Morning Word

New Mexico Pauses Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Use

Gov’s campaign settles with former staffer

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 187 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 194,164. The health department has designated 175,460 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 97 new cases, followed by Sandoval County with 21 and both Doña Ana and San Juan counties with 13. Santa Fe County had four new cases.

The state also announced nine additional deaths; there have now been 3,988 fatalities. As of yesterday, 103 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

According to the health department’s vaccine dashboard, currently, 52.7% of New Mexicans have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 34.8% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County, 51.8% have had at least one dose and 32.5% are fully inoculated.

Politico writes this week about New Mexico’s vaccination efforts, describing the state as the “unlikely vaccination star” in the country, having provided at least one dose to more than half the eligible people in the state. “That success came despite the sprawling state’s longstanding public health challenges, including a high poverty rate and routinely poor health care outcomes, and caught the attention of other states interested in replicating its model,” the story notes. Experts attribute New Mexico’s success to its centralized registration system, which has helped the state avoid many of the pitfalls faced around the country. “They are an exemplar,” Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, tells Politico. “Their model works.”

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 ceases J & J vaccine pending federal inquiry

Yesterday, New Mexico’s health department—along with most of the country—announced it was pausing use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID vaccine, following federal recommendations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration issued a joint statement and held a news conference Tuesday morning to discuss six “rare and severe” blood clots—out of 6.8 million doses administered—among women between the ages of 18 and 48 in the US, with symptoms occurring 6 to 13 days after vaccination with the J&J vaccine. “New Mexico—like the federal government—is acting out of an abundance of caution,” DOH Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said in a statement. “As we learn more, we will share that information.” Health Communications Director Matt Bieber told SFR yesterday the state expected to receive 100,400 total COVID-19 doses this week, which would not include 1,200 projected J&J. Instead, all J&J vaccination appointments will be paused or shifted to Pfizer or Moderna. Anyone who develops within three weeks of a J&J vaccination a severe headache, blurred vision, seizure, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath should contact their health care providers. Health care providers should report adverse events to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System. New Mexico has administered just under 39,000 of the J&J doses—3% of the total doses here.

Gov settles with former campaign staffer

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s gubernatorial campaign has paid at least $62,500 to resolve claims made by former campaign spokesman James Hallinan. Current campaign spokesman Jared Leopold told the Albuquerque Journal the payments—$12,500 monthly from November through March—were part of a settlement resolving “numerous dubious and disputed potential claims made by Mr. Hallinan arising from his employment in 2018 with the campaign organization and his subsequent search for employment.” The governor and the campaign have denied Hallinan’s accusations, which are that in late 2019, a year after he left the campaign, the governor poured water on his crotch, then grabbed his crotch through his clothes while laughing. Hallinan also says campaign manager Dominic Gabello, now a senior adviser in the governor’s office, talked him out of reporting the incident. Gabello also denies the accusation. Leopold says the campaign “reached a settlement in order to avoid the continuing distraction and significant expense of possible litigation and allow them to concentrate on working for the people of New Mexico during this pandemic.” The Republican Governors Association issued a statement titled “A $62,500 crotch grab,” with RGA spokesman Will Reinert saying “$62,500 is a lot of money for a sexual harassment scandal that Lujan Grisham originally called ‘bizarre,’ ‘slanderous’ and ‘categorically false.’ The payments certainly suggest that there must be some truth to the story, and Governor Lujan Grisham should publicly apologize to her victim for her behavior.”

SFPS seeks input

The Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education is seeking feedback—questions and comments through a “Your Voice Matters” campaign—as it searches for a new superintendent, following Veronica García’s announced retirement. Last week, the board narrowed its search to six candidates, and will conduct interviews with them on April 17 (which will livestream here). Thus far, board members have received between 15 and 20 emails each, according to García, who is helping with the search prior to her retirement at the end of June. “I want to keep an open mind because everybody has different perspectives on individuals,” Board President Kate Noble told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “I am really excited by the thoughtful input I am receiving on the qualities people want in a superintendent.” The public has until noon on Friday to submit feedback. Noble and board member Carmen Gonzales also have been holding “listening sessions”—thus far sparsely attended—as well, and will hold two more this week: from 6 to 7 pm tonight with a Spanish interpreter available and from 8:30 to 9:30 am on Friday. People can log on those at: Review the finalists’ applications here.

Listen up

Looking for a good reason to start composting? Avoiding maggots in the trash spurred KSFR’s Deborah Begel to start doing so. She speaks with three experts for a segment on backyard composting: nonprofit Resourceful Santa Fe founder Sarah Pierpont; Reunity Resources Program Director Juliana Ciano; and Santa Fe County Sustainability Specialist Adeline Murthy. Pierpoint is coordinating backyard composting trainings for rural communities this spring through the New Mexico Recycling Coalition. Santa Fe County offers composting tips and resources, while Reunity Resources offers a door step composting collection program that allows you to get rid of your waste even if you don’t compost.

Native foodways

BBC Travel profiles Santa Fe-based author, chef and food historian Lois Ellen Frank, whose work focuses on the mission of recovering the lost legacy of Native American cuisine. She runs Red Mesa Cuisine as chef-owner, alongside Walter Whitewater, whom she met in the 1990s when she worked with Juanita Tiger Kavena, one of the first Native cooks to document Hopi cuisine and farming methods. From there, Frank went on to receive a PhD in culinary anthropology from the University of New Mexico, with her dissertation, Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations, winning a James Beard Award shortly after its publication in 2003. Frank teaches at both Santa Fe School of Cooking and the Institute of American Indian Arts, while also delivering lectures to various universities on Indigenous science or Traditional Ecological Knowledge, “which perpetuates the wisdom of the ancestors that was handed down through generations, via traditional songs, stories and beliefs,” she says. Frank is currently working on a new cookbook, The Magic Eight, an “homage” to the core components of Native cuisine. Be sure to check out Frank’s recipe for chocolate and piñon nut torte.

Cross-cultural exchange

The Santa Fe Council on International Relations continues its excellent livestream series this week with two talks of national and international interest. At 10 am today, former US Secret Service Agent Mary Beth Wilkas Janke, now a forensic and clinical psychologist, served among the small minority of women (9%) in the Secret Service in the early 1990s. She discusses that pathway in her memoir and now coaches women on how to “defy the odds and win in a world full of challenges, risks and pitfalls.” Register for her talk ($10 nonmembers) here. At 10 am, Thursday, April 15, CIR presents a program (same price) on the situation in Myanmar, led by Derek Mitchell, the US ambassador to Myanmar from 2012 to 2016, which will focus broadly on how countries can rebuild democratically and specifically discuss prospects for Aung Suu Kyi, the situation for the Rohingya and the events Myanmar within a regional context. Register here.

C’mon April showers!

Today will be partly sunny, with a high near 68 degrees and southeast wind around 15 mph. Tonight holds a slight chance for showers.

Thanks for reading! If you can spare six minutes, The Word recommends watching The Evolution of Dance from 1950 to 2019.

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