COVID-19 by the numbers
On Friday, New Mexico reached a grim marker in the COVID-19 pandemic, with four new deaths taking the state past 4,000 deaths. “Today’s sad milestone reminds us of what we have been through as a state and as a country,” Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said in a statement. “This is not just another number—they are our neighbors, our fellow New Mexicans. We grieve for them and their families. It also underscores the need for us to remain cautious in the weeks and months ahead. While New Mexico is leading the nation in vaccinations and staying vigilant with COVID-safe practices, we are not out of the woods. There is still much work still to be done. We need to remain vigilant if we are going to beat COVID.”
As of Friday, 116 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Health officials also reported 264 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the statewide total so far to 194,868 COVID-19 cases, of which the department has designated 176,357 as recovered. Santa Fe County had 11 new cases. The health department now updates weekend COVID-19 cases on Mondays.
Currently, 55.3% of New Mexicans have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine; 37.3% are fully vaccinated.
SFPS announces new superintendent
Over the weekend, the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education announced it had named Hilario “Larry” Chavez as the district’s new superintendent for a one-year $150,000 contract, effective July 1, 2021, following Veronica Garcia’s retirement. Chavez currently serves as the district’s associate superintendent of athletics/activities and school support. “In Mr. Chavez, the SFPS Board has selected a multi-faceted leader who is well versed in the SFPS community and aspects that are critical to educational excellence,” Board President Kate Noble said in a statement. “His foundation in special education, his achievements uplifting secondary education and athletics for the district, and his work in collaboration with SFPS’ team to institute reforms that increased the district’s graduation rate to an all-time high all speak to his strong skills and experience.” Chavez expressed enthusiasm for his new role in a statement, describing himself as passionate about Santa Fe: “My commitment is to continue doing what works,” he said, “collaboratively sharing best practices, ensuring a unified group of leaders, and addressing the social-emotional needs of staff and students.”
NM Labor Secretary resigns
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office on Friday announced Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley’s resignation, effective immediately. “I am grateful to Bill for his work over the last few years and in particular since the pandemic reached our state,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “COVID-19 affected everyone in New Mexico, and the Department of Workforce Solutions was asked to step up and meet the new and unexpected and ongoing needs of so many of our neighbors. I am certain the state employees there will continue to do all they can to help constituents around the clock as we begin to move toward the end of the pandemic.” McCamley’s department oversaw disbursement of more than $3.5 billion in funds and unprecedented unemployment claims throughout the pandemic, an often rocky undertaking, particularly for self-employed New Mexicans. “I was proud to have the opportunity to lead this department and take up new and important initiatives like expanding apprenticeships, the governor’s STEM challenge and many others,” McCamley said in a statement. “The last year has been challenging for so many New Mexicans, and I know the hard-working employees at DWS and across state government will continue to work to meet the needs of New Mexico workers all across the state.” Ricky Serna, who previously served as the department’s deputy secretary, will serve as acting secretary as the administration begins a search for a permanent replacement.
Enviro Dept plans increased oversight
ICYMI, the state environment department announced last week it will expand its oversight role when the new fiscal budget provides a 21.3%, or $2.8 million recurring increase. “Starting in July, the New Mexico Environment Department will expand its efforts to safeguard communities and our environment,” NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a statement. “Budget is policy and this is a clear investment in the health of New Mexicans and their environment.” A department news release says the increase will: allocate $1.4 million to expand staffing in the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau for the first time since 1981; allocate $894,400 to the department’s Drinking Water Bureau; and add $247,600 for core expenses, including public information access, among other allocations. In addition to its $93.4 million budget, the environment department also received approximately $9.8 million in non-recurring funds for special projects such as $3 million to restore funding for air quality permitting and enforcement; $2.5 million to undertake projects that protect and restore the environment across New Mexico; and $1.6 million to modernize and improve public records.
The quest to map Mars pre-dates space travel to the red planet, and has spurred fascinating and dueling visions among mapmakers, according to a recent National Geographic story and video. University of New Mexico Department of Geography & Environmental Studies Chairwoman Maria Lane features in the NatGeo story and authored the book Geographies of Mars: Seeing and Knowing the Red Planet. KUNM speaks to Lane about the “power of mapmaking to create reality” and humanity’s tendency to work out our own problems on Earth by projecting them onto Mars.”
Memories of home
Novelist Kirstin Valdez Quade, whose New Mexico-based novel The Five Wounds has been garnering national praise, writes about her childhood in Santa Fe for the Wall Street Journal, specifically about spending time with her grandparents in its museums: “In 1960 when my grandfather built the house among the piñon where my mother was raised, the roads were still dirt and there were two museums a short walk away: the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of International Folk Art. In 1961, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture opened too.” Quade’s memories include learning to weave at the Wheelwright Museum, exploring the endless objects at the International Folk Art Museum and listening to Joe Hayes tell stories in the amphitheater. The neighborhood now known as Museum Hill has changed drastically since then, she notes, and become “fancy.” More heartbreakingly, her grandparents became sick with COVID-19 in this last year. “That home, the one constant in my peripatetic life and more familiar to me than any place on earth, no longer exists as it was.”
What’s in a shark’s name?
A team of scientists, including ones from New Mexico, have now named the 300-million-year-old 6.7-foot-long shark unearthed in New Mexico’s Manzano Mountains—approximately 30 miles southeast of Albuquerque—in 2013. Paleontologist John-Paul Hodnett was a graduate student when he came across the fossil, which features “12 rows of piercing teeth in robust powerful jaws” with two 2 ½-foot long fin spines on its back, a combination of features that earned it the nickname “Godzilla Shark” by the scientists who had gathered in New Mexico for a meeting at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science. The find turned out to be the most complete ctenacanth shark fossil ever discovered in North America. Now, after seven years of work— including in the museum’s preparation lab—Hodnett’s team determined the fossil represents a new kind of ctenacanth and have named it Dracopristis hoffmanorum, or Hoffman’s Dragon Shark, in recognition of some of its Godzilla-like traits (it’s the largest fish found at the site so far). The name also honors the Hoffman family, on whose land Hodnett found the fossil.
Twist in the wind
The cloudy weekend gives way to yet another sunny day today, with a high near 60 degrees and north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph.
Thanks for reading! The Word thinks it would be cool to live in Agatha Christie’s house.