COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 2,330 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 99,419, of which the health department has designated 33,458 as recovered.
Bernalillo County led with 895 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 198. Santa Fe County had 181 new cases, 95 from the 87507 ZIP code, listed third on the state's top 10 with the most new cases.
The state also announced 21 additional deaths; there have now been 1,589 fatalities. As of yesterday, 909 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, approximately 4% more than a week ago, when 871 people were hospitalized.
New Mexico transitions today to a new county-level framework for restrictions. Counties with test positivity rates at 5% or lower and average daily cases of 8 or fewer per 100,000 will be considered green and have the most expansive options for businesses and gatherings. Counties meeting one of those criteria will be yellow. Counties meeting neither will be red and the most restricted. Currently, every county is red, with the exception of Los Alamos County, which has a test positivity rate below 5% and is therefore yellow. Santa Fe County currently has a test positivity rate of 15% and a case rate of 87.70 per 100,000.
Santa Fe re-ups health protocols, approves spending
Yesterday, Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber signed an emergency proclamation extending existing pandemic health restrictions in Santa Fe and adding a few, such as: gatherings of five or more people or 10 or more vehicles; and entering city facilities or using city services without a face mask (the proclamation directs city staff to find alternatives for people unable to wear masks due to health conditions). The proclamation also notes city employees may be required to have regular COVID-19 tests should the city enter into an agreement with the state designed to avoid mandatory closures (the state recently proffered such agreements to essential businesses). The city's sports courts, playground equipment and athletic fields remain closed. The Santa Fe City Council approved a 60-day extension of the emergency resolution last night, and also signed off on a request for City Manager Jarel LaPan Hill to spend $3 million CARES Act funds on direct help to struggling residents. The city has to spend its CARES dollars by the end of the month, but grassroots organizers say cumbersome eligibility requirements and language barriers have make these funds difficult to access for many people in need.
Kicking off qualified immunity debate
New Mexico lawmakers on the Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee yesterday kicked off what is likely to be the first of many debates over a proposed New Mexico Civil Rights Act. A newly created Civil Rights Commission drafted the measure as part of its work over the summer to evaluate eliminating "qualified immunity" as a defense for law enforcement agents—and other public officials—accused of wrongdoing. However, not all members of the new commission support the proposed law: Former Belen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez says it will increase government costs, drive officers away from the profession and fail to help victims as intended. House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, however, says the law would still require alleged victims of police misconduct to prove their cases in court. "Getting rid of qualified immunity doesn't throw the doors open to anyone who wants to get a big check from the government," he said. The committee did not take action on the proposal, which is expected to be introduced in next year's legislative session.
SITE head resigns
Contemporary museum SITE Santa Fe announced yesterday its longtime Phillips Director and Chief Curator Irene Hofmann will step down in January after a decade with the museum. The news follows SITE's 25th anniversary celebration last month. "It's a big change, and I guess it's sad to step away from an institution I've really loved, but it's also a moment of opportunity—it's a lot of emotions," Hofmann tells SFR. Hofmann's tenure included the 2016 renovations to SITE's building, as well as a revisioning of SITE's biennial exhibitions to focus on contemporary art and cultural production in the Americas, a vision described as "radical" by Candice Hopkins, who co-curated Unsettled Landscapes as part of that vision in 2014. "She wanted to situate Santa Fe at the crossroads of the Americas, to create a biennial that traced contemporary practices from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego, radically refiguring understandings of art history in the United States. To do this was risky. It took careful planning and good leadership." SITE's Director of Finance and Administration Clara Samayoa will serve as interim director until a new director is hired.
If you're Dave DeWitt, you know how to keep it spicy. DeWitt, widely considered one of the foremost experts on New Mexico's favorite crop, spoke recently about his newest book, Chile Peppers: A Global History, Travels with the Fiery Plant That Changed the World with KSFR's MK Mendoza on "Wake Up Call." In addition to his most recent book, DeWitt authored Precious Cargo: How Foods from the Americas Changed the World, which won the IACP award for best culinary history. He is also the producer of the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show in Albuquerque, as well as the founder of the Scovie Awards, which recognize the best fiery foods and barbecue products in the world. Hey, when you're hot, you're hot.
Mini modern love
Despite all the early puns and at least one television show we may or may not have seen (Love in the Time of Corona), the COVID-19 pandemic has been long on sad stories and short on romantic ones. However, traveling nurse Jacqueline McMahon's story of falling in love with a fellow traveling nurse when both landed in New Mexico was featured recently in the New York Times' Tiny Love Stories series and is both poignant and stirring: "With our faces covered, we could only see each other's eyes," McMahon writes. "I didn't see his hidden smile for weeks. When I did, it felt like seeing weeks of masked smiles in an instant. His face, once unknown, soon became home. His heart, a remedy for uncertainty." And speaking of love, New Mexico and the Times, New Mexico Poet Laureate Levi Romero recently paid tribute to our beautiful state in his poem, "We Are Thankful," published as part of a NYT's series in which poet laureates across the US shared "what the people in their states had to be thankful for in this difficult year."
The New Mexico Film Office is launching a new program geared at training people in the field of intimacy coordination for film and television productions. The program, a 16-week online training course, launches Feb. 7, but is preceded by a virtual information session in December with Amanda Blumenthal, founder of the Intimacy Professionals Association, who will run the program. Topics in the training will include: handling explicit still photographs; nudity riders; modesty garments; prosthetics; consent, boundaries and power dynamics; sexual harassment; race, intimacy and power; and other relevant topics. "In the wake of the #MeToo movement, arose this new role and career of Intimacy Coordinators in the film and television industry. Intimacy Coordinators are a critical component creating more safe, inclusive, and collaborative sets," New Mexico Film Office Director Amber Dodson said in a statement. The training cohort may include up to 12 participants and up to three spots will be reserved exclusively for trainees from New Mexico, with the New Mexico Film Office covering up to 60% of tuition.
We woke up to snow and face a 50% chance for more of it this morning before 11 am (with one to two inches accumulation possible). Otherwise, today's forecast says the day will be cloudy, then gradually become mostly sunny with a high near 33 degrees and northeast wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon.
Thanks for reading! The Word learned yesterday that the Earth might be surrounded by hairy dark matter. Thanks, NASA.