Morning Word

NM Extends Indoor Mask Mandate and Expands Vaccine Booster Eligibility

PNM, Avangrid push forward on proposed power merger

Morning Word

It’s Monday, November 15, 2021

COVID-19 by the numbers

On Friday, health officials reported 3,524 new COVID-19 cases for the two-day period of Nov.10-11 including the Veterans Day holiday, bringing the statewide total so far to 292,078, and designated 252,155 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 927 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 463 and San Juan County with 556. Santa Fe County had 156 new cases. A three-day, weekend update is expected this afternoon.

The state also announced 21 additional deaths, 17 of them recent; there have now been 5,169 fatalities. As of Friday’s report, 508 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 18 people more than in Wednesday’s report.

Currently, 83.8% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 73.5% are fully vaccinated. Among that age group, 15.5% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 63.5% of people have had at least one dose and 55.1% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 1.9% 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.

State expands boosters to all adults

New Mexico expanded booster shot eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to all adults on Friday, the same day it extended an indoor mask mandate through at least Dec. 10.  “Case counts are significant, spread rates are far too high, and the Delta variant is far more transmissible than previous variants. In addition, our hospitals are well beyond capacity, and several have declared Crisis Standards of Care,” said Department of Health Acting Secretary Dr. David Scrase in a news release. “Those factors absolutely make New Mexico a high-risk setting.”  New Mexicans aged 18 and over may now schedule a booster shot if they received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago or they completed the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series more than six months ago. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not expanded booster recommendations to all adults, New Mexico joins California and Colorado in doing so. “As we have throughout this unpredictable and unprecedented global pandemic, we always stand ready to quickly implement new tools and policies in our fight against this terrible disease,” reads a statement from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “I strongly encourage every New Mexican to register for a booster today–we have appointments available and are ready to get shots in arms.”

Power merger pushes forward

Proponents of a corporate merger that would change New Mexico’s electricity landscape filed additional arguments with the state Public Regulation Commission on Friday. Facing a critical recommendation against the merger from a commission hearing examiner at the beginning of the month who said the potential harm of the proposal outweighed any benefits, PNM Resources, the parent company of Public Service Co. of New Mexico, and Iberdrola subsidiary Avangrid have promised an additional $10 million in economic development benefits and additional commitments to corporate governance and other financial protections for customers. According to the filing, PNM would also delay its next rate case filing by six months to Dec. 1, 2022. The PRC will make a ruling in the merger proposal, and if the merger is rejected, the companies could submit a revised proposal. The commission’s decision can be appealed to the New Mexico Supreme Court. If Iberdrola and Avangrid are permitted to acquire PNM Resources and its New Mexico and Texas power subsidiaries, the $4.3 billion transaction would affect about 800,000 homes and businesses.

Feet beat it

Students who live at Cottonwood Village and attend school at El Camino Real Academy have beat their own trail along the Santa Fe River, but parents and a local nonprofit want to find money to improve and formalize it, SFR reports. Tim Rogers, trails program manager at the nonprofit Santa Fe Conservation Trust, says the trail on the Southside should be a top priority. “This has always been one of the routes that’s, to me, the lowest-hanging fruit as far as getting more kids to walk and bike to school,” Rogers tells SFR. “It’s the lowest-hanging fruit in the city as far as I can tell…just in terms of promoting it and getting kids to use it based on the proximity of the subdivision to the school.” Rogers is also the coordinator of the “Safe Routes to School” education initiative, which aims to get more kids walking or biking to school and is being funded by $300,000 in federal grant money over two years. Erick Aune, senior planner with the Santa Fe Metropolitan Planning Organization, tells SFR the city, county and Santa Fe Public Schools had a joint meeting in 2018 where they identified the trail as a worthwhile project. The city’s Capital Improvements Advisory Committee is working on a preliminary engineering report to provide a cost estimate that can be used identify a funding plan.

Listen up

Santa Fe a hotspot for hip-hop? A resounding yes. SFR features members of the Outstanding Citizens Collective on this week’s cover. The story includes audio samples from the local artists, including a previously unreleased track from locals Benzo, Wolfman Jack, Prismatic Soul and Anthonius Monk dubbed “Art of Oz.” The release comes in honor of the November birthday of Benzo, who died last summer.

See them in court

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and Environment Secretary James Kenney have filed a federal court appeal in an attempt to overturn a decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to grant a license to build a  Consolidated Interim Storage Facility in Andrews County, Texas—just 5 miles across the state border. New Mexico previously filed a separate lawsuit challenging the licensing procedure. The NRC is  also considering a separate license for a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility in Eunice, New Mexico. The new filing in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is “a part of New Mexico’s multi-pronged challenge to NRC’s approval of both these high level nuclear waste storage facilities,” according to a joint statement. “New Mexicans deserve a fully transparent and scientifically-complete environmental review prior to licensing a radioactive waste storage facility in West Texas,” said Kenney. “It is unconscionable to short-circuit this legal process and impose the associated public health and environmental risks on our communities. Today, New Mexico stands against the southwest becoming a dumping ground for the nation’s radioactive waste.”

When the bus comes by

Buses that shuttle passengers up the mountain to the Ski Santa Fe basin will henceforth be free, following a decision by the North Central Regional Transit District. The “Blue bus” 255 Mountain Trail had been operating on a fare-free basis since the early days of the pandemic to prevent fare box transmission and keep operators and passengers safe, but at a board meeting earlier this month, members voted to permanently lift fares on that route and on the 305 Taos Express, which connects Taos, Española and Santa Fe. The 255 Mountain Trail provides service from downtown Santa Fe up Hyde Park Road to trailheads in the Santa Fe National Forest and Hyde State Park, concluding at Ski Santa Fe where riders disembark near the ticket window and lifts. Previously, the route was $5 each way in the winter season. During the non-winter operation, the cost was $5 to ride up and free to ride down.There’s no news yet about opening day for the ski area, but Ski New Mexico still says Nov. 27, Thanksgiving Day, remains the tentative goal.

The only time we like it mild

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service forecast calls for another sunny and mild day with temps peaking in Santa Fe around 67 degrees with north wind around 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading! The (substitute) Word is definitely not a watcher of sports, but appreciated catching videos of battles between college marching bands during football halftime shows this fall.

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