COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported a record-breaking 1,082 new COVID-19 cases. Bernalillo County led with 260 new cases, followed closely by Doña Ana County with 248 and Luna County with 106. Santa Fe County had 51.

The state also announced three additional deaths from Bernalillo, Grant and Sandoval counties; there have now been 994 fatalities. As of yesterday, 323 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

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.

Hospital leaders warn of pending crisis

New Mexico's latest high COVID-19 case numbers arrived yesterday shortly after Albuquerque and Santa Fe hospital leaders joined Health and Human Services Secretary David Scrase in a virtual webinar to urge New Mexicans to strictly adhere to COVID-safe practices to avoid overwhelming the state's hospitals. "We're at a record number of hospitalizations," Scrase said. "We've never been at a point this high." While the state is meeting its gating criteria for ICU beds statewide, Scrase said officials will be reviewing its criteria of 439 or fewer adult ICU beds available across the state. At that number, according to Presbyterian Healthcare Services' Chief Medical Officer Jason Mitchell, hospitals have to switch to contingency plans and start closing other areas of the hospital. Beyond that number, hospitals enter a crisis level, which can include sharing equipment, training outside providers to run ventilators and other emergency measures. "New Mexico is heading in that direction if it doesn't make changes," Mitchell said. On its current trajectory, the state will exceed its COVID-19 contingency beds in mid-November and its crisis ICU beds in December.

Election officials on high alert as Nov. 3 approaches

As of yesterday, more than 660,000 ballots had already been cast for the Nov. 3 general election. Nonetheless, voting officials expect heavy turnout on Saturday—the final day for early voting—and busy polling places on Tuesday's Election Day. Of those ballots, more than 292,000 were absentee, approximately 76% of the total absentee ballots requested. Calling the cast ballots "far and away a record for any election here in New Mexico," Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, who spoke with journalists yesterday in a pre-election news conference, said New Mexico voters have "gotten the memo. They've gotten out and early voted. But that number is indicative we're going to continue to have heavy turnout in the waning days of the election."

While Toulouse Oliver expressed confidence in New Mexico's procedures and preparations for the upcoming election, she acknowledged officials are on "high alert" in terms of disruptions at polling places, as well as potential legal challenges. "We are on alert for any acts of voter intimidation," she said. "Our poll officials and county clerks are well aware of their responsibilities and duties and keeping a calm and efficient process without threat of intimidation going on at the polling place." Toulouse Oliver also acknowledged the possibility of additional election-related litigation. The state Supreme Court dismissed a challenge by the state GOP over absentee ballots earlier this week, while a 1st Judicial District judge dismissed a second challenge over ballot drop boxes yesterday.

NM restaurants face indoor dining deadline

New Mexico restaurants that wish to continue offering indoor dining at 25% capacity have until today to secure their New Mexico COVID-safe certifications. New Mexico Society of Association Executives Executive Director Jason Espinoza, whose organization manages the certification program, says NMSAE staff and volunteers have been working overtime to get businesses certified. The program, organized through videos and quizzes, transforms the state's guidance on COVID-19 safety practices into training modules. The governor's office says approximately 2,500 restaurants have gone through the process, while New Mexico Restaurant Association CEO Carol Wight says 500 more are going through it now. Approximately 100 Santa Fe restaurants—including several national chains—are listed as certified.

Listen up

We should probably have saved the Dos Spooqueños podcast we mentioned semi-recently for Halloween, but we'll mention it again as a fun one-stop shop for your spooky stories (plus rumor has it a new Halloween-centric episode may drop any moment). Since Halloween has a timeless quality, here's a shout-out to last year's "Let's Talk Ghost Stories" edition from KUNM's Let's Talk New Mexico. The Spooked podcast isn't New Mexico-centric, but New Mexico does make an appearance in Season 1, Episode 9, "Hot Water" ("What's really out there, waiting for you in the dark? Three college girls went camping in New Mexico to relax. What they found will terrify you."). And actually it was so creepy, we couldn't finish listening to it.

We all scream for ice cream

The Word did not personally feel the urge during this week's snowstorm to jump into her car and drive to eat ice cream. But The Word's cousin newsletter The Fork did, and shares the tale of a Homeric journey in just such conditions to the Oasis Ice Cream Shop to procure both a churro sundae and a churro milkshake. It sounds as though the sundae and milkshake were nectar for the gods, and we plan to consume both as soon as the sun rises. This week's Fork also has the lowdown on the new dumpling house on Second Street, the skinny on the Gyro Shack's plans to open shop here, rumors of what's going to replace beloved Il Piatto on Marcy Street and, just in time for Halloween, intel on where you can procure candy apples. Not to mention lots of other consumable news on comestibles.

Trick or write?

If you're at loose ends this weekend, what with the lack of costume parties; trick or treaters; or human/supernatural contact, it might be a good time to settle down and finish that essay/story/poem you've been gnashing your teeth over for the last month/six months/10 years. The weekend brings deadlines for two writing contests. SFR's own annual contest requires submissions by midnight on Halloween (write by the full moon! See below for lunar details). Our fiction category focuses on change and our nonfiction category asks for musings on dread and anxiety. Piece of cake. You'll find details on entering and the prizes here. Santa Fe Community College's annual call for entries to its Literary Review ends Sunday, and also is open for poetry and screenplays. This year's theme is "tapestry," exploring "diversity, culture and common ground." You'll find submission info right here.

Once in a blue moon

Today's forecast calls for a sunny day with a high near 57 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. The weekend also will be sunny and dry, with a high near 63 degrees on Saturday and back in the high 50s on Sunday. But don't let the quotidian weather report fool you. Halloween night also will include a full moon and reportedly full moons on Halloween are rare and we won't see another for at least 20 years. But that's not all. That full moon will actually be a blue moon (not actually blue, but the second full moon of the month, a rare occurrence known as a "blue moon," which only happens every 2 1/2 to 3 years). Saturday night also marks the end of Daylight Savings Time. As CNN so objectively puts it, "this week is a kind of Hell Week."

Thanks for reading! The Word read this entire story about how to pair cheese with Halloween candy and found it both gross and tempting.