Morning Word

NM Health Officials: COVID-19 Surging, Breakthrough Cases Rising Santa Fe DA nixes “Rust” sabotage theory

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 1,337 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 288,557. DOH has designated 250,960 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 385 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 212 and San Juan County with 188. Santa Fe County had 32 new cases.

The state also announced 13 additional deaths, 12 of them recent; there have now been 5,148 fatalities. As of yesterday, 490 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 20 people more than the day prior.

Currently, 83.2% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 73% are fully vaccinated. Among that age group, 14.5% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 63.4% people have had at least one dose and 55% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 0.7% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. In Santa Fe County, 94.2% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 82.9% are fully vaccinated.

New Mexicans can register for a COVID-19 vaccine here and check eligibility for a COVID-19 vaccine booster here. Parents can add dependents to their vaccine profiles here.

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

Health officials: NM facing “grim” COVID-19 outlook

Despite the state’s high rate of vaccination against COVID-19, cases and hospitalizations continue to rise, with health officials pointing to waning immunity, the highly transmissible Delta variant and reduced adherence to COVID-safe practices as a trifecta of culprits. “Things continue to get worse,” Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said during a weekly news conference yesterday, describing the general picture of COVID-19 in New Mexico at present time as “grim.” At the county level, nearly all counties have high—or red—levels of transmission: “Living with this virus means being aware of the level of disease activity around you,” state Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross said, “because you can then modulate your behavior in ways to protect yourself. So I think it’s just really important to understand we have really very concerning levels of case rates and rising incidents around us.” Statewide, the test positivity rate has risen to 11.8%, indicating not all cases are being caught. That being said, New Mexicans should not expect to see additional restrictions, short of the indoor-mask mandate being renewed in the public health order. “I think one of the most important criteria for a public health intervention [is] it has to be something we can really live with going forward,” Scrase said. “It’s not a roller coaster that’s going up and down.” Scrase and others urged New Mexicans to schedule booster shots to counter waning immunity, which they calculate sets in at roughly five and a half months after a second shot of Pfizer of Moderna. Health officials estimate approximately 70% of New Mexicans are eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot and say they are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to open up boosters to the entire population. In the meantime, DOH continues to roll out vaccines for children and urged everyone to re-focus their vigilance around masking and avoiding large events and crowded situations, particularly given that all of the state’s hospitals—including Santa Fe’s Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center—remain over capacity and under-resourced. “Be careful and just ask yourself again, this question: Am I being two to four times as careful this year given that the virus is two to four times infectious as I was last year at this time when we were in a very similar situation,” Scrase said. “I think most of us would be hard-pressed to answer that question with a resounding yes.”

NM receives $1 mil from feds for economic plan

The state Economic Development Department yesterday announced it has received an additional $1 million from the US Economic Development Administration, which it plans to put toward its 20-year plan. That state recently completed drafting the first phase of that plan, titled Empower & Collaborate: New Mexico’s Economic Path Forward. Specifically, the state says it will use the grant toward initiatives including: partnering with the New Mexico Office of Indian Affairs to hire an Economic Recovery Coordinator; improving access to capital and economic recovery resources for businesses and communities; expanding the online FUNDIT platform; creating and improving an online platform to visualize economic recovery data; and other projects, which the state says it intends to complete by March 2024. “We are not going to let this strategic plan sit on a shelf,” Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said in a statement. “It is very exciting to create a plan for a sustainable economy, and now we have new funds to help implement the strategies and do the work. We are grateful to our many partners and stakeholders who share our vision for a stronger, more resilient economy and ask that they stay the course with us as we move New Mexico forward together.”

Four more state senators support suit against Gov

Four Democratic state senators this week filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting a lawsuit that challenges Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s control over what remains of $1.7 billion in federal pandemic aid. In so doing, Sens. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces, Daniel Ivey-Soto of Albuquerque, George Muñoz of Gallup and Gerald Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque are supporting the challenge brought by Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, and Senate Republican floor leader Greg Baca of Belen, whose September lawsuit will be taken up by the state Supreme Court next week. The governor’s office tells the Albuquerque Journal it maintains its position that the Legislature has control over state, not federal funds. For his part, Candelaria told the Santa Fe New Mexican he applauded the four senators for supporting the suit. “I think it demonstrates that folks who have taken a serious look at this issue or have come to the same conclusion that New Mexico law is very simply and straightforward on this point, that when it comes to making decisions about how public money is going to be spent and what priorities that’s going to go to, that power rests with the Legislature and not the executive,” he said.

Gov commits to climate actions

New Mexico is ahead of the curve when it comes to methane rules for oil and gas operators. While the US Environmental Protection Agency announced its plans Nov. 2 to implement new, more restrictive methane rules, New Mexico is already in the process of implementing its own more thorough methane rules, which were written into law last March. The state’s rules were the background message for New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, as she talked up the state’s climate efforts at greenhouse gas reductions and green energy technologies at COP26, the United Nations’ global climate change conference held in Glasgow, Scotland. “We want the federal government to adopt the same standards that we have in New Mexico,” she said in an interview on the sidelines of the conference. “And we have certainly been laying that foundation.” A news release from the governor’s office earlier this week notes that the governor concluded her time at the conference on Sunday, and reiterated a list of commitments on behalf of New Mexico, including: reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector 45-50% by 2025 and no less than 75-80% by 2030, below 2015 levels; promoting sustainable communities that provide a range of affordable housing and transportation options that increase access to opportunity and reduce vehicle miles traveled; implementing a low-carbon fuel standard to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels; and conserving at least 30% of land and waters by 2030. “This week was a true call to action for every city, state, province and nation on Earth,” the governor said in a statement. “I’m bringing back to New Mexico ambitious commitments and valuable partnerships that will inform our continued action on climate in our state.”

Listen up

A new exhibit at the Wheelwright Museum, Activation/Transformation, opened Nov. 6 and presents a site-specific installation of multi-disciplinary artist Nathan Young’s (Delaware/Kiowa/Pawnee) interpretation of the Wheelwright’s collection. In the latest episode of KSFR’s Nativescape program, Young discusses the works, which drew upon his research of the collection and includes objects drawn from the museum’s extensive collection of silver jewelry and metalwork. “I engage in the re-imagined,” Young says in a statement about the show, which remains on exhibit through April 3, 2022. “Using the Wheelwright collection as a point of departure is exciting and looks to the very experimental way of my practice. I am telling a complicated story of the Southwest mystique and looking for different narratives in contemporary Native art.”

NM DA nixes Rust conspiracy theory

New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies says she has no evidence supporting sabotage on the Rust film set, a theory recently floated by a lawyer for the film’s armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed. Carmack-Altwies made the comments yesterday on ABC’s Good Morning America. “I know that some defense attorneys have come up with conspiracy theories and have used the word ‘sabotage.’ We do not have any proof,” she said, adding that she did not believe the theory. Investigators do not yet have an answer for how live ammunition ended up in the gun Alec Baldwin fired on the set Oct. 21, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza. Determining how the bullets got there, Carmack-Altwies said, “I think will be one of the most important factors going into a charging decision.” But, “It’s probably more important to focus on what led up to the shooting. Because the moment of the shooting we know that at least Mr. Baldwin had no idea that the gun was loaded. So it’s more how did that gun get loaded? What levels of failure happened? And were those levels of failure criminal?” Meanwhile, the first of what some believe will be many lawsuits has been filed over the shooting. Serge Svetnoy, who headed lighting for the film, filed suit Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, naming almost two dozen defendants associated with the film including Baldwin, Assistant Director David Halls and Gutierrez Reed. The Associated Press reports that in his suit Svetnoy says the bullet that killed Hutchins narrowly missed him, and he held his friend’s head after she was shot.

We’ve got art

Travel magazine AFAR offers up “10 great destinations for art lovers” and you better believe Santa Fe made the list. Yes, the magazine notes, cities like New York, Paris and Los Angeles “are all home to blockbuster art markets, creative superstars, and museums as famous as the works they house,” but, AFAR notes, “we also love art destinations outside of the art-world orbit: places with an air of mystery, a whiff of a pilgrimage, a winking nonconformity, a love of experimentation, and a tight-knit sense of community.” Santa Fe is in good company on this list, along with Aarhus, Denmark; Brumadinho, Brazil; and Cape Town, South Africa, to name a few; in fact, Santa Fe is the only US city on the list. Santa Fe, the magazine notes, along with its “iconic pueblo architecture” encompasses “many art scenes and histories, from the vast indigenous collections [at IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts] to the electro-pop experiences of Meow Wolf to the storied career of Georgia O’Keeffe who was so deeply influenced by the New Mexico landscape.”

Veterans Day in Santa Fe

Today is Veterans Day, which means government offices are closed. There will also be several events and opportunities in and around town. Here’s a few of them! The City of Santa Fe will be hosting Veterans Day on the Plaza from 1 to 4 pm, featuring free coffee and donuts, along with a car show by the Santa Fe Vintage Car Club; a proclamation at 1:45 pm from Mayor Alan Webber, followed by a presentation of colors by the Santa Fe High School ROTC. Then “The Destroyers” Navy Band will perform from 2 to 4 pm. The Santa Fe National Forest will waive fees today for Veterans Day at any sites that normally charge fees and are currently open, and the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department State Parks Division also is offering free access for day use and overnight parking to New Mexico residents who are currently serving or have served in the US Armed Forces. At 11 am at the Bataan Memorial Building, Vietnam Veterans of America 996 will present awards to an individual and an organization for service to the veterans community; Santa Fe Quilts of Valor will honor a veteran with a quilt; and Webber will present the city’s “Muchas Gracias” award for service to the Santa Fe veterans community. The Navy Band of the Southwest woodwind quintet will provide patriotic music. The Jean Cocteau Theater also presents a Veterans Journey Home film series, sponsored by the New Mexico Department of Veterans Affairs, at 1 and 6 pm today and tomorrow featuring three films and a filmmaker Q & A.

Still cool, less breezy

If you’re planning to spend Veterans Day outdoors, the National Weather Service forecasts a sunny day with a high near 56 degrees and west wind 10 to 15 mph.

Thanks for reading! The Word reluctantly admits she will probably purchase Heinz Marz-edition ketchup if and when it becomes available.

Support local journalism (and the daily creators of Morning Word) with a gift to Friends of the Reporter. We’re here for you. Can you help?  Spread the Word! Forward this newsletter and subscribe to our other ones at sfreportercom/signup.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.