COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 893 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 157,974. Of those, the health department has designated 80,580 as recovered. Bernalillo County had 231 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 105 and Sandoval County with 89. Santa Fe County had 37 new cases.
The state also announced 30 additional deaths, including a hospitalized man in his 90s from Santa Fe County. There have now been 2,794 fatalities statewide. As of yesterday, 715 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
County-level daily case and test positivity rates will be updated today under the state's red-to-green framework, in which counties are put into green, yellow or red categories based on achievement of two public health criteria. Currently, all counties but one have been in the red and most restrictive category since the state implemented the new system at the beginning of December. In order to progress to the yellow and green categories, counties must achieve new COVID-19 case incident rates equal to or less than eight cases per 100,000 inhabitants during the most recent two-week period and meet a test positivity rate of 5% or lower. Counties that meet one criteria (such as Catron County) have more flexibility in the yellow zone. Only counties meeting both criteria qualify for the green bracket and have the fewest restrictions.
The state environment department reports that its wastewater monitoring program prevented a COVID-19 outbreak at the J. Paul Taylor Center, a Children Youth and Family Services Department-run juvenile detention center in Las Cruces. The department says it identified the presence of the virus in the facility's sewage, then tested more than 100 people—staff and clients—ultimately finding an asymptomatic carrier and isolating that person. "It's clear that our actions saved lives," NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a statement. The department posts the data from its wastewater surveillance here.
LFC budget proposes raises for teachers
Following the Monday release of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's proposed budget for fiscal year 2022, yesterday the Legislative Finance Committee presented its recommendations for allocating $7.36 billion from the state's general fund—a 4% increase. Salary increases averaging 1.5% for state employees and teachers for a total cost of approximately $60 million constitute the most notable difference between the two proposed budgets. "The New Mexico economy is struggling, but the state is not in as bad as shape as we anticipated nine months ago," Committee Chairman state Sen. Roberto "Bobby" Gonzales, D-Ranchos de Taos, said in a statement. "Legislative efforts to build up strong financial reserves and federal stimulus spending have substantially softened the blow of the financial downturn." The LFC plan also proposes $250 million for statewide roadwork and $300 million to the state's unemployment fund. Lawmakers will convene Jan. 19.
Supreme Court to hear NM COVID-19 case
The state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today at 1:30 pm in State v. Wilson, a case concerning businesses' claims for compensation because of losses from COVID-19 public health order restrictions. New Mexico PBS will livestream the arguments on its YouTube channel. The case concerns 14 lawsuits filed against the state, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and former Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel, in which various plaintiffs assert the COVID-19 public health orders' impact on their businesses constitutes a regulatory taking and that they deserve compensation. The state's motion asks the court to "decide the pure question of law" the lawsuits present. Alternatively, the motion asks the court to either consolidate the cases, which are pending before 11 district judges in eight judicial districts, or allow only one to move forward until the fundamental legal question has been decided.
Council considers new culture committee
Tonight, the Santa Fe City Council will consider a new resolution intended to move the community forward in addressing the city's complex history and cultural grievances. Following the Oct. 12 destruction of the Plaza obelisk, councilors spent months debating a similar resolution that would have created a Cultures, Histories, Art, Reconciliation and Truth committee. While officials agreed on the need for and purpose of the CHART committee, they differed on the composition and the resolution stalled. The new resolution, renamed the "Community Solutions Table," prescribes community conversations and surveys prior to seating the committee, and is based on Albuquerque officials' approach after a demonstrator in that city was shot by a counter-protester last June during a confrontation over a statue of Juan de Oñate. A public hearing on the proposed resolution will take place in the evening segment of tonight's council meeting, which starts at 6 pm and will stream on the city's Youtube channel.
If running (starting or improving) made your New Year's resolution list, check out the Running New Mexico podcast, hosted by Coach Seb Romero, in which he talks with New Mexico runners about—you guessed it—running in New Mexico. The most recent episode features pediatrician, wife, mom and runner Sara Del Campo De Gonzalez who discusses making time for running, setting new goals and her work at the Young Children's Health Center. You can also follow Running New Mexico on Instagram.
As the Santa Fe City Council again plunges into creating a committee to examine its past and future, National Geographic Magazine also takes a look at the events leading up to and following the Oct. 12 destruction of the Plaza obelisk. In "Indigenous symbols rise as colonial monuments fall in New Mexico," the magazine notes the work of numerous Indigenous organizations, such as Pueblo Action Alliance and The Red Nation, in foregrounding Indigenous issues, and spotlights the Santa Fe-based Three Sisters Collective. The group, formed in 2017, has been involved in a variety of initiatives to support Pueblo artists and Indigenous issues, such as a webinar it hosted for Santa Fe Art Institute fellow and multidisciplinary artist Heidi K. Brandow's work "The Memory Project," which mapped public art and memorials in Santa Fe. According to the story, "[Brandow] found that over 80 percent of memorials are dedicated to 'colonizers,' meaning 4 out of 65 memorials in Santa Fe are dedicated to Native American people and culture—and most were men." The story also highlights the collective's grant of nearly $100,000, which it will split with Alas de Agua Art Collective, to create 12 murals in Santa Fe depicting environmental issues and Indigenous culture (read SFR's story on that project here).
High and dry
If it's not obvious already, New Mexico is having a dry winter and, with the Southwest facing La Niña conditions, already dire conditions for stream flows and reservoirs will only worsen. According to journalist Laura Paskus, author of At the Precipice: New Mexico's Changing Climate, "New Mexico is said to be staring down a 70% to 100% reduction in snowpack that feeds the state's two largest rivers—the Rio Grande and Pecos—between 2070 and the end of the century." This week, Paskus talks with state Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-Albuquerque, who is introducing the Climate Resiliency and Security Act in the upcoming legislative session. "Every tiny rural community, every farm in our state is vulnerable to climate change," Stansbury says. "And if we don't institutionalize helping our communities, we're going to be in a lot of trouble." The Guardian also writes about New Mexico's drought this week, specifically the drying Rio Grande in Las Cruces.
Is it spring yet?
Today will be sunny with a high near 46 degrees and—yes, you guessed this too—wind! Specifically: northwest wind 15 to 20 mph.
Thanks for reading! The Word expects to start watching the Trump impeachment trial any minute now…but hopefully won't do so all day long.