COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 263 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 189,158. The health department has designated 169,889 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 92 cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 40 and Valencia County with 23. Santa Fe County had 14 new cases, nine from the 87507 ZIP code, which re-appeared on the state's top 10 list for ZIP codes with new cases.

The state also announced five additional deaths, including one from Santa Fe County: a man in his 60s who was hospitalized. Santa Fe County has now had 142 deaths, and there have been 3,877 statewide. As of yesterday, 138 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

New Mexico's vaccine dashboard reports that of the approximately 1.6 million people in the state who are 16 years and older and eligible for a vaccine, 35.4% have had at least one shot and 20.8% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County, 60.5% of the eligible 126,593 residents have registered for a vaccine with the state, the second highest participation following Taos County with 61.1%. In Santa Fe County, 31.1% those eligible have had at least one shot and 16.9% are fully vaccinated.

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.

Senate OKs education funding question to voters

New Mexico's perpetually high rankings for childhood poverty, food insecurity and other indicators putting youth at risk only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to New Mexico Voices for Children. The state's nascent Early Childhood Education and Care Department's strategic plan homes in on a variety of ways to address the needs of children in the first five years of life. And yesterday, after a decade of trying, the Senate passed House Joint Resolution 1, which will put a constitutional amendment in front of voters to increase withdrawals from the state's Land Grant Permanent Fund from 5% to 6.25%, translating into an extra $127 million annually to expand early childhood education programs; $85 million a year for K-12 schools, as well as $34 million to universities, hospitals and other beneficiaries. The move drew national attention, with New York Times columnist Nick Kristof tweeting the state congratulations in advance of the vote for becoming the first state "to declare a right to early childhood education. There are no silver bullets, but early childhood programs do a lot to create a fairer, higher performing society." Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has made early childhood education a cornerstone of her administration, described the potential infusion of funds for students as "the single most important investment we can make," saying: "I know I am not alone in feeling humbled and awe-struck by the transformational potential of today's action at the Capitol. We are talking about comprehensively uplifting generations—generations—of New Mexican children and families. We are talking about fundamentally changing the historical trajectory of our state. This is a big deal, the big deal."

Gov signs Prescribed Burning Act

As climate change creates hotter and drier weather, New Mexico's forest fire season grows longer and more threatening. Yesterday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law a bill that will make prescribed burns, considered key in protecting life and property during wildfires, more accessible to landowners. House Bill 57 was developed through a working group led by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department and included landowners, tribal members, environmental and agricultural groups, as well as forest and watershed experts. As SFR wrote in January, scientists and lawmakers—HB57 had bipartisan sponsorship—are increasingly emphasizing the importance of prescribed burns: last fall, fire lines from a previous prescribed burn played a key role in keeping the Medio Fire from ascending the mountain. "The Prescribed Burning Act is a perfect example of a diverse coalition coming together to develop good legislation that will have a positive benefit for New Mexico's forests and watersheds for years to come," EMNRD Cabinet Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst said in a news statement. "Prescribed burns are a proven tool to reduce the intensity of wildfires which is crucially important as we enter another long and dry fire season." The bill also establishes a new certified prescribed burn manager training program in cooperation with the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service.

Trapping ban heads to gov’s desk

State Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, co-sponsored the Prescribed Burning Act, as well as Senate Bill 32: the Wildlife Conservation & Public Safety Act, aka "Roxy's Law," now heading to the governor's desk. The House passed the bill 35-34 yesterday. The bill, which enacts the Wildlife Conservation and Public Safety Act, makes it illegal to use traps, snares, or wildlife poisons on public land with violations leading to misdemeanor penalties (with the exception of private, tribal or Pueblo lands). "Trapping is cruel," McQueen said in a statement. "Animals suffer before they are killed or left to die. That alone is enough to ban the practice. But because trapping is indiscriminate, it is also a threat to public safety and our pets. It makes New Mexicans fearful of using our public lands, makes tourists less likely to explore our state and violates the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation." The Legislature concludes at noon tomorrow.

Deb Haaland and the fossil fuel industry

Much of New Mexico celebrated Deb Haaland's confirmation this week as Interior Secretary (she was sworn in yesterday wearing a traditional ribbon skirt embroidered with corn and butterflies) and her historic role as the first Native American cabinet member in US history. Still, the tension of how that might play out for New Mexico's oil and gas industry remains an open question. Contributing New Yorker writer Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org, writes this week that Haaland is uniquely qualified to carry out Biden's campaign pledge to end new leasing for oil-and-gas development on public lands (Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wrote Biden this week asking that New Mexico be given credit for its climate change actions thus far, given how reliant the state is on the oil and gas industry). Indeed, McKibben writes: "Haaland is a Native American, but she's also a New Mexican, and that's important: there's no state that gets a larger share of its budget revenues from oil-and-gas leasing on public lands—roughly three billion dollars in the last fiscal year." This makes her uniquely qualified to navigate tricky political terrain, he notes and, with luck, "she'll be able to summon the rest of the country to appreciate the legacy that she now protects: the amazing landscape of the American West, the ancestral home of her own people and of many of our ideas about American identity."

Listen up

Santa Fe County's NEA Big Read starts tomorrow and includes an AMP Concerts kick-off event at 7 pm. The Santa Fe Public Library received a $15,000 grant to host the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read here, which will focus on Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea and include events through June (and you can also purchase the book at Collected Works Bookstore and receive a 20% discount while the Big Read is happening). AMP's event includes music from Carlos Medina Conjunto and Lone Piñon; readings from the book with community partners; a special performance by the Santa Fe Opera's Young Voices; and City Poet Laureate Elizabeth Jacobson and Youth Poet Laureate, Artemisio Romero y Carver. You have many viewing options for this event: either AMP's FacebookYouTube Channel or the library's Facebook page.

SITE Santa Fe hires new ED

SITE Santa Fe announced yesterday Louis Grachos will take over as the institution's Phillips executive director, filling the position previously held by Irene Hofmann, who stepped down in December. Grachos will begin in the summer, and comes from the Palm Springs Art Museum, where he serves as executive director. According to a SITE news release, Grachos previously served as its director from 1996 to 2003. "To return to SITE Santa Fe now is such an incredible opportunity and point of excitement for me," Grachos says in the announcement. "I am so looking forward to working collaboratively with the SITE Santa Fe team to create new opportunities for artists as well as new and exciting ways for the public to connect with bold and ambitious art."

House music

If you were hoping to return to Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return, which reopens today after more than a year with increased COVID-19 safety practices and reduced capacity, you'll have to wait a bit longer—tickets for attendance are sold out for the rest of the month. But if you'd like a glimpse, you're in luck. The Santa Fe Symphony offers a free virtual concert, "Music of the Universe," at 4 pm, Sunday, March 21 (and available for a month thereafter). The program includes works by nearly a dozen composers, including Georg Philipp Telemann, JS Bach and Philip Glass. Though free, registration is required. If you're having trouble envisioning the show, here's a preview. "We're using as many different facets of the exhibit as possible,"  Symphony Executive Director Daniel Crupi tells KRQE. I think we used nine or 10 different rooms. There's 11 pieces on the concert, so it's really an eclectic variety of music and variety of the venue."

JTIP awards money to Santa Fe businesses

The state Economic Development Department announced yesterday three Santa Fe companies were among the 17 receiving a total of $3.4 million to support 328 through the department's Job Training Incentive Program, known as JTIP. Santa Fe's OpenEye Scientific Software, Inc. received approximately $272,000 for 10 trainees; the company develops molecular design software; applications; toolkits; and technology and design services to improve development of pharmaceuticals, biologics, agrochemicals and flavors and fragrances. Santa Fe Aero Services, a full-service aircraft outlet, received $1,760 for one trainee. SavantX, which has developed software tools for "highly scalable artificial intelligence applications" received more than $104,000 for four trainees. "JTIP funding helps to ensure that New Mexico workers are trained for better jobs and that these jobs stay in our state," Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said in a statement.

Lion, lamb?

TGIF, Santa Fe, and prepare for a relatively pleasant weekend starting…now! Today will be sunny, with a high near 62 degrees and east wind around 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. Saturday, temps will reach 66 degrees (though the wind will pick up). Sunday, low 60s again for the high and, yes, a wee bit more wind. And then, keep an eye on the sky: A chance for rain showers begins Sunday night, with even a slight (20%) chance of snow showers, and continues into the start and middle of next week.

Thanks for reading! The Word's spatial reasoning skills leave a bit to be desired, but these tiny architect-designed paper houses kind of make her want to grab her scissors.