COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 1,201 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 148,499. Bernalillo County had 484 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 117 and San Juan County with 104. Santa Fe County had 37 new cases. Yesterday's case count, though 28% higher than the day prior, aligns with Los Alamos National Laboratory's forecasting for the middle-case scenario. A modeling report published yesterday predicts cases may range between 400 and 1,500 over the next few weeks.
The state also announced 20 additional deaths, including a woman in her 90s from Santa Fe County who was a resident of the Vista Hermosa facility in Santa Fe; there have now been 2,594 fatalities statewide. As of yesterday, 740 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Health Secretary-designate Dr. Tracie Collins will provide an update on the state's COVID-19 vaccination efforts, which will stream live at 3 pm today on the NMDOH Facebook page.
SFPD: Summons not received in obelisk case
In a news release issued late yesterday, the Santa Fe Police Department asserts Officer Jesse Campbell never received notice from Magistrate Court regarding a Dec. 28 hearing for Sean Sunderland, one of the six people charged in the October toppling of the Plaza obelisk. Magistrate Judge Donita Sena dismissed Sunderland's case with prejudice, which means charges can't be refiled. SFPD's news release, however, states Sena has been advised Campbell didn't receive the notice and "will make the determination if this case moves forward, and if the dismissal will be reconsidered." SFPD's release also contests statements Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies made to the Albuquerque Journal that SFPD declined her office's help in the case. However, Deputy Chief Paul Joye maintains he not only requested help but Assistant District Attorney Richard Wilson had been working with Campbell. Carmack-Altwies, however, tells the Journal today SFPD never responded to an email from Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Padgett-Macias regarding the office's policies on misdemeanor cases.
Auto shop agrees to $79,200 COVID fines
The environment department announced yesterday it has entered into a settlement agreement with O'Reilly Auto Parts on Airport Road for alleged violations of the state's public health order and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. According to a state news release, NMED visited O'Reilly last July in response to complaints from the public. During that visit, environment department inspectors say the store's management didn't require employees to wear face coverings as required by the public health order, nor post signs requiring customers to do so. Those violations were corrected in subsequent visits and, according to the settlement agreement, O'Reilly objected to the citations and penalties but agreed to settle rather than pursue litigation. Under the settlement agreement, the business will pay $79,200 in penalties. "Failure by employers to protect staff from COVID-19—a known workplace hazard—is unacceptable," Environment Secretary James Kenney said in a statement. "Employers must take their worker protection responsibility seriously or they will face robust enforcement action by the State of New Mexico."
AG sues teacher recruitment agency
Yesterday, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced his office is suing New Mexico corporation Total Teaching Solutions International and its CEO Janice Bickert for violating the New Mexico Unfair Practices Act. According to the AG's office, TTSI and Bickert have been recruiting teachers from the Philippines to teach in New Mexico school districts and charging "exorbitant and excessive fees for the placement services they offer and in some cases failed to provide." In a statement on the suit, Balderas notes that "NM has a critical teacher shortage, and it is vital that recruitment of incoming teachers not be used to exploit teachers that are lawfully supported by school districts." American Federation of Teachers also released a statement supporting the suit, and said its organization has supported teachers sued by TTSI when they were unable to pay the company's fees. "AFT New Mexico is proud to be standing up with our members against abusive recruiting agencies like TTSI," President Stephanie Ly said in a statement.
Santa Fe housing costs, sales rise
Median home prices in Santa Fe County increased by 10% from $545,000 in 2019 to $600,000 this quarter, according to a report issued yesterday by the Santa Fe Association of Realtors. County home sales rose by nearly 16% from 225 units sold in 2019 compared to 260 units in the same quarter of 2020. In the city during the same time period, median home prices grew by 16% from $396,500 to $461,500 this quarter, and city home sales rose by 1%. Condominium and townhome sales, on the other hand, decreased this quarter by 7% with a total of 168 units sold compared to 182 in the third quarter of 2019, and the median price of condo/townhomes decreased by 2.5%. Overall land sales jumped 24% and land prices in Santa Fe County increased by nearly 25%. The increased sales contrast with weaker ones in the second quarter of 2020. "It is remarkable that the housing market is recovering quickly, attracting buyers and sellers," Association President Susan Orth said in a statement. "The data demonstrates the robust strength of the Santa Fe housing market even with historically low inventories and the growing desire to acquire a home oasis in the pandemic era."
If your New Year's resolution included studying culture through computational tools, you're in luck. On the most recent episode of KUNM's Augmented Humanity podcast, philosopher David Kinney, a Santa Fe Institute Omidyar postdoctoral fellow, SFI External Professor Simon DeDeo, a cognitive scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, and SFI Director of Education Carrie Cowan discuss a new initiative, Foundations and Applications of Humanities Analytics, which seeks to help new humanities scholars study culture through computational tools and complexity science. This free program starts this year, includes an introductory online course and an in-person workshop, and is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Power from/to the people
Locals have helped raise $81,000 to keep their neighbors' utilities on through a Power to the People initiative spearheaded through local arts organization Vital Spaces. Organizers hoped to raise another $45,000 and help keep the lights on for all Santa Fe residents this winter. Every dollar donated goes directly toward unpaid utility bills. "Sometimes donations can feel very impersonal and disconnected, but here's a chance to do something tangible and genuinely impactful for your neighbors who need help this winter," Vital Spaces founder Jonathan Boyd said in a news release in late December. "These families probably have kids who go to school with your kids; possibly live on the same street as you; could be stocking your grocery store shelves so you can have safe access to food. So many families have been hit hard by this pandemic, here's an opportunity to meaningfully support your community."
ISO of plans
The New Mexico Economic Development Department will hold an information session at 1:30 pm today regarding two Requests for Proposals issued by the department in search of proposals for a 20-year statewide strategic plan. According to a news release, the first proposal will focus on gathering statewide and local data and coordinate with local economic development offices "to determine what opportunities and challenges exist in each region across the state." The second proposal is to craft the plan itself and develop specific actions. Proposals are due to the department by Jan. 18; the specific RFPs can be found here. Register here for today's information session.
There’s no place like home
When New Mexico native Marshall Monroe returned home after attending Stanford and working for Disney, "he wanted to find a remote escape" as he started his own business. So writes the Wall Street Journal, which features the home Monroe ultimately bought in 2008 for $3.2 million, a 1,083-acre property in Guadalupita. "We spent the last 10 years just doing the kind of design thinking and refinements to make it a super performing family group, a place to go," he said, who notes that he was drawn to the aesthetic of the Wild West with which he grew up (his grandfather was from Clayton) and the Victorian influence also associated with the settling of the area. Monroe's house has five bedrooms, three bathrooms and one partial bathroom and spans 4,987 square feet. It now lists for $5.4 million through Sotheby's International Realty.
Today, not unlike yesterday and perhaps somewhat like tomorrow, will be sunny with a high near 40 degrees and northwest wind 10 to 15 mph.
Thanks for reading! The Word wonders just how weird today's Congressional certification of Joe Biden's presidential win will become…she's guessing 2020-level weird.