COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials over the weekend reported 1,025 additional COVID-19 cases: 577 on Saturday and 448 on Sunday. There have now been a total of 36,788 cases, 19,894 of which the health department has designated as recovered. On Friday, the state reported its third-day of record high cases with 819 new ones.
Bernalillo County added 342 new cases over the weekend, followed by Doña Ana County at 166. Santa Fe County had 56 new cases, 28 on each day of the weekend. Santa Fe County has now had 1,368 cases; the health department has designated 750 of those as recovered.
The state also announced six additional deaths—one on Saturday and five on Sunday—including the ninth for Santa Fe County. There have now been 934 fatalities.
As of yesterday, 171 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
US Senate candidates debate
Last night, candidates for the US Senate seat currently held by outgoing New Mexico Democrat Tom Udall discussed health care, climate change and social justice, among other issues, in a debate hosted by New Mexico PBS and moderated by New Mexico In Focus host Gene Grant. All three candidates—Democrat US Rep. Ben Ray Luján, Republican Mark Ronchetti and Libertarian Bob Walsh—appeared in the debate, but only Ronchetti appeared in studio with Grant, while Luján and Walsh participated virtually because of COVID-19. The issues covered in the evening's questions, Grant said, were derived in partnership with community partners New Mexico Black Voters Collaborative and New Mexico Native Vote, as part of New Mexico PBS' "Citizens' Agenda," the station says it created "to engage our traditional audiences in new ways" and "ensure our election coverage is more representative and inclusive." The agenda was created, the station writes, because "elections have largely become an exercise in separating voters into polarizing camps instead of inspiring collaboration and unity."
The Republican and Democratic parties respectively declared their candidate the winner of the debate upon its conclusion. Paige Lindgren, deputy press secretary for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, live Tweeted the event before sending an email that said the debate highlighted Luján's "record of ineffectiveness and his loyalty to his Democratic Party leaders in Washington—not New Mexicans." Meanwhile, in numerous news releases last night, the Democratic Party called out Ronchetti for his stances on climate change, social justice and the COVID-19 relief package, saying: "It's clear that while Mark Ronchetti continues to lie to voters, Ben Ray Luján can be trusted to lead us forward."
ERB agrees to divest from private prisons
The New Mexico Educational Retirement Board voted on Friday to divest from private prisons, following more than a year of lobbying by the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, teachers and activists. Now, a "larger examination" of the board's policies on investment and divestment is in the works to bring a "more comprehensive policy with positions on [environmental, social and corporate governance factor issues]" at one of the future board meetings, according to Board Chair Steven Gluckstern, who voted against the divestment in the 4-2 decision. "We're thrilled…It's taken a ton to get them to move but it's a huge step in the right direction," Sylvia Johnson, director of communications and outreach for the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, said. "I know people on the board said it doesn't have an impact on the larger prison system but I think it does. The next step is we're going to be bringing a bill to ban private prisons to the Legislature in January."
Obelisk fallout continues
Retired state police officer Mike Bowen resigned from the City of Santa Fe's Public Safety Committee last week in protest over city police's decision to withdraw from the protests that led to the dismantling of the Plaza obelisk. "Police don't run Mr. Mayor," Bowen wrote in his resignation letter. Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber acknowledges criticism he moved too slowly in creating some type of commission to address the long-standing controversy over the obelisk—considered by some as monuments to racism and colonialism—and says he will move swiftly now. The Albuquerque Journal details the obelisk's history of controversy in a long-form story that traces calls for its removal to 1973, when the City Council unanimously agreed to do just that. City Councilor Signe Lindell says she suspects the city will end up hosting some type of competition to replace the obelisk.
French 17th century philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal once noted that the heart has its reasons, which reason does not know (but in French, so it sounded better). Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Karissa Sanbonmatsu, a team leader in LANL's Theoretical Biology and Biophysics group, will also probe the heart (presumably less philosophically) with her Science on Tap virtual talk: "Secrets of the heart: imaging the dark matter of the genome," this evening from 5:30–7 pm. More info and a registration link here and you can grab a quick sneak preview of the subject material here.
Early voting underway
Early voting kicked off in full swing over the weekend, with 175 voters already lined up and ready by the time the Santa Fe County Fair building opened at 10 am on Saturday. Early voting continues through Saturday, Oct. 31 for the Nov. 3 general election. More than 180,000 ballots have been cast statewide, according to the Secretary of State's office. As of Friday, Democrats accounted for nearly 55% of the tally, with a strong tendency toward voting by absentee ballot. Here's a list of all the Santa Fe County early-voting sites, which are open from noon to 8 pm Tuesday through Friday and on Saturdays from 10 am to 6 pm. If you want to vote today, the Santa Fe Community Convention Center is open from 8 am to 5 pm. Meanwhile, ICYMI, Axle Contemporary took over SFR's Instagram over the weekend with its Be Counted initiative, sharing voting art, all of which is available for download, sharing and yard signs here.
United stashed planes in Roswell
If you've been wondering where United Airlines put its planes when the COVID-19 pandemic halted air travel last spring (we actually had not given this one moment's thought), the answer is: Roswell. That's at least where the company stored 150 of them, the New York Times reports (with the requisite UFO reference), because the dry air is good for long-term aircraft storage. United has brought back approximately the same number of planes since July, but continues to keep 450 or so "stashed away." Stashing away a plane is apparently more complicated than it sounds—scientifically speaking. "If you have an aircraft that maybe is less likely to come back soon, you kind of want it at the back of the parking lot," United Senior Vice President for Technical Operations Tom Doxey tells the Times. "It goes into prolonged storage and it probably goes to a desert location." Both United and American have added some Dallas and Denver flights at the Santa Fe Airport, and both airlines furloughed more than 32,000 employees earlier this month.
Today looks sunny with a high near 78 degrees and north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. The rest of the week—at least until Thursday—would appear to be more of the same.
Thanks for reading! The Word can imagine no circumstances under which she'd open a restaurant for a chipmunk, but she's glad someone did because the photos are awfully cute.