Morning Word

SFPS Adds Pre-Holiday Remote Learning to Slow COVID Spread

Hospital leaders see no end in sight to patient surge

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 1,790 new COVID-19 cases, marking another milestone as cumulative cases reach 300,101; DOH has designated 256,190 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 469 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 305 and San Juan County with 254. Santa Fe County had 65 new cases.

The state also announced nearly twice as many deaths yesterday than on Wednesday: 23, with 21 of them recent and two of them from Santa Fe County: a male in his 40s who had been hospitalized and a male in his 70s who had underlying conditions. Santa Fe County has now had a total of 177 fatalities; there have been 5,238 statewide. COVID-19 hospitalizations also continue to climb with 599 people hospitalized as of yesterday—60 more than the day prior.

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, 18% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 63.8% of people have had at least one dose and 55.2% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 8% 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.

Hospital leaders: No end in sight

Models show COVID-19 hospitalizations could rise to 700 in the coming two weeks, according to Presbyterian Health Services Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Mitchell, who yesterday provided an update, along with University of New Mexico Chief Quality and Safety Officer Dr. Rohini McKee, on the state’s largest hospitals. Both Presbyterian and UNM activated crisis standards of care last week, and Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said at Wednesday’s state briefing six hospitals have now done so. Neither Presbyterian nor UNM have had to ration care—one of the possibilities crisis standards allows—but both are stretched very thin, with McKee saying UNMH is at 140% capacity and has created a “triage board” should such decisions become necessary. “I don’t know when it’s going to happen,” Mitchell said. “But if something doesn’t change, we run a high risk as a state of truly running out of resources.” Both stressed vaccination and booster shots as the linchpins to ending the state’s current surge and concomitant hospital crisis. “If we had everybody in New Mexico get vaccinated, in six weeks, seven weeks, this would be over,” Mitchell said. He likened the situation to watching a car or train wreck in slow motion. “From a community standpoint, something’s going to have to change,” he said. “And we need to start pulling those levers as a community pretty quickly.”

SFPS returns to remote learning pre-holiday

Santa Fe Public Schools announced yesterday schools will return to remote learning for one day next week (Tuesday) in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday “to slow the spread of COVID-19″ (a decision that appears to have baffled many parents, based on the Facebook responses). SFPS recently launched a COVID-19 dashboard to track cases and is reporting 71 cases between Nov. 6-19, 93% among students. According to the district, fewer than 13% of cases were connected to previous school cases. SFPS Board of Education members discussed the decision at their meeting last night, with Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez explaining the district had not included Monday for remote learning in order to provide parents four days to plan.

District 1 member Carmen Gonzales also said she and Chavez had recently met with parents who want the district to enact a vaccine mandate for staff members. That meeting followed outcry after a cluster of 10 cases at Acequia Madre Elementary School were traced to a teacher, although neither Gonzales nor Chavez specified that school or situation in last night’s discussion. School Board President Kate Noble said she could “appreciate we’ve had a terrifying number of cases in our schools and I think things are pretty raw right now from what I’ve seen and felt and heard,” but said she hoped the district could be “careful” about in its decision-making. “It all feels sort of fragile right now in our schools,” Noble said. Board members acknowledged a vaccine mandate could exacerbate the district’s teaching shortages, but also said there should be further discussion about the possibility of doing so. Chavez said the district would need to do a “deep dive” into research prior to discussion of a vaccine mandate, and noted “this would be something that could take some time,” given that “we’re right in the middle of a pandemic, we’re finishing up semester one,” and there’s a “holiday around the corner.” He did say the district would be reviewing and tightening up its COVID-safety protocols. SFPS also will be holding a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for kids age 5-11 on Nov. 20 from 10 am until 3 pm at Desert Sage Academy (351 W Zia).

EDD secretary to lawmakers: Show us the money

The state Economic Development Department yesterday presented its budget request to the Legislative Finance Committee, aimed at adding personnel and funding across departments. The request includes $2.25 million for a new Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office to support of minority-owned businesses; $4.5 million to market the state and its targeted industries, such as the Outdoor Recreation Division; $800,000 for statewide business incubator grants; and $500,000 to add six full-time employees to act as regional representatives to provide technical assistance to communities and local businesses across the state. EDD also is seeking $30 million in one-time funding to fill infrastructure gaps for projects that fall under the Local Economic Development Act and $12 million for the Job Training Incentive Program. The department, according to the presentation, had back-to-back cuts for its FY 21 and FY 22 budget cycles and is operating with 30% fewer resources than it had a decade ago, but said FY21 was nonetheless a record-breaking year for job creation in the state. “Policymakers in New Mexico need to recognize that major changes to the economy will require significant funding to the Economic Development Department and its programs,” Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said in a statement. “The money invested today will help New Mexico realize the potential we know the state has. This funding is necessary so we may provide opportunities and a future for all New Mexicans. New Mexico cannot continue on the path it has pursued in prior years; the state must take action now.”

Listen up

Planning a trip during the holidays? For masked vaccinated people, the actual time on the airplane, when the jets are running and air is circulating, is relatively safe. But crowded airports and the boarding process do carry higher risks, according to University of Alabama Professor Emeritus of Infectious Diseases David Freedman, who offers tips to travelers during a recent interview with KSFR reporter Mary Lou Cooper. A few take-aways: alternate eating with your seat mate so you’re not unmasked at the same time.

NM town for sale

The New York Post reports Fort Wingate, a former military base, is for sale, with the $11 million price tag including a café, a post office, a gas station and a massive parking lot. Mark Price of Realty One Group Concierge, who is handling the listing, tells the Post the town, which went on the market Nov. 5, has been owned by one family since 1946. “The current owner has lived there his entire life,” Price said. “He has never been outside the lines of the town and the family now wants to spend the rest of time traveling.” The owner has also been managing the town “for decades,” Price said. “He is the fire chief, the police and the landlord. It’s time to pass on the baton.” In light of the sale, the Smithsonian magazine delves into Fort Wingate’s history; the base was decommissioned in 1912, but continued as both a storage and training hub, the article notes, and was where code talkers, “who famously baffled the Japanese military by sending messages in their native Navajo during World War II” were trained. The site closed permanently in 1993.

Talking—and eating—Indigenous foods

Daily online food magazine Kitchn spotlights Andi Murphy (Diné), host of the award-winning podcast on Indigenous cuisine, Toasted Sister. The story begins in Murphy’s New Mexico kitchen, where most items sport her favorite color: black, which she also favors in her wardrobe and the rest of her furnishings. “It’s clean,” she says. “It’s always been my aesthetic.” Black provides an excellent backdrop for the colorful food she prepares in her kitchen, and food is another of Murphy’s favorite things—the favorite—”the best and strongest relationship I’ve ever had in my whole life,” she says. That passion drives Toasted Sister’s success in the form of awards, recognition and fellowships. Kitchn delves into Murphy’s five-pillar approach to food sovereignty, but her focus is primarily on the cook and on making Indigenous foods accessible. “There’s really no point to any of it if individuals aren’t bringing the food into their homes or don’t have the skills or tools needed to cook these foods in ways that are delicious to them or beneficial to producers, like local tribes and Indigenous farmers,” she says.

A long fall

Today will be sunny with a high near 54 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. As for the weekend, the National Weather Service forecasts comparable conditions straight on through until Monday, with our first chance for some precipitation (20% as of now) on Tuesday evening.

Thanks for reading! The Word hopes to one day return to the London Review Cake Shop. Until then, she will peruse its Instagram account.

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