COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 997 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 166,823. Of those, the health department has designated 91,096 as recovered. Bernalillo County led with 232 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 125 and McKinley County with 92. Santa Fe County had 39 new cases.
Case rates this week have tracked with forecasts from the weekly modeling report's middle case scenario, although daily numbers have steadily increased this week from a low of 628 on Monday.
The state also announced 35 additional deaths, including five more Santa Fe County residents: a woman in her 50s who was hospitalized; a woman in her 60s who had underlying conditions; a woman in her 80s who was hospitalized; a man in his 80s who had underlying conditions; and a man in his 90s who was a resident at Pacifica Senior Living facility in Santa Fe. There have now been 3,044 deaths statewide. As of yesterday, 644 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
As the state continues with its vaccination efforts—with close to 163,000 doses already administered— health officials acknowledge that providers are not always adhering to the state's plan. In the current Phase 1B, providers are supposed to sequentially vaccinate people 75 and older, followed by people with underlying conditions and then certain essential workers. Instead, reports have been multiplying of teachers and others receiving the vaccine while others in the 75 and older group have not. A health department spokesman acknowledged the confusion and said the department "…will do better."
Midtown developer wants out
KDC/Cienda Partners informed the City of Santa Fe yesterday it wants out of its agreement to serve as master developer for the Midtown campus. A letter to the city cited the pandemic as the reason, noting that its impact had "created greater risk and cost to this development that neither party could have anticipated." The pandemic, however, wasn't the sole driver in the developer's decision. The campus' infrastructure, the developer says, has no commercial value, needs $30 million in public subsidies and may be contaminated in some as-yet-to-be-revealed way. The Midtown campus, formerly home to Santa Fe University of Art and Design and the College of Santa Fe, had been touted as a potential source of new housing, jobs and higher education options. The city has $32 million worth of payments left on the property and, Mayor Alan Webber said, some "really hard decisions to make."
City selling real estate
The City of Santa Fe yesterday announced its intention to begin selling real estate, including 1614 Paseo de Peralta, the former home of Warehouse 21. Other holdings include 228.5 acres of undeveloped land that comprise Las Estrellas at Santa Fe Estates, which goes on sale today. According to a city news release, the Las Estrellas parcels, located just west of the junction of US 84 and NM 599 near the Thornburg Investment campus, were appraised at just over $4 million. The deadline to submit an offer is March 23. "This is a tremendous opportunity for the right developer, and for Santa Fe," Economic Development Director Rich Brown said in a statement. "It's exciting to shepherd this vacant land into a tangible opportunity for Santa Fe's future." The City also launched a new website directory for city-owned assets available for purchase. The city says most will be available for private sale to any buyer with an offer that meets or exceeds appraised value, can demonstrate financial capacity and agrees to any applicable plans and requirements. The City Council will have final approval of all sales. The move comes courtesy of the city's new three-person Community Development Department staffed by Asset Development Manager Sean Moody, Assistant City Attorney Andrea Salazar and Asset Development Associate Lauren Lucero. The Warehouse 21 property's appraised price was not listed as off press time.
CARES grants barely cover half the requests
New Mexico funded less than half of the businesses that applied for its Small Business CARES Relief Grants, a program backed by $100 million in federal CARES Act funds, authorized last year by the Legislature and the governor. According to the Department of Finance and Administration, 6,642 businesses received grants of the 14,125 that applied, with 60% of the funds provided to businesses in urban areas and 40% of the funds to businesses in rural areas of the state. The businesses receiving grants included restaurants, hotels, retail stores, nonprofits, manufacturing companies, accountants and others, with grants ranging from $2,000 to $50,000 and an average grant size of $15,000. The Associated Press reports grant recipients included five current or recent state senators—four of whom abstained from voting on the program and one of whom voted against it. Colin Keegan, founder of beloved and struggling Santa Fe Spirits, who did not receive a grant, described lawmakers' receipt of funds "shocking." Moreover, six businesses suing the state over its pandemic restrictions received grants, as did 14 businesses associated with art dealer and real estate owner Gerald Peters, which received $338,000.
Elections chief to pursue Cowboys for Trump disclosure
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said yesterday her office will pursue enforcement of an arbitration agreement granted last July against Cowboys for Trump. The organization, founded by Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, sued Toulouse Oliver last spring, claiming—in a nutshell—that financial donors' disclosure under state's Campaign Reporting Act would have an injurious effect on the organization's ability to raise money and threatened free speech. A federal judge dismissed that case Wednesday after ruling in October that Cowboys for Trump had not suffered any injury, despite the organization's contention otherwise (US Magistrate Judge Gregory Fouratt had allowed the group to amend its complaint but that did not happen and thus the case was dismissed). Griffin remains in custody in Washington DC following his participation in the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol; his fellow commissioners and Attorney General Hector Balderas have asked for his resignation. Toulouse Oliver says she will pursue the arbitration order from last summer, which requires Cowboys for Trump to register as a political committee; to file all delinquent expenditure and contribution reports; and to pay for fines of $7,800 for failing to do the first two things. "Cowboys for Trump, like any other political entity, cannot operate off the grid," Toulouse Oliver said in a statement. "Now that their lawsuit has been dismissed, we will pursue enforcement and accountability to ensure both public transparency and compliance with existing law."
It's a new year for all us, including New Mexico's legal community. The State Bar of New Mexico kicks off season 2 of its SBNM Is Hear podcast with guest state Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Vigil, who reflects on how 2020 impacted the court system, what the judicial branch accomplished throughout the pandemic and how he envisions the future of the practice as a result.
Sing it loud
With last year marking the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women's right to vote, Santa Fe choral group the Zia Singers presents "Unsung" at 7 pm this Saturday, Jan. 23. Written by Eric Lane Barnes, "Unsung" tells the stories of seven extraordinary women, from Susan B. Anthony to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and is written in the musical style of each historical figure. If you're able, $20 for the concert ticket will help Zia Singers continue producing virtual choir pieces; if not, just tune in to Zia Singers' YouTube Channel—come 15 minutes early if you'd like to chat with the singers or other audience members before the show.
Expect the unexpected
Don't call it virtual, curator Amber-Dawn Bear Robe tells SFR in a discussion about her upcoming online event through the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA). "I'm calling this an 'online exhibition,' and I want to be clear that it's not virtual," Bear Robe (Blackfoot Sikiska) says. "We want it to be an online gallery space, and each month we'll be doing a new theme. This show, "Art of Indigenous Fibers," opens Monday, Jan. 25, and focuses on fiber artists, but "not who you'd think of when you think of fiber arts," Bear Robe notes. "I'm looking at artists who use unconventional materials that mimic or represent fiber arts." For example, Barry Ace (Anishinaabe), a mixed-media creator from Greater Sudbury in Ontario, Canada, creates work that looks like traditional Native regalia from afar, but are actually "…computer materials, transistors; materials that are not used for clothing," Bear Robe explains. "He's speaking to the power of Indigenous people, of bringing Native people into the future and our connections to these other worlds." The show is just the first in SWAIA's ongoing efforts to provide compelling online experiences and showcase more contemporary and conceptual artists.
Art for all
Nonprofit Vital Spaces opens its Community Art Closet this Saturday, Jan. 23 from 11 am to 3 pm (and every third Saturday going forward) in the Southwest Annex of the Midtown campus, 1600 St. Michael's Drive. What is a Community Art Closet? As described by Vital Spaces: think "food pantries, but with art supplies instead of food." That's right. If you need supplies, come get them. The initiative is for the community, Vital Spaces writes, "particularly youth and families. Our Community Art Closets will be stocked with a range of art supplies for all skill and age ranges, including coloring sheets and activity prompts for younger artists from our partner arts organizations." And if you'd like to contribute, you can do so with a low monthly subscription or one time donation of art supplies and/or dollars. Every dollar donated will go toward purchasing art supplies.
More patchy freezing fog on tap today before 8 am and then we segue into mostly sunny skies with a high near 43 degrees and north wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. We have a 20% chance of snow showers tonight after 2 am, with the same likelihood on Saturday. The odds for snow increase on Sunday with a 60% chance for precipitation after 11 am. And we may see some more snow on and off straight on through Tuesday night. Enjoy the mid to high 40s temps this weekend, as we are dropping into the 30s for at least the first few days next week.
Thanks for reading! The Word enjoys her dystopian fiction, but she also enjoys when it's mocked.