COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 691 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 164,954. Of those, the health department has designated 88,982 as recovered. Bernalillo County had 257 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 85 and Sandoval County with 56. Santa Fe County had 28 new cases.
The state also announced 20 additional deaths, including one from Santa Fe County: a man in his 70s who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions. There have now been 2,975 fatalities statewide. As of yesterday, 643 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Hospitals report on vaccine progress
Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center doesn't know how many vaccines it will receive each week until the shipments arrive on Mondays. So far, it's been receiving approximately 1,000 each week, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Gonzales. To date, he notes, Christus has vaccinated "essentially…all of our frontline personnel" as specified in the Phase 1A of the state's vaccination roll-out plan, with about 70% participation. Now, Christus is focusing on people 75 years and older—the first group slated for vaccines in Phase 1B—specifically at its own clinics. "We have about 4,000 people who are registered with us and are over the age of 75," Gonzales said, "and for the next two weeks we will be focusing on that population." Overall, the health department reports 185,750 vaccines received in the state so far, with 143,048 administered—44,106 in the last seven days. Gonzales and other hospital officials spoke with the media yesterday morning, providing comparable updates on their progress in administering vaccines, while continuing to care for COVID-19 patients. While those hospitalizations have decreased, officials say hospitals remain full, in part with other types of patients.
Otero County commissioners want Griffin’s resignation
Yesterday, Otero County Commissioners Gerald Matherly and Vickie Marquardt issued a statement calling for fellow Commissioner Couy Griffin to resign. Griffin was arrested by the FBI last Sunday for participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol and charged by criminal complaint with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful entry. He remains custody and the US Attorney for the District of Columbia has requested Griffin be held without bond pending trial due to being both a flight risk and dangerous to the community. The DOJ filing characterizes Griffin as "an inflammatory provocateur and fabulist who engages in racist invective and propounds baseless conspiracy theories…" and someone who lacks a profession "whether as cowboy, cowboy actor, restauranteur." As for Matherly and Marquardt's statement, it notes that since his election to the commission in 2018, Griffin "has devoted himself to promoting his Cowboys for Trump organization rather than being a county commissioner who serves the citizens of Otero County who elected him." The statement also notes previous Griffin-related investigations involving the State Auditor, Secretary of State and Attorney General. "[Griffin] has repeatedly insulted other public officials," the statement continues. "He has refused to comply with state campaign finance laws. His actions have consumed an enormous amount of time of county staff, who must deal with the drama he instigates at the expense of attending to public business." Attorney General Hector Balderas also has called for Griffin's resignation.
55th Legislature begins
With some lawmakers present in House and Senate chambers, and more participating via Zoom from their offices, the 55th Legislature kicked off yesterday with rulemaking and leadership votes. As expected, state Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, retained his position as House Speaker, noting in his opening remarks that "We will not be deterred from doing the important work ahead of us. Our priority is economic recovery for small businesses and hardworking New Mexicans along with solutions that address the systemic challenges facing the people of New Mexico." State Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, won election as president pro tem, while Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, took over as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. The Roundhouse will be closed today as yet another precaution against rumored violent protests on Inauguration Day. Much of the session's work will take place remotely, with House committee meetings starting Thursday and the full House reconvening on Jan. 25. The Senate is scheduled to reconvene on Feb. 1. You can watch webcasts floor sessions and committee meetings here and see which legislation has been filed here.
Needless to say, the pandemic has throttled local businesses, limiting many to curbside sales and shuttering others all together. Amid the stories of heartbreak, SFR writer Katherine Lewin visited with Armando Pacheco, hot dog chef extraordinaire, who has been operating Roque Garcia's small silver hot dog cart in Big Jo True Value Hardware's parking lot (Garcia hopes to return to operating the cart on the Plaza sometime this year, while Pacheco has his sights set on opening his own cart in Albuquerque this year, called Chicano Dogs). In Episode 6 of SFR's Reported podcast's fourth season, Lewin talks with Pacheco about putting on the dog during tumultuous times.
Meow Wolf Vegas on sale
Tickets are now on sale for Meow Wolf's upcoming Omega Mart when it opens in Las Vegas on Feb. 18 (watch a preview video here). The company's second permanent installation, Omega Mart has garnered enthusiastic previews across the country, with Thrillist listing its inclusion in Vegas' AREA 15 as one of Vegas' events to look forward to this year. A 52,000-square-foot take on the superstore concept, Omega Mart, the Reno Gazette Journal writes, is a "viscerally stimulating, psychedelic and unpredictable immersive art experience." Meow Wolf Las Vegas Executive Creative Director Corvas Brinkerhoff tells the Gazette the Vegas site "…is really a social commentary on consumerism, corporate culture and environmental stewardship, and it's what we call an alternative storytelling environment. Its mission is driven by conveying a story to the audience." Lest we forget, a much smaller iteration of Omega Mart manifested temporarily in Santa Fe back in 2012.
State announces first round of JTIP funding
The state's Economic Development Department yesterday announced the first round of funding for its 2021 Job Training Incentive Program, JTIP, with more than $2 million going to eight companies: six in Albuquerque, one in Santa Fe and one in Prewitt. Santa Fe Aero Services a full-service aircraft Avionics and Maintenance outlet, received $35,920. JTIP funding helps companies train and support employees and interns; in the case of Santa Fe Aero Services, three trainees. Other companies receiving awards also work in scientific fields, as well as robotics, paper recycling and consumer manufacturing. All told, the funds will support 265 jobs, according to a department news release.
Look for: snow, sun, wind, clouds
Yet another chance (30%) for snow showers today between 8 and 11 am. Otherwise, it will be cloudy but then gradually become mostly sunny with a high near 42 degrees and north wind around 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. The rest of the week thus far looks mostly sunny and mostly warmer (high 40s) until the weekend, when chances for precipitation re-emerge.
Thanks for reading! The Word assumes everyone who wants to watch today's presidential inauguration can figure out how to do so (it will be on every television station and streamed on many national news outlet's websites), but just in case, here's the link to NPR's livestream. The swearing in is scheduled for noon ET or 10 am MST. Don't forget your pearls.