COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 222 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 192,989. The health department has designated 174,409 of them as recovered. Bernalillo County had 60 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 38 and Sandoval County with 28. Santa Fe County had six new cases.
The state also announced three additional deaths; there have now been 3,963 fatalities. As of yesterday, 78 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Santa Fe County remained turquoise in yesterday's bi-weekly public health assessment, allowing for the fewest restrictions under the public health law. There are now 20 counties in the turquoise category, seven more than two weeks ago. Ten are green and three are yellow. Twelve counties advanced to less restrictive categories. Three counties, San Juan, Hidalgo and Guadalupe, regressed to yellow from either green or turquoise. Health officials provided updates on COVID-19 and vaccine rates in an afternoon news conference, noting that thus far the state appears to be bucking national trends and has not seen neither rising case counts nor increased presence of variants.
"Hang in there with us," Scrase said. "We're in this race. We don't know exactly where the finish line is today. But we know we're in the lead. And so at this point it's just a matter of endurance."
The City of Santa Fe announced yesterday its Office of Emergency Management is coordinating a series of large-scale drive-through vaccination events at the Midtown Campus in partnership with Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center starting tomorrow, April 9, with a goal of administering 2,000 to 2,500 vaccinations at each event. Twelve events are scheduled in the next seven weeks. An invitation and event code from the health department will be required for participation.
Gov signs Civil Rights Act and more
Among 10 bills she approved yesterday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday signed the New Mexico Civil Rights Act into law, which will allow New Mexicans judicial recourse against government agencies that violate their rights. "All New Mexicans have a right to fair, just and equal treatment under the law, regardless of their race or background," state Rep. Georgene Louis, D-Albuquerque, said in a statement. "But up until now, our state laws have made pursuing justice for civil rights violations all but impossible."
The governor also signed two measures intended to improve the state's broadband capacity to increase access to high-speed internet. "The digital divide is nothing new, but the pandemic made it clear that closing it must be a priority for New Mexico if we're going to honor our commitment to provide every child with a full and equitable education," Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said in a statement. "With this legislation, we're on the path to close that divide once and for all." The governor continues signing legislation before tomorrow's deadline for bills passed in the regular session that ended March 20. Yesterday, the governor also approved SB 1 from the special session, which allows 50% of state and local gross receipts tax revenue from the construction phase of projects to be put into the Local Economic Development Act fund to help businesses with land, building and infrastructure costs.
Lead from the front
As President Joe Biden rallies the troops to address climate change, he's appointed two New Mexico activists to the new White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council committee: Richard Moore, co-director of the Los Jardines Institute in Albuquerque, and Jade Begay, the climate justice campaign director for NDN Collective. The council is tasked with recommending how the administration should address "current and historic environmental injustice" that concentrates polluting industries and lax regulatory enforcement in disproportionate effect to communities of color.
"For me, environmental and climate justice is about tying people back to their land and traditional ancestral ways," Begay tells SFR. "Indigenous peoples, frontline communities, tribes, they know what's best for them…and they know the best solutions to navigate the climate crisis or whatever challenges they're facing. So what they need is investment. What they need is big NGOs and agencies with massive budgets to share their power and resources and let these people lead." Moore tells SFR it's impossible to separate the fight for social justice from the fight for clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. He's spent decades organizing against major polluters in Albuquerque's South Valley and other low-income areas in the city.
Police arrest suspect in train station shooting
Santa Fe Police have arrested 22-year-old Matthew Arellano of Santa Fe in connection with the shooting death of a 24-year-old and the alleged attempted homicide of a second man at the South Capitol Rail Runner station on Monday afternoon. Arellano has been charged with an open count of murder, attempted murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Detectives also are looking for 20-year-old Travis Whaler for his alleged role in the incident, "just to speak to him." He is not a suspect, although he does have an active arrest warrant for an unrelated case. Witnesses at the scene describe an attack stemming from an argument over the price of drugs. Arellano says he shot both of the victims in self defense, according to court records. David Hernandez, also of Santa Fe, died at the scene before paramedics were able to reach him. The second victim, Elijo Trujillo, 38, who was shot four times, was still in critical condition at a local area hospital as of Tuesday night.
New Mexico's pending legalization of recreational cannabis has been the talk of the town and the nation. It will also be the centerpiece for discussion on today's Let's Talk New Mexico at 8 am, as lawmakers, regulators and advocates break down what the law does and what to expect. Got questions? Concerns? Emotions? Email LetsTalk@kunm.org, call in live or participate on social media. Deets on how to do all that here. For additional background reading, SFR's Jeff Proctor looks at what it's going to take to expunge prior cannabis-related offenses, and Andy Lyman at NM Political Report has the reaction from the last governor who advocated for legalization: Gary Johnson.
Taking a walk on the Santa Fe River Trail ranks as one of our favorite activities, improved only by: 1. water in the river and 2. encountering musicians playing Irish music in the arroyo. That last is not a flight of fancy. Like every other musician, those in the the Santa Fe Irish Session lost out on indoor performance during the pandemic. But the group, which has been playing reels and jigs in an evolving arrangement of flutes, mandolins, fiddles and washtub basses for 15 years, decided to head outdoors—under the bridge at Frenchy's Field to be specific, offering shelter from the wind. "It's like a little Red Rocks," tin whistle player Jackie Shane tells SFR. "It has really good acoustics." You can catch them from 3 to 5 pm this Sunday.
The Washington Post spotlights a new video project from Santa Fe native/renowned choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess. The Social Justice Leaders Series, streaming on Burgess' dance company's website, debuts new pieces approximately once a month. The National Portrait Gallery, where Burgess is the Smithsonian's first choreographer-in-residence, inspired the series with its permanent exhibition, The Struggle for Justice. Subjects so far include William Ayers Campbell, a decorated member of the Tuskegee Airmen, and contralto Marian Anderson, whose performance in 1939 at the Lincoln Memorial became a landmark moment for civil rights. Forthcoming subjects will include activists Dolores Huerta and César Chávez, among others. "It's amazing how quickly a society can forget who these individuals are, and how important their voices were, and how important they can be, presently, again," Burgess tells the Post. "Because society needs mentors. We need to be able to visualize them and to see the grace that they embodied, even to this day." The project builds on Burgess' longstanding interest in merging dance with social justice—he was drawn to Japanese-born modern dance pioneer trailblazer Michio Ito, who was held in one of New Mexico's Japanese internment camps. In 2017, the City of Santa Fe declared March 17 Dana Tai Soon Burgess Day.
Weather with gusto
Sunny skies and less wind than yesterday are predicted today, with a high of 70 degrees. But it wouldn't be spring without a northwest wind 15 to 20 mph increasing to 25 to 30 mph in the afternoon. Gusts could make it to 30 mph. The National Weather Service has also issued a red flag warning from noon to 8 pm today that includes the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Low humidity combined with strong winds will create critical fire weather conditions, especially near and south of I-40.
Thanks for reading! The Word feels very confident she has no need—or desire—for a $299 "smart" mask.