Morning Word

Officials Expect Media Frenzy at Today’s ‘Rust’ News Conference

US Senate confirms Tom Udall for Ambassadorship

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 687 COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 271,898. DOH has designated 240,803 of those cases as recovered.

Bernalillo County had 147 new cases, followed by San Juan County with 91 and Doña Ana County with 68. Santa Fe County had 28 cases.

The state also announced 11 additional deaths, 10 of them recent, including a woman in her 80s from Santa Fe County who had underlying conditions. Santa Fe County has now had 169 total deaths; there have been 5,012 statewide. As of yesterday, 372 people were hospitalized with COVID-19—33 more than the day before.

Currently, 81.9% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 72.3% are fully vaccinated. Among that demographic, 8.2% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 62.4% people have had at least one dose and 54.2% are fully inoculated. In Santa Fe County, among those 18 years and older, 92.8% have had at least one dose and 82.3% are fully vaccinated.

New Mexicans can register for a COVID-19 vaccine here and check eligibility for a COVID-19 vaccine booster here.

Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase, Deputy DOH Secretary Dr. Laura Parajón and state Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross will provide a COVID-19 update at 2 pm today, which will stream live on the DOH Facebook page.

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

Sheriff’s office expects media circus for Rust news conference

At 10 am today, Sheriff Adan Mendoza and First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies will hold a joint news conference to update the public on their investigation of the Oct. 21 fatal shooting on the film set of Rust at Bonanza Creek Ranch (the news conference will stream live on the sheriff’s Facebook page and on SFR’s website). Juan Ríos, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, tells the Santa Fe New Mexican no criminal charges will be announced today, but officials anticipate a media frenzy at the conference. Ever since news broke last week that actor Alec Baldwin had fired a prop gun loaded with some sort of ammunition, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding Director Joel Souza, the national and international media have descended upon the ranch and Santa Fe in unprecedented force. Ríos tells the New Mexican the sheriff’s office has never experienced this level of media interest: “They’re looking for instant gratification from information and the appetite is insatiable,” he said.

Since the shooting, press from the Los Angeles Times, People magazine and TMZ have arrived, along with cable TV crews, the New York Times, and the New York Post. SFR has fielded inquiries from a German TV station, a British radio program and Domingo Espetacular of Brazil. Stephanie Bauer, a special contributor to People’s television show, says she was on her way to Texas when she was rerouted to Santa Fe. “I used to do a lot of Hollywood breaking news and now I do mostly true crime,” she tells SFR. “Since this happened—it’s sort of both.” Finding crew members willing to be publicly identified as been challenging, she tells SFR. “People are afraid to talk,” she notes. “I think it’s because it’s a criminal investigation and everyone on the crew wants to...just keep working.” As for that work environment, the Albuquerque Journal reports Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday indicated her administration might seek to strengthen film set safety in the aftermath of the incident. “My expectation is the industry better step up and identify any number of additional improvements and safeguards,” Lujan Grisham said. “If the industry doesn’t come forward with very specific accountable safeguards, they should expect that we will.”

US Senate confirms Tom Udall ambassadorship

The US Senate yesterday confirmed former US Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, as ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. “Tom showed all of us how to act with decency and integrity, how to stay true to your principles, but also how to find the common ground,” said US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, who introduced Udall to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Tom has devoted his entire life to my state, to serving the people of New Mexico and serving this great nation,” Heinrich told the committee, noting Udall’s terms as the state’s attorney general, his terms in Congress representing the 3rd Congressional District, as well as his time in the US Senate. US Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, also issued a statement and tweet in support of Udall, noting that he “has been a friend, mentor and colleague for many years, and I was honored to support his confirmation. I look forward to watching Tom and Jill [Cooper Udall] begin this new chapter in public service where they will continue to make New Mexicans—and all Americans—proud.”

Officials seek to end waiting list for disabled residents

The health department’s Developmental Disabilities Supports Division yesterday presented a proposal to the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee to expand expansion of services and eliminate the waiting list by placing developmentally disabled New Mexicans into Home and Community-Based Services. The proposal depends on federal funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service that has been requested but not yet confirmed. According to a news release, these waivers currently have a waiting list of more than 4,100 residents, most of whom have been waiting years for services. “Once the wait list is eliminated, we will be in a maintenance stage,” Jason Cornwell, director of DDSD, told lawmakers, “but if we don’t tackle the problem before us, we’ll never get to the solution.” According to a news release, the additional funding would allow DDSD to expand eligibility and access to high-quality HCBS for in-state Medicaid beneficiaries including: children on disabilities; statewide needs assessment and HCBS provider capacity study; and to strengthen the direct service workforce. “We have made progress over the last two years getting more than 700 people the services they need,” DOH Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase said in a statement. “These dollars will allow us to provide services for thousands more. Once funding is approved, the state has a once-in-a-century opportunity to bring everyone into services over the next two years.”

Feds agree to change rules on toxic chemicals

Following a petition from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the Environmental Protection Agency says it will move forward with rule-making to change how per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are managed and cleaned up under federal law. Specifically, a response letter from EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan details several PFAS chemicals the agency intends to list as hazardous constituents under the federal hazardous waste law, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Doing so “allows all states to require clean-up of these toxic chemicals under their EPA-authorized hazardous waste programs,” New Mexico Environment Department Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said in a statement. “It’s time for the Department of Defense to respect state authority and comply with our rules as affirmed by the US EPA.” PFAS groundwater contamination has been found in the state from as many as seven military installations. “We can only make progress for communities suffering from PFAS pollution if we work collaboratively across levels of government and harness our collective resources and authority,” Regan said in a statement. “Today, we are taking important steps toward developing new scientific approaches to confront these dangerous chemicals and strengthening the ability to clean up PFAS contamination. I thank Gov. Lujan Grisham for her engagement and leadership, which will lead to better protections for people in New Mexico and across the country.” For her part, the governor expressed thanks to Regan “for affirming my petition and empowering states to follow New Mexico’s lead in holding PFAS polluters accountable,” but added that “the fight is not over. New Mexico will continue to lead on the issue of PFAS contamination—because everyone deserves to live in a community free of environmental contamination.”

Listen up

‘Tis the season for jump scares and the like, but a program at 5 pm today sounds next-level Halloween. In “Lights Out, Everybody: Mystery & Horror during the Golden Age of Radio,” Nostalgia Digest and radio host Steve Darnall presents a virtual program using sound clips from some of radio’s best known mystery and horror programs (including Escape, Inner Sanctum and Lights Out) to show how radio could truly be a “theater of the mind” and use music, voices and sounds to create indelible—and often frightening—“pictures.”

Preparing for Día de los Muertos

Of course, Halloween’s approach signals it’s the season of remembrance. While supplies last, all branches of the Santa Fe Public Library are giving away free DIY craft kits for Día de los Muertos—available in English and Spanish—which have the supplies to make paper marigolds, color in sugar skull masks and decorate paper candles for your altar (you’ll find them in the children’s Rooms at Main and Southside and through the pick-up line at LaFarge). The Southside Library also will host two Día de los Muertos altar workshops—for all ages—with the Alas de Agua Art Collective from 4 to 5 pm on Oct. 29 and 11 am to noon on Oct. 30 (Día de los Muertos is on Nov. 1). The Museum of International Folk Art will also host a Day of the Dead Community Celebration from 1 to 4 pm on Oct. 31 where you can make sugar skulls, eat traditional Day of Dead treats (pan de muertos) and view the Day of the Dead ofrendas (altars). Teatro Paraguas will present the 7th Annual El Día de los Muertos community celebration with music, a staged cuento (folk-tale) and a medley of songs, dances and poetry at 7 pm, Nov. 2. And, since we’re talking about Day of the Dead, here’s a cool video documenting Albuquerque’s Marigold Parade from the archives.

Luxury, sustainability at Turner’s Ranch

Forbes magazine profiles the Ted Turner Reserves property in New Mexico as an example of “sustainable luxury travel.” The Reserves consists of more than 1 million acres spread across four properties in the state: Vermejo, Sierra Grande, Ladder and Armendaris, where guests can participate in game drives, horseback riding, outdoor archery, hiking, mountain biking and history tours. Vermejo itself takes up 550,000 acres and, in addition to offering spa services, is home to 1,200 wild bison, 19 fishable lakes and 30 miles of “pristine” streams, according to its website. It’s also part of the Beyond Green hotel network, which monitors for sustainability practices and environmental standards. Jade McBride, managing director of Ted Turner Reserves, tells Forbes “the model of our guest operations team is to serve as a revenue stream to continue our conservation efforts for generations to come.” Those conservation efforts, she says, include working “to bring back the American bison from the verge of extinction”; as well as Rio Grande cutthroat trout and riverbank restoration projects. Vermejo, she says, as a result of restoration efforts, “is home to the largest population of Rio Grande cutthroat trout in the world.” Vermejo provides a variety of activities and special events, some geared around upcoming holidays, with the goal of keeping people outside as much as possible. The overall goal, McBride says: “We hope to provide a place where all who come to visit Vermejo can feel our world in balance and leave inspired by our message of hope.”

Artists design four new little free libraries

If you’ve been meaning to drop off books to one of the many Free Little Libraries around town (read all about them in this SFR cover story from earlier this year), good news: More are on the way. And these little libraries are likely to catch your eye as they will be artist-designed. The City of Santa Fe and Meow Wolf announced yesterday they will unveil at 9 am today at Fort Marcy Park the first of four artist-designed boxes. Today’s box was designed by artist Sam Taccetta, and is a custom-fabricated 1980s-style television. According to a news release, City Councilor Signe Lindell sparked the collaboration with Meow Wolf for the project. “Meow Wolf is an environment with creative minds, unbridled imagination and enthusiasm for community,” Lindell said in a statement. Meow Wolf’s director of social impact, Danika Padilla, said as a Certified B Corporation, Meow Wolf “is constantly working to support our local communities” and “is proud to be bringing more art to our neighborhoods, and encouraging reading and literacy among our residents.” The next three boxes will be installed at Salvador Perez Park (Nov. 3), Genoveva Chavez Community Center (Nov. 10) and Rancho del Sol Park (Nov. 17).

Chill out

Hope you enjoyed the 15 minutes of rain yesterday because that’s it for the next little while. The National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day in Santa Fe with a high near 58 degrees and north wind 15 to 20 mph.

Thanks for reading! The Word is enjoying watching birds migrate at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, but would probably not enjoy it in real life because of (trigger warning!) The Birds.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed statements about sheriff and district attorney news conference. We’ve corrected that.

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