Morning Word

NM Hospitals Reach Crisis Levels

Cannabis business owners await regulations, shortages

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 1,895 new COVID-19 cases for the three-day period of Oct.16-18, bringing the statewide total so far to 265,632. DOH has designated 236,245 of those cases as recovered.

San Juan County had 384 new cases, followed by Bernalillo County with 379 and Doña Ana County with 148. Santa Fe County had 69 cases.

The state also announced 12 additional deaths, eight of them recent; there have now been 4,942 fatalities. As of yesterday, 300 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. During a news conference yesterday, Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said there have been nearly 1,000 deaths since the start of February in which people “didn’t need to die had they been vaccinated and that really is a tragedy.” Unvaccinated people make up most of the new COVID-19 cases (83.6%), hospitalizations (89.1%) and deaths (93.1%). Referencing Colin Powell’s death yesterday from COVID complications, Scrase noted, “this is a devastating, terrible disease and we all need to do everything we can possibly do to get this under control.”

Currently, 81.1% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 71.6% are fully vaccinated. Among that demographic, 5.3% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 53.5% people have had at least one dose and 62% are fully inoculated. In Santa Fe County, among those 18 years and older, 91.8% have had at least one dose and 81.7% are fully vaccinated.

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

New Mexico enacts hospital crisis standards of care

With New Mexico still experiencing high levels of COVID-19 cases, crowded hospitals and inadequate health care personnel, the state yesterday enacted crisis standards of care for hospitals. The new status comes for the first time since December of 2020, under very different circumstances. Then, hospitals were full, Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said during a Monday afternoon news conference, with approximately two-thirds of patients with COVID-19 and the remaining with other types of health issues. Now, the proportions are reversed, with non-COVID patients often very sick and needing longer stays, in many cases due to delayed care during the pandemic. “We were at a peak” in December, Scrase said, “and I think it’s important to pause for a moment and ask how can things be so bad when it seems like the number of COVID admissions is less than half [of what it was]. And the answer to that question is people in the hospital are as sick as they’ve ever been. Sicker, actually.”

Under crisis standards of care, hospitals will have a “standardized and equitable procedure” for making decisions about rationing care. The order also provides limited legal liability coverage to providers who move to higher levels of practice. The public health order does not require facilities to move to crisis standards of care but, rather, allows them to do so if necessary, and also requires them to suspend non-medically-necessary procedures should they do so. As of yesterday morning, the state had just 11 free ICU beds statewide, with Jennifer Vosburgh, associate chief nursing officer at University of New Mexico Hospital, who helps coordinate the state’s call and transfer station, saying they have been unable to place patients who need that care. In addition, Vosburgh said, patients are being taken care of in rooms not intended for patients, such as operating rooms or catheterization laboratories. And a nursing shortage, which predates the pandemic, has worsened. “We are in a crisis,” she said. “We need to get control of our COVID patients immediately so we can focus on New Mexicans that need and deserve care.”

Midtown, airport on city’s legislative wishlist

The City of Santa Fe will potentially seek $11 million for expansion of the Santa Fe Airport; $3.5 million for Swan Park; and another $10 million for infrastructure costs at the Midtown campus during next year’s legislative session (Jan. 18-Feb. 17). Yesterday, the city Finance Committee approved those priorities, aka wish list, which next heads to the full City Council for approval on Oct. 27. While the airport, Swan Park and Midtown are the top three ticket items, the priority list also includes $3 million for median improvements and $1.5 million for a Southside Library community plaza. City councilors also have requested smaller funding amounts for various bicycle and trail improvements, such as at Harrison Road, Pacheco Street and Tierra Contenta Trails. In non-funding issues, the city priority list includes supporting legislation to ensure that hold harmless payments are neither eliminated nor further reduced; eliminating the 3% cap on annual property tax increases on residences that are not owner-occupied as the owner’s principal place of residence; and transferring state land located adjacent to Midtown Santa Fe in exchange for city-owned property currently utilized by the state Department of Public Safety. Recently, the city has been discussing the possibility of consolidating City Hall and other city offices to the Midtown campus.

Waiting for cannabis...shortages

When adult sales for recreational cannabis begin in April, businesses will swiftly run out of product, warns Duke Rodriguez, president and CEO of prominent cannabis company Ultra Health. “We’ve had a shortage in this [medical] program for over a decade. All that adult use is doing is exacerbating a long-term problem,” Rodriguez tells SFR. “I’ve told people before, if the plant is not in the ground today, it will not be available come April. That reality cannot be avoided.” Supply shortages are one of several concerns for existing and new cannabis business owners, such as waiting for state regulators to establish retail rules, which must be finalized by Jan. 1. In Santa Fe, several new locations for cannabis businesses are expected enter the market in addition to 14 already established. Some, such as Ultra Health, Fruit of the Earth Organics and Keyway Marketplace all tell SFR they plan to jump in the recreational game in addition to their medical cannabis markets to take advantage of forthcoming “legacy” producer licenses from the state that will cover both. But those remain in the offing, as do rules for consumption areas. “What the industry is asking for: Just simply publish the regulations,” Rodriguez says. “We’ve had nearly a year to get it done.” As one might expect, cannabis news is high-yield right now, and you can catch up on all of it with SFR’s most recent Leaf Brief newsletter.

Listen up

New Mexico is facing what’s been described as an unprecedented situation at animal shelters and rescue operations, with all of them at capacity, including the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society. This crisis is expected to worsen when moratoriums on evictions are lifted. On the most recent episode of Report from Santa Fe, host Lorene Mills talks with Felines and Friends New Mexico Executive Director Bobbi Heller and and Murad Kirdar, public relations officer at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, about this situation and how they are working with shelters around the state to help homeless animals.

Outside with Albuquerque

Outside magazine presents its annual roundup of the 20 most livable cities in the US, but this time brings a new lens to the project in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, looking at diversity and sustainability. To do so, Outside applied a variety of metrics, looking at a 2021 report from WalletHub that ranks cities based on diversity; a 2019 WalletHub report ranking the 100 most popu­lated cities according to in­vestment in green initiatives; median home prices via Zillow; and analyzed outdoor equity based on its own reporting and a 2021 Trust for Public Land report. One New Mexico city makes the list: Albuquerque, in large part because of the efforts the state’s new Outdoor Recreation Division has made through its Outdoor Equity Fund to provide more access to the outdoors to residents of Albuquerque, which ranks 40th in outdoor access among the country’s hundred largest cities. “The ORD’s current infrastructure fund also includes some $300,000 to improve 42 miles of the Rio Grande Trail that run through the heart of Albuquerque,” the magazine notes, and the city itself has doubled down on its conservation goals.

They’re here...

No, we’re not talking about creepy poltergeists. Rather, squash, which are as down to earth as you can get. But how to eat, we sometimes wonder. Enter John Vollertsen, aka Chef Johnny Vee, who provides four ways to enjoy the fall squash harvest in a new story for New Mexico magazine. Lest you think squash just means zucchini, Vee has news for you: Consider including crookneck, pattypan, cousa, tatume, tromboncino, chayote and zephyr the next time you hit the Santa Fe Farmers Market (which opens at 8 am today, by the way). Vee includes suggestions for how to prepare these various squash, along with a reminder that they pair well with our other favorite fall crop: green chile. As for the recipes, green chile, zucchini and squash pickles, anyone? The story also provides recipes for sweet green chile chutney, chutney quesadillas and, of course, calabacitas.

Easy, breezy...

The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day in Santa Fe with a high near 64 degrees and southeast wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west 15 to 20 mph in the morning. Looks like that wind may have put a kibosh on a planned burn in the Santa Fe Watershed today.Thanks for reading! As usual, The Word is desperately scrounging around for a Halloween costume idea that will require zero effort and even less skill (which eliminates these ideas...unless she can find someone to help her with #14, maybe).

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