Morning Word

NM Educators Rally for Support

State Republicans sue over redistricting

COVID-19 by the numbers

New Mexico health officials on Friday once again reported record-breaking numbers of new COVID-19 infections: 6,198, bringing the statewide total so far to 437,934; DOH has designated 330,110 of those cases as recovered. The statewide test positivity rate ticked up again from 28.7% to 29% (the target is 7.5%).

Bernalillo County had 1,492 cases, followed by Doña Ana County with 962 and San Juan County with 498. Santa Fe County had 370, 150 of them in the 87507 ZIP code, which ranked seventh in the state for the most new cases among ZIP codes.

The state’s most recent vaccination report shows over the four-week period between Dec. 20 and Jan. 17, 57% of cases were among those not fully vaccinated, as were 80.7% of hospitalizations and 93.8% of deaths.

The state also reported 30 additional deaths, 17 recent and 13 from more than 30 days ago, including a Santa Fe County male in his 60s who had been hospitalized. Santa Fe County has now had 219 deaths and there have been 6,259 statewide. As of Friday, 633 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, an approximate 11% decline from the day prior. In his most recent dispatch for the New Yorker magazine, New Mexico emergency room doctor Clayton Dalton writes about the crisis facing hospitals, including his in a rural part of the state, and the danger of underestimating the severity of the Omicron variant’s high rate of transmission.

Currently, 91% percent of adults 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 77% have completed their primary series. Among the same demographic, 40% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 69.2% of people have had at least one dose and 58.9% have completed their primary series. Among children ages 5-11, 33.6% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 22.4% have completed their primary series. In Santa Fe County, 99% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 86.2% have completed their primary series.

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 the updated guidelines for quarantine and isolation here.

You can order free at-home COVID-19 tests here and access the DOH testing directory here.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

COVID-19 ranks 3rd for cause of deaths in 2020

The state health department on Friday announced it had recently identified COVID-19 as the third leading cause of death for New Mexicans in 2020, surpassed only by cancer and heart disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced a comparable national trend. Specifically, in New Mexico, 2,847 deaths in 2020 had COVID-19 as the leading cause, with racial and ethnic minorities suffering the highest number of both deaths and COVID-19 related severe illness. The age-adjusted death rate for COVID-19 among American Indian or Alaska Natives in New Mexico was nine times higher than the rate for whites (457.6 per 100,000 vs. 49.9 per 100,000). The second-highest group at risk were Hispanics, who had an age-adjusted death rate that was 2.4 times higher (120.9 per 100,000) compared to whites. While cases continue to surge in New Mexico now due to the Omicron variant, deaths rates associated with COVID-19 have “plummeted,” the health department says, due to vaccinations. Querying Santa Fe County’s 2020 deaths indicates COVID-19 numbered fourth in causes, with 88 deaths, following cancer, heart disease and unintentional injuries in the first three places, respectively.

Educators rally for 3Rs amid teacher shortage

New Mexico educators rallied at the Roundhouse yesterday, calling upon lawmakers to address widespread teacher shortages across the state. In an online petition targeting the Legislature based on a “3 Rs” campaign of respect, recruit and retain, organizers say the state “has failed to provide students with the programs and services that it acknowledges prepare them for college and career. Such programs and services include: quality PreK, K-3 Plus, extended learning, dual language, culturally and linguistically relevant education, social services, small class sizes, and sufficient funding for teacher recruitment, retention, and training.” National Education Association President Becky Pringle attended the rally, saying “New Mexico educators deserve better. And better means higher wages, affordable health care and dignity.” An annual report on educator shortages in New Mexico released last fall by the Southwest Outreach Academic Research Evaluation & Policy Center reported more than 1,000 teacher vacancies across the state, a situation exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Regarding the current crisis, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham last week announced an initiative to recruit National Guard members and state employees to serve as substitute teachers. The governor herself will be volunteering, she told CNN over the weekend, and expects to be placed in an elementary school. Proposed education legislation in the current session includes 7% raises for educators as well as increases to base educator salary levels. NEA-NM is slated to be back at the Roundhouse today for its 2022 Lobby Day.

NM GOP sues over redistricting

The New Mexico Republican Party has filed a lawsuit over the map lawmakers approved for the state’s three Congressional districts, signed into law last month by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Albuquerque law firm Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber & Schreck filed the suit in New Mexico’s Fifth Judicial District court on behalf of the state GOP and seven other plaintiffs, including Sen. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, and former Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, and lists as defendants the governor, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, and House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe. A state GOP news release announcing the lawsuit says the “new maps reek of gerrymandering” and are “just a blatant power grab by Democrats.” State GOP Chairman Steve Pearce, in a statement, says Republicans are “bringing this suit to protect the voices of all New Mexicans regardless of their political beliefs,” alleging Democrats disregarded work by the Citizens Redistricting Committee “and jammed through an illegal gerrymander that ripped apart communities of interest, disenfranchised voters across the state, and set up maps where the intent is to let Albuquerque have all [three] congressional representatives.”

Listen up

On the most recent edition of the Santa Fe Community Foundation’s Community Matters podcast, former Albuquerque Poet Laureate Michelle Otero discusses mindfulness for the coming year; Otero is the author of the poetry collection Bosque, the forthcoming memoir Vessels, and is the founder of ArteSana Creative Consulting.

Monks in the desert

The Washington Post explores how the monks at Monastery of Christ in the Desert near Abiquiu have fared without guests during the pandemic, as guests have been “an integral part of Benedictine monastic life” for the last 1,500 years. “We can only go so long without guests, and not just for financial reasons,” the monastery’s guest-master Brother Chrysostom tells the Post. “For identity reasons. Not having visitors would betray the whole Benedictine charism.” But the communal living situation would have made the risks for the brothers—some of whom are elderly—untenable, the Post writes, noting that nine monks in the monastic community of Mount Athos in Greece died from COVID-19, as did two nuns at the St. Walburg monastery in Kentucky after 28 sisters became infected. The decision to close to the public wasn’t made lightly, given that the guesthouses and gift shops served as a primary source of income. But the pandemic has allowed the brothers the chance to create some new projects, such as a large agriculture initiative. And some have documented their endeavors, such as Brother David, aka The Desert Monk, whose videos document some portion of the monks’ lives, including his own “domino run” when he was quarantined for two weeks.

Thoughtful travel

When London-based travel writer Megan Eaves finally left the confines of her flat post lockdown, she decided to take a trip home to New Mexico. But she wanted to counter the negative impacts of airline travel and decided to “decolonize” her trip, a journey she documents for The Independent. “Apart from carbon-cutting, the biggest impacts of travel, both positive and negative, are how we show up in a destination. There are no hard-and-fast rules,” Eaves writes, “ethical travel is about connecting profoundly with the places and people we visit; about keeping our minds open, listening and letting travel challenge us, make us uncomfortable and change us.” To that end, she decided to set goals for her sojourn, such as deepening her learning about Native Indigenous cultures, and about New Mexico’s role in developing the atomic bomb. She also “planned to intentionally support only local and mainly Native-owned businesses rather than chains, to visit under-served communities and small towns, to stay with family and friends or in locally owned accommodation, to eat mainly vegetarian and to share my learning with others.” Part of her visit includes spending time at Albuquerque’s Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, to which Eaves donates half of her payment for the article, according to the story’s end note.

More sun, more wind

Today should be sunny, according to the National Weather Service, with a high near 49 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. Tomorrow night, however, we’ve got a 50% chance for snow.

Thanks for reading! Against her better judgment, The Word gave in to the Internet and read up on West Elm Caleb and love bombing and was reminded of why she mostly looks at cute animal videos online.

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