COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials reported 1,684 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, bringing the statewide total so far to 97,095. Bernalillo County had 596 new cases, followed by San Juan County with 136 new cases and Doña Ana County with 131. Santa Fe County had 106 new cases.

The state also announced 28 additional deaths, including a woman in her 80s from Santa Fe County. There have now been 1,568 fatalities.

During a live remote conference yesterday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham explained the state's new red-to-green framework. As counties move through the three tiers of restrictions—red, yellow and green—businesses are allowed to serve more customers and groups are permitted to get larger. Health officials expect to update color-coded maps every two weeks.

Los Alamos County is the only of the state's 33 counties currently listed as yellow. The rest are red, including Santa Fe. The red tier signifies that over the past 14 days, the new case incident rate is greater than 8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and an average percent of positive COVID-19 test results is greater than 5%.

The red tier allows restaurants to serve patrons in outdoor dining at limited capacity. Salons and gyms can also re-open at 25% capacity or 10 customers at one time, whichever is less.

You can read all of SFR's COVID-19 coverage here. If you've had experiences with COVID-19, we would like to hear from you.

Hospitals nearly overwhelmed 

Hospitals are filled to the brim and still bracing for a new onslaught of COVID-19 cases after Thanksgiving, according to medical professionals, The New Mexican reported yesterday. "Our hospital is full and we are very close to running out of ICU beds and regular beds," said Dr. Rohini McKee, University of New Mexico Hospital's chief quality and safety officer. "Given the numbers we've seen over the past few weeks our health care system is going to be overwhelmed. But our behaviors will determine how long that system is going to be overwhelmed." Jason Mitchell, Presbyterian Health Care Services' chief medical care officer, said the company's nine hospitals are operating at about 110% of capacity.

Navajo Nation could extend junk food tax

Lawmakers on the Navajo Nation are considering a bill to extend a 2% sales tax on unhealthy food and beverages sold on the reservation, the Daily Times in Farmington reported. Delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty said the tax has generated more than $7.5 million over the past few years. It is meant to fund things like wellness centers and walking trails in tribal communities in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The bill expands on what would be subject to the tax going forward, including chips, candy, energy drinks and sweetened beverages.

Contactless Christmas collecting

Christmas tree cutting permits, as well as permits to gather sand for filling luminarias, are all online this year from the State Land Office. Permit applications, maps, directions and other information are available on the agency's website. There are seven areas around the state available for sand gathering. Christmas tree cutting with a permit will be allowed on trust land east of Black Lake and south of Angel Fire. Permit applications and payments must be received no later than Dec. 16. They'll be valid through Dec. 25. Christmas tree permits can also be purchased online for the Santa Fe National Forest or by calling forest headquarters or any of the SFNF district offices.

Listen up

Yesterday the Word featured an SFR-led panel at the 2020 Journalism Under Fire conference, hosted by the Santa Fe Council on International Relations. There's so much good programming in this year's conference that we wanted to offer another one: a panel called Pop up Talk on Biden's National Security Cabinet, with former ambassador Vicki Huddleston and Mark Asquino, who take listeners on a tour of the selections President-elect Joe Biden has made in staffing his national security cabinet. Watch all the conference presentations for free on the council's YouTube page.

Drive-by farolitos

Just like the Plaza lighting was a drive-by event this year, the traditional Farolito Walk on Christmas Eve will likely face the same fate. "We're looking into the feasibility of doing something similar on Canyon Road," said Kristine Mihelcic, spokeswoman for the city, during a virtual news conference held by Mayor Alan Webber on Monday. But nothing is set in stone. There's still the possibility that the event could not happen at all.

Another hotel to affordable housing

Utah-based PEG Companies bought the Residence Inn near Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in September 2018 with a plan to turn it into affordable housing while building a new Residence Inn in another location. But because of COVID-19, the company says it might convert the existing Residence Inn into affordable housing without building a new hotel first. "Once COVID hit, the hospitality world hit a major speed bump," said Soren Halladay, PEG's chief investment officer. "It completely changed our viewpoint. Being able to build a hotel went from being really good to completely over."

Very sunny, fairly cold

No chance of clouds today in Santa Fe. It will be sunny with a high near 48 degrees, complete with a west wind 5 to 10 mph increasing to 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph! Tonight will be mostly clear, with a low around 19, which is really freaking cold.

Thanks for reading! The Word is a single insomniac so binging podcasts is a favorite pastime all night. If you're a true crime junkie, listen to the limited series The Dating Game Killer. The series has cheesy hosts but the content is so compelling it doesn't matter. The episodes investigate the case of Rodney Alcala, a prolific serial killer in the middle of a cross-country murder spree in the 1970s who hid in plain sight as a typesetter at the Los Angeles Times