Morning Word

Santa Fe Remains Behind on Cannabis

Plus: NM reports West Nile Virus cases and Pfizer releases results from children’s COVID vaccine trial

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials on Friday reported 762 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 244,720. DOH has designated 212,750 of them as recovered. Bernalillo County had 119 new cases, followed by Lea County with 89 and Doña Ana County with 83. Santa Fe County had 25.

The state also announced 13 additional deaths, 10 of them recent; there have now been 4,675 total fatalities. As of Friday, 354 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 34 fewer than than the day prior. DOH is expected to provide a three-day update on cases, deaths and hospitalizations this afternoon.

Currently, 79.2% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 69.5% are fully vaccinated. In the 12-to-17-year-old age group, 62.8% people have had at least one dose and 52.2% are fully inoculated. In Santa Fe County, among those 18 years and older, 90.1% have had at least one dose and 79.7% are fully vaccinated.

ICYMI, the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee met Friday to discuss COVID-19 vaccine boosters, recommending them for people age 65 and older and other vulnerable Americans, but not yet for the general public—based, members said, on a lack of evidence as to their necessity. Both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have yet to weigh in on the issue, but you can read a useful Vox explainer on the issue of boosters here and look at some scientific data New Mexico health officials shared last week here. Dr. Anthony Fauci yesterday appeared on several Sunday morning news shows to respond to the advisory committee vote, saying the issue will continue to be examined in real-time as more data becomes available. “The story is not over yet,” he said. “I believe you’re going to see an evolution of this process.”

Finally, early this morning, Pfizer and BioNTech announced their COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty) is safe for children under 12, based on results from the first trial. A news release from the companies said that in participants 5 to 11 years of age, the vaccine was safe, well tolerated and showed “robust neutralizing antibody responses.” The companies plan to apply to the FDA by the end of the month to use the vaccine among this age group.

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

DOH reports five West Nile Virus cases

The monsoons this summer in the Southwest brought much-needed rain to New Mexico, but also created standing water, a draw for West-Nile virus-spreading mosquitos. The health department on Friday reported five West Nile virus infections in residents of Bernalillo, Doña Ana and Taos County. Thus far, the state has not had any deaths from West Nile virus, but issued recommendations on how to avoid mosquito bites and potential infection. “West Nile virus can be a health concern anywhere in New Mexico,” Department of Health Deputy Secretary Dr. Laura Parajón said in a statement. “Until colder weather takes hold, take precautions against mosquito bites wherever mosquitoes are active.” Those times are dawn and dusk, during which people are advised to avoid outdoor activities and to wear long sleeves and pants. West Nile virus symptoms can include fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea or rashes. Last year, the state had eight human cases and one death, a decline from 2019 when there were 40 human cases and four deaths. And, no, there is no vaccine for West Nile Virus.

Some McKinley businesses choose booze over gasoline

New Mexico’s new Liquor Control Act paves the way for alcohol delivery and new forms of liquor licenses statewide. It also contains a provision only impacting McKinley County, barring businesses that sell gas from selling any type of liquor other than beer. The Albuquerque Journal reports that since that law went into effect July 1, at least three gas stations have stopped selling gasoline in order to keep selling booze. Benjamin Gonzales, manager of the El Sabino’s grocery and gas station in Vanderwagen, tells the Journal the decision was a “no-brainer”: “Everyone’s complaining that we should have kept the gas and got rid of the liquor, and this, that and the third, but people just don’t understand,” he said. “I mean, if we would have done that, several of our employees would have lost their job, you know, or had their hours cut.” Residents say the lack of available gasoline has made life less convenient and stranded some motorists.” State Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, who advocated for the restriction, says he isn’t surprised some businesses have chosen alcohol over gasoline. “I think they made a moral choice, a financial choice. They probably weren’t pumping that much gas,” he said. “They were just really liquor stores with a gas pump outside.”

In the weeds

The City of Santa Fe is opting to not provide prospective cannabis producers zoning approval until the City Council passes a new zoning ordinance for cannabis businesses in response to the state’s Cannabis Regulation Act. The council will consider that ordinance next week. In the meantime, potential cannabis producers remain in limbo, unable to complete applications to the state Regulation and Licensing Division. That agency began accepting applicants approximately three weeks ago and had, by Sept. 3, more than 1,200 in-progress applications from across the state and 36 complete submissions. The city has the option to provide approval under existing zoning laws, according to the state. “Until other cannabis zoning laws go into place, the existing zoning would be what a business would need to get approval under,” RLD spokeswoman Heather Brewer confirms. Noah Berke, planning manager in the city’s city Land Use Department, confirms to SFR his office has had “several inquiries,” but says via email his office hasn’t “issued zoning letters for producers since the law passed…We have encouraged people who are requesting these zoning letters to wait until the Governing Body passes the new changes to the land use code.”

Listen up

On the most recent installment of This American Life, “The End of the World as We Know it,” Act 2 hits close to home. Very. In “Out of the Crying Pan and into the Fire,” Planet Money host and reporter Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi, a Santa Fe native, brings This American Life host Ira Glass to Zozobra where, as the show puts it, “people have figured out a surprisingly effective way to deal with the problems of the world, large and small.”

Searching for turquoise

Diné textile artist Naiomi Glasses talks with Vogue magazine about her turquoise collection, “one of the world’s most enviable,” the magazine says. Glasses, who showed at last month’s Santa Fe Indian Market, says all of her pieces have stories or memories attached to them; she remembers seeing the pieces her grandmother Nellie would wear. “My late grandma was traditional, and she would say to wear your turquoise every day so that the ‘holy people’ would recognize you,” Glasses tells Vogue. Gallup, which is close to Glasses’ home in Rock Point, Arizona, is one of her favorite places to look for new pieces. “A lot of people may not know that a lot of artists live in or near Gallup,” she says. “I’ll go to raw materials stores that carry turquoise, coral and silver, and I’ll be lucky enough to meet artists there and place future orders with them.” Turquoise holds both familial memories and tribal significance. “Turquoise is a big part of our Diné culture,” she says. “It is included in many of the traditional teachings, and it’s even a sacred stone.”

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month began Sept. 15 and runs through Oct. 15, with Atlas Obscura offering 15 US spots at which to celebrate. El Santuario de Chimayo comes in at No. 14, with the Atlas Obscura noting that “belief in the curative powers of the dirt is purely faith based.” Be that as it may, “Many people experience a profound welling of emotions, strange bodily sensations and a myriad of other physical, emotional and spiritual effects while on location. Besides, a taste of Chimayo’s famous red chile, also believed by many to have miraculous healing properties, is worth the trip alone.” NPR, meanwhile, delves into the ongoing controversy regarding the term Hispanic versus Latino/Latinx (the New York Times also queried whether Hispanic Heritage Month needed “rebranding” in a piece last June, and explicates New Mexico’s connection to the term). If you’d prefer to celebrate versus contemplate nomenclature, the University of New Mexico’s Anthropology Department has a great roundup of events and resources.

Cool down

Look for temperatures beginning to slide toward fall-like digits today, with a high near 78 degrees on a sunny, albeit windy, day. Tomorrow appears sweatshirt-worthy with a high near 67 degrees, but may be an outlier, as the National Weather Service forecasts temperatures to rise back into the high 70s on Wednesday.

Thanks for reading! Though not a huge fan of driving, The Word finds this website that simulates driving around other cities while listening to their radio stations strangely hypnotic.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Santa Fe is among the slowest municipalities to enact new cannabis zoning. Of the five biggest cities, three have done so and two have not. The error has been removed.

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