Morning Word

Gov. Lujan Grisham Expands Free Childcare

Fire managers brace for Friday weather similar to last week’s destructive wind event

Gov expands free childcare

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday announced that starting May 2, qualifying families earning up to 400% of federal poverty level will no longer have to pay copays for child care services, making child care cost-free. Previously, only families at 200% FPL or below qualified for waived copayments, according to a news release from the governor’s office; the new guidelines will allow approximately 30,000 more families to qualify. In addition, the governor announced the Early Childhood Education and Care Department will allocate $10 million dollars toward grants “specifically designed to expand the availability of child care in communities where it is needed most.” Finally, the governor also announced a new stipend program that will pay up to $2,000 per semester to early childhood professionals who are currently enrolled in early childhood degree programs at one of New Mexico institutions of higher education. Applications will open May 5, which, according to the governor’s office, is Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day. The child-care announcements follow the governor’s high profile expansion of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship, a parallel drawn in a news release from the governor’s office, which said the addition of such programs “effectively means that the majority of New Mexicans have access to a free, cradle-to-career education.”

Fire managers brace for “very difficult day”

Yesterday afternoon, the US Forest Service reported—with photos—a wind-driven run on the Calf Canyon Fire “creating a highly visible column, which can be seen as far as away as Santa Fe.” Both ground and air crews continue to fight the fire, with an emphasis on protecting structures. The fire—reported in last night’s briefing at approximately 64,000 acres and 37% containment—has burned at least 200 structures in San Miguel County, an unknown number at this time in Mora County, and driven thousands from their homes in mandatory evacuations. State Rep. Roger Montoya, D-Velarde, announced yesterday he was suspending all campaign activities for the June 7 primary election to concentrate on the wildfire relief efforts in Mora, including evacuation support as well as providing food and other supplies to residents; Montoya also posted photos of the fire as seen burning behind the Mora courthouse yesterday. “The forecast is dire,” Montoya told SFR. In last night’s briefing, Southwest Area Incident Management Team 1 Commander Carl Schwope compared today’s forecast to last Friday’s weather conditions: “We’re looking at something very similar to what we had last week,” he said, but noted fire managers are in a “different place” with 1,000 firefighters on the ground versus 200, and “a lot of prep work” in place. Nonetheless, he said, today will be a “very, very difficult day” and “has the potential to be another very destructive day.” Officials also are on alert for the weather’s impact on the Cook’s Peak Fire, north of Las Vegas, 55,886 acres and 34% contained.

Citing progress on the Cerro Pelado fire in the Jemez Mountains (about 6,000 acres and 15% containment), fire officials yesterday afternoon allowed NM4 to reopen to local traffic yesterday and evacuated residents to return home, albeit in “set” status (ready to leave again).

DOH eliminates breakthrough-case COVID-19 data reporting

The health department’s weekly array of epidemiology reports related to the COVID-19 pandemic includes one on vaccination, which provides a four-week look at cases, hospitalizations and deaths among those who are: unvaccinated; vaccinated; and vaccinated with boosters. At least it did until this week. This week’s report, while still including a cumulative view of vaccination breakthrough stats, no longer shows a four-week perspective. When SFR inquired about the missing data point, DOH responded, via a spokesperson, that the report “was internally modified this week and no longer includes” the four-week analysis: “The epidemiology team determined that it needed to develop updated methods to account for confounding variables (or unmeasured factors) that impact this analysis, such as age, number of comorbidities, and immunosuppression factors. This is a universal issue (not specific to New Mexico) and the development of a new approach to more accurately analyze these data is being discussed within the CDC and among other states.” SFR now has pending questions with DOH regarding whether this elimination of the data and explanation therein renders the department’s recent responses to SFR’s inquiries about the data no longer accurate, and when the revised reporting is expected to resume.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported April 28:

New cases: 274; 522,094 total cases

Case rates: According to the health department’s most recent case report, New Mexico has had 1,117 new cases in the last seven days—a 14% increase from the week before, tracking with expectations Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase expressed in an interview with SFR last week that cases will likely rise here at the end of the month due to the BA.2 Omicron variant. Cibola County currently has the highest case rate per 100,000 population: 25.6, followed by Los Alamos County at 23.5 and Santa Fe County at 14.8.

Deaths: 19; Santa Fe County has had 273 total deaths; there have been 7,484 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 39; Patients on ventilators: three

Transmission: According to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “community levels” tracking system—which uses case rates along with two hospital metrics in combination to determine the state of the virus on a county level—32 of New Mexico’s counties currently have “green”—aka low—levels, whereas Lea County is set at yellow, or medium, as are three Texas counties on New Mexico’s border. The CDC updates its map on Thursdays.

Resources: Vaccine registrationBooster registration Free at-home rapid antigen testsSelf-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department; COVID-19 treatment info: oral treatments Paxlovid (age 12+) and Molnupiravir (age 18+); and monoclonal antibody treatments. Toolkit for immunocompromised individuals. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.

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

Listen up

Reunity Resources opens its farm stand for the season tomorrow (9 am to 1 pm, 1829 San Ysidro Crossing), along with its first seedling sale. On the most recent episode of The Garden Journal, presented by Santa Fe Extension Master Gardeners, host Alexa Bradford talks with Reunity Co-founder Juliana Ciano about what to expect from the upcoming season, and the history and work Reunity has undertaken for the community.

Santa Fe dancer nears close of Smithsonian residency

The Smithsonian magazine previews two new performances choreographed by Dana Tai Soon Burgesswho grew up in Santa Fe, and whose company is nearing the end of its seven-year residency at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Next month, Burgess and his company will premiere a new choreographic work titled “El Muro/The Wall,” which responds to the museum’s triennial exhibition “The Outwin 2022: American Portraiture Today.” In October, they will a perform a work inspired by the forthcoming exhibition “One Life: Maya Lin.” The museum also will host a book signing for Burgess’ memoir, Chino and the Dance of the Butterfly, which the University of New Mexico Press will publish Sept. 15. “El Muro/The Wall” features 11 dancers in a 30-minute piece that explores “the universal quest for a safe place to call home and the challenges of moving beyond loss in order to rebuild a life in America.” Following the premiere in Washington, DC, the piece will be presented in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and abroad with the US State Department.

Come for the arts, stay for the outdoors

The Washington Post offers a travel story highlighting Santa Fe and Taos as prime locations for family-friendly activities. Writer Nevin Martell opens his story 7,000 feet above Taos in a hot-air balloon, viewing the Rio Grande Gorge on the left and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the right. The “unconventional spring break destination,” Martell writes, “spoke to the diverse interests of our family while keeping us stateside during what we hoped were the waning months of the coronavirus pandemic.” The trip involved numerous back-up plans, as the “aftershocks of the pandemic’s impact reverberated” with some “closures of businesses and attractions due to staffing shortages” but, nonetheless, Northern New Mexico provided plenty of places to explore indoors and out, including hiking, shopping and eating in Taos and, in Santa Fe, visits to Meow Wolf and the Museum of International Folk Art, the latter of which Martell describes as “a real highlight of the trip.”

May Day

The National Weather Service has issued both wind advisories and red flag warnings for today. In Santa Fe, the high temperature should be near 71 degrees and the skies should be sunny, except for areas of blowing dust after noon as west winds 10 to 20 mph increase to 25 to 35 mph and even gusts as high as 50 mph. Saturday looks more pleasant, with temps in the low 70s and less wind, but Sunday, the first day of May, should bring higher temperatures (high 70s), and wind gusts potentially as high as 30mph.

Thanks for reading! The Word senses it’s not a great sign the highlight of her week was reading this NYT profile of Henry Winkler, but what are you gonna do? Actually, we’re going to take a teensy break—Morning Word returns bright and early Tuesday, May 3.

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