COVID-19 by the numbers
Over the weekend, New Mexico health officials reported 2,715 new COVID-19 cases, 1,507 on Saturday and 1,208 on Sunday. Santa Fe County had 174 additional cases: 108 and 66, respectively. There have now been a total of 156,157 cases so far in the state, 77,731 of which the health department has designated as recovered.
The state also announced 39 additional deaths, with 22 on Saturday and 17 on Sunday, including one fatality from Santa Fe County, reported yesterday: a man in his 60s, who was hospitalized. As of yesterday, 682 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
State announces new eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine
On Friday, the state health department launched Phase 1B for vaccines, creating eligibility for people 75 years and older; those with underlying conditions putting them at greater risk from COVID-19; certain frontline employees unable to work remotely; and residents of congregate care settings in New Mexico. According to the state's vaccine allocation plan, those groups falling into Phase 1B will be vaccinated sequentially, with people 75 and older prioritized first in line. Childcare providers, K-12 educators and grocery store employees fall among those listed as potential frontline employees unable to work remotely.
The health department also released information on the next two phases of the vaccination rollout (1C, and 2). Group 1C will encompass people 60 years and older and other essential workers not included in 1B. The final cohort, Group 2, comprises everyone else. Within each phase, the plan specifies an order for eligibility and assumes a limited supply of vaccines. The plan estimates a schedule based on receipt of vaccines in which Phase1B continues into the spring; Phase 1C begins in the spring; and Phase 2 starts over the summer. Health Secretary-designate Dr. Tracie Collins will hold a news conference to discuss the state's vaccination rollout today at 3 pm on the health department's Facebook page.
Fallout continues from US Capitol attack
As congressional Democrats push forward with efforts to remove Donald Trump as president following last week's violent attack on the US Capitol, and arrests continue of people largely identified as "fervent" Trump supporters, New Mexico Democrats have been calling out state GOP Trump loyalists on a variety of fronts. On Jan. 9, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas exhorted state Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce and US Rep. Yvette Herrell to support his motion to dismiss an election-related lawsuit filed by Donald Trump's re-election campaign. "This lawsuit and the lies upon which it is founded resulted in bloodshed and the attempted overthrow of our democracy this week," Balderas said in a statement. "It is not enough for Republican leaders to issue hollow statements condemning the violence, when they have actively propagated the dangerous lies that caused these events. They should speak with their actions by immediately ceasing their attempts to undermine our democracy and our freedoms." The state GOP responded, calling Balderas "desperate" and saying it would "double down" on its support for the lawsuit and not be "intimidated or strong-armed into submission."
Pearce did issue a short statement disavowing Cowboys for Trump Founder Couy Griffin, an Otero County Commissioner, who attended the US Capitol riot and later released a video in which in which he discusses another potential rally that could result in "blood running out of that building." In that statement, Pearce says "RPNM condemns violence and any threats of violence against any person or group. What happened in Washington was wrong and was a stain on our great democracy." However, Pearce also tweeted on Saturday a photo of Trump with the words: "God bless President Donald J. Trump. He will be our President FOREVER and no one can take that away from us." (As whoever runs US Sen. Martin Heinrich's campaign Twitter account pointed out: "America doesn't have "FOREVER" presidents.") Meanwhile, Las Cruces City Councilor Gabe Vasquez, in an op-ed published in the Las Cruces Sun News, said both Griffin and Herrell "should be expelled from office," the latter for voting against some of President-elect Joe Biden's electoral votes. "Herrell and Griffin's actions bring shame to our district and our communities, and continue to incite threats of violence across the country," Vasquez wrote. Progress Now New Mexico also has launched a petition calling for Herrell to resign.
Court re-sets hearing for obelisk defendant
Santa Fe Magistrate Judge Donita Sena has agreed to reschedule the hearing for Sean Sunderland, one of six people charged in the Oct. 12 destruction of the Plaza obelisk. Sena had dropped the charges after Santa Fe Police Department officer Jesse Campbell failed to appear at a Dec. 28 hearing concerning a motion from Sunderland's attorney to exclude witness testimony. While Sena dismissed the case without prejudice—meaning charges couldn't be refiled—she reset the case after SFPD said Campbell wasn't notified the hearing was happening. According to an SFPD news release, the department only learned the case had been dismissed from an Albuquerque Journal story, at which point SFPS "…immediately initiated our internal inquiry to determine why the officer in question did not attend the Motions Hearing." The department, the release states, "is thankful that Judge Donita Sena took the matter into consideration and will move this case forward." The hearing has been reset for Jan. 25.
Tonight's installment of Bradbury Science Museum's Science on Tap series could not be more timely. Juston Moore, a Los Alamos National Laboratory research scientist in the Advanced Cyber Systems group, will lead a virtual conversation on "Deepfakes and the AI-Enabled Misinformation Age" and discuss how scientists are detecting the weaponization of false information. An expert in adversarial artificial intelligence, Moore will discuss deepfakes, the weaponization of information and its impact on law enforcement and national security. The free talk takes place at 5:30 pm, with advanced registration required.
New restaurant openings are few and far between these days, for obvious reasons, and welcome news. A few weeks back, chef Fernando Ruiz of Food Network fame opened Palace Prime Steakhouse in the former Palace Saloon location (142 W Palace Ave). Ruiz' current menu emphasizes steak and fresh seafood, he says, but will expand when the restaurant can provide indoor dining to also include an oyster bar, ceviche and sashimi. Ruiz spent time in jail when he was younger, and connects that experience to the successful career he's had as a chef. "I grew up slaughtering and cooking as a kid," says Ruiz, who was raised in Phoenix, "but I kind of got the knack for it when I was in jail working in the kitchens…85-90% of people who are in jail have worked in a restaurant, so everybody who was in there cooking already had some background in kitchens. We would have to make our own food for us and the inmates with what we had." As for the rationale for opening a restaurant during a pandemic: "Why not?" Ruiz tells SFR. "I've done crazier stuff growing up, and this is probably one of the least crazy things I've ever done." Plus, he adds: "It's The Palace. Everybody's got a story about the place." True that.
Best foot forward
The Farmington Times provides an in depth look at the thought and motivation Shiprock native and shoe designer Dewayne Dale brought to his latest endeavor. The Fifth X RockDeep M.1 Trail shoe, is currently available for pre-order before its March release through RockDeep, the footwear/apparel company with which Dale, who runs his own footwear company Fifth, is collaborating. A Navajo of the Red Running into Water Clan, born for the Water's Edge Clan, Dale has worked in the industry for several years, but says this partnership is the first time he was asked to collaborate on a project reflecting his heritage. The shoe, as described in the story, is "styled after the traditional Native moccasin, with a rustic suede finish and dark-hide color." It also features a turquoise cord lock. "My muse is, I want to take back the moccasin," Dale said. "It led me to this space of, you realize no one is doing this. This is open territory."
Good news: Today will be sunny with a high near 40 degrees and north wind around 10 mph. Less good: The wind chill values could be as low as zero. And tonight, expect a low around 13 degrees with wind chill values as low as -2. This wind chill situation is currently forecast to continue through Tuesday, at which point our days should warm up (Thursday, as of now, looks particularly pleasant).