Morning Word

NM Native Leaders Denounce Senate Map Changes

Genoveva Chavez Community Center reopens for lap swimming today

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials on Friday reported 1,468 new COVID-19 cases (160 fewer than the day prior), bringing the statewide total so far to 329,778; DOH has designated 278,030 of those cases as recovered. Bernalillo County had 366 new cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 190 and San Juan County with 86. Santa Fe County had 84 new cases. The seven-day statewide test positivity rate decreased from 12.6% to 11.5%, still above the 7.5% target.

The state also announced 13 deaths—nine of them recent—including two from Santa Fe County: a male in his 50s who had been hospitalized and had underlying conditions and, from more than 30 days ago, a male in his 40s who had underlying conditions. Santa Fe County has now had 187 deaths; there have been 5,472 fatalities statewide. As of Friday, 691 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, 25 fewer than the day prior. DOH is expected to provide a three-day update on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths this afternoon.

Currently, 87% of New Mexicans 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 75% are fully vaccinated. Among that age group, 28% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 65.3% of people have had at least one dose and 56.1% are fully inoculated. Among children ages 5-11, 21.2% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 7.9% 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.

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.

From the front line

Emergency room physician Dr. Clayton Dalton writes another dispatch for the New Yorker about treating COVID-19 patients in rural New Mexico, noting “In New Mexico, it doesn’t feel like we’re experiencing a new ‘wave’ of the pandemic—it’s more like we’re in the middle of an endless voyage, in twenty-foot seas, miles from land.” Many of Dalton’s patients are young, quite sick and usually, he says, unvaccinated (the state’s most recent vaccine report from the last four weeks says 74.1% of cases are among the unvaccinated, as are 81.5% of hospitalizations and 85.7% of deaths). As a doctor, Dalton writes, taking care of unvaccinated patients “stirs up complicated emotions.” Severe COVID, he notes, is largely preventable with vaccines. “I contemplate the risk that each unvaccinated person poses to everyone around…I try to keep these thoughts to myself, for obvious reasons. Who wants to hear, after they’ve totaled their car and broken their legs, that they shouldn’t have been speeding? Sometimes, when I stand at the bedsides of young, critically ill patients who shake their heads when I ask if they’ve got the vaccine, I murmur, almost to myself, ‘I really wish you had.’ But their past choices are no longer the most important thing. They are sick and afraid, and need our help as much as anyone else. I tell them that we’ll do everything we can to keep them safe. I never tell them that, for some patients, everything won’t be enough.” Dalton’s essay also examines the misinformation driving anti-vaccination sentiment; explicates the rising number of “breakthrough” cases in the state; and provides an on-the-ground look at the crises the state’s hospitals currently face (as state officials have repeatedly stressed in weekly news updates). Despite the dire portrait painted, Dalton concludes while the pandemic has both divided and isolated society: “it’s also shown that we are all in this together, and always have been. The fight, for each of us, is to believe this, to feel it.”

Native leaders lambast Legislature over Senate map

New Mexico Native American leaders yesterday denounced the state Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote to advance a map to redistrict state Senate seats that departs from the original plan pueblo and tribal leaders had approved. “It was disrespectful to not do any consultation with any of our Tribal Nations on the maps that they put in front of us this morning,” Pueblo of Laguna Gov. Martin Kowemy said in a statement. “I was upset that our leaders’ testimony didn’t seem to make an impact on the committee members and that they already seemed to have their minds made up.” Acoma Pueblo Gov. Brian Vallo said he also was disappointed and “disheartened,” and anticipates “if the Senate continues its actions with a total disregard for the Tribes’ contributions to this redistricting process, the outcome of it all will be to the detriment of tribal communities, to the process of redistricting, and to the relationships that we’ve all worked very hard to develop between our state leadership and the Legislature.” Pueblo of Zuni Councilman Arden Kucate said the Zuni pueblo still supports the original SB2, which “was built on a foundation of complying with the Voting Rights Act and traditional redistricting principles. So, all the work that has been done and all the tribal leaders that have been involved…well it’s disappointing that our right to self-determination was not honored in the process.”

Fair Districts New Mexico—a collaboration of 40 different organizations—on Friday submitted a request to Senate leadership and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales for “a full and detailed analysis of the changes” made from the original Citizens Redistrict Committee recommendation for the Senate map. “The request has been laid out well in advance numerous times to the Senate and so now we are asking in a more formal manner for these details, including why the changes were made,” Fair Districts’ Project Leader Dick Mason said in a statement. “The redistricting of our state is a public matter done by a public body, our Legislature. All matters done by persons in such a capacity should be made public to the citizens. While gerrymandering is most certainly is a covert endeavor, redistricting is not. All of the public’s business should be done in full public view. The public deserves a justification for the changes made to the original CRC map C1.” State Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-NM, has said the changes were made after negotiations with Republican leadership to avoid pairing two incumbent Republicans in the same district. Meanwhile, legislation for an updated Congressional map has been signed by both the Senate and the House and heads to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk for signature.

Make a splash

Santa Fe’s frustrated swimmers will be pleased to know the Genoveva Chavez Community Center’s lap swimming pool reopens today (the leisure pool reopens Dec. 27). The GC3 pool closed at the start of November for renovations, now completed: new, required plaster of the leisure pool; sandblasting of the tile surrounding the leisure pool; repair of the expansion gap on the floor of the lap pool; replacement of several large electric motors that feed the pools’ recirculation systems; preventative maintenance on boiler systems; and installation of energy-efficient underwater LED lighting. “The Chavez Community Center and Natatorium staff are excited to welcome back our swimming community after much needed work in our venue,” GC3 Natatorium Manager Matt Cottle said in a statement. “We are pleased to offer to our community members a wholesome, attractive recreational area. The increased sustainability and longevity of our facility is of great importance to all. Please plan to get your feet wet and join us at the pool [this] week!” You can find the pool schedule here.

Racing legend Unser dies at 82

ICYMI, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Alfred “Al” Unser, a New Mexico native, died last Thursday at his home in Chama. He was 82 and, as reported by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, had battled cancer for 17 years. Unser, like his three older brothers and the familial generation before them, entered the world of competitive racing and “was known as a quiet sponge, absorbing the lessons learned by his family members.” He won his first “500″ in 1970, two years after his brother Bobby won his first, and went on to become the fourth driver to repeat as Indy’s champion—the only member of his family to do so. “I am saddened to learn of the passing of New Mexican and racing icon Al Unser,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement on Friday. “New Mexicans were exceedingly proud to see one of our own excel on the world stage. New Mexico will always be the proud home of the Unser racing family, and I offer my thoughts and prayers to their loved ones during this difficult time.” Unser’s son, Al Unser Jr., won the “500″ twice, making the pair the only father and son to win the race. On Friday, Unser Jr., tweeted about his father’s passing: “My heart is so saddened. My father passed away last night. He was a Great man and even a Greater Father. Rest In Peace Dad!”

Listen up

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency reports fentanyl is the No. 1 drug behind crime and violence in Albuquerque and also is fueling a rise in the state’s drug overdoses. In a segment from the most recent episode of New Mexico In Focus, journalist Laura Paskus talks with former LA Times reporter and author Sam Quinones about the growing meth and fentanyl epidemic in the Southwest. In his new book, The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth, Quinones in some ways picks up where his last book, Dreamland: The True Tale Of America’s Opiate Epidemic, left off: a country under siege from drugs more prevalent and potent than ever before. “In a time when drug traffickers act like corporations and corporations like traffickers,” Quinones writes in his book, “our best defense, perhaps our only defense, lies in bolstering community.”

Immersed in art

The immersive Van Gogh exhibit traveling around the world has reignited debates about the chasm between art and entertainment and, in so doing, prompted multiple references to Meow Wolf. Writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Rachel Teukolsky, a professor of English at Vanderbilt University, says she loved the Van Gogh show (which she experienced at New York’s Pier 36) and has since been “puzzling over its “contradictions” and “trying to understand what it means for art, commodity culture, popular crazes, and aesthetic history.” While acknowledging some problematic elements of the Van Gogh show, and immersive experiences in general, Teukolsky also notes examples of artists working within immersive frameworks “in innovative and exciting ways,” including Meow Wolf. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal examines the conflict between immersive art versus traditional offerings in “Art Museums vs. Immersives: Do You Want to See a Van Gogh or Be in One?,” and interviews Meow Wolf founder and former CEO Vince Kadlubek, who tells WSJ museums should view immersive experiences as art, not as threats: “If the general public likes a thing, it’s entertainment,” Kadlubek said, “and that’s seen as a dirty word to people who cling to the idea that art needs an air of specialness or exclusivity.”

How the cookie crumbles

USA TODAY reveals a list of “uniquely searched Christmas cookies by state,” which, using Google logic, apparently translates into each state’s favorite Christmas cookie. “It was interesting to see how different regions of the US seem to be interested in different types of cookies,” Google Trends curator Annanya Raghavan told USA TODAY. “The East coast seemed to favor the internationally inspired cookies in Search, while the South seemed to be searching for Christmas flavored treats, and the Midwest was searching for Christmas cookies with alternative ingredients.” As for New Mexico, located in a region not mentioned by Raghavan, apparently we search most heavily for peppermint Christmas cookies. As New Mexico Magazine succinctly responds via Facebook: “Say, whaaaat, USA Today? New Mexico’s favorite Christmas cookie is some kind of peppermint thingamabob? It’s like you never met us…” (perhaps people are searching trying to find out what it is?). As everyone knows, New Mexico’s Christmas cookie is the biscochito, which has also been the state’s official cookie since 1989. Here’s a state-sanctioned recipe, along with New Mexico Magazine’s recipe for Bizcochito bites (yes, we believe both spellings are valid) from last year, courtesy of Rude Boy Cookies.

Props for NM ski towns

Two New Mexico towns top various lists for skiers (spoiler alert: towns are not Taos or Santa Fe). Based on stats, Alamogordo comes in at #1 in the country for the cheapest ski towns in which to live, Travel and Leisure reports—a distinction the magazine describes as surprising. “Near the Sacramento Mountains’ Ski Cloudcroft, with 25 trails for all levels, the region is often better known for its ties to aviation and space history, as well as its proximity to White Sands National Monument,” Travel and Leisure writes. “But with a two-bedroom rental available for just $510 a month and slopes nearby, Alamogordo is also’s cheapest ski town in the country.” (For the record lists Santa Fe’s average cost for a two-bedroom apartment at $1,961). Ski Cloudcroft, by the way, started making snow for the season on Dec. 10 and hopes to open its bunny slope and tubing hill on Dec. 22, “if we can get a few more cold nights for snowmaking,” its website reads. Burton, Michigan comes in as the country’s second cheapest ski town (average monthly rent: $647); and Brigham City, Utah comes in third ($696). Meanwhile, Red River came in #1 in USA Today’s readers choice awards for best ski town overall. “This is a real ski town built by miners, not developers,” Red River Ski’s website says. “Come check out the real thing. We’re sure you’ll fall in love with the small town charm that’s big on family adventure.”

Sunny days

Santa Fe returns to October climes today, with the National Weather Service forecasting sunny skies with a high near 54 degrees and north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming west in the afternoon. Our next chance for rain, snow and more wind begins tomorrow night.

Thanks for reading! The Word seems unable to stop reading about and looking at photos of holiday cookies, but so far has not started baking or eating any (this is unlikely to last).

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