Morning Word

Santa Fe City Council Resumes In-Person Meetings...Alone

DOH cautions residents to stay cool as the heat rises

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported just 79 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 203,747, with the health department designating 191,257 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 27 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 11 and Rio Arriba County with nine. Santa Fe County had four new cases.

According to the state’s gating criteria dashboard, which the health department updates Tuesdays, New Mexico’s daily case rate on a seven-day average has dropped to 93, well below its 210 benchmark. The state’s rate of spread, tracked over the same time period, also has fallen below the 1.05 criteria to .85. Overall, the state is meeting all of its gating criteria, including testing, which remains above the 5,000 daily test rate at 5,761.

The state also announced one additional death from Bernalillo County: a female in her 70s who had been hospitalized. There have now been 4,287 fatalities. As of yesterday, 89 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.

City Council resumes in-person meetings...alone

At 4 pm today, Santa Fe city councilors will meet in person for their regular meeting for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, separated by plexiglass and minus any members of the public. Residents will continue to be able to watch and access meetings virtually, and most city staff also won’t attend. Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler tells the Santa Fe New Mexican she would have liked to see the public return as well. “It’s all nice and good to be back in person, but the real thing for me is the public will still have to call in,” she said. “The whole thing about going live to me is about the public and being able to have the benefit of addressing us. If they can’t [be] in the room, then it’s really not that much difference of seeing us on Zoom.” City Councilor Chris Rivera, on the other hand, said he would have preferred—for reasons not explicated in the story—to have the option of half the council attending virtually and half in person. Committee meetings will continue to be held virtually. Tonight’s meeting will include, among other items, an update on the Midtown Campus, with a presentation on its furniture, fixtures, equipment and arts assets.

Cannabis bill co-sponsor announces new cannabis law firm

Earlier this year, state Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, co-sponsored New Mexico’s newly passed Cannabis Regulation Act, which will allow sales of recreational adult cannabis to begin no later than April of next year. Now, Duhigg, a lawyer, says she is opening a “full-service” cannabis law firm, primarily aimed at helping cannabis startups apply for micro-business licenses, deal with zoning issues and the like. Duhigg tells the Albuquerque Journal she had no plans to benefit from the new law when she co-sponsored and worked on the legislation during this year’s special session and would have disclosed so if she had. The prospect of a cannabis-centric firm emerged shortly thereafter, she says, and she will both disclose and recuse herself from cannabis-related legislation in the future. While Duhigg maintains her work’s new focus won’t represent a conflict, she also says the situation rises inevitably out of the state’s citizen Legislature structure, under which lawmakers receive no salaries—they receive $194 per diem payments for food and lodging when they have legislative work—and, thus, have other jobs. Ethics complaints related to cannabis-industry conflicts have been filed—and mostly dismissed—with the State Ethics Commission against both House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe and Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Director of Communications Tripp Stelnicki says the governor’s office will raise concerns about conflicts of interest in the event such conflicts manifest, but “simply trying to make a living isn’t on its own something you can say is problematic.”

Eyes on NM’s GOP

Politico takes an in depth look at New Mexico’s Republican Party in the wake of its loss in the recent special election for the 1st Congressional District, in which Democrat Melanie Stansbury led Republican Mark Moores by 24 percentage points. While Stansbury’s win could be seen as support for President Joe Biden’s term so far, writer Bryan Metzger posits “the story is longer and more complex” at the state level. Once considered a more “purple” state, with Republicans capturing the governor’s seat, the state House and the Albuquerque mayor’s race as recently as 2016, the party’s hold has diminished in both Bernalillo County and the state as a whole. Some of that shift can be attributed to an urban/rural divide; some of it is anchored in the division seeded from Donald Trump’s presidency. “I liked Trump’s policies, but his rhetoric is toxic, and it hurt people, and I think that Mark got the backlash from that,” Lisa Torraco, a former Republican former state senator, tells Politico. “And the state party hasn’t done anything to try to heal that.” Other politicians and observers place that responsibility on GOP Chairman Steve Pearce, who is not quoted in the story.

Listen up

October seems far away, but luckily not all ghost stories have to wait for Halloween. Today at 2 pm, the Museum of International Folk Art hosts an online lecture by Satoko Shimazaki, a professor of Japanese literature in the Asian Languages and Culture Department at UCLA, who will discuss vengeful female ghosts in Japanese folklore. The lecture comes in conjunction with the museum’s excellent exhibition, “Yōkai: Ghosts & Demons of Japan,” which displays through the end of August (you can also view it online). Shimazaki was a contributor to the museum’s book Yokai: Ghosts, Demons, & Monsters of Japan, and her first book, Edo Kabuki in Transition: From the Worlds of the Samurai to the Vengeful Female Ghost, received the John Whitney Hall Book Award. Register for the lecture here.

Highlighting Hatch

The Smithsonian magazine pays tribute to America’s small towns, highlighting 15 worth visiting, with Hatch and its 1,955 population making the list. Why Hatch? Take a guess. Yup: chile. The magazine recommends Hatch as a way to pay homage to horticulturist Fabián García, who a century ago publicly introduced his hybrid chile, “New Mexico No. 9,” aka “the grandmother of all New Mexican chile peppers today.” The small town fills with visitors every Labor Day for the Hatch Chile Festival (canceled last year for the first time in its nearly 50-year history, but hopefully returning this year). If planning for a festival at the end of summer seems too far away, the story also highlights various spots to sample the wares while visiting Hatch, including the family-owned Pepper Pot, a favorite of the late Anthony Bourdain, and Sparky’s, described as “a roadside eatery and attraction that’s known as much for the fiberglass statues dotting its rooftop and lining the street (including Ronald McDonald, Yogi Bear, a Roswell-inspired green alien and a towering Uncle Sam).”

Santa Fe tech companies receive startup grants

Two Santa Fe tech and science companies received $25,000 grants through the state Economic Development Department’s Science & Technology Business Start Up Grants program, which yesterday announced five statewide recipients from the 56 applications received. Bioscience company Avisa Diagnostics treats lung infections through its Avisa BreathTest, which produces a biomarker to identify pulmonary infections in fewer than 10 minutes. A portion of the funds will go toward the design of a device for administering the Avisa BreathTest, taking place at Santa Fe Community College. iBeam Materials, a spinoff from Los Alamos National Laboratory, has developed “technology that enables microLED displays that are super-bright, paper-thin, flexible, and power-efficient using a low-cost, scalable approach,” according to a news release, and was one of a few companies selected for strategic investments by Samsung Ventures in the microLED space. Companies in Albuquerque and Las Cruces also received grants. Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said in a statement the grants are another way the state provides support for “early-stage entrepreneurs as they strive to bring their ideas to market and hire employees,” with Office of Science and Technology Director Myrriah Tomar noting that the Technology Research Collaborative reviewed all the applications in a “...rigorous review process with outside technical experts looking at businesses that have the best chance of success.”

Stay cool

Today will be sunny, with a high near 91 degrees and north wind 5 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. Areas of smoke from fires burning in Arizona remains possible and part of tomorrow’s forecast. Even without the smoke, New Mexico will be experiencing high temperatures, and the health department yesterday issued a heat-related advisory, recommending residents drink water, rest and stay in the shade when temperatures are higher than 85 degrees. According to DOH, the New Mexico Environmental Public Health Tracking Program of the Epidemiology and Response Division has found via data analysis that even though a temperature of 86 degrees Fahrenheit may not seem high, people begin to go to the hospital for heat-related health problems at this temperature. Most areas in the state will have temperatures in the 90s, and into the 100s over east and southeast New Mexico. The highest temperatures are expected to occur today and tomorrow. Heat-related illness can have multiple symptoms, including dizziness, nausea, cramping and weakness; tips on avoiding and spotting heat-related illness available here.Thanks for reading! The Word has been monitoring the progress of these eaglets in Decorah, Iowa (backstory here).

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