COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 512 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 178,790. The health department has designated 114,976 of those as recovered. Bernalillo County had 122 cases, followed by 111 in Doña Ana County and 29 in San Juan County. Santa Fe County had 25 new cases.

The state also announced 31 additional deaths, including two from Santa Fe County: a man in his 60s who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions, and a woman in her 70s. There have now been 124 deaths in Santa Fe County and 3,461 statewide. As of yesterday, 379 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

The creators of the COVID-19 alert app NOVID, with which the City of Santa Fe has partnered, will be hosting a live Q & A at 1 pm today with app founder Po-Shen Loh. The session will feature an overview of how NOVID works and how residents of Santa Fe can use it. Organizers recommend preparing for the session by downloading NOVID and entering the "SANTAFE" community code when prompted. The event is free (as is the app); Register here.

You can read all of SFR's COVID-19 coverage here. If you've had experiences with COVID-19, we would like to hear from you.

Santa Fe County turns yellow

As anticipated/hoped, Santa Fe County yesterday met the public health requirement for its test positivity rate and now moves from red to yellow under the public health red-to-green system. Under that framework, the health department evaluates counties every other week for their case and test positivity rates over the course of 14 days. For cases, counties must have fewer than eight cases per 100,000 people. For test positivity rates, counties must average 5% or less. Santa Fe County met the latter benchmark with a test positivity rate of 4.22%. For cases, Santa Fe County would have needed 168 or fewer cases and, instead, had logged 466 cases for the 14-day period ending Tuesday. The new yellow status allows for increased business capacity and notably lets restaurants provide a small amount of indoor dining, verboten in the red zone. Some Santa Fe restaurants plan to offer indoor dining soon; others say they're holding off. Overall, 15 New Mexico counties met the yellow threshold and four are green. The shift also expands hotel occupancy from 40% to 60% for places of lodging that have completed NM Safe Certified training.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials touted the state's improved outlook during a news conference yesterday, projecting an optimistic picture for both efforts at curtailing the spread of COVID-19 and administration of vaccines. New Mexico currently ranks third in the US for the percent of residents who have received their first shot; sixth for those who have received their second; and fourth for administration of received vaccines. "I'm very confident that between the vaccines and strong COVID-safe practices, we're going to see a summer and spring like the New Mexico we're used to," Lujan Grisham said. "It's too early to tell. But I'm feeling very optimistic and I think everyone in New Mexico should." In another nod to the state's improving COVID-19 outlook, the governor announced that effective today the state will no longer require, but only "strongly advise," visitors or New Mexicans arriving into the state from "high-risk" states quarantine. A new executive order also recommends visitors take a COVID-19 test upon their arrival in or return to New Mexico.

Alcohol, pandemic aid bills progress

A proposed bill that would allow for home alcohol deliveries and change the state's liquor license laws heads to the House Taxation and Revenue Committee following rigorous debate and no recommendation on approval yesterday from members of the House Commerce and Economic Development committee. "I think of all the industries that have been hit the hardest, it's our restaurants, it's our bars, it's our hospitality," Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said. "This is an effort to give them new tools to actually expand the hospitality market with new licenses, and we believe and feel very strongly that these changes are an important step in that direction." Meanwhile, the state Senate yesterday approved three pandemic-relief bills: Senate Bill 1, which would temporarily pause gross receipts taxes for food and beverage establishments, and also provide rebates to workers making less than $15 an hour; Senate Bill 2, which would waive 2021 liquor license fees; and Senate Bill 3, which modifies the Small Business Recovery Act of 2020 and expands business loans. The bills now head to the House, and are among those Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham prioritized in her agenda for the legislative session.

LANL opens Santa Fe office

Los Alamos National Laboratory announced yesterday it has signed a 10-year lease on a 28,000-square-foot building located at North Guadalupe and West Alameda, which will house up to 75 employees from Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Bernalillo, Los Alamos and Sandoval counties, and will not be used for hazardous work, according to a news release. The building also will include a conference room named after Dorothy McKibbin, who staffed the secret Manhattan Project office located at 109 East Palace Ave. "Santa Fe has played an important role in the history of the Laboratory since our inception, and we're delighted to have a presence in the City Different again," LANL Director Thom Mason said in a statement. "This building will act as an additional entrance point for the Laboratory, just as Dorothy McKibbin's office at 109 East Palace in Santa Fe did decades ago." According to LANL, approximately 2,900 of the Laboratory's 12,000 employees reside in the city and Santa Fe County. "Los Alamos National Laboratory is among the largest employers in Northern New Mexico and has a huge impact on the local economy," Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bridget Dixson, said in a statement. "The Chamber is pleased to welcome the Santa Fe office and the Laboratory employees that will become part of our business community."

Listen up

Some say this could be the year for New Mexico to legalize recreational marijuana. Are you excited? Concerned? Got questions or comments? On today's edition of KUNM's Let's Talk New Mexico, kicking off at 8 am, pot is the topic. Email your thoughts at LetsTalk@KUNM.org, tweet them to #LetsTalkNM or call in live during the show at 505-277-5866. Listen online or at 89.9 FM. For more background, check out the Growing Forward podcast, which explores New Mexico's cannabis industry.

SITE program focuses on young artists

SITE Santa Fe inaugurates its 2021 cohort of SITE scholars in a virtual event at 6 pm this evening, featuring a new video and remarks by Ring Director of Education & Curator of Public Practice Joanne LeFrak. The program allows high-achieving local college and graduate students to network and work on projects that help them transition from student to professional artist. The museum's SITElab currently features the 2020 SITE Scholars exhibition, "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in," inspired by the lyrics of musician/poet Leonard Cohen, which will be on display through March 7. Last year's SITE Scholars will offer a virtual tour of the exhibition at 2 pm on Feb. 22.

State historic sites reopen this weekend

Ready for an in-state road trip? The state Department of Cultural Affairs announced yesterday that seven of the state's historic sites will reopen to the public on Feb. 13. Coronado, Fort Selden, Fort Stanton, Fort Sumner/Bosque Redondo Memorial, Jemez, Lincoln and Los Luceros will reopen, while the Taylor-Mesilla Historic Property will remain closed. The sites will operate under modified schedules and with a limited visitor capacity of 75 people or 25%, whichever is smaller. Some areas of the historic sites will remain closed for public health safety. Visit newmexicoculture.org or nmhistoricsites.org for updates. The DCA also is extending by 12 months the expiration date of its New Mexico CulturePass for all passes activated between Jan. 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021.

Get it while you can

Today's forecast calls for sunny skies with a high near 56 degrees and west wind 10 to 15 mph. Enjoy the spring temps while you can. Tomorrow looks like our first (slight) chance for precipitation, with a much greater chance this weekend.

Thanks for reading! The Word rarely remembers her dreams, but apparently the COVID-19 dreamscape has been harrowing.