Morning Word

NM Reaches 70% Vaccination as State Readies for Booster Shots

Analysts say pandemic may be widening learning gap for New Mexico students

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 719 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 247,353. DOH has designated 216,688 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 212 new cases, followed by 51 cases in Chaves County and 50 cases in Sandoval County. Santa Fe County had 18 new cases.

The state also announced 19 additional deaths, 18 recent, including the 164th from Santa Fe County: a male in his 80s who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions. There have now been 4,719 fatalities. As of yesterday, 359 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

Cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain overwhelmingly to be among those who are unvaccinated—85.5% of the cases; 90.8% of hospitalizations; and 94.6% of deaths, according to this week’s vaccination report.

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

NM reaches 70% vaccination rate

Yesterday, New Mexico announced that 70% of residents 18 years older are now fully vaccinated. “That’s an incredible milestone,” Deputy Health Secretary Dr. Laura Parajón said during a weekly pandemic update. Currently, 79.5% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 63.3% people have had at least one dose and 53.3% are fully inoculated. In Santa Fe County, among those 18 years and older, 90.5% have had at least one dose and 80.4% are fully vaccinated. Health officials also say Santa Fe County has improved its standing for community transmission, which, though described as substantial in the state’s weekly report on community transmission, is no longer in the “high” —or red—category that most of the state’s other counties occupy. “It’s a welcome sight,” state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross said regarding Santa Fe County’s improvement. “What we are hoping to see is the entire state turn blue, which would indicate a low level of community transmission.” Currently, no counties are blue and only Los Alamos County is yellow, indicating moderate transmission.Health officials also are preparing for federal decisions regarding the availability for booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine. Last night, the Food and Drug Administration approved boosters of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people 65 and over who received their second dose at least six months prior; people at high risk of severe COVID-19; and people at risk of serious complications because of exposure to the virus in their jobs.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is meeting today for the second time to consider potential guidelines for such booster shots, and Parajón said the state’s Medical Advisory Team will meet following the issuance of federal guidelines to prepare New Mexico’s rollout, potentially as soon as Monday.

Report: Students fell behind due to pandemic

New Mexico’s students lost at least 10 to 60 days of instruction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report presented yesterday to lawmakers. While the data is incomplete due to testing waivers, low participation and remote administration during school closures, those lost days, analysts say, “are potentially widening the existing achievement gap and setting New Mexico’s children even further behind academic norms.” Legislative Finance Committee program evaluator Ryan Tolman told legislators yesterday that while the federal government allocated $1.5 billion for schools to address pandemic emergencies, “We find that districts are not equally utilizing the resources available to them, varying in their strategies and priorities toward addressing student learning,” Tolman said. “This could inadvertently create disparities for students across school districts.” The state also lacks sufficient data to analyze the problem, Public Education Department Secretary Designate Kurt Steinhaus told lawmakers, and insufficient staff to address current demands. “The amount of work that’s expected of our agency compared to the resources we have, just do not exist,” Steinhaus said. Given the amount of missed learning time during the COVID-19 pandemic, students will require extra instructional time to catch up to grade level, according to the report.

Hot air balloon pilot had drugs in system at time of crash

The operator of a hot air balloon that crashed in Albuquerque last June had cocaine and marijuana in his system, according to a toxicology report. Nick Meleski, 62, hit power lines on June 26, causing the balloon to fall the ground near Central and Unser NW and killing Meleski and his four passengers: former Albuquerque policeman Martin Martinez; his wife, Mary Martinez; Georgia O’Keeffe Elementary School Assistant Principal Susan Montoya; and her husband John Montoya. KOB4 News spoke with out-of-state toxicologist Dr. Ernest Chiodo, who says the test results from the Federal Aviation Administration show Meleski “utilized [drugs] relatively recently but not right before the accident.” Meleski’s family released a statement saying they are evaluating a copy of the toxicology report and asked for privacy, according to KOB. Mary Martinez’ brother, Manny Sisneros, also released a statement saying his family was “heartbroken” over the news. “When taking a balloon ride as my sister Mary did, she entrusted her life with this pilot. Nicholas Meleski obviously didn’t take into consideration all of the people whose lives he destroyed due to his drug use. We are aware that the drugs in his system may not be the cause of the crash but having Cocaine and Marijuana in his system, may have been one of the contributing factors.” The National Transportation Safety Board has not released its official report on the cause of the crash, but several pilots who knew Meleski tell the Albuquerque Journal they were surprised by the toxicology findings. “As far as I knew, he was a good pilot,” said Rainbow Ryders chief pilot Troy Bradley, who had known Meleski for decades. “Obviously, if this all comes to light … that he was doing drugs while flying – that’s not a good pilot,” he said. “The ability to maneuver an aircraft is one thing, but to do it in an impaired fashion is not something that would ever be condoned by any other pilot.”

Listen up

Santa Fe’s KTRC 1260 AM radio station recently introduced a new show focused on health, To Your Health, cohosted by Santa Fe clinics La Familia Medical Center and Southwest Care (10 am on Saturdays). On its most recent episode, La Familia Medical Center’s Harm Reduction and Recovery Program Manager Myriam Salazar joins host Dr. Wendy Johnson, La Familia’s chief medical officer, to discuss the issues around addiction and substance use to mark National Recovery Month.

Home intrusion

Netflix released the movie Intrusion yesterday, which filmed in Albuquerque during October through November of last year. Reviews, thus far, indicate it’s not very good...but is at least “watchable.” Log line: “After a deadly home invasion at a couple’s new dream house, the traumatized wife (Frieda Pinto) searches for answers—and learns the real danger is just beginning.” Director Adam Salky spoke to Distractify about his experience filming and living in New Mexico during the pandemic, which, apparently, involved an “intrusion” of its own. “I pull up to my rental and the garage door is open,” Salky said. “I go to the back door, turn the handle and the back door is open too. So this film actually started with me slowly going through this house and checking every single room with my iPhone at the ready not knowing if someone was going to come out and bash me over the head or something!” Salky also spoke to Screen Rant about the house where the film’s invasion takes place and how he had wanted a house that was both modern architecturally but with a “spookiness” to it. “We actually found that house in Albuquerque, New Mexico,” Salky says. “It was a literal needle in a haystack. The architectural style of Albuquerque is something called Pueblo Revival, and it’s a really cool architectural style. But it wasn’t what I had in mind for the film, so we were location scouting, and I started to get really nervous that we weren’t going to find this perfect place for the movie.” Through a tip to his cinematographer, Salky learned of a possible contender in the area. “We walked around, and we just immediately fell in love. It had everything we needed, and it also had the unknowability factor. There were hallways that went to strange places, and there were closets that you would open and there was just a wall there. There were some strange aspects to it, and we immediately fell in love. Thankfully, the family allowed us to shoot there.”

No place like a $7.9 mil home

As long as we’re contemplating local real estate, a Santa Fe “home” made Mansion Global’s “listing of the day” earlier this week. The 36-acre equestrian estate will run you about $7.9 million and includes a 14-acre parcel with the main house, a pool area, a detached guesthouse, caretaker’s quarters and a barn. Throw in another $1 million and you can add on an adjacent equestrian-friendly 22-acre lot. “The size and the scale of the property are very unusual,” Sotheby’s International Realty listing agent Paul McDonald tells Mansion Global. “The properties are indistinguishable. It looks like all one piece.” Tell us more! According to McDonald, the gated compound is next door to Georgia O’Keeffe’s “old estate...These are really the two key properties on the Old Santa Fe Trail,” he notes. In addition to features one might expect in any 9,789-square-foot home (bedrooms, bathrooms) and those befitting a luxury property (a pool, cabana and outdoor kitchen), the property also has eight indoor stalls, nine paddocks, two arenas, a horse shower room, a tack room, hay storage and more than 20 acres of groomed private trails for riding and walking.

Ba-dee-ya, never was a cloudy day

The second day of fall should bring a high temperature of 80 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, along with partly sunny skies and north wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading! The Word is fighting the urge to spend the next several hours in bed, and is using this 107-year-old French pianist—who just released a new album—as inspiration.

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