Morning Word

Redistricting Maps Move Swiftly Through Committees

DOH: COVID-19 boosters for 16-17-year-olds start today. Plus: “Rust” crew defends set

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 1,626 new COVID-19 cases (182 more than the day prior), bringing the statewide total so far to 328,332; DOH has designated 276,734 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 493 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 216 and Sandoval County with 115. Santa Fe County had 96 new cases. The seven-day statewide test positivity rate decreased slightly to 12.6%, still above the 7.5% target.

The state also announced 14 recent deaths; there have now been 5,459 fatalities. As of yesterday, 716 were hospitalized with COVID-19, 29 more than the day prior and the highest figures since Jan. 12.

Currently, 86.6% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 74.8% are fully vaccinated. Among that age group, 26% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 65% of people have had at least one dose and 55.9% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 19.6% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 5.4% are fully vaccinated. In Santa Fe County, 98.1% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 84.7% are fully vaccinated. The health department will host a booster clinic from 10 am to 5 pm, Saturday, Dec. 11 at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds.

The Food and Drug Administration yesterday amended the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, allowing the use of a single booster dose for people 16 and 17 years of age at least six months after completion of primary vaccination (the Pfizer vaccine is the only one authorized for people under 18). “The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been available to individuals 16 years of age and older for nearly a year, and its benefits have been shown to clearly outweigh potential risks,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. “Since we first authorized the vaccine, new evidence indicates that vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 is waning after the second dose of the vaccine for all adults and for those in the 16- and 17-year-old age group. A single booster dose of the vaccine for those vaccinated at least six months prior will help provide continued protection against COVID-19 in this and older age groups.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention swiftly approved the measure following the FDA action. DOH Communications Director Matt Bieber tells SFR via email the health department’s Medical Advisory Team approved the booster for that age group shortly thereafter and the shots are available as of today.

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.

All over the maps

Several redistricting proposals appear to be moving swiftly through the legislative process at the Roundhouse, where lawmakers have convened for a special session to address the once-a-decade process of redrawing political geographies. Those proposals advance through a Democratic-led Legislature amid consternation from their Republican counterparts. Lawmakers used only one of four maps recommended by the Citizen Redistricting Committee—the plan for Public Education Commission districts—in their proposals. “It behooves us to tell the public and the CRC why their three maps weren’t even introduced—weren’t even considered,” Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, said in yesterday’s Senate Rules Committee. “We need to know, the public needs to know after going through that expensive exercise, why those three maps were just thrown out. One by one, we need to know what was wrong with them in the eyes of the majority party.” Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, who sponsored Senate Bill 2 redrawing state Senate districts, and other Democrats say the CRC maps were used as a basis for those under consideration now. That bill passed Senate Rules yesterday. House Bill 8, redrawing House districts, passed two committees and now faces consideration by the full House. Senate Bill 1, which redraws Congressional districts, drew criticism yesterday during its Senate Judiciary Committee, from the New Mexico Acequia Association. “We are opposed to SB 1 because it erodes the political voice of northern New Mexico,” Ralph Vigil, chairman of the New Mexico Acequia Commission, said in a statement. “Our communities of interest will be diminished with SB 1 by adding a large swath of southeastern New Mexico to Congressional District 3.” The committee passed the proposal, which now should head to the full Senate.

State senator tests positive for COVID-19

State Sen. Bobby Gonzales, D-Ranchos de Taos, announced yesterday he had tested positive for COVID-19 via a rapid test; he was slated to receive another test yesterday at a Taos hospital. Gonzales said he is fully vaccinated, including a booster shot, and “was experiencing some mild nasal discomfort,” the Associated Press reports. Gonzales said he tested negative on Saturday in advance of a meeting with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and took another test Wednesday in advance of another expected meeting with the governor, although that one did not take place. Gonzales’ positive test triggered contact tracing at the Roundhouse, where lawmakers are meeting in special session for redistricting. Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said due to the heightened risk of the in-person session, people meeting with the governor are being asked to take rapid tests prior to meeting with her; the governor, she said, is tested regularly and has never had a positive result. Gonzales tells the Albuquerque Journal he is unsure from whom he might have contracted COVID, noting: “We’re around a lot of people; it’s hard to say.” He said he had mild symptoms and planned to seek monoclonal antibody treatment.

AG announces legislation to address MMIW

Attorney General Hector Balderas and state Sen. Shannon Pinto, D-Tohatchi, announced legislation yesterday they say will tackle systemic failures in addressing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives. A task force report released last year identified numerous problems, including, but not limited to, lack of data and lack of coordination between law and enforcement agencies. “The horrific, tragic plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives is something we need to focus on collaboratively statewide,” Pinto said in a statement. “This partnership will build a bridge for victims and their families seeking justice. Every individual’s humanity should be valued and respected—this measure is an important step in conveying that to all the people of New Mexico.” A news release from the AG’s office says the legislation will ensure “more effective coordination between law enforcement agencies, improved data collection, education and training,” and provide grant-funding to improve reporting of missing persons cases. “New Mexico leads the nation in violence against Indigenous women with the greatest number of reported cases involving missing and murdered Indigenous persons,” Balderas said in a statement. “I have appointed an investigator, prosecutor and victim services to take action and seek justice for families that have been suffering for far too long, including partnering with great stakeholders statewide that have been building momentum to address this tragic issue.”

Listen up

SITE Santa Fe inaugurates its new class of SITE Scholars at 6 pm tonight; the program provides top nominated students from the Institute of American Indian Arts, the Santa Fe Community College, St. John’s College, Central New Mexico Community College, Highlands University and the University of New Mexico opportunities to both network and present their artwork at SITE. Tonight’s program will introduce the students, their educators and honor the legacy of 2021 SITE Scholar, DeAnna Suazo (Diné, Taos Pueblo), who died tragically last month. The event is open to the public and viewable on SITE’s Facebook or YouTube pages.

Rust crew members defend set

Rust crew members reportedly sent a letter to their union and the New Mexico Film Office disputing prior characterizations of the Rust set as unsafe. Those allegations—and lawsuits—surfaced in the wake of the Oct. 21 shooting in which actor and Rust producer Alec Baldwin fired a weapon that contained live ammunition, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza. The letter, posted on Baldwin’s Instagram page, begins: “We, the undersigned, believe the public narrative surrounding our workplace tragedy to be inadequate and wish to express a more accurate account of our experience.” The letter was signed by 25 crew members, including Assistant Director Tim Barrera, Sound Mixer David Stevens, Production Designer Bryan Norvelle and Costume Designer Terese Davis. The Los Angeles Times reports the film—which has since stopped production—had approximately 150 crew members, half from New Mexico. “Unfortunately, in the film industry, it is common to work on unprofessional or hectic productions to gain experience or credits,” the letter reads. “Many of us have worked on those types of productions. Rust was not one of them.” Charges have yet to be filed in the case; last week Baldwin asserted he had not pulled the trigger on the gun. “The descriptions of Rust as a chaotic, dangerous, and exploitative workplace are false and distract from what matters the most,” the letter says: “the memory of Halyna Hutchins, and the need to find modern alternatives to outdated industry firearm and safety practices.”

Make that list, check it twice

Apparently, it’s the time of year when we have no choice but to make elaborate TikTok gift guides for ourselves. Or perhaps you’re opting out of consumerism this holiday season in favor of saving the planet. For middle ground, might we suggest keeping your shopping very local: This weekend provides ample opportunities for COVID-safe shopping. To start with, today (and a week from today) from 2 to 4 pm, the Southside Library will host a gift-making workshop for children. Tomorrow, the Baca Street Pottery Holiday Sale takes place from 10 am to 5 pm and features work by local artisans you will be proud to give as gifts (or keep for yourself). Also tomorrow from 11 am to 3 pm, the Pushpin Collaborative is hosting a pop-up shop for Good Grief, a business that makes care packages for folks going through hard times, including one curated with New Mexico-made items (and you can pick up a locally made card from Pushpin). At the 6th Annual String of Lights from 1-6 pm on Sunday at Tumbleroot Brewery and Distillery, you’ll find 35 booths from local artisans, food trucks, drink specials and an appearance by Santa Claus. That should probably take care of your shopping needs but, if not, we have a feeling we’ll be back at it with more recs next week. And you’ll of course find more suggestions for the weekend in the most recent edition of SFR Picks, the SFR calendar and can have them freshly delivered to you via the Weekend Picks newsletter should you prefer.

Hang onto your hat

As the sun has yet to rise, we can’t quite tell what’s happening outside, other than it is definitely very windy. That should continue. According to the National Weather Service, rain and snow showers are likely today—70% likely—before 11 am, then a slight chance of rain showers between 11 am and 2 pm. Depending on whether it is raining or snowing and the time of day, we may see both cloudy and sunny skies. Grab a jacket, as the high today will reach 41 degrees or so by noon but will then fall to 32 degrees. And it will be windy, with gusts reaching as high as 40 mph. As for the rest of the weekend, it will stay cold, with highs in the high 30s or low 40s, but should be sunny and a little less windy. As you keep your eye on the sky, don’t worry if you spot a helicopter. According to the City of Santa Fe, PNM is using one to survey power lines as part of its Wildfire Mitigation Plan.

Thanks for reading! The Word has reached the part of the pandemic where she’s reading stories about “TV for Cats” and, worse, playing a relaxing sleep video for her own cat. For the record: The cat ignored the video whereas The Word passed out watching it. Have a great weekend!

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