 9 am for Nov. 2 through Nov. 7 and goes to the fastest bidder.

Halloween forever

The Word thanks a reader from Corrales who let us know the village holds a highly successful Trunk or Treat event each year (in response to The Word having never heard of such an event). While Corrales' Trick 'r Trunk has been canceled for this year, we look forward to attending in the future when Halloween festivities—and the rest of life—return. Meanwhile, cousin newsletter The Fork is also hot on the trail of safe Halloween activities to replace potentially unsafe ones and reached out to folks with kids to hear what they had planned this year. Among other initiatives, some Santa Feans are working on what sounds like a neighborhood parade with decorated cars and candy-throwing, while others are actually making their own candy. Check out those ideas and other food-ish related news from near and far in this week's Fork. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday also reiterated the importance of steering clear of virus-spreading Halloween celebrations and directed New Mexicans toward the state's safe Halloween website, which includes tips and ideas.

Sunny, breezy fall weather ahead

Today's forecast looks mostly sunny with a haze-free high temperature near 81 degrees and north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. Sunny all weekend, with a high near 80 degrees on Saturday. After that, temps drop into the mid 70s on Sunday and the mid to low-70s next week.

Thanks for reading! The Word will return on Tuesday, Oct. 13, as Monday is Indigenous Peoples Day. If you're looking for a way to celebrate, consider Indigenous Peoples Day with the Santa Fe Indian Center and the screening of Neither Wolf Nor Dog at the Motorama at the Downs. We've got the deets in this week's SFR Picks.