Morning Word

NM Supreme Court Rules State Not Required to Compensate Businesses for COVID-19 Shutdowns

Health, environment departments issue smoke warnings for Santa Fe

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 262 new COVID-19 cases for the three-day period of June 5-7. The new cases bring the statewide total so far to 203,686; the health department has designated 191,065 of those cases as recovered.

Bernalillo County had 51 new cases, followed by San Juan County with 44 and Doña Ana County with 31. Santa Fe County had 14 new cases, seven from the Southside 87507 ZIP code, which ranked tenth in the state yesterday for the most new cases. There were also 15 new cases among people being held by federal agencies at the Otero County Federal Prison Facility.

The state also announced six additional deaths—four recent—including a female under the age of 10 from San Juan County. As of yesterday, 81 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

Currently, 66.2% of New Mexicans have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 56.7% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County, 75.2% have had at least one dose and 65.2% are fully inoculated.

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 Supreme Court rules in pandemic business case

New Mexico’s Supreme Court yesterday unanimously ruled in State v. Wilson, concluding the state has no constitutional or statutory obligation to compensate businesses for financial losses and expenses from restrictions imposed by public health emergency orders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Justices heard arguments on the case on Jan. 13, but had not yet issued a ruling until yesterday. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration had asked the court to resolve the underlying legal question in approximately 20 lawsuits filed in district courts across New Mexico last year seeking compensation from the state because of its public health orders and determine whether public health orders constitute a taking of private property that entitled the businesses to compensation. The court ruled the public health orders “are a reasonable exercise of the police power to protect the public health.” In considering the case, the court evaluated Article II, Section 20 of the New Mexico Constitution and Section 12-10A-15 of the Public Health Emergency Response Act (PHERA), and directed district judges to follow its legal conclusions in resolving those cases still pending.

State releases latest economic indicators

New Mexico’s economy has begun to rebound from the COVID-19 shutdowns, according to the state Economic Development Department, which yesterday released the latest of its quarterly economic reports for the state overall, and each of its 33 counties. The May 2021 reports include data through the third quarter of fiscal year 2021: January, February and March of this year. According to a news release, March had the highest total monthly matched taxable gross receipts ($6.4 billion) since December 2019 ($6.8 billion) and was the largest amount of reported MTGR when compared to the month of March in previous years dating back to fiscal year 2008. “While we realize we have much work to do toward economic recovery, these reports clearly indicate that New Mexico is beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels in all economic sectors,” Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said in a statement. Santa Fe County’s matched taxable gross receipts remained relatively flat in the 2021′s third fiscal quarter compared to the second. Retail trade, at 27%, made up the highest percentage of MTGR for Santa Fe County, followed by construction at 16% and professional, science and technical services at 10%.

Feds place record number of Mexican gray wolf pups in the wild

Twenty-two captive-born Mexican wolf pups were placed into wild dens following a successful cross-foster season, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service in a news announcement yesterday. Those pups included 13 fostered into five packs in western New Mexico and nine pups fostered into three different packs in eastern Arizona during April and May. Cross-fostering involves placing genetically diverse pups 14 days or younger from the captive breeding population into wild dens with similarly aged pups to be raised in the wild by experienced wolves. According to the Mexican Wolf Interagency Field Team, cross-fostered pups have the same survival rate—approximately 50%—as wild-born pups in their first year of life. “Fostering is an outstanding example of a working private-public recovery program,” Arizona Game and Fish Department Mexican Wolf Coordinator Jim deVos said in a statement. “Wolf recovery has to recognize the importance of meeting genetic criteria, which requires many private organizations maintaining captive wolves for release into the wild. Without this important partnership, genetic recovery would be essentially impossible.” deVos added that as a key marker, wildlife managers  “are now seeing Mexican wolves that have been fostered producing litters themselves supporting the use of fostering as an effective conservation tool.” The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Lands Office, US Forest Service and the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan all participate in the program.

Listen up

Like everyone else during the pandemic, journalists had to adapt to rapid changes in the workplace, while also reporting on a historic year. In the most recent episode of No More Normal, journalists from SFR, KUNM, New Mexico PBS and New Mexico In Depth discuss the behind-the-scenes thinking and decision-making that goes into telling stories, while also considering the future of the industry. No More Normal is a collaboration between SFR, KUNM and New Mexico PBS.

Picture this

The Guardian spotlights Santa Fe in a photo feature, “Sunlight Santa Fe,” displaying work by Natalie Christensen, from Setanta Books and Open Doors Gallery. “Christensen turned to photography to capture landscapes set against bright, angular buildings,” the story notes (we are fairly certain some of these particular buildings are part of the Santa Fe Art Institute). After 25 years as a psychotherapist, Christensen got married, quit her job and left her native Kentucky for the sunlit plains of Santa Fe. “Like many artists who come from the Southwest, I was immediately drawn to the light and the surreal qualities it creates in negative space,” Christensen says. “I began studying the color fields, geometric shapes and juxtapositions created by the light and shadow…my images emphasize what is happening within the frame and invite the viewer to contemplate what is happening outside the edges but can’t be seen.”

In the weeds

You’ve seen them, pulled them and may even be allergic to them. Yes, we’re talking about New Mexico’s weeds, prolific and invasive enough to justify an entire book. Well, a booklet, at least. New Mexico State University recently announced the third edition of “Noxious and Troublesome Weeds of New Mexico,” which provides information on 67 plant species ranked into five categories: noxious weeds categories A, B and C; watch list; and troublesome weeds not included on the noxious weeds list. “It has been more than a decade since the booklet was updated,” Leslie Beck, NMSU Extension weed specialist, said in a news release. “We tried to include a wide spectrum of plants within different families so when people use the booklet, they will have a starting point for identification.” The booklet includes species’ common and scientific names with descriptions of the plants, including stems, leaves and flower appearances, along with how they reproduce and the dos and don’ts for managing them. Beck says the booklet includes an updated state map that shows in which counties various species can be found, as well as photographs to help with identification. You can read it online here; a pocket-sized booklet will be available soon.

Where’s there’s smoke...

Smoke from the Telegraph and Mescal Fires east of Phoenix, Arizona, and residual smoke from fires in New Mexico gave yesterday a bit of a haze, with impacts expected into this morning and possibly throughout the week. As a result, the health and environment departments at the end of yesterday issued a smoke alert, noting impacts will be felt over portions of northwestern and central New Mexico, including Santa Fe. The alert includes a reminder to use the 5-3-1 method to determine whether it’s safe to be outdoors and to close windows overnight. As for today, the National Weather Service forecasts areas of smoke before noon and otherwise sunny with a high near 90 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon.Thanks for reading! The Word encountered the pizza vending machine in last week’s Fork newsletter and felt compelled to hunt down a video of it in operation.

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