COVID-19 by the numbers
Over the weekend, New Mexico reported 856 new cases of COVID-19: 571 on Saturday and 285 on Sunday. Santa Fe County had a total of 28 new cases—20 on Saturday and eight on Sunday. There have now been 180,571 total cases since the start of the pandemic, 120,051 of which the health department has designated as recovered.
The health department also announced 27 additional deaths: 14 on Saturday and 13 on Sunday, including two from Santa Fe County: a woman in her 50s who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions, and a man in his 80s who was a resident of the BeeHive Homes Santa Fe facility. There have now been a total of 3,529 deaths statewide. As of yesterday, 292 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Leaders at both Christus Regional Medical Center and Presbyterian Healthcare issued statements to SFR about their vaccination strategies, which include vaccinating patients within their own systems who are currently eligible under the state's vaccine plan. Both Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins, in response to a question from SFR last week, said hospitals should not be prioritizing their own patient populations but, rather, relying on the health department's online registration system to ensure equity. However, Christus President and CEO Lillian Montoya says Christus is able to more reliably verify people's eligibility using their own database. And Presbyterian Chief Medical Director Dr. Denise Gonzales says its plan was made with the health department. As for the health department, Communications Director Matt Bieber did not provide a direct response to SFR's questions on the issue.
Gov optimistic after White House meeting
Unsurprisingly, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham donned her face mask that resembles the New Mexico flag (yellow backdrop with a red Zia symbol) for a meeting at the White House last week with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other governors to discuss the American Rescue Plan, which includes $350 billion in direct aid to states, localities and tribes. On Friday, Lujan Grisham issued a statement saying she was "humbled to represent New Mexicans in the Oval Office this afternoon and to advocate for the direct aid our businesses, front-line workers, local governments and tribal governments desperately need. President Biden made it very clear to me directly: His government wants New Mexico to succeed in our struggle against COVID-19 and he and his administration are fighting in Congress to get New Mexicans every resource we need as part of our ongoing economic recovery after this year of crisis."
Sen. Baca backlash
On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen, faced swift rebuke after asking Sonya Smith during her confirmation hearing for Department of Veteran Services cabinet secretary whether she would be "comfortable adequately representing" both "Hispanic and African American cultures." Smith responded by asking Baca, who later apologized and joined the Senate Rules Committee in a unanimous recommendation for Smith: "Do I feel comfortable representing the Department of Veteran Services as a Black woman? Is that what you're asking?" Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham afterward wrote to legislative leaders calling Baca's line of inquiry "inexcusable." House Majority Floor Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, also issued a statement in response to Baca's comments, saying: "I find this line of questioning by Sen. Baca to be borderline racism and completely disrespectful. Questioning a qualified professional because of her race has no place in this Legislature."
Court upholds NM Leg COVID-19 rules
Late Friday afternoon, the state Supreme Court denied a petition from state House Republicans against House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and the Legislative Council that sought a stay on rules limiting in-person activity during the session, imposed by Egolf earlier this month following reports of COVID-19 cases at the Roundhouse. In response to the court's denial, Egolf said he was "glad that today's ruling allows us to keep in place the rules that were adopted to protect the health and safety of the public, staff and members for the remainder of the session." In response to the court's ruling, plaintiff and House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia, issued a statement saying: "It is horribly unfortunate that the New Mexico Supreme Court has once again failed to respond to a significant constitutional issue that affects every New Mexican, an the processes where rules and laws are made." Fellow plaintiff, House Republican Whip Rod Montoya of Farmington, also issued a statement reading: "Just like small business owners and parents of NM school children, legislators have lost confidence in New Mexico courts to protect our constitutional rights."
The 99% Invisible podcast, hosted by Roman Mars, delves into the rich, complex and contested history around Santa Fe style in Episode 429, "Stuccoed in Time." Senior editor Delaney Hall talks to Santa Fe architect Trey Jordan; architectural historian Chris Wilson; Joseph Montoya, executive director of the Santa Fe County housing authority; historic preservationist Lisa Gavioli Roach; longtime resident and historic preservation advocate Ray Herrera; and Roxanne Swentzell, a Tewa artist, builder and permaculture advocate. The show explores how preservationist instincts fueled Santa Fe's popularity as a tourist destination, but also widened its inequality. "Early preservationists tried to freeze the city in a moment in time," the show page reads, "and on some level, they succeeded. But in holding so tight to the aesthetics of one period, the city actually lost a lot of the people and cultures that used to make Santa Fe what it was."
SFO announces new chief artistic officer
On Friday, the Santa Fe Opera announced the appointment of David Lomelí as its chief artistic officer starting May 1, a new position combining the roles of outgoing Artistic Director Alexander Neef and recently retired Director of Artistic Administration Brad Woolbright. The job places Lomelí in charge of SFO's artistic operations, including casting. A former world-renowned tenor (whose debut SFO performance was in the role of Rodolfo in Paul Curran's production of Puccini's La bohème in 2011), Lomelí comes to SFO from The Dallas Opera, where he'll continue as a consultant, and also will maintain a position as a casting consultant for the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Germany, which he's held since 2014. "The Santa Fe Opera holds a great deal of meaning for me personally and as an artist," Lomelí said in a statement. "I am excited and grateful to become a part of its history. Through our shared values of hard work, creativity, compassion, empathy and diversity, we will keep welcoming the world's most exciting artists to the incredible creative center that is the Santa Fe Opera."
Serve the children
The City of Santa Fe is seeking new members for the Santa Fe Children and Youth Commission, whose duties include include oversight of the Children and Youth Fund; reviewing applications to the fund and making recommendations to the City Council; and ensuring access to services for children and youth of Santa Fe. The mayor appoints members, who are then approved by the governing body. The committee meets six times per year in public meetings, and members must reside within Santa Fe County. Interested applicants may submit a letter of interest and a resume by 5 pm, Feb. 21 to Elizabeth Peterson, Children and Youth program manager and Children and Youth commission liaison: (505) 470-3186, email@example.com.
As you may have noticed, we are in the midst of a very cold storm front. In preparation, city officials and homelessness advocates activated a "code blue" status over the weekend to try to keep people safely indoors, and the state health department issued guidance lifting COVID-19 restrictions on lodging during extreme weather. Today will be partly sunny with a high near 28 degrees and wind chill values as low as -15. If you venture out, you may encounter north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. We have a 40% chance for snow showers tonight as another storm hits, and those chances continue straight on through Wednesday evening. The storm knocked out power for some over the weekend but, as of this morning, power appears mostly restored. You can see some of yesterday's highs and lows across the state here.
Thanks for reading! The Word wishes you a happy Presidents Day. Here's the ex-presidents bank robbery scene from Point Break—don't watch if guns, profanity or Patrick Swayze offend you.