Morning Word

NM Officials Mull Redefining “Full Vaccination”

State Supreme Court sides with lawmakers in dispute with governor

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 1,530 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 298,313; DOH has designated 255,650 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 424 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 236 and Sandoval County with 118. Santa Fe County had 28 new cases.The state also announced 12 additional deaths; there have now been 5,215 fatalities. As of yesterday, 539 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

Currently, 84.4% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 73.8% are fully vaccinated. Among that age group, 16.9% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 63.8% of people have had at least one dose and 55.3% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 7.9% 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.

Officials may require three doses for full vaccination

Citing evidence of COVID-19 vaccines’ waning immune protection and amid a push to vaccinate 5-11-year-olds and provide boosters to the nearly 74% of residents who have completed their primary series, state officials yesterday said they are discussing whether the definition of “fully vaccinated” will evolve to include booster shots. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, appearing at the start of yesterday’s weekly COVID-19 briefing, noted that the state opened up boosters to all residents over 18 (the federal government is expected to do so as well) because “we’re erring on the side of caution by presumptively leaning in…by making sure that all of us who can be vaccinated with a booster, should do so, because we know vaccinations are the most effective tool to both blunting the spread of the virus and to protecting ourselves and our families.” The governor said she and health officials “are analyzing what we can do to create those incentives and potentially mandates for making sure people are fully vaccinated, which means three vaccines.” (In the case of recipients of the J & J vaccine, it would ostensibly mean two). The news came as state Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross and Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase encouraged residents to observe COVID-safe practices during next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, which arrives as the state continues to struggle with a surge of cases and high hospitalization rates. Six of the state’s hospitals are on active crisis standards of care, Scrase said, while Ross pointed to a rise in case among children. “We know the Delta variant of the virus seems to find any breaches in protection,” Ross said. “So anyone who is not immunologically protected continues to be at risk for an infection and these populations continue to fuel surges of activity for the virus.”

Former ABQ Mayor in charge of state infrastructure plans

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday announced three new administrative appointees who will focus on infrastructure, water and broadband. The appointments follow, of course, the passage of a $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill, expected to bring $3.7 billion in infrastructure dollars to the state. According to a news release, former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez will now be the state’s new infrastructure adviser and has already begun working. Mike Hamman, who currently serves as the chief engineer and chief executive officer for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, will be the state’s water adviser come January, a role that will include the development of a 50-year water plan. Matt Schmit, who has served as director of the Illinois Office of Broadband since 2019, will be the state’s infrastructure adviser and develop a three-year broadband strategic and operational plan; Schmit starts work next month. “Each of these individuals are consummate experts in their fields,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “We have so much incredible work happening across the state right now in each of these areas, and by bringing in this group of cross-cutting leaders, we are taking that work and collaboration to the next level.”

State Supreme court sides with lawmakers

The state Supreme Court yesterday ruled against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in her conflict with lawmakers regarding spending authority for $1.7 billion in federal pandemic relief money. State Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, and State Sen. Greg Baca, R-Belen, brought the suit, which four other state Senate Democrats supported. Court justices, who ruled from the bench but will later issue a written decision, were reportedly unswayed by arguments of legal precedent for granting the governor authority over federal funds with specific purposes. Supreme Court Justice David Thomson said the Constitution clearly designates the Legislature’s authority in appropriation of public money. “I learned that in second grade,” Thomson said. “They control the purse strings.” Candelaria described the ruling as a “victory for the Constitution,” and noted lawmakers could begin appropriating $1.1 billion in unspent American Rescue Plan funds during next month’s 30-day session or December’s special session on redistricting. The governor said while disappointed, she and lawmakers would need to now discuss how to allocate the money, joking that legislators shouldn’t plan on taking any vacations during the holiday (the governor will still have the authority to veto any spending plans by legislators).

Gov wants GRT decrease

The governor yesterday during remarks at the Albuquerque Economic Forum said she plans to pursue a statewide cut in gross receipts taxes during the 2022 legislative session. The cut, according to the governor’s office, will be the first statewide GRT decrease since 1981 (it increased in 2010) and will save New Mexico families and businesses an estimated $145 million annually, or approximately $1.5 billion over 10 years. As outlined, the governor proposes a statewide 0.25% reduction in the gross receipts tax rate, lowering the statewide rate to 4.875% (It’s currently 5.125%). “Reducing the gross receipts tax rate will provide valuable tax relief to New Mexico families and businesses, while adding a competitive advantage for New Mexico businesses,” Taxation and Revenue Cabinet Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke said in a statement. “New Mexico recently expanded its gross receipts tax to include internet sales. That new revenue source paves the way to lower the gross receipts tax rate for the prosperity of all New Mexicans.”

Listen up

The new New Mexico-based podcast Shadow of Love describes itself as “a modern conversation on love in the age of Tinder” with “thought-provoking and funny commentary on marriage and relationships.” Hosted by Holly and Ernest, the first episode sets out to define and discuss the concept of love, while the second features guest Justin Strong, “creator of the Shadow Lounge, about maintaining love while running a sexy business, and why he uses the ‘90′ day rule with potential love interests.” Intrigued? The podcast airs the first and third Tuesday, and you can learn more about it here.

Enduring culture

The Smithsonian Magazine profiles Dennis Zotigh (Kiowa, Santee Dakota, and Ohkay Owingeh), a cultural specialist at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian where, the magazine notes, he “performs Native American song and dance to educate the general public on Native culture and contemporary issues.” Zotigh also is African American and Asian American, and spoke about his multicultural identity and growing up in New Mexico. His grandmother, he relates, used to take him to the Santa Fe Opera where he was “exposed to ballet and orchestra, but I never saw Native people on these stages. When I saw Native people, they were dancing for pennies in a parking lot, and I thought to myself, ‘Dennis, why is our culture not as valuable as the finest ballets, operas, or symphonies? Something needs to be done.’” So he did it: organizing a group of professional Native American dancers, which was eventually accepted into the Native American Alliance. His father, Zotigh says, was a pioneer of powwows in the state. “The very first powwow in New Mexico took place on a flamenco dancer’s stage. There were only about twenty people from many different tribes, trying to bring together their collective ‘Indian-ness’ to an urban setting. It was small and humble. Today, six miles south of that flamenco dancer’s stage is the world’s largest powwow in an Indian gathering event. And I saw the evolution. It was incredible. It still is.”

Poems for our time

Santa Fe Poet Laureate (and SFR contributor) Darryl Lorenzo Wellington launches his new poetry collection at 6 pm this evening at Collected Works Bookstore (you can also register to watch it online here). In Psalms at the Present Time, author Uche Nduka writes, “Wellington’s excursions into our body politic, psyche, purpose, and existence are multilayered and multifaceted. Content and craft are given equal time and focus.” The book is Wellington’s first full-length poetry collection. As his bio notes, he has been a professional journalist for more than 20 years and has published stories, fiction and poetry in The Nation, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Boston Review, as well as essays on poverty, economic justice, race relations, African American history, civil rights history, and post-Katrina New Orleans in The Nation, The Progressive, The Christian Science Monitor, The Atlantic, Dissent and Crisis (The NAACP magazine). You can pre-order signed copies of the book here.

Some like it sweeter

Eater magazine makes the case for Northern New Mexico’s chiles, perhaps less known than the ubiquitous Hatch variety, but just as worthy. Danny Farrar of Rancho La Jolla, a chile farm in Velarde, goes as far as to tell Eater that Northern New Mexico is where chile growing began, whereas farmer Matt Romero from the Española Valley says: “A lot of those ‘Hatch chiles’ aren’t even grown in New Mexico.” Putting a potential intrastate chile war to the side for the moment, Eater points out that while Hatch chiles were “bred way back in 1907 to be mild, meaty, and flavorful,” Northern New Mexico varieties have their own appeal. Romero’s analogy: “In certain areas of California, there’s great wine, but most people don’t know about it. Those wines are consumed by a local, knowledgeable group of people, and the best varieties never leave the region. It’s the same up here with the chiles. We grow small boutique acres. We sell locally.” Moreover, he argues, the Española Valley provides perfect conditions for chile growing. “We’re at 10,000, 12,000 feet,” Romero says. “We have four seasons. It gets cool at night even in the dead of summer. And our days are longer. In the south, those regions weren’t originally farming areas — they irrigated. Here, the Indigenous have been farming forever.” And then there’s the flavor: a little sweeter, particularly when they turn red.

Easy breezy

Today will be sunny, the National Weather Service predicts, with a high near 50 degrees and Southeast wind around 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. And yet all we can think about is next Wednesday when we have just the teeniest chance for some rain.

Thanks for reading! Though not particularly interested in royal anything, The Word went and saw Spencer (because movies are fun), but holy moly Diana The Musical sounds like a horror show.

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