COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 1,496 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 149,984. Of those, the health department has designated 72,089 as recovered. Bernalillo County had 443 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 164 and San Juan County with 154. Santa Fe County had 103 new cases, 53 of them in the 87507 ZIP code, which was the third highest ZIP code in the state for new cases yesterday.
The state also announced 47 additional deaths—one shy of the highest daily death count so far—including four people from Santa Fe County; there have now been 85 deaths in Santa Fe County and 2,641 statewide. As of yesterday, 712 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
NM reacts to DC violence
Spurred on by President Donald Trump, rioters stormed the US Capitol yesterday in a failed insurrection, interrupting Congress' certification of the presidential election. To no end. Congress resumed work last night and, early this morning, confirmed Joe Biden as the 46th US president. Trump, whose various social media accounts were blocked after he repeated false election claims yesterday amid the wreckage, released a statement through the White House this morning committing to an orderly transition of power.
"There is no place in our country or state for this," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement yesterday as the chaos unfolded. "This is beneath the United States of America. It is not who we are. I am sickened beyond words by the scenes from Washington, D.C., this afternoon. It is nothing less than domestic terrorism, enacted in an effort to overturn a free and fair election." Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse also noted that "Never in my life did I think our country would see the sad and anti-democratic events that have occurred today. Truth and goodwill are the only ways forward after today's tragic display in Washington." From DC, New Mexico's congressional delegation checked in to announce they were safe. In Santa Fe, supporters of Donald Trump also gathered in the hundreds at the state capitol, where State Police evacuated lawmakers in pre-legislative committee meetings from the Roundhouse. Overall, Santa Fe's protest remained relatively tame.
Next NM vaccine group announced this week
Health Secretary-designate Dr. Tracie Collins announced yesterday the state expects to announce the next group of people eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine this week—possibly today—and it will include individuals ages 75 and older. Collins would not confirm reports from some outlets that the next phase—1b—will include teachers. Speaking during a news conference on Wednesday, Collins said the health department is coordinating with the governor's office to ensure a smooth rollout for the next group receiving the vaccine. "We really want to get this right the first time," she said. "We don't want to put something out and recognize we didn't make a thoughtful decision." Thus far, New Mexico has ordered and received 106,525 vaccines and has reports that 48,299 have been administered. However, Collins said that figure is low as only 74% of providers currently are reporting. Going forward, she said, the state will be providing an estimated total on vaccine administration until all providers—there are currently 180 of them—have learned how to use the State Immunization Information System.
Roundhouse closed for session
When New Mexico lawmakers convene Jan. 19, many will conduct business remotely, and the Roundhouse will remain closed to the public and lobbyists for the entire 60-day session due to COVID-19. House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, told the Legislative Council yesterday a mask mandate will be strongly enforced. "We are not going to be tolerant of noncompliance," Egolf said. While Democrats insist the virtual format will allow for more transparency and participation, House Republicans say allowing legislators to vote and participate in this way could violate the state Constitution. Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, for instance, said the session should be postponed. She also said she would not agree to be tested for COVID-19 during the session.
Bustos-Mihelcic becomes new city clerk
Kristine Bustos-Mihelcic has accepted Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber's appointment as city clerk, following a debate Monday night by city councilors regarding her contract. That debate, which apparently lasted close to three hours, included discussion about cutting $4,000 of the proposed $115,000 annual salary and amending her severance package. Bustos-Mihelcic, according to an email sent to the city council and obtained by the Santa Fe New Mexican, accepted the position, but at an annual salary of $111,220—$100 less than what was negotiated in Monday's meeting. Bustos-Mihelcic replaces longtime City Clerk Yolanda Vigil, and also becomes the first head of the Office of Public Engagement, which combines the clerk's office with the Constituent and Council Services under a reorganization Webber spearheaded.
In addition to all the other problems wrought by COVID-19, the pandemic has also paved way for myriad cons and scams. For instance, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas last month warned residents to watch out for vaccine-related scams. Since March, the Federal Trade Commission reportedly has logged 268,000 COVID-related complaints with a nearly $200 million cost to victims. In a recent KSFR story, "Cons in the time of COVID," reporter Mary Lou Cooper talks with Amy Nofziger, director of Fraud Victim Support at AARP, to learn more about these scams and how consumers can both avoid and address them. AARP also offers a fraud hotline.
Gov pardons 12
Amid yesterday's hubbub, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued pardons for 12 people convicted of crimes in New Mexico, including drug possession, auto burglary, forgery and fraud. According to a news release, all of the offenses, with one exception, dated back more than a decade, some to the 1980s. Five applied for clemency under former Gov. Susana Martinez' administration but never received a response. These 12 pardons follow 19 Lujan Grisham issued last June, which were the first pardons issued in the state since 2012 and will restore certain rights those who received them, such as voting. The governor's pardoning power extends to all offenses committed under state law, with the exception of impeachment and treason. The governor can't pardon convictions for violations of municipal ordinances or those from other jurisdictions.
Resolve to compost
A new year brings the opportunity for resolutions. Composting business and farm Reunity Resources hopes Santa Feans will make composting one of their goals. "Around 40% of household waste is compostable," Reunity Resources Program Director Juliana Ciano tells SFR. "So if there is any one action you can take to reduce your trash output, composting is the most meaningful thing you can do." Reunity Resources began a residential doorstep composting program last April, and has since taken more steps to make composting accessible, such as expanding its doorstep program and setting up a 24/7 food-scraps drop-off area outside of the main gate at San Ysidro Crossing. Ciano says Reunity Resources can compost "almost anything that once was alive," including untreated paper products, animal products and BPI certified compostable products. Sign up for a membership at reunityresources.com.
New year, new art
Grab that 2021 calendar and be sure to plan for a new year of art happenings as local galleries continue adapting to the pandemic with a variety of programs and shows. SFR offers five to watch for this month. These include Currents New Media, which will present Denverite and Diné artist Holly Grimm in a Facebook live event tonight on "Art and Machine Learning"; Keep Contemporary's Everything is Illuminated group show, along with Michael Anthony Hurd: Beyond the Rainbow through Jan. 17; painter Michael Scott's show Fire and Ice at Evoke Contemporary, already running and up through Feb. 20; Family Room at form & concept, opening Jan. 29, an exhibit dedicated to recreating and celebrating the idea of queer familial spaces—both blood and chosen family; and Friendship and what we find in the commonality of our differences at 5.Gallery.
Clear and breezy
Today will be mostly sunny with a high near 46 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph. FWIW, chances for snow on Saturday grow stronger with each passing day.