COVID-19 by the numbers

On Friday, New Mexico health officials reported 122 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 204,698. Bernalillo County had 35 cases, followed by San Juan County with 17 and Sandoval County with 16. Santa Fe County had six new cases.

The state also announced six additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 4,316. As of Friday, 95 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. DOH will provide a three-day update this afternoon.

ICYMI, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday the state will lift its county-level COVID-19 framework for restrictions (aka the red-to-green system) come July 1, as the state has basically met its goal of vaccinating 60% of the population (59.7% at the moment, with a margin of error). “I know some will say this day is late in coming,” the governor said in a statement. “I sure wish we’d gotten here sooner.” Nonetheless, she noted, the state put “health and safety first...knowing the unique health risks of our population, understanding and respecting how dangerous this virus is.” Santa Fe County currently has 66.5% of the population fully vaccinated and, like the rest of the state, will remain under turquoise-level restrictions through the end of the month.

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 improves slightly in child well being

New Mexico no longer ranks last for child well being, according to a national report released today from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks the state at 49th, an improvement from from last year’s ranking at 50th (Mississippi now ranks last). Much of the data used for this year’s rankings comes from 2019. “It’s encouraging to see that child well-being in New Mexico was improving before the pandemic hit,” James Jimenez, executive director for New Mexico Voices for Children, which is part of the national KIDS COUNT network, said in a statement. “We’re cautiously optimistic that investments the state made in children and families beginning in 2019—as well as throughout the pandemic—helped offset some of the health and financial problems caused by the pandemic.” The data book considers 16 indicators for child well-being—such as child poverty; fourth grade reading scores; child and teen death rates; and teen birth rates—grouped under the four domains of economic well-being; education; health; and family and community. “We saw some marked improvement in many of the indicators and two of the four domains, some of which are pretty significant when looking at the long-term trends,” Emily Wildau, KIDS COUNT coordinator for NM Voices, said.

Biden nominates Torres Small for USDA position

President Joe Biden on Friday made former New Mexico Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small his pick to serve as under secretary of rural development for the US Department of Agriculture. Torres Small formerly represented New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District before losing her seat to Republican Yvette Herrell last November. A White House news briefing announcing Torres Small’s nomination notes that “throughout her career, Torres Small has employed her experience organizing in vulnerable, rural communities to achieve lasting investments that combat persistent poverty.” US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-NM, elected to represent the state’s 3rd Congressional District last year, released a statement describing herself as “thrilled” by Torres Small’s nomination: “Her career is guided by her love for New Mexico’s rural communities—which she championed on the House Committee on Agriculture—bringing her deep expertise from her time as a lawyer protecting our precious water and natural resources. This experience coupled with her passion for rural America make her the perfect candidate for this position. I can’t wait to work with my hermana to build and expand the Biden Administration’s efforts to increase investments in rural communities across our country.”

Jurors find former Tax and Rev Secretary guilty

On Friday, jurors in the 13th Judicial District found former Taxation and Revenue Secretary Demesia Padilla guilty on two felony charges, concluding Padilla, while cabinet secretary, stole more than $25,000 from Bernalillo County business Harold’s Grading and Trucking by linking her personal credit card to the business’ checking account. “Small businesses are undoubtedly the lifeblood of New Mexico’s economy and should not be stifled by internal corruption,” Attorney General Balderas said in a statement. Balderas, whose office investigated and prosecuted the case—which began with an anonymous call to the state auditor’s fraud hotline—said his office was “pleased to secure justice for the significant economic harm to the victims, and we will hold any person in a position of power accountable for unlawful conduct.” Padilla will be sentenced at a later date. She had initially faced five misdemeanor ethics charges under the state’s Governmental Conduct Act, but those were dismissed, with the dismissal upheld by the state Appeals Court.

Listen up

In April, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, Dr. Heather Jarrell stepped into a new role as interim chief medical examiner at the Office of the Medical InvestigatorKUNM talks with Jarrell about the pandemic’s impact on OMI’s work and staff, as well as the need to recruit younger people into the field. OMI investigates all reportable deaths to determine their causes and provide families with death certifications; the office also also offers grief services.

Hit the road, Jack

Any story that kicks off quoting Jack Kerouac will inevitably focus on—you guessed it—hitting the road. And, indeed, Artnet News recommends building a road trip around land art: four trips to iconic land art installations and sculpture gardens. New Mexico makes the cut in the “Southwest Sojourn” section, which starts in Texas with Donald Judd’s “15 Works in Concrete” at Marfa and ends in New Mexico with visits to both Abiquiu’s Ghost Ranch and a grand finale in Quemado with the 1977 Walter de Maria installation “The Lightning Field”: “The epic outdoor installation includes 400 polished stainless steel poles measuring more than 20 feet tall, each of them placed like perfectly arranged pins in a one-mile-by-one-kilometer grid.” You’ll have to make reservations and stay overnight to see “The Lightning Field.” You won’t regret doing so.

And just keep on driving

In yet more odes to road trips, travel writer Anna Mazurek describes in the Washington Post her sojourn to New Mexico’s national monuments, specifically a solo trip to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, with other stops along the way. As she drives, Mazurek begins to see repeating themes of ancestral settlements, volcanic landscapes and Spanish influence, each enhancing, she writes, her understanding of the state. Aztec Ruins National Monument stands out as the best and most accessible example of the first theme, where Mazurek stands on the site’s highest point and tries “to imagine how it looked newly constructed in 1130.” At Capulin Volcano National Monument, she catches a glimpse of ice on the piñon pine and juniper trees from the 8,182-foot elevation.

We’ll take those odds

Today’s forecast shows a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon on an otherwise mostly sunny day with a high near a civilized 83 degrees and east wind 10 to 15 mph becoming south in the morning. Same odds for rain tonight before 9 pm.

Thanks for reading! The Word has returned from vacation and is catching up on her unread email, such as Saturday’s poem of the day by Langston Hughes.