COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 236 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 187,720. The health department has designated 161,650 of those as recovered. Bernalillo County had 77 cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 36 and San Juan County with 18. Santa Fe County had 15 new cases.

The state also announced six additional deaths; there have now been 3,846 fatalities. As of yesterday, 130 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 31 on ventilators.

Hospital leaders and state officials marked yesterday's grim one-year anniversary of New Mexico's first COVID-19 cases with reflections on the pandemic's impact on every aspect of life, and moments of silence for the 3,845 New Mexicans who have died from the disease. The pandemic, all agreed, displayed New Mexico's widespread vulnerabilities—from poverty to poor health to a lack of hospital beds. Many of the maneuvers COVID-19 engendered, such as collaboration among institutions, increased data tracking and an emphasis on telehealth services, will continue to serve the state, they said.

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.

NMDOH reprioritizes chronic conditions vaccine subgroup

The health department announced yesterday it is now prioritizing, within the large group of people with chronic conditions, people 60 years old and older who have severe chronic conditions. The state's current 1B phase includes people 75 years and older, as well as those 16 and older with qualifying chronic health conditions. Last week, the state announced it would be prioritizing teachers as well, pledging that all K-12 educators would have their first shots before the end of the month. Doing so placed educators in front of the qualifying group of people with chronic conditions, into which more than a quarter of New Mexico's population falls, according to the health department. Now, those 60 and plus with qualifying severe conditions, of which there are a dozen, will be prioritized. Those conditions listed on the vaccine registration form include: cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD and Type 2 diabetes, to name a few. As of yesterday, the state's vaccine dashboard reported 706,940 vaccines administered, with 26.3% of New Mexicans having received their first shots and 15.1% having received both. Yesterday, President Joe Biden announced he would be ordering states to make all adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1.

The health department continues its virtual town hall series answering questions about the vaccine today at noon via Facebook with Communications Director Matt Bieber, Lincoln County Hospital Chief Executive Todd Oberheu and New Mexico Hospital Association Director of Quality and Patient Safety Dan Lanari. The Santa Fe Fiesta Council and local governments will be hosting a vaccine registration drive-through event to help seniors, along with anyone 60 and older with chronic conditions. The registration event takes place from 9 am to 2 pm, tomorrow at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds.

Police task force heads behind closed doors

The Santa Fe City Council voted Wednesday night that the city's Health and Safety Task Force—formed last summer in the wake of national police violence—will meet behind closed doors. While the task force isn't subject to the state Open Meetings Act, city lawmakers in 2009 passed a resolution requiring all committees and task forces to comply with the act to aid government transparency. In this case, however, Councilors and task force Co-chairs Renee Villarreal and Chris Rivera said closing the meetings to the public will create a "safe space" for members to speak openly about experiences of racism and violence. "We haven't even been able to work through some of the topics because people don't feel safe sharing what has been their experience or what they would like to take on with the task force," Villarreal said, noting that concerns surrounding the political climate and events such as the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol are also contributing to the collective trepidation. The request prompted disquiet from some councilors about transparency, with Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth suggesting an amendment that would keep task force meetings public but allow for private community meetings. That motion, however, failed.

House endorses ban on residential picketing

The state House of Representatives yesterday narrowly approved House Bill 276, which would outlaw picketing or demonstrating at private residences and charge anyone who does so with a misdemeanor crime. Such "targeted residential picketing," as defined by the proposed law, "consists of picketing that is specifically directed or focused toward a residence of a person and takes place within one hundred feet of the property line of that person's residence." The Idaho House of Representatives voted down a similar bill earlier this week. As it did in Idaho, the proposition generated fierce debate in New Mexico yesterday (debate begins right around the 4:20 mark on this legislative webcast). Co-sponsor Rep. Jason Harper, R- Rio Rancho, said the bill was inspired by an unnamed older Rio Rancho couple targeted by demonstrators after they flew a flag in their yard. Concerns ranged from Republican Rep. Cathrynn Brown of Carlsbad's worry the law could mistakenly be applied to trick or treaters. Similarly, GOP House Minority Leader James Townsend voiced concern about Christmas carolers. Other lawmakers expressed less holiday-specific apprehensions about placing limits on free speech and assembly.

Listen up

St. Patrick's Day may be five days in the offing (March 17), but it's never too early to celebrate. AMP Concerts hosts We Banjo 3: Live From Ireland, wherein all WB3 band members will perform live in real time from the Pearse Lyons Distillery in Dublin, Ireland. Tune in at 3 pm tomorrow or buy a ticket ($20) and catch the performance through March 20. If you'd like a preview, check out the video for "Haven" here. C-VILLE Weekly writes: "Known for electrifying live shows, WB3 swings from rollicking jams to poignant ballads to pop-folk anthems with infectious energy." Pints not included. If you need some St. Paddy's Day nosh, this week's Fork newsletter has you covered.

We scream for ice cream

We're all about good news this week, and nothing caterwauls contentment better than fresh ice cream, yes? So it is that among SFR's weekly arts and culture picks you'll find tomorrow's reopening for Freezie Fresh, Xzavian Cookbey's mobile made-to-order Thai rolled ice cream. Cookbey shared his business' origin story with SFR last year: "I was working as a cashier at the Coop, and was doing research about food trucks, looking at different ideas and trying to figure out what I was trying to do," he said. "Then I came across this one article…saved up enough to buy my first ice cream pan, and then I was just at home watching YouTube videos trying to figure out how to get this ice cream rolled. It's all self-taught." And delicious. Find out for yourself from noon to 8 pm today in the Big 5 parking lot, 2860 Cerrillos Road.

You can be of service

The City of Santa Fe is accepting applications for members of the Mayor's Committee on Disability, which advises the City Council on programs providing services to persons with disabilities, including those in the areas of housing, human rights, employment, recreation and transportation services. The committee meets at 10 am on the third Thursday of each month (currently via Zoom until in-person meetings resume); meetings are open to the public. Interested residents can apply by submitting a resume and letter of interest by 5 pm, March 19 to: ADA Coordinator Thomas M. Graham, City of Santa Fe, P.O. Box 909. Santa Fe, NM 87504-0909 or tmgraham@santafenm.gov.

A good weekend to finish one’s taxes

Springlike weather continues today, when it will be mostly sunny with a high near 60 degrees and that charming breezy east wind at 10 to 15 mph heading south at 20 to 25 mph in the morning and then potentially gusting as high as 35 mph. That wind heralds a 30% chance for snow tomorrow before 11 am and scattered rain showers thereafter on an otherwise partially sunny day with a high of 45 degrees. Yes, it will also be breezy and then very windy. Possible (20%) chance of snow Saturday night, increasing to a 50% chance for precipitation on Sunday: snow before 11 am and then rain in the afternoon. The high will only reach 44 degrees or so. And, yes, still windy, with potential gusts up to 40 mph. Don't forget as you're hiding from the wind that daylight saving time begins at 2 am on Sunday, so in addition to being wind blown, we can also be sleep deprived.

Thanks for reading! The Word is seriously considering buying a €1 home in Italy. OK, not super seriously considering—more idly fantasizing while hiding from 35 mph winds.