COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 669 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 39,377. Today's new cases follow the record-setting 827 cases the day prior.

Bernalillo County had 185 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 97 and Sandoval County with 53. Santa Fe County had 17, far lower than the record-breaking 64 cases it had on Wednesday.

The Public Education Department reported 25 new positive cases yesterday over the prior 24 hours from public schools in 14 counties: 18 staff and seven students.

The state also announced three additional deaths from Bernalillo, Doña Ana and Eddy counties; there have now been 953 fatalities. As of yesterday, 213 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

The state environment department reported 71 businesses with two or more rapid responses within the last 14 days, including five in Santa Fe County: Guy's Painting Co., Maria's New Mexican Kitchen, Paseo del Sol Apartments, Smith's and Whole Foods.

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.

State prepares for hospital surges, expanded testing

Calling New Mexico's shrinking hospital capacity levels a "crisis situation," Human Services Secretary David Scrase said yesterday during a COVID-19 news update that Albuquerque hospitals are moving into Phase 2 and/or 3 surge plans, with some facilities beginning to limit elective surgeries that require inpatient stays. "Having Albuquerque being completely full is a significant handicap for the state," he said. Scrase's webinar presentation also provided updates on the state's testing strategy, with additional information provided by TriCore Reference Laboratories Medical Infectious Diseases Medical Director Karissa Culbreath. Of note, TriCore has begun to perform pool testing at a small level and hopes to continue doing so to maximize testing resources. With pool testing, samples are tested together and, when the pool tests negative, all of the results are reported as negative. If the pool tests positive, then each sample is retested to find out which one was positive.

Santa Fe National Forest re-institutes restrictions

The Santa Fe National Forest once again goes into Stage 1 restrictions today to reduce the possibility of human-caused wildfire, given what fire managers characterize in a recent news release as "historically low fuel moisture levels and very high fire danger." Among other rules, Stage 1 restrictions require any fires, campfires and charcoal grills, as well as coal and wood stoves, are used only in Forest Service-built fire rings or grills provided for use at developed campgrounds and picnic areas. Violations are punishable as a Class B misdemeanor by a fine of not more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations and/or by imprisonment for not more than six months. Fire prevention and law enforcement will be patrolling and the restrictions will be in place through the end of the year, unless rescinded. The Carson National Forest also implements Stage 1 restrictions today, which a news release says will allow fire managers to focus resources on the Luna Fire. The fire near Taos began Oct. 17, is zero percent contained and has so far burned more than 10,000 acres.

What happens in Roswell

The New Mexico Military Institute in Roswell is now under quarantine following positive COVID-19 tests for 60 cadets and two staff members. The quarantine is expected to last until Oct. 29. According to information on NMMI's website, only cadets from New Mexico will be allowed to return to their homes for quarantine.The school's online tracker reports 92 cases at the school since July.

In more cheerful Roswell-related news, the television show Roswell, New Mexico returns to the state to film its third season, with filming taking place now through April 2021 in Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Albuquerque and Madrid (sorry…Roswell). The production will employ approximately 275 New Mexico crew members and 2,200 New Mexico background and extras, according to a news release. Roswell, New Mexico is based on the Roswell High book series, written by Melinda Metz. Plot: "After reluctantly returning to her hometown of Roswell, New Mexico, the daughter of undocumented immigrants discovers a shocking truth about her teenage crush, who is now a police officer: He's an alien who has kept his unearthly abilities hidden his entire life." As one does.

Listen up

Ready to catch up on New Mexico's congressional races? New Mexico PBS has you covered with streaming videos of debates in the races for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts, as well as New Mexico's open US Senate seat. You can learn more about the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, which makes recommendations for judicial retention, from a recent KUNM interview with JPEC vice chairman and retired district judge Jim Hall. Plus: Hear from voters as we head toward the election in KUNM's Voices behind the Vote seriesthe most recent interview in that series is writer Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, who reflects on historical trauma and healing in this week's SFR.

Hemp for all

New Mexico's hemp industry has been poised for expansion pretty much since the 2018 federal Farm Bill legalized cultivation of certain cannabis plants. While hemp farmers are putting in the work, federal and state regulations continue to hamper what could be a booming industry for New Mexico. This week's SFR cover story "Hempire" examines those issues and gets up close and personal with some of the farmers cultivating the crop, such as Santa Fe Farms owners Cole Daeschel and Gary Chavez, who have been working nonstop for the better part of two years. "People call it grassroots," says Chavez, "but it's more that it built into something that we had both aspired to, but shied away from because of the risk involved."

Nauman’s new work

A new Bruce Nauman exhibition at Sperone Westwater Gallery in New York includes a new digital artwork, which is activated by an iPad touchscreen and projected at high resolution on a gallery wall, providing what the New York Times describes as "forensic detail" of the artist's studio in New Mexico. Nauman, 78, has been the subject of a recent retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art and a current exhibition at the Tate Modern in London, but the new exhibit, as described, shows "he is not done with trying new things indoors." The digital work allows for interactive examination of Nauman's studio, which is "a bit of a mess, frankly," Times writer Jason Farago notes. "With a pinch or a swipe you can see Mr. Nauman's morning coffee on a swivel chair, step ladders, power tools, a cluttered trestle table, leftover fiberglass casts. Zoom close enough and you'll find Easter egg-like surprises; I got a kick out of discovering a dusty old copy of a horse magazine, lying forgotten on a plastic tub."

Dig out the snow boots

OK, here we go. Weather! Today will be sunny, but the high is only expected to reach around 67 degrees. More wind: easterly at 10 to 20 mph becoming south in the afternoon. Tiny bit warmer on Saturday—71 degrees—still windy, perhaps with 30 mph gusts (yuck). Sunday will be cloudy with a high near 69 degrees and, after midnight, an 80% chance of showers. Calls for snow on Monday with ongoing precipitation straight on until Wednesday.

Thanks for reading! The Word probably wouldn't wear these artist-designed masks exhibited at Vicki Myhren Gallery at the University of Denver, but enjoyed looking at them.