Morning Word

Santa Fe County Sheriff Tracks Source of “Rust” Ammo

State Outdoor Rec Division hopes for $10 mil infusion

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 1,132 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases to 314,264; DOH designated 267,030 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 340 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 157 and Sandoval County with 117. Santa Fe County had 46. DOH reported the statewide test positivity rate at 12.7%, well above the 7.5% target.

The state also announced 12 new deaths, 11 of them recent, including a male in his 30s from Santa Fe County who had been hospitalized and had underlying conditions. Santa Fe County has now had 184 deaths; there have been 5,367 statewide.

As of yesterday, 633 people were hospitalized with COVID-19. In an update on hospital conditions yesterday morning, Presbyterian Healthcare Services Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Mitchell and University of New Mexico Hospital Chief Quality and Safe Officer Dr. Rohini McKee said both their facilities remain above capacity and urged residents to seek out vaccinations and booster shots while continue observing COVID-safe practices, such as mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing. “I know there is a lot of concern about new COVID variants,” McKee said, referencing the Omicron variant. “But I think the best thing we can do at this point in time is to double down on the tools we know work against this variant and all variants of COVID. And so my ask today is that those of us that are still unvaccinated really think about what we are allowing the virus to do in our communities.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci delivered a comparable message yesterday during a White House briefing on Omicron, which has not yet been detected in the US, noting that “the effect of this variant on transmission, severity of disease, and how well current vaccines treatment work remains speculative, regardless of what we’re hearing in the press.”

Currently, 85.7% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 74.4% are fully vaccinated. Among that age group, 22.8% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 64.6% of people have had at least one dose and 55.5% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 16.2% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 0.3% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County, 97.1% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 84.3% are fully vaccinated.

Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase, State Epidemiologist Dr. Christine Ross and Katrina Hotrum-Lopez, Secretary for the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department, will host a COVID-19 news update at 2 pm today on the Health Department’s Facebook page, which will also stream live with a Spanish language interpreter on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s YouTube page.

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.

Investigators track source of Rust ammo

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department is investigating whether the Albuquerque film prop business PDQ Arm & Prop may have provided potentially live ammunition to the Rust film set, where Alec Baldwin fired a shot Oct. 21 that struck and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded Director Joel Souza. According to a search warrant for the business issued yesterday, Sarah Zachry, identified as a prop master on the set, told investigators the ammunition for the set had been provided by Seth Kenney of PDQ Arm & Prop, from someone called “Billy Ray” and by the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez Reed, who had brought some from a previous production (the LA Times previously identified Kenney as the set’s “armorer mentor”). Kenney, the warrant notes, was present Oct. 27 when a search warrant was executed for a prop truck at Bonanza Ranch and told Detective Alexandria Hancock he provided dummy rounds and blanks to the set, manufactured by Starline Brass. Two days later, he called Hancock and said he might know “where live rounds came from” and said a few years prior he had received “reloaded ammunition” from a friend. “Seth described the ammunition stuck out to him due to the suspected live round” having a Starline Brass logo, the search warrant reads.Gutierrez Reed subsequently told investigators Kenney had supplied the ammunition and weapons to the set, and that either she or Zachry had picked them up at PDQ Arm & Prop. Then, on Nov. 15 and 17, Thell Reed, Gutierez Reed’s father and a prominent film armorer, told investigators he had worked on a set with Kenney in August or September, during which training was provided to the actors on a firearms range using live fire. Thell said “Seth requested he bring live ammunition in the event they ran out of what was supplied” and Thell brought an “ammo can” with live ammunition, approximately 200 to 300 rounds. After the production, Thell said, “Seth took the ammo can and the remainder of the ammunition in the can back to New Mexico…Thell stated this ammunition may match the ammunition found on the set of Rust.”

City fire chief announces retirement

City of Santa Fe Fire Department Chief Paul Babcock, who began working for the department in 1990 and became its chief in 2018, yesterday announced his retirement, effective Dec. 24. “I am as humbled today as I was on the day I accepted the position,” Babcock said in a statement. “The Fire Department’s greatest asset is its personnel, as they are the frontline in providing vital services to the community.” Assistant Chief Brian Moya will take over as fire chief the same day. “Chief Babcock deserves a great deal of respect and gratitude for helping to keep Santa Fe safe for 31 years,” Mayor Alan Webber said in a statement, noting that Moya’s readiness to step into the role “is testimony to the qualities that both men bring to this critical profession of saving lives and property.” A news release credits Babcock with developing and implementing the city’s emergency medical services division and helping homelessness in the community “by expanding case management services for behavioral health needs, championing the City’s Code Blue Program, which deploys fire crews to do wellness checks, distributes sleeping bags and transports unsheltered people to shelter during frigid temperatures.” Galisteo native Moya began working for the department in 2002 and comes from a family of fire workers: His father, Steve Moya, is a retired assistant fire chief with Santa Fe County Fire Department; his mother Jean Moya is currently the fire chief of Galisteo Volunteer Fire Department; and his wife Melissa works with the Santa Fe County Fire Department and runs the COOP program.

Outdoor rec seeks $10 mil infusion

New Mexico’s newly established Outdoor Recreation Division plans to seek $10 million from lawmakers in January’s legislative session in special appropriations one-time funding. Yesterday, ORD Director Axie Navas reviewed for legislators the sector’s existing impact on the state’s economy: $1.9 billion and 3.1% of total employment. “It’s a powerhouse,” Navas said. “Many thousands of New Mexicans work within this economy and they come to this state for that reason.” Since the division’s creation in 2019, it has already provided funding to projects across the state. In 2021, the division awarded more than $506,000 to 25 projects—64% in rural counties—but received funding requests for nearly two-and-a-half times that amount. The funding sought includes $7 million for the state’s Trails+ Program, a full-time manager for that program and $3 million for its outdoor equity fund. Additional presentations to the Transportation Infrastructure Revenue Subcommittee reviewed the state’s work on outdoor infrastructure and a specific initiative in Grant County. State Sen. Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales, D-Ranchos de Taos, said the presentation was the “best” he’d heard all year, but also noted the state needs to come up with recurring funding for outdoor recreation. “One of the things that I see is you can’t have something without recurring funding,” he said, “and we have to establish that.” Ideas discussed in the meeting included funding through either a gasoline tax, a share of lottery revenue or from General Obligation Bonds. ORD is part of the state’s Economic Development Department, which is seeking additional staff and funding across the board, as outlined last month by Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes in a presentation to the Legislative Finance Committee.

Listen up

Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Thom Mason will hold a community town hall at from 6 to 7 pm this evening in which he will provide a brief update on the lab’s work, science research and economic impact before taking questions from the audience. The event is free and no registration is required; just visit this link when the meeting begins.

Let there be light

Critic Lawrence Weschler spent time in Santa Fe recently to deliver a talk as part of the opening weekend events for sculptor Helen Pashgian’s new exhibition at SITE Santa Fe, Presences, (through March 27, 2022). This week, Weschler writes about the show and Pashgian’s career for the New York Times. His story, “The Confounding Lightness of Helen Pashgian,” notes the artist is having a moment, with both her career-spanning show at SITE; two other exhibitions showcasing her work (Lehmann Maupin’s West 24th Street gallery through Jan. 8 and the Light and Space show at the Copenhagen Contemporary international art center through April 9); and a new book on her career from Radius Books. A pioneer of California’s Light and Space movement, Pashgian was less known than some of her male counterparts, but does not attribute that to being a woman, she tells Weschler. Artist James Turrell, another founding member of the movement, disagrees: “Of course, she was handicapped on account of being a woman,” he tells Weschler. “In fact, she had three things going against her: she was a woman, she was beautiful, and she came from a family of some means. So there was no way she was going to be taken seriously in that macho competitive environment. But thankfully, at long last now she is being, it’s about time, and she deserves every bit of it.” Indeed. SFR also attended SITE’s opening weekend press preview and the talks on Pashgian’s work (by Weschler and Michael Govan, the CEO and Wallis Annenberg director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which lent SITE one of the show’s central pieces); you can read our coverage here.

Simpson’s rising star

The Art Newspaper reports sculptor Rose B. Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo) will now be represented by New York’s Jack Shainman Gallery, and continue being represented by Jessica Silverman in San Francisco. “Simpson’s rising profile and newly bicoastal representation comes amid a growing wave of long overdue recognition and elevation of Indigenous artists within the US art world and beyond,” the story says. Simpson says Shainman won her over during the opening for the summer group exhibition Feedback, in which she had work, which was held at his space in Kinderhook, New York. “My daughter, who at the time was four, was tired from traveling and fell asleep in my lap at this big opening,” Simpson says. “Jack found a rocking chair for me and came and sat with me, and we talked about his baby ducks for 45 minutes.” In addition, Shainman’s roster includes well known artists of color, including Kerry James Marshall, Toyin Ojih Odutola and Carrie Mae Weems. “There’s an immense honor to enter into a space that, by all ways and means, being a little kid on the rez in Northern New Mexico, I never dreamed of,” she says. Shainman will be showing two new ceramic figures by Simpson in his booth at Art Basel in Miami Beach, which opens tomorrow, and described Simpson as “a singular voice within her generation, creating powerful works that counter stereotypes through intimate explorations of both personal and communal histories.”

It’s sunny! It’s windy! It’s December!

Sometimes it snows in December. Not today. According to the National Weather Service, Santa Fe can expect a sunny day with a high near 61 degrees and north wind 15 to 20 mph becoming southwest 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading! The Word plans to stream the new David Bowie album today (you can read about it here).

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.