Morning Word

Feds Sign Off on NM Education Plan, Release Millions

Santa Fe Opera announces free Southside screenings

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 273 new COVID-19 cases—two more than the day prior, and once again the highest daily number of new cases since May—bringing the statewide total so far to 208,243. The health department has designated 196,373 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 71 new cases; followed by 21 cases in Otero County and 16 cases at the Otero County Processing Center among people being held by federal agencies. Santa Fe County had 10 new cases.

The state also announced two recent deaths, both from Eddy County; there have now been 4,394 total fatalities. As of yesterday, 98 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

Currently, 72.2% New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 64.2% in that age group fully vaccinated. Among those 12-17 years old, 45.8% have had at least one dose and 36.7% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County, 82.5% are partially vaccinated and 73.9% are fully vaccinated. You can register for a vaccine here and view available vaccine events by area here.

The state yesterday revealed the four recent $250,000 winners in its Vax2theMax sweepstakes: Wendy Greenway, Santa Fe; Novie Benavidez, Albuquerque; Ofelia Pardo, Roswell; and Wendy Curtin, Las Cruces. Two more $1 million Friday drawings, with four regional $250,000 winners each, will occur throughout the summer: July 23 and July 30. A grand prize drawing of $5 million is scheduled for early August.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Feds approve NM education plan, release final $327 million

Th feds signed off on New Mexico’s plan for federal education funding yesterday and released the rest of the money designated for the state. All told, New Mexico will receive more than $979 million in federal American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief. US Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, announced the funding yesterday, and the release of the final $327 million, following the US Department of Education’s approval of the state’s plan. New Mexico’s overall priorities, according to a provided fact sheet, include improving students’ and schools’ access to technology; addressing learning gaps in critical content areas; and recruiting and retaining educators. The state plans to use $22 million to accelerate learning; $6 million to reengage at-risk youth; and $3.8 million to provide grants to local districts and partner organizations for summer programs in specific areas. “New Mexico’s plan will not only ensure that our students can safely return to school full-time in the fall, but will also provide our most vulnerable students with the in- and out-of-school supports they need to succeed,” Heinrich said in a statement. In a press statement from the US Department of Education, New Mexico Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said he was “proud” the state’s plan had been approved: “This plan reflects the input of hundreds of stakeholders throughout the state,” he said. “The use of these funds will bring relief and opportunity to every student in our state, and will position New Mexico to bounce back strongly from the pandemic. We look forward to the impact these investments will have on students and educators for years to come.”

NM in 50 years: hotter, dryer

Scientific models show average temperatures in New Mexico could increase five to seven degrees Fahrenheit over the next 50 years, State Geologist Nelia Dunbar says, increasing the regularity of drought and catastrophic wildfires, and impacting flood ecosystems and fish habitat. Dunbar’s assessment arrives as part of work from a committee tasked by the Interstate Stream Commission to evaluate the likely status of New Mexico’s water supplies come 2070. The eight-person committee, of which Dunbar is a member, has used climate and water data, along with modeling, to create a report currently under review by scientists from New Mexico and Arizona, and expected to be available to the public next month. The 50-year-plan itself is likely be to be ready in April of next year. Upcoming presentations will be taking place throughout August.

Former CYFD employees raise alarm on software contract

Searchlight New Mexico reports at least a dozen employees at the state Children, Youth & Families Department say they received reprimands, or ended up fired or resigning after raising questions regarding the California company chosen to upgrade the department’s computer system. According to the story, Cabinet Secretary Brian Blalock chose Binti, a company that describes itself as specializing in software for foster care, for the overhaul, a project that could potentially cost as much as $45 million over the next 10 years. The employees say they questioned the choice of Binti without a competitive bidding process or review, among other concerns. New Mexico would apparently be the first state to use the company’s complete child welfare information system and, in fact, Binti was disqualified from bids in other states due to low scores. “Binti is the sacred cow at CYFD—you just can’t touch it,” according to former CYFD data manager Jackson Williams, who says he was taken off the modernization project and reprimanded after he asked questions about the company. He has since left the department. “Any questions about it are met with very quick retaliation.” CYFD denies the allegations.

Listen up

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted food insecurity issues across the US, particularly in New Mexico. Even as the pandemic recedes (for some), the hunger issues in the state persist. KSFR examines the ongoing issue of food insecurity in the state, talking with a variety of experts, such as Jill Dixon, director of development of The Food Depot, which she says saw an 84% increase in food distribution in the last year. “Because what we saw was the demand for food support doubled in less than two weeks,” Dixon says. “And what that indicates to me, is an incredible financial vulnerability. People couldn’t handle losing one or two weeks of income without needing to rely on the hunger relief network.”

Opera screenings on Santa Fe’s Southside

The Santa Fe Opera announced yesterday it will be screening pre-recorded performances of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, three of this season’s operas, at the Villa Linda Park on the first and second Sundays and Mondays in August: 1,2, 8 and 9. The screenings, sponsored by the City of Santa Fe and hosted by the Santa Fe Kiwanis Club, will be shown on two, 300-square foot LED walls with sound broadcast via outdoor speakers and attendees invited to bring picnics and spread out on the grass. The screenings will kick off at 3:30 pm with performances by local youth talent, including Maatuu Dance Group; the Erik Fender Dance Group from San Ildefonso Pueblo; Theo Kutsko; and the Choral Arts Society of St. Michael’s High School followed by 4 pm screenings. “Our community has seen us through this difficult year and allowed us to return in full force,” Santa Fe Opera General Director Robert K. Meya said in a statement. “The screenings are our small thank you for their faith and support.”

Gun that killed Billy the Kid to be auctioned

Former New Mexico Sheriff Pat Garrett’s Colt single action army revolver, used to kill Billy the Kid in July 1881 in Fort Sumner, will be auctioned next month by Bonhams for between $2 and $3 million. “Now part of the American mythology,” Bonhams notes, “Garrett’s friendship with the Kid, their mutual respect, and his subsequent hunt, capture, escape and death have become the stuff of legend. The subject of hundreds of songs, films from Cecil B. Demille to Sam Peckinpah, and books, not to mention Aaron Copland’s opera, casting the Kid as both villainous outlaw and unsung hero fighting for justice, the story of Billy the Kid has woven its way into the American imagination.” The gun is part of a collection titled “The Early West,” from Jim and Theresa Earle, and is being sold by the family following Jim Earle’s death in 2019. Other artifacts include a variety of other weapons, along with Garrett’s contract with the New Mexican Printing and Publishing Company to publish his 1881 book, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid. And speaking of Billy the Kid, the state Department of Cultural Affairs announced yesterday Old Lincoln Days will return to the state’s Lincoln Historic Site Aug. 6-8, culminating with a performance of the pageant “The Last Escape of Billy the Kid,” in which local citizens retell the story of the Lincoln County War and Billy the Kid in “truly spectacular fashion.”

Rain check

Despite darkening skies yesterday afternoon, nary a rain drop we saw. Let’s try again today. The National Weather Service says showers and thunderstorms are likely—70% likely—mainly after noon. Otherwise, look for increasing clouds, with a high near 83 degrees. Nearly identical forecasts for Saturday and Sunday, albeit with a tad less surety regarding the rain.

Thanks for reading! Yes, The Word just listened to five Bee Gees’ songs alongside the five new Foo Fighters’ covers of them.

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