COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 355 new cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 33,713. Bernalillo County led with new cases again: 121 of them, followed by Doña Ana County with 50 and Santa Fe County with 41, the third most cases statewide.
The state also announced three more deaths from Bernalillo and Curry counties; there have now been 918 fatalities. As of yesterday, 125 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Gov announces public health order rollbacks
With COVID-19 case counts continuing to rise across New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced yesterday the state will be extending and amending the public health order that expires Oct. 16 with additional restrictions for restaurant operating hours, lodging occupancy, quarantine rules for travelers and mass gatherings. Moreover, absent an improvement in the state's gating criteria, the state will also once again restrict indoor dining service and significantly roll back maximum occupancy at other retail and dining establishments. The governor and other public officials are expected to discuss changes to the public health order at the weekly COVID-19 update on Oct. 15. "When the community spread of the virus becomes uncontrollable—and we are fast approaching that point—our only option is to simply shut down those opportunities for the virus," the governor said in a statement.
Mayor and police defend lack of obelisk defense
Following Monday's destruction of the obelisk on the Plaza, Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and Police Chief Andrew Padilla say officers made the right decision to withdraw. Webber and Padilla delivered remarks yesterday during a pre-scripted video presentation streamed on the city's Youtube page. According to Padilla, the on-duty commander ordered officers to stand down Monday following a scuffle with protesters that ended with two arrests after, according to police, protesters tackled two officers to the ground (SFPD has not yet provided arrest reports or lapel cam video as requested by SFR). "I stand by that commander's decision and it is the right decision," Padilla said, noting the department was following policies that value "preservation of life over property." SFPD ultimately arrested Sean Sunderland, 24, and Dylan Wrobel, 27, both of whom were arraigned and released from jail yesterday on $2,500 bonds. SFPD, along with other law enforcement agencies, continue to seek information on people responsible for toppling the obelisk. Meanwhile, Webber intends to push forward to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which he had proposed prior to the obelisk protest on Indigenous Peoples Day. Construction on the obelisk began in 1866. In part, it memorializes the state's fight against confederate soldiers during the Civil War; it has been a focus of tension for decades as it also codified the racism and violence perpetrated against Native Americans.
Judge rules against state on medical marijuana requirements
District Judge Matthew Wilson ruled yesterday that 323 people with out-of-state medical marijuana cards are allowed to purchase said marijuana in New Mexico. Wilson's decision upends an emergency rule the health department adopted in September that required patients with out-of-state cards to provide additional information not required under the state's reciprocity law. Medical cannabis company Ultra Health challenged the new rules, saying the state had overstepped its authority. Indeed, Wilson concurred the health department's reasoning for placing additional burdens on people with out-of-state medical marijuana cards was inadequate and, therefore, unenforceable.
Major props to Turquoise Trail Elementary school and Interim Head Administrator Chris Eide, who decided to take a challenging year for students, teachers and staff and launch a smart and illuminating podcast about it. The Hypothesis goes behind the scenes at the state's oldest and fourth largest charter school—which educates preK through 8th graders—as teachers and administrators grapple "with how to walk the fine line between public health and public policy during an historic moment in time." In the fourth and most recent episode, "The Math of a Classroom," Facilities Manager Peter Nguyen and Director of Operations Danielle Garcia discuss the math and economics of making the physical classroom space safe.
Out of the box sculpture
Speaking of the Turquoise Trail, SFR book columnist Molly Boyle penned a feature for New Mexico Magazine this month on artist Kevin Box, whose origami-inspired outdoor sculptures can be found at the Turquoise Trail Sculpture Garden and Studio, a 3-acre art center, foundry and home Box and his wife Jennifer built a few miles north of Los Cerrillos. Eight of Box's sculptures—captured in photographs by Steven St. John in the story—can be found throughout the state in outdoor public spaces (you may have caught his "Origami in the Garden" at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden back in 2014). Boyle's piece discusses both Box's origami inspiration, as well as his process of moving from folded paper to cast metal, which he describes wryly as: "a very simple 35-step, 12-week process."
Epstein NM rumors debunked
Poynter Institute's PolitiFact initiative—which fact-checks various headlines and social media posts for veracity—homed in on a New Mexico rumor yesterday and debunked it: "No, Jeffrey Epstein isn't hiding out in New Mexico." Poynter—a nationally recognized journalism think tank and training organization—jumped into the Epstein rumor mill in response to a recent Facebook video from ABQ RAW. We won't ruin it for you, but in brief: the filmmaker went to Epstein's ranch in Stanley where, apparently, ABQ RAW spotted Epstein: "Did Jeffrey Epstein kill himself? It may be completely possible that he has ridden off in the New Mexico sunset," says the narrator. No, not possible, says PolitiFact writer Ciara O'Rourke, who found nothing to corroborate the claim.
The wind returns
Today's forecast calls for yet another sunny day with a high near 80 degrees. For variety, a "breezy" west wind at 10 to 15 mph will increase to 20 to 25 mph in the afternoon and could gust as high as 35 mph.
Thanks for reading! Along with everyone else yesterday, the Word watched this viral video of a Utah hiker being chased by a cougar (warning, said hiker curses a lot, even by the Word's lax standards). However, please do also read this Twitter thread that makes it clear the cougar wasn't stalking this guy—she just wanted to get him away from her kittens.