COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 933 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 157,087. Of those, the health department has designated 78,826 as recovered. Bernalillo County had 261 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 102. Santa Fe County and San Juan County tied for the third highest number of new cases: 69.
The state also announced 15 additional deaths, including a man in his 70s from Santa Fe County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions. There have now been 88 deaths from Santa Fe County and 2,764 statewide. As of yesterday, 704 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Hospital leaders praise state vaccine rollout
New Mexico has administered close to 46% of the 170,300 vaccines it's received so far—32,582 of them in the last seven days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state is administering the vaccine at one of the highest rates in the US, Health Secretary-designate Dr. Tracie Collins said in a vaccine update yesterday (New Mexico would appear to be 15th in the country, based on the CDC's tracker.) The health department launched the second phase of vaccinations last Friday—Phase1B—which begins with people ages 75 and older and then allows for people with qualifying chronic conditions, followed by certain frontline essential workers and then those in congregate facilities, such as state inmates. As for how many people may be in each group, Collins said the department is still "finalizing the denominators for each of the categories." Nearly 400,000 people, however, have registered for the vaccine on the state's registration site (now available in two places: vaccinenm.org or cvvaccine.nmhealth.org). Collins also addressed reported problems of people calling the state's new vaccine call center (1-855-600-3453) and said additional staff has been added. Hospital leaders speaking yesterday commended the state plan, with Presbyterian Healthcare Services Medical Director Dr. Denise Gonzales saying, "The progress that New Mexico has made regarding vaccinations is truly remarkable. We're standing out in this country in a positive way."
Gov releases budget recs
Yesterday, the state Department of Finance and Administration released Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's budget recommendations for fiscal year 2022: $7.3 billion in recurring spending with a 3.3% increase that maintains reserves equal to 25% of spending. Some of the top budget items include: $475 million for additional pandemic relief; $893.1 million for behavioral health support across all state agencies; $193 million for the continued rollout of early childhood education and care investments; and $5.1 million for youth, adolescent and young adult suicide prevention. "Amid great adversity, I recommend a fiscally responsible budget while maintaining essential funding for our public education moonshot, for the innovative economic diversification and opportunity New Mexicans expect, for the community, public safety and much more," Lujan Grisham said in a statement. "The pandemic and economic uncertainty may have disrupted our forward momentum in job creation, child wellbeing improvements and various other policy emphasis areas, but we are ready to bounce back quickly and robustly. This budget recommendation is our first step to position New Mexico to prosper in a post-pandemic world." The Legislature will take up the budget, and other items, in a 60-day session that starts Jan. 19.
Trump campaign drops NM lawsuit
Donald Trump's re-election campaign asked a federal court yesterday to drop its election-related lawsuit against New Mexico. That suit, filed mid-December, primarily targeted the state's use of ballot drop boxes, an issue raised in a prior lawsuit by the state GOP, which also was dropped before the election. In a statement, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said the Trump campaign also had withdrawn what she described as an overly burdensome records request "motivated by an outlandish conspiracy theory involving Dominion Voting Systems." (Dominion has been at the center of several lawsuits filed by Trump; on Friday, the company filed a $1.3 billion lawsuit against Trump's former lawyer Sidney Powell for amplifying conspiracy theories about its role in the election). "This withdrawal suggests that the Trump campaign knew from the very beginning that their lawsuit was baseless and that it was simply a political show," Toulouse Oliver said. "I'm pleased that they have sought to withdraw their frivolous lawsuit, but it's only the first step President Trump and his enablers should be taking to fix the damage they have wrought on our democratic republic."
GOP Chairman Steve Pearce, however, said in a statement: "We still believe there are election questions that have never been answered. We sought election integrity, but the secretary of state felt it was never important enough to investigate or to provide requested information surrounding possible problems." Pearce yesterday also deleted a high-profile quote (discussed in yesterday's newsletter), in which he said Trump "…will be our President FOREVER." A state GOP spokesman told the Albuquerque Journal the tweet wasn't authorized by either Pearce or the party. "Steve Pearce feels strongly about Trump and he supports President Trump, but that tweet gave the wrong impression," Mike Curtis said.
Lastly, the state GOP also issued a statement yesterday opposing plans by US House Democrats to seek Trump's impeachment, a sentiment unsurprisingly reiterated by US Rep. Yvette Herrell, who has faced criticism and calls for resignation for objecting to some of Biden's electoral votes. "I wish there weren't articles of impeachment being considered right now," Herrell told the Journal. "I feel the way we bring the nation together is to put unity first…I just feel like this is going to fan the flames a little bit and is obviously not something I'm in support of." The US House is expected to debate articles of impeachment against Trump on Wednesday for his role in the violent attack on the US Capitol last week.
The most recent episode of New Mexico In Focus homes in on housing, as correspondent Megan Kamerick talks with law professor and housing advocate Serge Martinez about housing as a human right, and how to stem a surge of evictions once the current COVID-19 moratorium on evictions lifts. The program also features a segment on the Pueblo of Cochiti's opposition to changing Bandelier National Monument into a national park, as well as a "Line" panel discussion on newly elected New Mexico Republican US Rep. Yvette Herrell's objection to certifying electoral college votes for President-elect Joe Biden, as well as other current events.
The City of Santa Fe has become better at responding to complaints and fixing problems, according to the City of Santa Fe. A recently-released report indicates a 56% increase last year compared with the year prior in addressing constituent issues. The city credits the uptick largely to its Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system, which went live in April 2020. As for those complaints, the largest category, more than 27% of the complaints, was labeled "other." Next highest: Trash and recycling accounted for 16.5%; road maintenance for 14.2%; and property maintenance and code violations for 11.6%. There were 203 reports on barking dogs, 151 for potholes; 119 for graffiti and 12 reports on COVID violations, among other issues.
New Mexico Magazine recently unveiled the winners of its annual photo contest and indeed, as Editor Steve Gleydura writes, photographs over the past year do connect us with "places and people we couldn't visit in person, inspiring our imaginations when our everyday world seemed claustrophobically small." We also enjoyed the stories accompanying some of the winning photographs, such as "Snow in the Jemez," an eerie pristine shot photographer Jim Stein captured on Christmas morning in 2019, which won first place in the Landscapes category: "I hiked to this location just as the storm was clearing and the sun was beginning to intermittently poke through the fast-moving clouds, creating a mosaic of light and shadow," he notes. Winners from all six categories deserve a look. And while your mind is on photographs, don't forget SFR's own annual photography competition, which is now open for entries through Feb. 1.
Soak it up
Today will be sunny with a high near 43 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph. The rest of the week looks sunny and mid to high-40ish, with the next chance for snow far off on MLK Day.
Thanks for reading! The Word never says no to sushi, though she might say no to 30-year-old aged sushi.