COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 161 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 195,615. The health department has designated 176,905 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 60 new cases, followed by Sandoval County with 19 and both Doña Ana and San Juan counties with 18. Santa Fe County had the fourth highest number of cases: 14.

The state also announced three additional deaths, including the 144th death in Santa Fe County: a woman in her 60s who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions. Statewide, there have now been 4,010 fatalities. As of yesterday, 121 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

Currently, 56.6% of New Mexicans have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 38.8% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County, 61.4% have had at least one dose and 38.2% are fully inoculated.

Today, the health department will update counties’ red-to-green statuses, assessing case and test positivity rates over the past two weeks. Two weeks ago, Santa Fe County maintained its turquoise status, first achieved on March 24, with a case rate of 5.30 and a test positivity rate of 1.57%. SFR has abandoned its napkin math attempts to pinpoint the current status of either, as daily case and test rates as provided by the state have not been “scrutinized” to eliminate duplicates and the like (according to the health department). However, our basic eyeballing of the available data indicates Santa Fe County is likely to maintain turquoise status, fingers crossed.

Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins and Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase will provide a COVID-19 and vaccine update at 1 pm today, which will stream live on New Mexico Human Services Department’s Facebook page and with Spanish language interpreters on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s YouTube page.

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 responds to Derek Chauvin verdict

Local leaders yesterday responded to the guilty verdicts against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, now convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after he killed George Floyd last summer, sparking nationwide protests and an ongoing reckoning regarding police violence against Black Americans. “Today’s verdict is an important but incomplete step on the long march to justice and racial equity in our country,” Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber said in a statement. “It doesn’t bring back George Floyd or undo the pain that his murder brought to his family or the community.” Webber also noted the city’s launch, this week, of an Alternative Response Unit to respond to crisis calls. Kyra Ochoa, acting director of the city’s Community Health and Safety Department, which oversees the new unit, described the verdict as “an important affirmation that despite the experience of communities of color historically, our justice system is in fact capable of delivering justice.” Santa Fe Police Chief Andrew Padilla released a statement noting SFPS’ policies related to lethal force and bias profiling, to name a few, stating: “Many of these directives are only now being adopted by communities across the country.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham released a statement that read, in part: “New Mexico has grieved alongside the rest of the nation and the world over the unconscionable killing of George Floyd as he begged for breath in the street last year. We have grieved with each new instance of injustice in the interim. And while no courtroom verdict will ever bring Mr. Floyd back to his family, to his children, and while no guilty verdict will ever fill the hole in the hearts of those who have loved someone taken from them in such a grievous act of injustice, today’s decision does give us all hope that our system is capable of achieving some measure of accountability.” That sentiment was echoed the Democratic members of the state’s Congressional delegation, with US Sen. Ben Ray Luján writing via Twitter that the verdict was “a step toward justice, but more work is necessary to end police violence and systemic racism.” US Sen. Martin Heinrich said the verdict marked “the end of this trial and the start of the hard work still ahead—to confront systemic racism and build a more just, accountable, and equitable criminal justice system.” And US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez noted that while the verdict provided “...a glimpse of justice. We have work to do. The Senate must pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

Belabored

State Auditor Brian Colón says his office is reviewing complaints from New Mexico businesses about rate increases to unemployment insurance. “We’ve received enough complaints that we’re concerned that the issue is widespread,” he said. “So we are working very closely with Department of Workforce Solutions to get to the bottom of the matter.” Numerous businesses, including the New Mexico Business Coalition, have been contacting DWS since February regarding the increases. They also are concerned the state hasn’t abided by a state pandemic-driven law that excludes layoffs that occurred between March 2020 and June 2021 from factoring into the calculation. Department spokeswoman Stacy Johnston says rate changes are based on a three-year average and that the department’s review indicates benefit changes prior to March 2020 could be driving the increases. Normally, businesses have 30 days to appeal, but all deadlines have been extended to May 30. New Mexico Business Coalition President Carla Sonntag tells the Associated Press that many businesses with significant cutbacks during the pandemic are among those now facing rate increases. “The bottom line is we shouldn’t be going through this,” she said. Sonntag and others say they have been unable to receive adequate responses from DWS; Secretary Bill McCamley resigned from the agency last Friday.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty says it, too, has not been receiving adequate responses from DWS, and filed suit Monday against the agency alleging violation of the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act. The nonprofit says it has been trying to hold discussions with the department for months regarding New Mexicans’ challenges accessing unemployment benefits. “We have been trying to initiate conversation since last July to try to get their attention,” lawyer Felipe Guevara tells the Santa Fe New Mexican, including an unanswered email to McCamley.

Dig filming in NM

The state Film Office announced a new feature film yesterdayDig, has begun production in Las Cruces. Starring Thomas Jane and Emile Hirsch, a news release describes Dig as “the story of a widower’s strained relationship with his deaf teenage daughter, which is tested when they are held hostage by two intruders and are forced to dig under a vacant house, revealing a dark secret from the past.” The production will employ approximately 27 New Mexico crew members and five New Mexico principal talent. “The New Mexico Film Office continues to market every corner of New Mexico to productions. Las Cruces has a lot to offer productions, including beautiful and diverse landscapes and locations, production support, hotels, restaurants, and other amenities,” New Mexico Film Office Director Amber Dodson said in a statement. Directed by K. Asher Levin (Slayers, Alexander IRL), the movie is being produced by Daniel Cummings (Slayers, The Seeker) and Robert Dean (Slayers, Dead of Night), who said: “We are all excited to have the opportunity to shoot in New Mexico to take full advantage of the state’s distinct and diverse landscapes as well as stellar crew.”

Listen up

Collected Works Bookstore honors Pulitzer-prize winning author N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa) at 6 pm this evening with a reading by naturalist and author Terry Tempest Williams of Momaday’s book, Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land (signed copies available via the store). “When I think about my life and the lives of my ancestors, I am inevitably led to the conviction that I, and they, belong to the American land. This is a declaration of belonging. And it is an offering to the earth,” Momaday writes, recalling stories of his childhood, passed down through generations, revealing a “profound and sacred connection to the American landscape and a reverence for the natural world.” Register for the Zoom event here.

Grain game

We don’t know how we missed Edible New Mexico’s bread roundup last month, but better late than never we say (with, yes, a mouthful of bread). The story profiles eight artisan bakers from around the state, and fits into the magazine’s spring focus on grains. Stories include a look at small grains’ agriculture history in the Southwest; an interview with the owners of Wild Leaven Bakery in Taos; and a Q & A with Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Executive Chef Ray Naranjo (Santa Clara Pueblo), who discusses his food upbringing, Indigenous cooking and the future for the center’s Indian Pueblo Kitchen, among other topics. Once you’re caught up on March’s grain features, turn your attention to Edible’s April recipe: a blood orange custard and blue corn tart.

More money, more jobs

The state Economic Development Department yesterday announced another $2.8 million in funding for 15 New Mexico companies to train and advance the skills of employees, including the first Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) awards for two Santa Fe companies. Pronto Signs received $11,440 for one trainee for an average of $21.75 an hour. Solstar Space Company received $101,922 to train two employees (average wage $88 per hour) for its company, which is described as the “leading commercial satellite communications company pioneering technology for inflight internet and voice services on spacecraft.” Española’s DeeDee’s Finest Beef Jerky also received its first JTIP award: $50,392 to train eight people at $13.07 per hour due to increased demand leading to an expansion in its operations. Of the 15 companies across the state, another six had only received money through the program once before. Some of the larger awards included $883,640 to Marlowe Corp. (doing business as Mass Market NM) in Las Cruces to train 360 people at $14.01 an hour for its outsourced call center service, and approximately $642,000 to Torc Robotics in Albuquerque for 30 trainees at $40 an hour for the company, which makes self-driving vehicle software and is currently focusing on commercializing self-driving trucks.

Whichever way the wind blows

Today will be, allegedly, mostly sunny, with a high near 64 degrees and south wind 15 to 20 mph. However, we’re aware that yesterday’s forecast did not adequately foretell yesterday’s sunniness or windiness, so who’s to say what today will bring?

Thanks for reading! The Word is fully in Earth Day mode and plans to spend as much time as possible hanging out in the Gorilla Forest Corridor.