COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico put its new and less restrictive county-level red-to-green COVID-19 metrics system into effect Friday, which resulted in 24 counties now operating in the turquoise—most relaxed—level, six at green and three at yellow. The permissible activities under each color category remain the same, but the new system turned most of the state green and turquoise—previously, 10 counties were turquoise, three were green, 15 were yellow and one was red. The health department will now resume bimonthly evaluations starting May 5, but once counties turn turquoise, they will be re-evaluated every four weeks instead.
As for Santa Fe County, it remains turquoise, with an average daily case rate of 5.8 per 100,000; a test positivity rate of 1.67% and 46.2% of residents fully vaccinated.
Also on Friday, the state reported 309 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 197,733. Friday’s new cases would appear to be the first time the state has topped 300 daily cases since March 5 (however, the state no longer reports daily cases over the weekends). The health department also announced nine additional deaths on Friday, along with 145 people hospitalized with COVID-19—11 more than the day prior.
Thefts rose during pandemic
Thefts rose and violent crimes decreased during the pandemic, according to Santa Fe Police Department. According to SFPD data, homicides dropped by more than half between 2019 to 2020, along with assaults and break-ins to businesses. Residential burglaries and robberies also decreased in 2020, but only by 14% and 12%, respectively. Residential break-ins and motor vehicle thefts, on the other hand, had a 19% and 24% increase. As to why residential crimes didn’t diminish significantly during a time when people were under stay-at-home orders, Santa Fe Police Deputy Chief Paul Joye told the Santa Fe New Mexican that such crimes are usually ones of opportunity. “People are still, you know, visiting family or doing whatever it is that they needed to do—going to the store or whatever,” he said. “It doesn’t take long, unfortunately, to commit some of these crimes. It doesn’t take long to find a house or a car that’s left unattended and break a window, or kicking a door or open the door if it’s left open.”
Court rules state must provide students tech
The state education department must provide computers and high-speed internet access to the thousands of students who don’t have access, according to a Friday ruling by District Judge Matthew Wilson. The ruling builds on a 2018 court decision in the Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico lawsuit, in which the court ordered the state to ensure all students received an adequate education. Lawyers for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty returned to court on behalf of the Yazzie plaintiffs to ask the court to order the state to provide internet access to the same end. “Lack of access has been catastrophic for far too many New Mexican families because of the state’s failure to address the technology gaps, especially for Native students and students living in rural areas,” Preston Sanchez, an attorney representing the Yazzie plaintiffs who argued the plaintiffs’ motion in court, said in a news release following the ruling. “Thousands of students are being denied their constitutionally required education sufficient to become college and career ready. Many are getting no education at all. The state has to be accountable to New Mexico’s students and families and make access to their education a priority.” The order requires the state to determine which students require digital devices and internet access, and provide such resources, as well as district funding to maintain IT support.
Critics react to LANL expansion
The Albuquerque Journal delivers the second in a two-part series on Los Alamos National Laboratory’s return to Santa Fe. In March, LANL said it had signed a 10-year-lease of two adjacent office properties totaling 77,856 square feet of space at the corner of Pacheco Street and St. Michael’s Drive for 500 existing administrative employees. The news followed its February announcement that it had leased the Firestone building at N. Guadalupe and W. Alameda, which will host approximately 75 employees. Both of the Journal’s stories focus to a degree on LANL’s decision to expand into Santa Fe (it needs more space), but more primarily on the lab’s critics response to the decision, and concerns about the work the lab will be doing outside of Santa Fe, such as expanded plutonium pit production. “We don’t think people around here understand how big this is,” Los Alamos Study Group Executive Director Greg Mello told the Journal regarding pit production at LANL. “Our house is on fire.” And as for the Santa Fe expansion, he said: “We call it a takeover plan for Santa Fe.”
New Mexico’s stay-at-home orders may be over, but Lensic Performing Arts Center Executive Director Joel Aalberts is keeping up with his monthly Spotify playlists nonetheless (and we thank him for it). If you’re looking for some new May tunes, Aalberts’ “Bring May Flowers” provides more than two hours of thematically linked songs we can attest make a great companion on a spring walk (we enjoyed last month’s Earth Day playlist as well). Find his most recent playlists toward the bottom of this page.
The truth may actually be out there
Any story with “U.F.O” in the headline will inevitably reference New Mexico sometime in the first few paragraphs. So it is in the recent New Yorker magazine feature, “How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously,” (paragraph 3, to be exact), which introduces the various conspiracy theories that emerged surrounding the supposed alien spaceship that crashed into Roswell circa 1947. Mock if you like but, as the story details, the government has conceded in recent years sightings of unidentified flying objects about which it has yet to find explanations. As such, last summer Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist approved the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force, and the 2021 Intelligence Authorization Act, which was signed in December, gave the government 180 days “to gather and analyze data from disparate agencies” on any unidentified aerial phenomenon. That report comes out in June—time will tell if New Mexico also figures heavily in its findings—but in the meantime, the New Yorker details the events and key figures who brought the search for the truth to this point.
The art of breathing
Forbes Magazine reviews and approves of New Mexico Museum of Art’s current exhibition, Breath Taking. As Forbes writes, neither George Floyd’s murder by asphyxiation nor COVID-19 had happened when curators first thought of the show, but once those events transpired, curators “doubled down on their chosen theme,” incorporating documentary photography about both the Black Lives Matter protests and life under lockdown into the show, which also explores breathing from aesthetic and conceptual perspectives. A “risky” strategy, Forbes says, pays off: “The most notable quality of the exhibition is the trust that the curators have placed in old work to find new meaning in a new context. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the curators have trusted viewers to make new connections.” The show exhibits through Sept. 5. And speaking of Santa Fe’s state museums, as of May 1, the New Mexico Museum of Art, the New Mexico History Museum and Museum of International Folk Art are open from 10 am to 5 pm, seven days a week.
Today appears to fly in the face of ye olde proverb regarding April showers bringing May flowers, but we’ll take the rain whatever month it arrives. Forecasts call for an 80% chance of precipitation today with possible showers and thunderstorms and a high temperature near 60 degrees. We may see more showers this evening before midnight. Tomorrow looks clear but cool, with temperatures returning to the 70s on Wednesday.
Thanks for reading! The Word loved Prince’s guitar solo during the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance by Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood and Dhani Harrison playing the Beatles song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and loved director Joel Gallen’s brand new edit of the performance even more (The LA Times has more about Gallen’s decision to re-edit the clip 17 years later).