COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 487 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 174,550. The health department has designated 104,125 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 192 cases, followed by Sandoval County with 49 cases and Doña Ana County with 42. Santa Fe County had 35 new cases.
The state also announced 12 additional deaths, including two men from Santa Fe County: one in his 50s and one in his 70s; both were hospitalized and had underlying conditions There have now been 117 deaths in Santa Fe County and 3,295 statewide. As of yesterday, 477 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Also as of yesterday, 36,158 people in Santa Fe County have received either one or both of their COVID-19 vaccines, the second highest ranking in the state for individuals within a county, approximately 24% of the county's population (the fifth highest percentage in the state). A total of 277,141 doses have been administered so far statewide—approximately 22% of them second doses.
The Santa Fe City Council yesterday voted unanimously to extend for 56 days Mayor Alan Webber's COVID-19 emergency proclamation, with a few changes. Those changes include testing city employees who are unable to telecommute for COVID-19, and reinstating the city's Single-Use Carryout Bags Ordinance, which allows customers to use reusable bags, and grocery stores to charge 10 cents for paper bags.
Legislators introduce cannabis bills
Lawmakers yesterday introduced two bills to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis in New Mexico, with more on the way. Senate Bill 13, sponsored by state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, would create a cannabis regulation division within the state's Regulation and Licensing Department, along with a 15-member cannabis policy and regulatory advisory committee, whose members would include law enforcement, the judiciary, the health department, elected officials, medical and commercial cannabis licensees and others from the industry. Senate Bill 288, filed by Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, would create a new eight-person Cannabis Control Commission to create and promulgate licensing rules. The bill also would direct the state health secretary to create a public health and safety advisory committee to publish an annual report on the health effects of legalizing cannabis for adult use. Each bill proposes different methods of taxing and distributing revenue from legal recreational cannabis. A third bill, from state Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, is likely to emerge today, and has the support of the Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. "Legalization must be responsive to the lives of New Mexicans, not solely business interests, and that means centering social justice, as the House version introduced by Representative Martinez does," Emily Kaltenbach, senior director for Resident States and New Mexico for the Drug Policy Alliance said in a statement.
State Supreme Court denies stay for GOP lawmakers
The State Supreme Court yesterday denied a request from three New Mexico House Republicans—State Reps. Jim Townsend of Artesia, Rod Montoya of Farmington and Larry Scott from Hobbs—to stay new rules put in place for the current legislative session. Following reports of COVID-19 cases in the Roundhouse, House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, issued the new rules, which include closing all committee rooms in the Capitol and limiting participation to Zoom, and closing the House floor to all members except the speaker, along with the majority and minority leaders or their designees. The lawmakers filed suit over the weekend against Egolf and the Legislative Council, and contend "the new rules are unconstitutional in that they define 'present' as not present, the 'seat of the government' as something other than where the Legislature meets, and require members to participate via computers and headphones." Moreover, the suit claims that in the absence of a stay, members of the House and New Mexico residents "will suffer immediate and irreparable injury and loss by being deprived of their right to due process and other constitutional rights" during the session. While denying the stay, the Supreme Court called for an expedited response to the suit by Feb. 7.
Virgin Galactic schedules new flight window
Virgin Galactic announced yesterday a new flight window for a rocket-powered test flight of its SpaceShipTwo Unity will open on Feb. 13. According to a news release, pre-flight preparations are already underway at Spaceport America, including "rigorous steps to prepare the vehicles, pilots, teams and facilities, with safety procedures as a top priority." The Virgin Galactic Pilot Corps has already completed two flights with its mothership, VMS Eve, for "routine pilot proficiency training." In a statement, Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said the company is "…pleased to be able to get back to the skies and continue our flight test program." The company aborted its first launch to space from New Mexico last December after a rocket motor failed to ignite. One "key objective" of the upcoming flight, the company says, is to test the remedial work that has been completed since the aborted launch.
In the most recent episode of the No More Normal podcast, a group of citizens discuss the American Academy of Arts & Sciences' Our Common Purpose document: strategies to reinvent 21st-century democracy, which were the culmination of two years worth of discussions and research by scholars, business leaders and civic organizers from across the political spectrum. Guests include: Darshan Goux, one of the authors of the report; clinical psychologist Gerald Chavez; Gus Pedrotty, 2017 Albuquerque mayoral candidate; business owner Kristelle Siarza; Pastor Barry Bitzer; Center for Civic Policy CEO Oriana Sandoval; and college student and political science major Taylor Velazquez. No More Normal is a collaboration between SFR, KUNM and New Mexico PBS.
NM marks Black History Month
Happy Black History Month, New Mexico! In its honor, the New Mexico Office of African American Affairs announced yesterday it will be hosting a four-part virtual series, "A Celebration of Our Culture: Black History Today," which kicks off Feb. 5 and takes place each Friday throughout the month. The series will highlight New Mexico through a Black lens—additional details and event information can be found on the Office of African American Affairs' website and on the office's social media. "Black History Month is a time to reflect, honor and celebrate the individuals who have worked diligently for the freedoms of African Americans," Office of African American Affairs Director Amy Whitfield said in a statement. "New Mexico has a unique perspective to share, and we are proud to honor those in our state who have participated in this work. As we continue to fight for equity for African Americans throughout New Mexico, we must recognize the hard work, dedication and tenacity of those who came before us."
Exploring the science of violence
The Santa Fe Institute hosts its first community event of the year today at 11 am: "Cascading Conflict: What is the Science of Violence?" Moderator Rachel Kleinfeld, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of A Savage Order: How the World's Deadliest Countries Can Forge a Path to Security, along with SFI researchers, will use historical examples and data from real-world armed conflicts to discuss "how an initial event spreads and ignites conflicts in other regions, resulting in a 'conflict cascade' or avalanche that spreads over time and space." Panelists include: Jessica Flack, David Krakauer and Edward Lee, researchers in SFI's C4 Collective Computation Group; their recently published paper, "Scaling theory of armed-conflict avalanches," will form the basis for the discussion. Co-hosted by the Santa Fe Council for International Relations, you can register for the free event on CIR's website.
Today will be mostly sunny, with a high near 56 degrees and north wind around 10 mph. Tomorrow looks just about the same right now, with a teensy chance for rain and/or snow Wednesday night.