COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 2,259 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 84,148. Bernalillo County had 748 new cases, followed by Santa Fe County with 219 cases and Doña Ana County with 202. Santa Fe County's 87507 ZIP code—essentially the southside of town—had the second highest number of new cases in the state and more than half the new cases in the county yesterday: 111.
The state also announced 17 additional deaths, including a woman in her 70s from Santa Fe County who had been hospitalized; there have now been 27 deaths here and 1,400 fatalities statewide. As of yesterday, 846 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
NM offers new COVID-19 test
The state health department yesterday began offering a new kind of COVID-19 test: an FDA-approved saliva test from the California-based company Curative that requires mouth versus nasal swabs and can be performed by oneself (personnel will be present to ensure the samples are collected properly). New Mexicans must register for these tests, which currently are being offered at Albuquerque's Balloon Fiesta Park. A health department spokesman tells SFR the department is working on setting up six additional sites, the locations for which will be based on positivity rates and demand (testing locations are updated in real time). With expanded daily testing, the state has had a slowdown in reporting results and will now start reporting both negative and positive test results by email and text (previously, only negative results were reported this way and people who tested positive received a phone call). Health officials are asking people to use valid email and cell phone information when they register for a test on the cv.nmhealth.org website, to respond to any calls from the department and to quarantine at home while they await results.
Legislature meets for COVID-relief agenda
The state Legislature convenes at 11 am today for a special session focused on a COVID-19 relief package. In her "call" designating priorities yesterday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she wants lawmakers to approve: $194 million in direct unemployment assistance; $100 million toward a grant program for New Mexico-owned small businesses; $15 million to provide for emergency housing assistance; $5 million for emergency food bank services; and $5 million for direct economic assistance to low-income residents who did not receive an "economic impact payment" from the federal government (in the form of a one-time $750 disbursement per household). "New Mexicans are hurting, and without more federal economic relief in sight we have to take action now," Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said in a statement. Fellow Democrat from Santa Fe and Speaker of the House Brian Egolf said "the relief we pass this special session will go directly to hardworking families struggling to keep their children fed, a roof over their heads, and the heat and bills paid." Democrats hold majorities in both legislative chambers, and Egolf said he hopes the legislation passes in one day. As of Friday, Republican lawmakers had appeared to support the aid relief as well, but yesterday some criticized the package. Floor sessions will livestream here.
Netflix announces NM expansion
Netflix and New Mexico government leaders yesterday announced the company will expand its production facilities and spending here. Specifically, Netflix will add 300 acres to its ABQ Studios space in Albuquerque's Mesa Del Sol area, and spend an additional $1 billion in production, adding up to 10 new stages, post-production services, production offices and more. The state Economic Development Department says the investment will create an estimated 1,000 production jobs in New Mexico over the next decade, as well as 1,467 construction jobs. The State of New Mexico will provide up to $17 million in LEDA funding, while the City of Albuquerque will commit up to $7 million, including $6 million in infrastructure in-kind. The city will issue an Industrial Revenue Bond to partially abate property and other taxes. Yesterday, the Albuquerque Development Commission signed off on the proposal, which still requires pending City Council approval. "I am glad Netflix has chosen to double-down on its commitment to our state, and our partnership will continue to grow for the benefit of New Mexicans across the board," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement.
Over the weekend, at the Senate Democratic Caucus meeting, state Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, was chosen as the Democratic nominee for Senate president pro tem, and state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque was elected Democratic whip. On its most recent episode, KUNM's Women's Focus spoke with Stewart, Lopez and former state senator Dede Feldman about changes in the New Mexico Legislature.
Green chile forever
Earlier this fall, Albuquerque native and pastry chef Eric See opened Ursula cafe in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, which he named after his New Mexican grandmother. New Yorker writer Hannah Goldfield visits Ursula as she reminisces about eating New Mexican food in New Mexico. See's menu doesn't disappoint, she writes, noting that "the concert of scrambled egg, bacon, shredded hash browns, Cheddar cheese, and green Hatch [chile], wrapped tightly in a flour tortilla and lightly griddled is so obviously a cure for a hangover that it inspired in me a perverse desire to be nursing one." (Preach). See's Hatch chile is the real deal: His mother peeled and chopped 75 pounds of fresh chiles and sent them to him in a plastic bag (of course). When that runs out, he'll switch to Zia Hatch Chile Company's offerings, a company based in Brooklyn as well, but started by—you guessed it—a Santa Fe transplant.
The invisible menace
Turns out methane isn't just bad for air quality: It's also devastating for birds. In a recent story on the invisible menace, National Geographic magazine reports on how birds are flying into the invisible flames generated when waste facilities dispose of methane gas by burning it off. The story opens at the New Mexico Wildlife Center in Española, and a red-tailed hawk with badly burned feathers and a scorched chest and head. "It kind of looked like it ran through fire," wildlife rehabilitator Hilary DeVries says. What at first seemed as though it might be an injury from a power line was revealed to be the result of so-called "methane flaring." Birds, primarily raptors, suffering from such burns, is apparently a widespread but, as of yet, undocumented problem.
Wet and windy
If you happened to be awake before the sun rose today, yes, that was thunder you heard. More may follow. Today's forecast calls for a 40% chance of rain and snow showers before 11 am, followed by a slight chance of rain showers. Otherwise, it will be partly sunny with a high near 44 degrees and southwest wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph. It may snow, but with no accumulation expected.