COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 628 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total to 164,263, of which the health department has designated 87,502 as recovered. Bernalillo County had 161 new cases, followed by San Juan County with 62 cases and Doña Ana County with 48. Santa Fe County had 38.
The state also announced 26 additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities statewide to 2,958. As of yesterday, 611 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
The health department yesterday also reported the second COVID-19 case with the more transmissible B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant: a close household contact of the first case, which was reported Jan. 13. According to a news release, the second person with the variant is a woman in her 30s, who has thus far experienced mild symptoms and not required hospitalization.
NM Legislature: Day 1
The 55th Legislature opens today at noon, minus the usual State of the State address delivered by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Instead, the governor is expected to either deliver a remote or pre-recorded address after the session has started, and today lawmakers will determine leadership positions and rules for the session. The Roundhouse will be closed to the public, with many legislators also attending remotely, and security remains heightened at and around the state Capitol building following nationwide concerns about violent protests (here is a list of the downtown intersections that are closed). People will be theoretically able to follow legislative hearings and submit testimony remotely. You can see legislation filed already here; search for legislation by sponsor, keyword or number here; and track bills through the My Roundhouse feature. The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce and other civic and business organizations also have created a Virtual Roundhouse site, which will host regular social events, speakers and office hours with lawmakers. Today, at 10 am, New Mexico Foundation for Open Government Executive Director Melanie Majors will discuss the importance of open and transparent government during the virtual session.The Roundhouse series is free, but you will need to register here.
State tackles PFAS contamination
The state environment department yesterday reported several ongoing initiatives intended to protect communities from per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, which are dangerous man-made chemicals that can cause adverse health effects. PFAS were discovered in groundwater at and around Cannon Air Force Base and Holloman Air Force Base in 2018. During the 2020 legislative session, the Legislature appropriated $1 million to the environment department to start addressing PFAS contamination in the communities of Clovis and Alamogordo; on Jan. 4, the department awarded an approximately $1 million contract to environmental consultant Daniel B Stephens & Associates, Inc. for that work. Additionally, the department continues efforts begun in mid-2020 that will continue through mid-2021 sampling ground and surface water supplies in 19 New Mexico counties. Results from 15 public water systems, as well as multiple surface water sampling locations, are available here. "The first step toward addressing PFAS contamination in New Mexico is finding out where these chemicals are," NMED Water Protection Division Director Rebecca Roose said in a statement. "We are vigilant in deploying our limited resources to gather the best available data and share it with the public in a transparent way."
FBI arrests Couy Griffin
ICYMI, the FBI arrested Otero County Commissioner and Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin on Sunday, following a joint investigation by federal agents and Capitol police regarding Griffin's attendance at the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol. The FBI took Griffin into custody at its Washington, DC field office and he was arrested on Sunday (watch that here). According to a US Justice Department news release, Griffin has been charged in US District Court for the District of Columbia by criminal complaint with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful entry. Law enforcement had received a tip that Griffin was present at the attack and that he spoke at a Jan. 14 Otero County Commission meeting about his intent to return to DC for President-Elect Joe Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration. Griffin also had posted videos on Facebook indicating he intended to "plant our flag" on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's desk and was planning to bring firearms with him (read the complete affidavit for Griffin's arrest here).
According to a Congressional Research Service report on the Jan. 6 attack, violation of 18 USC 1752, which Griffin and several others have been charged with (basically unauthorized entrance to and conduct in restricted buildings), can be punished by fines and up to one year of imprisonment, but a maximum sentence of up to 10 years is authorized if the offense involved a deadly or dangerous weapon or firearm, or resulted in significant bodily injury. Attorney General Hector Balderas sent Griffin a letter seeking his resignation from the Otero County Commission over the weekend and said he would take legal action to remove him if Griffin doesn't resign. Griffin's arrest was reported far and wide, with the Washington Post taking a look back at Griffin's relationship with Trump.
Algorithmic recommendations for music on Spotify or movies on Netflix—though frequently off-base and occasionally insulting—have pretty low stakes. But when algorithms play a role in criminal justice, lending and housing systems, to name a few areas in which they are being used, they can carry society's biases and perpetuate social injustices. On the most recent episode of the Santa Fe Institute's Complexity podcast, SFI Resident Professor Cristopher Moore discusses his work with The Algorithmic Justice Project, as well as the physics of inference.
With the future of fine dining in flux, Restaurant Martín's crew decided to embark on a new challenge—one that's proving very popular. Santa Fe Build-A-Bowl works the way it sounds: Diners choose from a variety of bases, proteins and toppings to build their own creations for take-away. "The main idea is to choose your ingredients so you're getting exactly what you want. It's fun for us and for the customers," chef and co-owner Martin Rios tells SFR. "Since we opened, the first day was steady. But all of a sudden the second and third day were crazy. We had to keep up with all this demand." Meat-eaters, vegetarians and pescatarians will all find items to please. Currently a pop-up venture, Build-a-Bowl is slated to run for 90 days and operates from 4 to 7:30 pm, Thursdays through Sundays. But if demand persists, co-owner Jennifer Rios says a brick-and-mortar could be in the future. "Maybe there's a life for this after the pop-up," she says.
Ronchetti responds to critics
Following his controversial return to KRQE, failed Republican US Senate candidate Mark Ronchetti responded this week to the Rio Grande Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and others who criticized the move. SPJ specifically said Ronchetti's return to KRQE should "raise red flags for anyone worried about political influence in newsrooms" and called upon Ronchetti and KRQE to address Ronchetti's support for President Donald Trump and denounce attacks on the press. In an interview with the Albuquerque Journal, Ronchetti noted that when he wanted to become involved in politics, he left the station. "When the election results came in, I accepted them, congratulated my opponent and then shut my mouth," he said. "I've set politics aside now, because you can't do both, and I fully do realize that." Ronchetti also described himself as "horrified" by the Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol. For its part, KRQE President and General Manager Bill Anderson told the Journal he asked Ronchetti to return "because he's a workhorse and the best weather guy I've ever seen" and that the station's rules against bringing personal politics into the newsroom applied to everyone. "I didn't ask him to swear allegiance to anything other than the meteorological seal," Anderson said (the American Meteorological Society actually lists Ronchetti's seal as inactive).
It may have snowed a bit overnight (it's still too dark out to tell). Either way: Look for snow today—an 80% chance of it—primarily before 8 am. Otherwise, the high temp today will be near 33 degrees with southeast wind 10 to 15 mph. If you'd like a little more weather with the weather, the long-term forecast shows a slight chance for storms on Thursday (rain storms!), and yet more chances for rain and snow next weekend.
Thanks for reading! The Word abandoned origami years ago after concluding her only talent lay in acquiring paper cuts, but still appreciates viewing those who have a talent for the art form, such as Juho Könkkölä, who spent more than 50 hours folding and scoring one piece of paper to create this detailed samurai.