COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 94 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 203,823. The health department has designated 191,358 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 29 new cases, followed by Santa Fe County with 11, nine of which were from the Southside 87507 ZIP code, which ranked first in the state yesterday for the most new cases. San Juan County had nine new cases.
Currently, 66.5% of New Mexicans have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 57.1% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County, 75.2% have had at least one dose and 65.2% are fully inoculated. Los Alamos County currently leads the state, with 80.1% of residents fully vaccinated, while Roosevelt County has the fewest: 27.3%.
The state yesterday also reported five additional deaths, three of which were recent and two of which were from Santa Fe County, bringing the total number of fatalities in the county to 149. Statewide, there have now been 4,292 deaths.
State economists: Things are looking up
New Mexico’s general fund revenues are currently tracking approximately $350 million above the previous estimates, meaning a smaller draw will be needed from reserves to cover the fiscal year 2021 budget, according to a post-legislative session report from the Legislative Finance Committee, presented yesterday to the Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy Committee. Legislative Finance Committee Chief Economist Dawn Iglesias told lawmakers improvements in oil- and gas-related revenues, as well as income taxes, contributed to the upgraded financial forecast. The vaccine rollout, business re-openings across the state and federal stimulus checks are boosting consumer spending and supporting stronger-than-estimated GRT collections, the report notes. New Mexico has also received more than $19 billion in federal funds, including direct payments to individuals, support to businesses and funding to state and local governments. However, employment, though recovering, remained 8% below pre-pandemic levels, and below employment levels in the Great Recession as of April, at least low-wage employment. High-wage employment resumed pre-pandemic levels in July 2020.
Lottery, vaccine registrations rise
If you’ve registered for the state’s Vax 2 the Max Sweepstakes, you’re not alone. According to a news release from the governor’s office, as of the end of the day June 8, 372,774 vaccinated New Mexicans had opted in to the sweepstakes since it was first announced on June 1. It would also appear to be effective, thus far, as a vaccine incentive: Health department data shows a seven-day average of new vaccination registrations of 1,437 per day for the week—also as of June 1—a 6.2% increase from daily registrations the week prior to the sweepstake’s launch. Prize drawings for the sweepstakes will begin June 18, with the New Mexico Lottery conducting five biweekly $1 million drawings with four $250,000 winners from each drawing from each of the state’s public health regions, and one grand prize $5 million statewide drawing in early August. The Early Childhood Education and Care Department yesterday also announced another less chancy incentive: KinderCare and Learning Care Group—the latter operates 14 La Petite Academy locations in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Bernalillo and Santa Fe—will offer free child care to all parents and caregivers getting vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus or recovering from vaccination from now until July 4. The free child care is part of a nationwide vaccine incentive program.
Broadband initiative underway
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham decided to launch a nationwide search for a broadband director after a March advertisement netted six candidates, only two of whom received interviews, according to a technology progress report, slated for discussion today by the Science, Technology and Telecommunications Committee. Lujan Grisham signed off on $133 million in spending to expand high-speed internet access during the coming fiscal year that starts July 1. The report indicates the state hopes to select a candidate to lead the broadband initiative and the newly created Office of Broadband Access and Expansion by early July, with an August start date. The governor’s staff also is working on a statewide technology strategy, with a retired Boeing engineering executive leading the discussions. The new office will develop a statewide three-year broadband plan on or before Jan. 1, 2022 to help a variety of state departments, including education. Meanwhile, Education Secretary Ryan Stewart tells the Albuquerque Journal the state aims to ensure by the start of the next school year “…every single kid who can be connected in some way, satellite, fiber, (or) one of these new technologies, is connected, and also every kid has a device.” In fact, state District Judge Matthew Wilson ordered the state in April to determine which at-risk students still lacked internet and devices and ensure they received those resources. To address lack of internet access in rural areas, the state is studying the possibility of delivering internet through “blimp-shaped, remotely controlled balloons.”
Perhaps like KSFR’s Bryce Dix, you took up gardening during the pandemic and now, with warming weather, are starting to see the fruits, so to speak, of that labor. But gardening also provides an opportunity for individuals to help fight climate change and attract crucial pollinators to drought-stricken urban areas. Dix talks with Kaitlin Haase, the Southwest pollinator conservation specialist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, who is behind a pilot project called the Santa Fe Pollinator Trail, which aims to attract more pollinators to Santa Fe’s urban landscape using flowers. Listen to the segment here and learn more about the pollinator program and how to apply (deadline June 30) here. SFR featured the program last week.
US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, writes a guest essay for the New York Times this week, “Your Next Car and Clothes Dryer Could Help Save Our Planet,” arguing that in order to truly confront the climate crisis, society—and individuals—need to start “electrifying” their homes and cars. Citing research from the nonprofit Rewiring America, Heinrich notes that 42% of all of our energy-related carbon emissions come our vehicles and household appliances. “To keep global warming at livable temperatures,” he writes, “we need to replace existing machines that use fossil fuels with clean electric substitutes when they reach the end of life.” Energy-efficient appliances won’t be sufficient, he adds, because “we need to get to zero emissions as soon as possible, and you can’t ‘efficiency’ your way to zero.” The number of machines that need to be replaced or installed, as calculated by Rewriting America, clocks in at 1 billion, which includes the infrastructure needed to generate and distribute the necessary electricity. “One billion sounds like a daunting number, but it is also an enormous opportunity,” Heinrich says, and will create 25 million new jobs.
Film office announces new TV series filming in NM
American Migrant Workers, a new television series depicting stories of people who live in recreational vehicles, begins filming in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Truth or Consequences and Navajo Lake this month through October. Produced by Triangle U Studios, the show’s principal cast includes David Pike, Heather Hall and New Mexico resident Dawn Barclay. The production will employ approximately 10 New Mexico crew members, 20 New Mexico principal actors, and 20 New Mexico background actors. “New Mexico is the perfect place to start our story,” Triangle U Studios founder and cinematographer Jordan Rivera says in a statement. “The rich history of settlers required to adapt to the vast New Mexico landscape encapsulates our story’s theme. Even though times have changed, the need to be resourceful resonates still today.”
Hot time in the city
The National Weather Service anticipates patchy smoke between 9 am and noon on an otherwise sunny day with a high near 87 degrees and northeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon.Thanks for reading! The Word loves everything about the herd of 15 wild elephants migrating across China for the last year for no discernible reason, particularly the “exclusive interview” with one of them apologizing for the destruction they’ve caused: “I’m not finding excuses…but we are so big. Sometimes we cannot avoid stepping on things.”