Guv declares emergency in Las Vegas to protect water supply
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Friday signed executive orders declaring a state of emergency in the City of Las Vegas, as burn scar flooding threatens the area’s drinking water supply. “The destruction that continues to befall New Mexico communities affected by the U.S. Forest Service planned burns from earlier this year is unfathomable,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “We will continue to do everything we can to support them and prevent additional damage as a result of the wildfires.” The executive orders, which follow the city’s own declaration of emergency, make available $2.25 million in state emergency funding to assist with emergency measures and prepare public infrastructure, among other actions. According to the governor’s office, Las Vegas has an approximate two-month supply of safe drinking water, but thousands of acres of ash and debris threatens its primary municipal water source, the Gallinas River watershed. The emergency funding will allow the city to safely treat and draw water from Storrie Lake. “The contaminated water flow from the Gallinas caused by the wildfire damage to our watershed has compromised the availability of water to the Las Vegas municipal water system. Rest assured that the city will be holding the federal government responsible for our current situation,” Las Vegas Mayor Louie Trujillo said in a statement. The governor’s office says it will request the Federal Emergency Management Agency fully reimburse the state via New Mexico’s existing major disaster declaration, which was amended last week to include post-fire flooding.
Vandalism at Bandelier prompts closure, investigation
US Park Service officials on Friday said public access to Cave Kiva—a popular area on the Pueblo Loop Trail at Bandelier National Monument—is now closed following vandalism. According to a news release, earlier last week rangers and preservationists found damage in the kiva, which visitors can access by climbing a short ladder in one of the cavates, despite signs at the site requesting visitors demonstrate respect for the cultural significance of the area “as they would when visiting any other cultural or religious shine.” Kivas, as the news release notes, “are sacred sites and centers for religious and social life for Pueblo People today, just as they were for their ancestors.” Bandelier Superintendent Patrick Suddath described the vandalism in a statement as “a huge disappointment...The care and preservation of the Ancestral Pueblo sites in Bandelier is our highest priority. To discover resources damaged in this way despite our efforts to educate, promote and instill reverence for these sites is very disheartening.” The ladder has been removed and closure signs posted. The cavate will remain closed while Bandelier preservationists and archaeologists conduct a thorough site report to assess and record the damage. Destroying archaeological park resources violates the law and carries potential felony charges, fines and imprisonment. Law enforcement rangers are investigating the incident; anyone with information should call Bandelier Crime Tip Line at (505) 709-0077. A $5,000 reward is being offered.
FBI: NM businesses should prepare for cyber attacks
The FBI’s Albuquerque division says private businesses in New Mexico should be aware of increased “malicious cyber intrusions” and should “establish proactive relationships” with the FBI to prepare for such incidents. “The most important action a company can take in preparing for a cyber security incident is to develop a relationship with their local FBI field office before it happens,” Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda said in a statement. “We can provide intelligence on trends as well as advice to help you avoid computer compromises in the first place. And you will have a dedicated FBI contact you can call 24/7 to quickly report an incident and get us working to help you.” According to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, New Mexico had 19 ransomware incidents last year, up from 10 the year before. The agency says the number of actual incidents likely was much higher. Nationally, between 2019 and 2021, the number of ransomware complaints reported to IC3 increased by 82%. You can report internet crimes at www.ic3.gov and other suspicious criminal activity at tips.fbi.gov.
COVID-19 by the numbers
New cases: 1,049; 591,041 total cases
Deaths: 13; Santa Fe County has had 328 total deaths; there have been 8,246 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 209. Patients on ventilators: nine
Case rates: According to the state health department’s most recent report on geographical trends, published last week, for the seven-day period of July 18-24, Roosevelt County had the highest daily case rate per 100,000 population: 67.5, followed by Cibola County at 67.2 and McKinley County at 61.1; Santa Fe County’s case rate was 46.6, an increase from 44.3 last week. The state recorded 6,642 new cases total in the last seven days, comparable to last week.
Community levels: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent update for COVID-19 “community levels,” updated every Thursday, shows improvement from the week prior for the state overall. The CDC framework combines case rates with two hospital metrics and shows, for the seven-day period of July 21-27, 11 counties—six fewer than last week—have “red” or high levels. Santa Fe County remains “yellow” or medium. Seven counties—three more than last week—now have “green” or low levels. The CDC’s recommendations include indoor masking for people living in counties with high community levels. The community levels page has accompanying recommendations at the bottom of the page. The CDC also provides a quarantine and isolation calculator.
Resources: Vaccine registration; Booster registration Free at-home rapid antigen tests; Self-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. Vaccines for children: Parents of children ages 6 months to 5 years can now schedule appointments for vaccinations at VaccineNM.org.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
The state Department of Cultural Affairs wrapped up the second season of its Encounter Culture podcast with a word-nerd extravaganza. For the “Words on Walls” episode, El Palacio Editor Charlotte Jusinski talks with Margaret DePond, DCA’s exhibition copy editor, and the two “geek out over the intricacies of language, style guide rivalries, and challenges associated with distilling eons of information into 100-word captions. Buckle in for syntax shenanigans, a touch of ASMR, and permission to end sentences with a preposition.”
RIP, Nichelle Nichols
Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed the groundbreaking character of Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on Star Trek, died in Silver City over the weekend at the age of 89. Her son, Kyle Johnson, said in an online announcement his mother had died of natural causes. “I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years,” Johnson wrote. “Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.” As reported by LA Times writer Steve Chawkins (a former SFR writer from its early days), Nichols portrayed Lt. Uhuru in three Star Trek seasons and six movies. She helped lead a NASA recruitment drive in the 1970s, drawing applications from thousands of women and minority astronaut hopefuls. Johnson moved his mother to New Mexico in 2020 amidst a high-profile conservatorship battle.
ABQ brass herald Breaking Bad statues
While we did not make it to Albuquerque on Friday to see the city unveil the new bronze statues of Breaking Bad characters Walter White and Jesse Pinkman (actors Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, respectively), we did catch it online. Sony Pictures Television donated the 500-pound statues, created by sculptor Trevor Grove, and their unveiling made national news, with headlines such as Rolling Stone magazine’s “Albuquerque Honors ‘Breaking Bad’ Meth Duo With Bronze Statue.” Breaking Bad series creator Vince Gilligan acknowledged the mixed responses to the statues, saying: “In all seriousness, some folks are going to say, ‘Wow, just what our city needed.’ I get that. But let me tell you what I see when I look at these two works of art: I see two of the finest actors America has ever produced. I see them in character as two larger-than-life tragic figures, cautionary tales, world-famous ones at that.” State Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, is among those questioning the statues, telling the Associated Press that while he admires Cranston as an actor, the statues send the wrong message: “I’m glad New Mexico got the business, but really?” Montoya said. “We’re going down the road of literally glorifying meth makers?” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller says the series—which includes Better Call Saul—has had a $385 million economic impact on the city and employed more than 200 people per episode. “The positive impact that the cast and crew of [Breaking Bad] have had on our economy and film industry can’t be minimized,” he said via Twitter. The film and TV industry overall brought in $855 million for the 2022 fiscal year, according to the state Film Office—36% higher than last year.
Here comes the rain again
Today should be sunny with a high of 83 degrees, until the afternoon, at which point scattered showers and thunderstorms could produce heavy rain. The National Weather Service forecasts a 40% chance for precipitation today and then again tonight. That’s the gist of the weather pattern for the rest of this first week of August—at least for now.