COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 237 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 183,023, with the health department designating 134,105 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 79 cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 48 and Sandoval County with 15. Santa Fe County had eight new cases.

The state also announced 11 additional deaths, including a woman in her 80s from Santa Fe County. There have now been 3,635 fatalities statewide. As of yesterday, 247 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

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.

Hospitals ease visitor restrictions

With COVID-19 hospitalizations decreasing across the state, hospital leaders from Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, Presbyterian Medical, University of New Mexico Health and Lovelace said yesterday that visitation capacity will be expanding at their institutions. Speaking during a news conference, Christus Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Gonzales said Christus has allowed visitors throughout the pandemic, but with very strict guidelines, and decreased visitation hours as cases peaked, he said. Those hours will now expand back to 9 am to 3 pm. Allowing some visitation, he said, has provided relief to hospital staff and caregivers, a sentiment echoed by other doctors on the call. Noting decreasing numbers of patients coupled with a continued decline in COVID-19 cases statewide, hospital officials all expressed cautious optimism about New Mexico's pandemic trajectory, as well as the need to remain vigilant. "We know compared to sky high numbers in December and January we are doing much better," UNM Hospital Chief Quality and Safety Officer Dr. Rohini McKee said, "but…our numbers are still higher than they were in the spring and the summer." Noting that UNM remains above capacity in its intensive and progressive care units, she added: "Please wear your mask."

Haaland’s confirmation hearing begins

New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland's confirmation hearing for Interior Secretary before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee starts today, right about now (9:30 am EST), and you should be able to watch it here. If the Senate ultimately confirms Haaland, she will be the first Native American to serve as a cabinet secretary. However, CNN reports that Democrats and White House officials anticipate today's hearing could be tense, as Haaland has picked up increasing opposition from Republican senators for her stances on oil and gas activity on federal land. In fact, the New York Times writes, "No other Biden nominee to head a cabinet department has divided the political parties as sharply." Politico reports Haaland's supporters say she isn't being treated fairly. "Being a minority person and being a person of color, it makes you wonder if she would get this treatment if she wasn't a person of color, if she wasn't Indian and if she wasn't a woman," Democratic Montana state Sen. Shane Morigeau, a member of the Salish and Kootenai tribes, says. "She became an easy target because we haven't gotten to this place in our country where we give—especially women and people of color—a fair shot." Haaland's expected remarks for today's hearing acknowledge the historic nature of her confirmation, as well as the fossil fuel industry: "I know how important oil and gas revenues are to fund critical services," her remarks read. "But we must also recognize that the energy industry is innovating, and our climate challenge must be addressed. Together we can work to position our nation and all of its people for success in the future, and I am committed to working cooperatively with all stakeholders, and all of Congress, to strike the right balance going forward."

House committee approves state budget

House Bill 2, also known as the state's $7.4 billion budget, unanimously passed the House Appropriations and Finance Committee yesterday. The budget represents a 4.6% increase over the 2021 fiscal year, reflecting improved economic conditions for the state due primarily to oil and gas revenue. The bill includes: $17.5 million for the Local Economic Development Act and $7 million for the Job Training Incentive Program; $110 million to extend the school year to make up for lost learning, as well as $22 million to the newish Early Childhood Education and Care Department to expand pre-K, home visits and increase support for child care workers. The budget also provides $10 million to continue funding the Opportunity Scholarship and Lottery Scholarship and increases by $64 million general fund appropriations for Medicaid. "I am proud of the collaborative approach we have taken in forming this year's budget, and even more proud of the resulting product," Committee Chair Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, said in a statement. "We have avoided making cuts that would set New Mexico back, and instead are poised for a successful recovery." The bill could receive a full House vote as early as Wednesday before heading to the state Senate.

Listen up

On the most recent episode of KUNM's University Showcase, University of New Mexico Associate Professor of Political Science Kathy Powers discusses reparations, the concept of which she has been studying—along with transitional justice—around the world for many years. Background reading for this episode (included on the show page) includes a paper co-authored for Foreign Policy Analysis by Powers and Kim Proctor: "Victim's Justice in the Aftermath of Political Violence: Why Do Countries Award Reparations?"

It’s a wrap!

The New Mexico Film Office recently announced three feature films shot in the state that completed production of late: Vengeance, Cop Shop and Intrusion. Blumhouse feature Vengeance, written and directed by BJ Novak, filmed in Albuquerque last November and employed more than 100 New Mexico crew members, over 20 New Mexico principal actors and over 50 background talent. Cop Shop, directed by Joe Carnahan, which filmed in Albuquerque during the same time period, employed over 50 New Mexico crew members, approximately 25 New Mexico principal actors and 30 background talent. And Intrusion, directed by Adam Salky, also filmed in Albuquerque October through December of last year, utilizing over 130 New Mexico crew members, approximately 30 New Mexico principal actors and more than 130 background talent. Based on the films' titles and descriptions, all would appear to be thrillers.

Speaking of acequias

While the pandemic tamped down on festival days last year at El Rancho de las Golondrinas, the living museum has kept on keeping on with plenty of online content. That includes today's "Acequias, Mayordomos and Norteño Traditions" talk at 6 pm, part of the ongoing Speaking of Traditions series Las Golondrinas produces in partnership with the New Mexico Museum of Art. Broadcast via Facebook Live, the event will feature author and farmer Stanley Crawford. "Even if you're just growing your own vegetable garden or wanting to know about climate change in our environment, we'll address that," Education and Volunteer Coordinator Laura Gonzales tells SFR. "This talk will be interesting, informative and fun. We're all about sharing with the New Mexico community."

Warm and windy

Today's weather forecast calls for a sunny, "breezy" day (north wind 15 to 25 mph becoming west in the afternoon, which sounds more windy than breezy to us) with a high near 56 degrees. More warm temps tomorrow, followed by a chance of snow on Thursday, then more weather, then some more chances of snow. You get the idea.

Thanks for reading! The Word feels it's a little soon to look back at the COVID-19 pandemic—since it's still happening—but appreciates that museum curators take a longer view (be sure to scroll through all the collected objects so you don't miss the the toilet paper snow globe).