Morning Word

Christus St. Vincent Reports Uptick in Violence at Hospital

Santa Fe City Manager to depart next month; mayor names replacement

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 1,189 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 306,743; DOH has designated 260,582 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 373 new cases, followed by Sandoval County with 214 and Doña Ana County with 180. Santa Fe County had 39.

The state also announced 12 new deaths, 11 of them recent, including Santa Fe County’s 181th death: a female in her 60s who had been hospitalized; there have now been 5,289 fatalities statewide. As of yesterday, 639 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 80 more than the day prior.

Currently, 85.1% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 74.1% are fully vaccinated. Among that age group, 20.6% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 64.2% of people have had at least one dose and 55.4% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 13.3% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. In Santa Fe County, 96.5% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 84% 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.

Christus sees uptick in hospital violence

Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe Chief Nurse Executive Monica Leyba tells SFR the hospital has experienced an uptick in violence and is in the process of increasing its security team. The increased violence, she says, reflects a similar surge in Santa Fe itself. “We’re seeing an increase in violence in the city and that definitely does transpire into the healthcare setting,” Leyba said. “We have had increased violence and, in particular, to the care team: that could be be nurses, physicians, and all the other ancillary supports.” SFR spoke with Leyba following Nov. 22 testimony by Presbyterian Healthcare Services Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Johnsen that nurses at Presbyterian had been harassed in public when wearing their scrubs, and both verbally and physically attacked at work, due to the politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health practices, such as maskings and vaccines. Presbyterian has increased security, as a result, and installed metal detectors. In contrast, Leyba said Christus’ healthcare workers continue to receive comunity support—verbal and financial through the hospital foundation’s fund for its employees. But the strain of an ongoing pandemic, rising hospitalizations and insufficient work force have struck Christus as well as all the hospitals in the state. Leyba says she supports a plan previewed at Monday’s legislative committee meeting from the New Mexico Nurses Association, which includes $15 million in recurring funds for nurse education programs, among other initiatives. State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, vice chairman of the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee, tells SFR creating a new training program “will be a slow go” because it will require faculty and facilities “but we need to do something.”

Santa Fe city manager leaving

City of Santa Fe Manager Jarel LaPan Hill will step down from her position in January, Mayor Alan Webber announced yesterday. LaPan Hill served in the position for two-and-a-half years—five months in an interim role—making her the city’s “longest-serving female city manager,” according to a news release. Other accomplishments touted in the announcement include managing the city during the COVID-19 pandemic and successfully implementing the city’s reorganization “resulting in more nimble and efficient operations and services.” In a statement, LaPan Hill described her tenure as “an honor” and a “wild four years” (she served as Webber’s chief of staff prior to becoming city manager). “I feel like I’ve just run through the tape at a marathon, and it’s a natural time to pass the baton to someone with fresh legs,” she said. Those fresh legs, the news release reports, will belong to John Blair, whom Webber plans to nominate at the City Council’s Jan. 12 meeting. Blair, a former Democratic candidate for New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, recently resigned as deputy superintendent of the state Regulation and Licensing Department, where he was playing a key role in preparing for New Mexico adult recreational cannabis market. “John is excited about the job and eager to take on the responsibility of building on the work of the last four years,” Webber said in a statement. “Like Jarel, John is from Santa Fe and is deeply connected to all parts of our community. He knows our culture, our strengths, and our challenges; he values public service and values the people who work in city government; and he knows how government can guide our community to a better future.”

Legislature requires vaccination for Roundhouse guests

Visitors to the Roundhouse will have to show proof of vaccination, Legislative Council Director Raúl Burciaga announced yesterday. “Given the high number of COVID-19 cases across the state and the strain this continues to put on state resources, it is incumbent on us to protect everyone in the Capitol complex while conducting the state’s business,” Burciaga said in a statement. “I believe the measures being taken for the special and regular sessions will allow for the work to get done while greatly minimizing the risk for COVID spread.” As noted, the new rules precede a special session next month on redistricting and the regular session that begins Jan. 18. While the state Capitol building will remain open to members of the public for both sessions, there will be no tours allowed, nor will the Rotunda be used for displays, booths, presentations and special days. Masks will continue to be required. In a statement, House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, noted that “virtual participation” also will continue at the Legislature, which, in combination with the new vaccination policy “allow for the safe reopening of our state’s Capitol to all New Mexicans so they have the access they deserve to their elected leaders and the legislative process. The past two years have brought much change due to the pandemic and security concerns related to dangerous partisan rhetoric and the Jan. 6 insurrectionists, but none of this will stop us from doing the people’s work.” In a less sanguine statement, Senate GOP floor leader Greg Baca of Belen and Senate Minority Whip Craig Brandt of Rio Rancho said: “We strongly oppose this decision as one that is antithetical to our transparent legislative process. Just one year after the Capitol was surrounded by a fence, barring the people from their house, the leaders of the Legislature are yet again erecting a barrier to New Mexicans’ access to their government.”

Listen up

As the clock ticks closer to the start of recreational adult-use cannabis sales in New Mexico (April 1), many questions remain about the tick-tock of it all. Among those questions: How will automatic expungements for those with past cannabis-related convictions or arrests work? The most recent episode of the Growing Forward podcast takes a look at how that process is going, and also reports on the state’s first issuance of a cannabis cultivation license. For even more cannabis related news, be sure to check out the latest edition of SFR’s monthly Leaf Brief newsletter.

Let there be lights

Another event that went virtual in 2020 returns this week IRL: Santa Fe’s Plaza Lighting festivities. Bundle up and head to the Plaza on Friday, Nov. 26. The aforementioned festivities begin at 3:30 pm with music performed by the Santo Nino Choir, Bells of St. Francis, Santa Fe Brass, Sol Fire and Legacy of Santa Fe. Assuming you’re no longer full from Thanksgiving, food trucks will be on the premises, as will Girl Scout Troop #10045 with hot chocolate and cookies. Santa and Mrs. Claus are expected at 5 pm in a vintage fire truck, but they will be practicing social distancing. There will, however, be a mailbox for letters to Santa Fe (possibly on the truck? The City of Santa Fe news release was unclear on this point and we didn’t inquire because we thought it would be fun to leave it as a great unanswered mystery). As for those lights, Mayor Alan Webber will flip the switch around 6:15 pm. “This is an amazing tradition that helps to make Santa Fe so enchanting during the holidays,” City Clerk Kristine Bustos-Mihelcic, who also is director of Community Engagement, said in a statement. “Santa Feans of all ages love seeing the Plaza lit up. Huge thanks to our Parks crew for hanging thousands of twinkling lights so expertly.”

How many lights, you ask? Mark Aragon, chief of the Parks Department crew, estimates the eight-person crew, which started work Nov. 1, has hung 30,000 energy-efficient LED lights, along with placing electric luminarias and ornaments on portals and Christmas trees on light poles around the Plaza in a process he described as “stressful and strenuous,” if ultimately rewarding. “The trees grow fast,” Aragon said. “The more they grow, the more lights we need.” And for even more lights, return to the Plaza at 3 pm, Sunday, Nov. 28 for Chanukah on the Plaza! the unveiling of a Santa Fe chile menorah, the lighting of the menorah with Webber, US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, D-NM and US Sen. Ben Ray Luján, fire dancers and more.

Happy shoulder season, Taos!

It’s beginning to look a lot like December, which we associate with lights (see above), hot chocolate and an annual viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s also, Forbes magazine says, shoulder season in Taos, aka, the time between tourist surges when a town quiets down (we used to have one). Taos’ shoulder season, Forbes insists, comes at the “tail end” of fall before ski season (Taos Ski Valley opens tomorrow, by the way). Does shoulder season mean there’s nothing to do and nowhere to eat? Perish the thought. “In fact, the character of this adventure destination might just come through most purely in the less crowded shoulder season,” the story says. That character, as described by “a white-haired man” behind the counter at the Taos Artist Collective: “Santa Fe is all big houses and big price tags. But Taos is still rough and real.” Ouch, buddy. Forbes apparently concurs, noting “It certainly feels that way—authentic and maybe a little scrappy, in the best way of independent, remote Western towns—in wandering the historic downtown free from choking crowds.” Don’t feel compelled to actually rough it. Writer Cassidy Randall recommends checking in to the luxury hotel El Monte Sagrado for your Taos-shoulder-season experience, where the slow season, she writes, “is the perfect time to take advantage of curling up in one of the cozy, well-appointed rooms in front of a fire.”

Look ahead

The National Weather Service alleges a 30% chance for scattered showers today before 11am, then isolated showers after 5 pm. Otherwise, it will be first cloudy and then mostly sunny with a high near 52 degrees. Another slight chance for showers tonight before 8 pm and then equally slim chances (20%) for snow showers between 8 and 11 pm. As for Thanksgiving, it should be clear but more chilly with a high near 46 degrees. The weekend also will be sunny, with daytime high temps creeping back into the mid 50s. Ski Santa Fe won’t open on Thanksgiving this year, but it will open this weekend: Saturday, Nov. 27. Find the deets here.

Thanks for reading! The Word returns Monday, Nov. 29. She plans to spend the next four days eating pie (not this one) and eschewing her computer and social media, although she is going to read this New Yorker story about Dionne Warwick’s Twitter account.

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