COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 448 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 183,781. Bernalillo County had 105 new cases, followed by Eddy County with 100 new cases and Doña Ana County with 70. Santa Fe County had 14 new cases.

The state also announced 14 additional deaths, including three from Santa Fe County: A man in his 60s who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions; a man in his 80s who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions; and a woman in her 90s who was hospitalized. There have now been 135 deaths in Santa Fe County and 3,658 statewide.

As of yesterday, 251 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials will provide a COVID-19 update today at 3:30 pm, which will stream live on the governor's Facebook page, as well as SFR's homepage.

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.

NM adds adjusts public health law, adds more options

New Mexico's color-coded public health law has a new shade: turquoise. Under the state's red-to-green public health framework, counties are evaluated every other week for their case and test positivity rates over the course of 14 days, and then ranked red to green for restrictions, with the least restrictions at green. Under a modified public health order announced yesterday, counties in the green for two consecutive evaluations can now progress to turquoise, the least restrictive category of all (Catron, Harding, Sierra and Union counties all reached turquoise in yesterday's bi-weekly update).

Significantly, the public health order also recategorizes businesses previously all described as "close-contact recreational facilities" and closed at all the levels, allowing for new possibilities for entertainment and exercise, particularly at the turquoise level, where outdoor capacity can reach up to 75% for some venues. Bars and clubs stay closed in red and yellow, but now can build toward some reopening in green and turquoise. You can compare and contrast all the restrictions here. In addition, state parks, previously only open for day use to New Mexico residents, will reopen for everyone to use immediately, and reopen for camping, by reservation, on Feb. 27. As for Santa Fe County, we remain in the yellow category after yesterday's update, but are en route to hitting green in two weeks, as our test positivity rate decreased to around 2% and our daily case rate has almost reached its target as well.

Santa Fe behind on audit…again

City of Santa Fe financial managers will meet with State Auditor Brian Colón today to discuss the city's 2020 audit, which was due Dec. 15 and has yet to be submitted. The meeting follows a letter Colón sent earlier this week expressing concern about the delay in this year's audit given that last year's audit also was late, and its tardiness was one of 21 deficiencies cited regarding the city's financial management. "I noted the significant need for the city to immediately work towards remedying the issues raised within the city's fiscal year 2019 (audit)," Colón writes. "Continued failure to timely submit audits is unacceptable and can jeopardize critical funding, such as federal funding." (The city was late on its 2018 audit as well). In a news release yesterday, the city says this year's audit is late in part because of the pandemic, specifically the $17.5 in CARES Act funds the city received from the state, which "had the unanticipated impact of imposing additional operational requirements on the City's Finance Department." Now, the city says it is working with its external auditor to establish a timeline for the completion of the audit by the end of June. "We share Mr. Colon's commitment to excellent fiscal management," Mayor Alan Webber said in a statement, "and will do everything we can to respond to his concerns."

Pandemic relief bill heads to Gov

Senate Bill 1, which will give restaurants and bars a four-month tax holiday and provide $600 rebates to workers making less than $15 an hour, is heading to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's desk, after the House passed the $200 million bill 66-1 yesterday. "The past year has been devastating for New Mexico's restaurants and bars, as well as front-line essential workers, like janitors and grocery store workers," co-sponsor Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, said following the vote. More pandemic-relief legislation remains pending at the Legislature, including House Bill 11, which provides $200 million in business grants, and already passed both House and Senate. Two other relief bills are pending in the House: Senate Bill 2, which would waive liquor license fees this year, and Senate Bill 3, which would revamp the state's small business loan program.

Listen up

A proposal to legalize adult cannabis use in New Mexico and create a regulatory and taxation structure is heading to the House floor following yesterday's do-pass from that chamber's Taxation and Revenue Committee on a 8-4 party-line vote. House Bill 12 went through some changes in committee, with more likely to come. In advance of that vote, SFR Editor Julie Ann Grimm provided the lay of the land for cannabis regulation in the most recent edition of Your New Mexico Government, a collaboration between SFR, KUNM and New Mexico PBS.

Tree project takes root

Earlier this week, the City of Santa Fe announced a new initiative, TreeSmart Santa Fe, which, as the name implies, will involve thinking smartly about the city's tree canopy. City Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth, chairwoman of the Quality of Life Committee and the Water Conservation Committee, is spearheading the public/private partnership, which involves the Santa Fe Watershed Association and the Santa Fe Community Foundation at the outset, both of which are contributing funding. TreeSmart officially launches April 30, National Arbor Day, and will involve a COVID-safe tree-planting ceremony at a to-be-determined location. You can stay in the loop at the dedicated TreeSmart website.

Series examines ethics of place

SciArt Santa Fe kicks off the first of a three-part series today, "In Place: Recentering Ecocritical Knowledge of the Natural World." Part 1, today at 5:30 pm, will feature artist Will Wilson; artist, scientist and author Valerie Rangel; and writer-curator Alicia Inez Guzmán. The talk, "In Place: Representing Environmental Racism on Tribal Lands and Communities of Color," will "examine the legacy of extractive industries and resource exploitation in New Mexico," as well as "the implications of such industries and what paths lie ahead for remediation." Panelists will also consider the role of aesthetics in representing environmental destruction. The series is held in conjunction with Leonardo/The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology via support from the New Mexico Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Register for a free or by-donation Zoom link here.

Something damp this way comes

Today's forecast foretells a slight (20%) chance of rain and snow showers after 2 pm on an otherwise mostly sunny day with a high near 43 degrees and southeast wind 10 to 20 mph. Sunny skies and warmer temps return manaña.

Thanks for reading! When The Word wants to escape into the simpler past, she kills a few minutes flipping through '90s television.