COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 725 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 248,075. DOH has designated 217,544 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 166 new cases, followed by 69 cases in Doña Ana County and 60 cases in Chaves County. Santa Fe County had 38 new cases.
The state also announced 16 additional deaths, including the 165th from Santa Fe County: a male in his 70s who had underlying conditions and was a resident of the BeeHive Homes Santa Fe facility. There have now been 4,719 fatalities statewide. As of yesterday, 360 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Currently, 79.6% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 70.1% are fully vaccinated. In the 12-to-17-year-old age group, 63.4% people have had at least one dose and 53.5% 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.
The state’s Medical Advisory Team is expected to meet today to discuss plans for COVID-19 booster shots for qualified residents; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday issued approval of a third Pfizer-BioNTech shot for people 65 and older; people with underlying conditions; and broke from an advisory committee recommendations to include frontline workers.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
Webber raises more than $360,000 in mayor’s race
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber has a substantial fundraising lead in the three-way Nov. 2 mayoral race, based on campaign finance summaries filed yesterday. Webber’s campaign has raised $360,595 so far—breaking his $315,000 record from 2018. “We’re so proud of this effort and what it means for our campaign and Santa Fe,” a campaign email distributed last night reads. “These numbers undoubtedly demonstrate a broad base of support from a wide variety of people who have full faith in the job Alan is doing for our city every day.” Webber’s closest competitor, City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Copper, has raised $112,297 so far, while Alexis Martinez Johnson has raised $10,216. “We are counting on a lot of grassroots efforts,” Martinez Johnson tells the Santa Fe New Mexican. “But I think the amount of money that is put into these races are so extreme that other voices are limited.” District 1 incumbent City Councilor Sig Lindell has raised $77,649, leading challengers Roger Carson and Joe Hoback, who have raised $8,075 and $7,715, respectively. Brian Gutierrez, the fourth candidate, is publicly financed and reported $15,000. District 3 incumbent City Councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta has raised approximately $27,000; his opponent Lee Garcia is publicly financed. In District 4—now open because Vigil Coppler is running for mayor—candidate Amanda Chavez is publicly financed and running against Rebecca Romero, who has raised $2,750.
Regulators: health care costs decreasing
Due to a variety of factors, health care access is growing more affordable for those using the state’s health care exchange. Regulators told lawmakers yesterday the lowered costs come as the result of federal pandemic aid, increasing numbers of subscribers and a pending new state tax. The latter refers to a tax increase kicking off Jan. 1, 2022 that covers a swath of health insurance premiums, and is expected to help underwrite in 2023 health-exchange insurance options for low- and moderate-income consumers and employees at small businesses. As for the burgeoning subscriber figures, a report on the exchange shows a 311% increase between Feb. 15 and Aug. 15 compared to the same time period in 2020 and a 10% year-to-year increase. Among existing enrollees, 51% had an average reduction in monthly premium of $74. Lawmakers, however, expressed concern about the tax increase, saying customers and businesses could end up paying the cost, if inadvertently, though insurance officials say the costs will be borne by managed care organizations providing Medicaid insurance. Speaking in defense of the tax increase, House Majority Floor Leader Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, said the tax increase isn’t intended to be punitive but, rather, “to ensure that those that don’t have access can access health care. ... This is one of those rare moments when this Legislature has actually taken a leap of faith, a very well-informed and data-driven leap of faith.”
Into the woods
The Santa Fe National Forest will be waiving fees tomorrow at its day-use recreation sites for National Public Lands Day (any forest sites that normally charge a fee). There are also several stewardship events across the state. For instance, in keeping with theme for this year’s NPLD, “More Ways to Connect to Nature,” the Continental Divide Trail Coalition will host a stewardship event, followed by a hike, at the San Gregorio Trailhead, approximately a 30-minute drive from Cuba. The trail stewardship event will take place from 8:30 am to noon and focus on trail construction and maintenance. The family hike will take place from the San Gregorio Trailhead from 12:30 to 2:30 pm and will include information on how to Leave No Trace when enjoying forest trails. For more information, see the event listing on the NPLD website. Additional New Mexico events to commemorate National Public Lands Day will take place at Cochiti Lake, Bandelier and Abiquiu Lake (among others).
Lest you think the changing autumn leaves indicate all is right with the world, KSFR Interim News Director Bryce Dix digs into how climate change may be impacting the fall color season (spoiler alert: not in a good way). Dix speaks with Howard Neufeld, a biology professor at Appalachian State University, who maintains a Facebook page called Fall Color Guy, where he posts weekly updates on his fall color observations. “Fall is the least understood of the seasons in terms of what determines when leaves fall and how fast they fall, Neufeld says. “But, this is important because the CO2 levels are going up and climate change, as it’s getting warmer, as we’re getting these intense storms followed by intense periods of drought.” September weather, he says, plays a strong role in predicting fall colors and, as far as New Mexico goes, Neufeld isn’t optimistic due to the state’s drought, high temperatures and low precipitation. Granted, a lackluster leaf peeping season pales in comparison to other outcomes of the climate crisis, such as the end of the world, but “It helps us understand why climate change is going to affect our forests in the future,” Neufeld says.
TIME magazine spotlights New Mexico bus drivers on the cover of a special issue devoted to “educators who saved a pandemic school year.” Specifically, the photo features bus drivers from Cuba, who “were a lifeline during months of social distancing and remote learning,” TIME writes. “We were their links to school for a while. Other than seeing the teacher on Zoom, they would see us in person,” Ubaldo Kelly Maestas says. “Really the only contact they had with school was us, the bus drivers.” The district’s 13 drivers serve students in primarily rural areas, some on the Navajo Nation, often beginning work at 4 am and sometimes traveling more than 300 miles a day. During the pandemic, rather than ferrying students, they delivered food, water, schoolwork and supplies and picked up students’ homework to bring back to school. Driver Tammy Atencio (Navajo) grew up in the area of her bus route and described herself as exhausted but also rewarded by being able to help the students. “Whatever they’re going through, they can depend on you to bring their schoolwork and bring food.”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for being outside (record-high temperatures and potential lackluster leaf season not withstanding). The weekend offers many options should you need some structure for your fall exploits. Our favorite nature spot, the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserves, hosts a bird walk at 8 am tomorrow with guide Rocky Tucker, who has a life list of more than 2,500 (600 of which are in the US). Reunity Resources hosts a Fall Fest from 3 to 6 pm on Sunday ($20/kids free) with COVID-safe face painting; mini pony rides; group games; apple picking and cider press; raspberry picking; flower picking; make-and-take crafts table; tractor/hay wagon rides; and plenty of farm-fresh food options. Ski Santa Fe presents a plethora of fall fun weekends through Oct. 10, including chair lifts through the aspens; disc golf; and live music (this weekend, it’s Group Therapy on Saturday and The Wild Marimbas on Sunday). Saturday, Ski Santa Fe also will feature a car show, for those who like automobiles with their leaves. Lastly, for those for whom there can never be enough autumn, be sure to check out this week’s SFR Pick, Michelle Chrisman: Colors of Autumn, 5 to 7 pm tonight at The Signature Gallery, 102 E Water St.
The National Weather Service forecasts a mostly sunny day today with a high near 77 degrees, a little breezy (five to 10 mph winds), and just about the same for tomorrow. Sunday, however, currently holds a 30% chance for showers, kicking off an entire week of low, if promising, possibilities for precipitation. Rain or shine, temps should drop to about 74 on Sunday and into the low 70s next week.Thanks for reading! As may be obvious, The Word loves fall and to prove it has begun following the Cider Donuteur on Instagram, a man on a mission to taste and review “every fresh apple cider doughnut he can get his hands on.”