Morning Word

Biden Moves to End to Federal Drilling in Chaco Canyon

SFPS launches online COVID-19 tracker

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 3,712 new COVID-19 cases for the three-day period of Nov.13-15, bringing the statewide total so far to 295,767; DOH has designated 254,476 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 1,009 new cases, followed by San Juan County with 580 and Doña Ana County with 566. Santa Fe County had 146 new cases. In a news release, the health department reported that New Mexico’s seven-day test test positivity rate has risen to 12.9% from last week’s 11.8%; the target is 7.5%—higher test positivity rates indicate not all cases are being detected. New Mexicans can search the DOH testing directory for locations and order at-home tests via Vault.

The state also announced 22 additional deaths, 18 of them recent; there have now been 5,191 fatalities. As of yesterday, 498 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

Currently, 84.2% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 73.7% are fully vaccinated. Among that age group, 16.9% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 63.7% of people have had at least one dose and 55.2% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 6.2% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. In Santa Fe County, 95.4% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 83.6% are fully vaccinated.

New Mexicans can register for a COVID-19 vaccine here, schedule a COVID-19 vaccine booster here and view a public calendar for vaccine availability here. Parents can add dependents to their vaccine profiles here.

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

SFPS launches COVID tracker

Yesterday, Santa Fe Public Schools unveiled an online dashboard that reports the district’s COVID-19 cases to “ensure greater transparency and improved reporting to the public.” The district has been reporting its cases via daily news releases. The dashboard only includes cases that were infectious while on campus, and will be updated periodically throughout the day with cases once all close contacts have been notified. School principals will continue to notify parents whose students are in classrooms with someone who has been on campus while positive. “With the upswing we’re seeing in COVID cases, SFPS sees the new COVID Dashboard as an enhanced way to update the public on what is happening district wide and school by school with students and staff,” SFPS Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez said in a statement. “Graphs and charts help to clarify and place numbers in perspective and viewers can select various time periods, which allow for improved analysis.” Since the start of the school year, the district is reporting 345 cases—83.5% of which were among students—and says close to 82% were not related to a previous case, based on contact tracing. Capital High School has had the most cases thus far, 32, followed by Santa Fe High School and Wood Gormley Elementary with 27 and 22, respectively. In October, the district reported 114 new cases, compared with 70 in September and 80 in August. As of today, the district has reported 81 cases for November. SFPS will hold a vaccination clinic for children ages 5-11 from 10 am to 3 pm on Nov. 20 at Desert Sage Academy, 351 W Zia Road.

Good news for Chaco

President Joe Biden yesterday announced the Department of the Interior in the coming weeks “will initiate consideration of a 20-year withdrawal of federal lands within a 10-mile radius around Chaco Culture National Historical Park, protecting the area from new federal oil and gas leasing and development.” A White House briefing on “Building A New Era of Nation-to-Nation Engagement,” which outlines various initiatives with Tribal nations, notes “for the past decade, Pueblos and Tribes in Arizona and New Mexico have raised concerns about encroaching oil and gas development threatening sacred and cultural sites, and Congress has passed a series of actions to temporarily defer new leasing.” The proposed withdrawal, the briefing says, “will not apply to Individual Indian Allotments or to minerals within the area owned by private, state and Tribal entities,” nor “impose restrictions on other developments, such as roads, water lines, transmission lines, or buildings.” US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, requested the withdrawal in a May letter to US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, saying then “it is time to move from short-term policies that shift every year to the long-term certainty provided by an administrative withdrawal of the federal mineral resources in the vicinity of the park.” Heinrich issued a statement yesterday welcoming the Biden administration’s announcement and stating he intends to reintroduce legislation with members of the New Mexico delegation to permanently withdraw the federal lands around Chaco Canyon from further mineral development. “Chaco Canyon is one of the most precious landscapes on Earth and holds deep meaning for Tribes, Pueblos and communities in northern New Mexico,” Heinrich said in a statement. “I am grateful for Secretary Haaland’s leadership and all of the New Mexicans who have worked to preserve the integrity of Chaco’s irreplaceable resources.”

Inside ABQ’s homicide surge

The New York Times yesterday examined the current homicide surge in the US, spotlighting four lives lost in four hard-hit American cities, including Albuquerque, where killings this month are on track to outpace prior years. At the same time, New Mexico overall has had a surge of drug use and last year saw a record number of drug overdoses. One particularly abject detail on which the Times’ story focuses is the preponderance of motels as locales for Albuquerque homicides, where at least 16 homicide victims were either shot or stabbed to death. Among them: Joshua J. Garcia, one of three victims at a Motel 6 along I-25. “We are not getting tourists killed at hotels, we are getting local residents killed,” Chief Harold Medina, of the Albuquerque Police Department, told the Times. That particular Motel 6, the Times writes, “sits isolated along Interstate 25, surrounded by empty desert lots scattered with cactuses and low scrub. But at night, the two-story building comes alive with expensive cars flowing through the parking lot, people bouncing between rooms and the flames from meth pipes illuminating the darkness.” Garcia died from a single bullet to the chest. No arrests have been made and detectives have not yet determined precisely what occurred. His family says they don’t know why Garcia had driven to the Albuquerque Model 6 from Alamogordo; he had struggled with drug abuse and had previously served two and a half years in juvenile jail for assault and DWI.

Listen up

New Mexico is slated to receive close to $4 billion from the federal infrastructure bill President Joe Biden signed into law yesterday (Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham attended the signing). For its All Things Considered program, NPR interviewed one New Mexico farmer, Las Cruces pecan farmer Greg Daviet, to hear how the money going to improve water infrastructure could help his business. New Mexico, as Daviet notes, is used to droughts and to farming through them. “In a drought, we need to be able to adapt well to changing, variable and sometimes unpredictable water situations,” Daviet tells NPR. “So we’re hopeful that the infrastructure bill will help with our water infrastructure so that we can better allocate every drop of water to be more productive for the people that rely on our products.”

NM goes to Disney

Disney reports updates to its American Heritage Gallery at the EPCOT theme park in Florida, with additional content to recognize Indigenous communities and Native American Heritage month. They did so with a little help from New Mexico. According to Disney’s blog, the Walt Disney Imagineering Collections Management team worked with Santa Fe’s Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC on the exhibition Creating Tradition: Innovation and Change in American Indian Art. “This exhibit would not have been possible without our partnerships with the many museums, tribes, and artists featured in the exhibition,” Curator Deb Van Horn said in a statement. “These partnerships allowed us to bring the authentic stories to our guests and make sure we are representing the cultures in a respectful and engaging way.” Fashion designer Loren Aragon (Acoma Pueblo) is among the featured artists in the exhibit and in his own post on the website for his fashion couture company ACONAV described the opportunity as “a dream come true! To share my talents with so many viewers who will see my creation on display for the next few years is nothing short of AMAZING.” Aragon’s work, he writes, features a one-of-a-kind piece “authentically inspired by a traditional Acoma Pueblo olla,” chosen from MIAC’s vaults. “A first of its kind for me and a very welcoming challenge. This design incorporates everything that I’ve always wanted to explore in my fashion talents and truly represents my Acoma Pueblo culture both respectfully & responsibly.” Overall, Disney’s exhibit’s interactive displays and immersive storytelling showcase Native communities from seven geographic regions.

Sounds just dandy!

Our long warm autumn may mean various weeds continue to thrive in your backyard (or, possibly, that’s just us). If among the jungle you should spot dandelions, be sure to scope Edible New Mexico’s “Don’t Diss the Dandelion” before you yank ‘em. Focus on the roots this time of year, Ellen Zachos writes, which can be cooked as a vegetable and has a potato-esque flavor. “To enjoy the roots, wash them, boil them for two to three minutes, and then dunk them in cold water to loosen the skins. They should slip off easily, after which you may continue to cook the roots according to your recipe. Older dandelion roots may have a woody core, but you can easily remove the cooked flesh from the core with the tines of a fork.” Dandelion roots also can be used to make caffeine-free coffee substitute (and Zachos has instructions for that as well), and to flavor milkshakes, ice cream and custards. “Roasted dandelion root ice cream may look like coffee ice cream,” the story notes, “but its flavor is richer and more complex. Top with some red chile hot fudge sauce, and you’ve taken foraged flavor to a whole new level.” If that sounds too good to be true, the story includes a recipe for Roasted Dandelion Root Ice Cream to get you started.

Hot and windy

According to the National Weather Service, more warm weather awaits today with a high near 68 degrees on a mostly sunny day, and north wind 10 to 20 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Much of the state also is under a “red flag” warning today for fire, given the winds, the heat and the aridity.Thanks for reading! The Word enjoyed reading novelist and bookstore owner Ann Patchett’s story about Tom Hanks.

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