COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 126 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 187,040. Of those, the health department has designated 157,504 as recovered. Bernalillo County had 60 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 23 and Sandoval County with 10. Santa Fe County had one new case.

The state also announced three additional deaths; there have now been 3,811 fatalities.

As of yesterday, 136 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. Hospital leaders in a news conference yesterday reported low numbers of COVID-19 patient numbers: five at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, around the same at Lovelace and 41 at all of Presbyterian's facilities across the state. "This is the lowest number of hospitalizations since October of 2020," Presbyterian Healthcare Services Medical Director Dr. Denise Gonzales said, adding, "I'm excited." Christus Chief Medical Officer David Gonzales said Christus also has seen a decline in COVID-19 testing and referrals, and that "the majority" of its COVID-19 patients of late have come from outside Santa Fe County.

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 opens vaccinations for educators, wants schools fully open

Following a federal directive, New Mexico yesterday opened COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for educators, saying all would have their first shots by the end of the month. According to Health Secretary Dr. Tracie C. Collins in an afternoon news conference, of the more than 53,800 eligible educators, nearly 23,000 have already received a first dose as members of eligible groups and close to 21,000 are scheduled to receive a first shot this month. The state, which is receiving approximately 80,000 doses weekly, has not received additional vaccines to cover educators, she noted, but will try to continue vaccinating those in prior eligibility groups: healthcare workers, people 75 and older and those with certain underlying conditions. "So any of those folks with existing appointments, they will keep those appointments," she said. "It's just, going forward we're prioritizing educators."

With a rush to vaccinate teachers, the state also decreed schools should work toward reopening with full in-person learning by April 5. "While we know our communities need time to plan, we expect them to move quickly," Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said in a statement. "As a state, our expectation is for all schools to be offering in-person learning for every family that wants it. You tell us your start date, but that start date should be soon." Stewart also said school sports and extracurricular activities can resume and outlined detailed safety measures under which schools will be operating.

Superintendent García announces retirement

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica García announced yesterday she will retire effective June 30 "to start another phase of my life and to take on new challenges." The SFPS Board of Education will hold a special meeting at 4:30 pm this Thursday, March 11, to discuss and possibly take next steps. "I am forever grateful to the Board of Education for the amazing opportunity to serve SFPS and the Santa Fe community," García said in a statement. "This has been a capstone to my 48-year career, of which 10 years have been devoted to educational excellence for all Santa Fe students." García previously served as education secretary for the state, and as executive director for New Mexico Voices for Children. "The positive impact of Dr. García's leadership will resonate through our school system for a long time," Board President Kate Noble said in a statement. "She is a titan, and we will all need to step up to help fill the gap. We have a great team, and I am confident we are on a great path. There's no question that hers are big shoes to fill."

Muralist sues state

Artist Gilberto Guzman, whose Multi-Cultural mural has become a flashpoint in cultural tensions, filed a lawsuit yesterday in US District Court in Albuquerque against the state Department of Cultural Affairs and the City of Santa Fe seeking a restraining order and temporary injunction from the mural's destruction. Guzman created the mural on the side of Guadalupe Street's Halpin Building in the 1980s and '90s in collaboration with other artists; it has been slated for destruction as the state begins construction on the Vladem Contemporary satellite wing of the New Mexico Museum of Art. The state said last month the mural would be covered during construction and then "retired as part of the renovation, and the museum plans to acknowledge the mural and its history with a display in the interior." Since then, protests have continued against its destruction. Guzman's suit contends destructing the mural would violate both his contract with the state, as well as his rights under the federal Visual Artists Rights Act.

LANL leases second Santa Fe office

Los Alamos National Laboratory announced yesterday it has signed a 10-year lease for two adjacent office properties totaling 77,856 square feet of space at the corner of Pacheco Street and St. Michael's Drive. The offices, meeting space and co-working areas will accommodate approximately 500 existing employees, according to a news release. "This is the largest job-relocation initiative in Santa Fe's history," LANL Director Thom Mason said in a statement. The news release noted that no hazardous work will take place at the location. News of the new location followed LANL's announcement last month that it had signed a 10-year lease on the 28,000-square-foot building at the junction of N. Guadalupe and W. Alameda that previously housed Descartes Labs. The lab says the Guadalupe office will be occupied when COVID-19 regulations lift, and the Pacheco Street complex is expected to be in use in fall 2021.

Listen up

The latest episode of No More Normal, and the second on Black history, focuses on stories—where we get them and how they shape us. Guests include a line-up of prominent Black journalists and storytellers from New Mexico and beyond, including: Jemele Hill, contributing writer for The Atlantic and co-host of "Cari and Jemele (Won't) Stick To Sports" on VICE TV; Van Tate, sports director for KRQE News 13; Shellye Leggett, general assignment reporter for KOAT Action 7 News; Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, historical storyteller and author of children's books; Lisa Salters, ESPN's Monday Night Football and NBA reporter, "E:60" co-host; Kalyn Norwood, reporter and weekend anchor for KOAT Action 7 News; James and Abby Woods, publishers of Cue The Culture; and Juba, a descendant of West African griots and a member of Storytellers of New Mexico. No More Normal is a collaboration between SFR, KUNM and New Mexico PBS.

Machine bias

In the film Coded Bias, MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini investigates widespread bias in algorithms after she discovers that most facial-recognition software does not accurately identify darker-skinned faces. Tonight at 6 pm, the Center for Contemporary Arts and Santa Fe Institute present the film and a discussion with SFI Professor Cristopher Moore and External Professor Melanie Moses on the complexities of using artificial intelligence for societal decision-making, and the need for transparency about such algorithms. You can read more about SFI's Algorithmic Justice Project here, and buy tickets for the event, which will take place via Zoom, ($12) here. The discussion will be moderated by CCA Board member Jacqueline Frank.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet bows out of performances

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet announced yesterday it is closing down its dance company. "The path of destruction left by the pandemic has affected everyone, and the performing arts community has been hit especially hard," reads a statement from Executive Director Jean-Philippe Malaty and Artistic Director Tom Mossbrucker. "We have missed seeing you all and although we have not been able to perform onstage, behind the scenes we have been actively seeking paths towards a healthy recovery." The 25-year-old institution will continue to operate its schools and Folklórico programs here and in Colorado. The company says it is also launching a Fund for Innovation in Dance that will match dancers and companies with resources.

Santa Fe County Sheriff seeks comments on use-of-force

The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office is accepting public comments on its use-of-force policy through March 20, with Sheriff Adan Mendoza saying the policy is out-dated and out-of-step with current legal and societal shifts toward de-escalation versus reactive actions. Mendoza says he also anticipates possible changes in state law that would impact officers' use of force, such as a bill sponsored by state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, which would ban officers from using physical force until they had exhausted de-escalation techniques. "Officers are making split-second decisions, sometimes in life or death situations, and we want officers to be able to use the amount of force that is reasonable under those circumstances," Mendoza told the Albuquerque Journal, adding that he expects the new policy, when finalized, to take effect in the next few months, with officers being retrained as needed. Send comments to:

Take what we can get

According to the National Weather Service, Santa Fe has a 20% chance of showers after 9 am today. Otherwise, it should be partly sunny with a high near 57 degrees.

Thanks for reading! The Word would watch the bears at Brook Falls in Alaska's Katmai National Park all day if she could.