COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 827 new COVID-19 cases—a new record high—bringing the statewide total so far to 38,715. Bernalillo County had 292 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 172. Santa Fe County had the third highest number of new cases statewide and also a record number of new cases: 64.

The Public Education Department reported 21 new cases in public schools in 10 counties: eight students and 13 staff members, including one in Santa Fe County.

The state also announced eight additional deaths, including the 13th from Santa Fe County, as well as deaths from Bernalillo, Chaves, Curry, Doña Ana, Luna and Sandoval counties; there have now been 950 fatalities. As of yesterday, 202 people were hospitalized with COVID-19—three fewer than the day prior.

Today at 1 pm, Human Services Secretary David Scrase and TriCore Reference Laboratories Medical Infectious Diseases Medical Director Karissa Culbreath will provide updates on the state's gating criteria and COVID-19 modeling, which will livestream on New Mexico Human Services Department's Facebook page.

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.

Something to sing about

The Santa Fe Opera announced yesterday its plans for a COVID-safe 2021 season, including a slightly reduced lineup of four versus five operas: A new production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro; the world premiere of John Corigliano and Mark Adamo's The Lord of Cries; a new production of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin; and a new production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream. In a livestreamed announcement, General Director Robert K. Meya said the opera's plans for next summer are being made in consultation with the governor and public health experts. "The pandemic has been tragic and it's not over yet," he said. "But after everything we have lived through this past year, the arts and in particular the experience of live music, will be more important than ever before." According to a news release, the company has created a re-opening advisory group that will review all the protocols for next summer to ensure they "are based on the latest science and recommendations from public health officials." New procedures will include a ticketless entry system and staggered arrivals for audience members.

Election countdown

With the Nov. 3 general election now just 12 days away, approximately 382,000 New Mexicans have cast their ballots. That's about 29% of registered voters. Early voting continues through Oct. 31: noon to 8 pm Tuesday through Fridays and 10 am to 6 pm Saturdays at these early-voting sites in Santa Fe County. Early voting at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center takes place from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. Voters can check the status of their absentee ballots here. Need help with that absentee ballot? Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver offers a tutorial on filling them out. Meanwhile, voters got last looks at the candidates for the state's open US Senate seat last night. US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-NM, and former television meteorologist Mark Ronchetti faced off in a third and final TV debate. Libertarian Bob Walsh was disqualified by KOAT from participating due to lack of campaign funds and polling positions. Regarding campaign funds, Ronchetti outraised Luján in a recent campaign reporting period, although overall Luján has raised more money: more than $8 million versus approximately $3.2 million.

Avangrid acquires PNM

PNM Resources—the parent company for Public Service Company of New Mexico—will be merging with Connecticut-based Avangrid, Inc. Specifically, Avangrid will be purchasing PNM and its assets for $4.3 billion. PNM is the state's largest electricity provider; the parent company also owns Texas New Mexico Power. Avangrid operates in 24 US states; the majority of its stock is owned by the global energy company the Iberdrola Group. Both public companies' board of directors approved the sale. "This is a friendly transaction, focused on regulated businesses and renewables in highly rated states with legal and regulatory stability and predictability offering future growth opportunities," Ignacio Galán, Avangrid and Iberdrola Group chairman said in a news release. PNM Resources Chairman, President and CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn's statement noted that the "combined companies provide greater opportunities to invest in the infrastructure and new technologies that will help us navigate our transition to clean energy while maintaining our commitments to our local teams and communities."

Listen up

Two episodes in, the Sko Vote Den mini-series podcast provides an illuminating look into the voting issues faced in Indian Country and the unique barriers Native Americans encounter in the electoral system. Produced by NDN Collective and hosted by Creative Director Jade Begay (Diné and Tesuque Pueblo), the podcast interviews organizers, elders, journalists and policy experts to delve into complex issues surrounding its topic. Guests so far have included Cherokee writer Rebecca Nagle and writer, activist and analyst Julian Brave NoiseCat (Secwepemc and St'at'imc).

Buffoons on Vimeo

Theater Grottesco's The King Without a Kingdom opens at 6 pm tonight for free via Vimeo On Demand and runs through Oct. 25, with nightly talkbacks for audience members. Artistic Director John Flax tells SFR the show is "working in the style of buffoonery…a little-known western style that even pre-dates commedia dell'arte." Some approaches shifted with the transition to virtual space, but the performance remains a new fairy tale told by five buffoons. Buffoons, you say? "We like to deal with metaphor and ambiguity," Flax says, "but I guess we can admit it…it is indeed based on our president."

Close encounters

Looking for a scary read this Halloween season? The New York Times showcases what it says are the most hair-raising novels for each state. For New Mexico: Magestic by Whitley Strieber, which the Times describes as a "historical thriller" that "imagines the purported 1947 crash of a U.F.O. in Roswell," taken from real-life interviews and research (side note: We think the Times is obsessed with Roswell, but maybe everyone else is too). Strieber's 1989 novel almost made NPR's 100 best horror novel list a few years back as well, but those judges instead opted for his nonfiction book on the same topic: Communion. And if reading these inspires you to report your own close encounters, Strieber's website allows you to do so.

Fall about

Like yesterday, today will be sunny with a high near 75 degrees and north wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the morning. Snow, rain and combinations therein remains on tap for Sunday heading into Monday! Isn't October grand?

Thanks for reading! The Word's new favorite procrastination tool is keeping an eye out for polar bears.