COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 1,316 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 141,186 since the pandemic began last March. Of those, the health department has designated 64,218 as recovered. Bernalillo County had 335 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 155 and San Juan County with 139. Santa Fe County had 79 new cases.
The state also announced 33 additional deaths; there have now been 2,436 fatalities statewide. As of yesterday, 792 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Health Secretary-designate Dr. Tracie Collins also reported yesterday during a news conference that the state has ordered and received 49,625 COVID-19 vaccines so far and administered 83% of them. The health department continues to encourage residents to sign up to be notified when they are eligible for a vaccine—160,000 New Mexicans registered on the state's new site over the course of eight days. Collins said no further information is available at this time regarding which groups will be prioritized for vaccination following health care workers and nursing home residents and employees. "We are actively planning and we should have more information very soon," she said.
Santa Fe County improves, but remains in the red
While 32 counties remain in the red category for COVID-19 public health restrictions, the majority—including Santa Fe County—have improved over the last two weeks. The state's new red-to-green COVID-19 framework measures two criteria: a daily per-capita case rate of eight or less per 100,000 population and a test positivity rate of 5% or less. Counties meeting one criteria can move to yellow, which expands various restrictions, such as capacity limits for businesses and ability to have indoor dining. Counties must meet both criteria to move to green, which has even more expanded opportunities. As of yesterday, only Catron County meets the criteria for the yellow level, with a per-capita new daily case rate of 5.7 per 100,000. However, 28 counties improved in at least one of the two health gating criteria metrics, and 21 counties—Santa Fe County among them—improved in both. Santa Fe County cut its daily case rate by 42% to 34 per 100,000 and its positivity rate to 7.16%, a decrease of 29%. The state will be updating the map indicating counties' status every other Wednesday. The next update is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 13.
And then there were 6,270
Yesterday, the Public Education Department reported continued progress in locating students who have been unaccounted for since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 6,270 students still "missing," down from 12,186 in mid-November. According to a news release, most of the located students are enrolled in private or Bureau of Indian Affairs schools; have moved out of state; or are being home-schooled. "I'm grateful that the Public Education Department and our partners have come so far in such a short time determining that nearly 6,000 New Mexico school children are safe and receiving an education," PED Secretary Ryan Stewart said in a statement. "However, even one unaccounted for student is too many, so this work simply moves into the next phase. We won't rest until that number is zero." That next phase kicks in next week, when numerous state agencies will employ direct outreach via phone calls, emails and, in some cases, COVID-safe home visits.
Speak for the trees
Out with the old and in with the new sounds like a feasible plan for the coming year, with one exception: Do not leave Christmas trees on curbs, for such acts only make city folks perturbed. Instead, the City of Santa Fe will be accepting Christmas trees for mulching starting on Jan. 4, 2021 and continuing through Jan. 29, 2021. Drop off your unflocked and ornament-free tree at: Franklin Miles Park (1027 Camino Carlos Rey at Siringo Road) during park hours: 6 am to 9 pm. The Buckman Road Recycling and Transfer Station (BuRRT) also will accept Christmas trees from Santa Fe residents for free until Jan. 17. Side note: Christmas ornaments also are verboten for curbside recycling; consider donating them if you're purging.
Speaking of the city, all of its virtual administrative offices and recreational facilities will close at noon today and remain shut all day mañana. Trash and recycling pickup will continue as scheduled. Santa Fe Trails, Santa Fe Pick-Up, and Santa Fe Ride will operate on a normal schedule today, but won't provide services tomorrow (transportation services resume on Saturday). Santa Fe Public Library will be closed for drop box returns, curbside pickup, and virtual services today and tomorrow, with all locations opening for return drop boxes at 9 am, Saturday, Jan. 2 and at noon for curbside pickup.
Needless to say, 2020 won't soon be forgotten. In his video series, "I Got a Story to Tell," artist and activist Raashan Ahmad hosts six conversations reflecting on the past year. These video discussions run the gamut—from fatherhood to mental health—but all center on the Black experience in Santa Fe, a city with a small Black population, during a year that included the COVID-19 pandemic and civil rights protests.
NYE on the Plaza (from home)
If anyone knows how to say sayonara to sucky situations, it's the Santa Fe Kiwanis Club, host of the annual Zozobra burning. Tonight, the Kiwanis mounts its newest tradition: Santa Fe's New Year's Eve Plaza bash, which KOB 4 and KOB.com will broadcast and webcast live. While the Plaza will be closed for in-person attendance, viewers can expect the Kiwanis' notoriously awesome fireworks, music from Amado Abeyta, a virtual sing-along of "Auld Lang Syne" and, at midnight, a colorful Zia rising into the night sky against fireworks launched off the roof of La Fonda on the Plaza. "We're the City Different and, instead of having a ball drop, we raise our state symbol as a sign of hope," Event Chairman Ray Sandoval told the Albuquerque Journal. "Since we can't gather, we'll be creating an unforgettable, COVID-safe celebration so that all can celebrate this welcome passing of the old year by watching live from your own home." Local restaurants have also contributed recipes for your stay-at-home celebratory feast, and the Kiwanis encourages all to share those dinner photos with hashtags #SantaFeNYE on social media.
Pajama party-at-home ideas
If you need a little help staying up past 5 pm for New Year's, you're in luck. The Lensic Performing Arts Center will host a free online concert tonight starting at 5 pm, which will feature pianist and conductor Joe Illick and special guests from near and far, including pianist Olga Kern. At 6 pm, AMP Concerts hosts another installment of Lucinda Williams' Lu's Jukebox: "It's Only Rock and Roll," a tribute to the Rolling Stones. Meow Wolf, of course, usually goes all in for New Year's Eve and, while tonight's party will be virtual, expect the unexpected. "Virtual Carousel: LIVE at House of Eternal Return" will stream live on Facebook starting at 9:30 pm with special opening acts from Rod Harrison and Liviana from Saints Ball and musical performances by Jasmin Williams & Michael Burt Jr.; Commodore 256; and Spoolius. Need a festive cocktail for the night? SantaFe.com has several on tap from mixologist Daniel Gonzales—that Peppermint Snowflake sounds like a winner to us, and kind of matches our pajamas.
In with the cold
We're looking at a cold but clear New Year's Eve weekend. Today's forecast predicts sunny skies with a high near 38 degrees and north wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. New Year's Eve will be partly cloudy with a low around 15 degrees. Mostly sunny again tomorrow with a high near 37. The weekend also will be cold and clear, with Sunday's highs hitting the low 40s. In other words, summer will be here before we know it.
Thanks for reading! The Word bids you all a safe happy end to this dumpster fire of a year and will return in 2021 (Monday, Jan. 4, to be exact). To finish off the year, please indulge multiple suggestions: 1. Toronto advertising agency Public delivers 2020 a well-deserved middle finger in this very funny PSA to raise funds for Mental Health Coalition and the Black Health Alliance. Don't watch it if F-bombs offend you. 2. NPR's "50 Wonderful Things from 2020." 3. Some new year poetry, applicable for any year.