Morning Word

State Launches Fund to Bolster Police Hiring, Training

Virgin Galactic announces planned “astronaut campus”

State announces more $ to bolster police ranks

Law enforcement agencies across New Mexico—including both the Santa Fe Police and Sheriff’s departments—have been struggling to fill vacancies. A Legislative Finance Committee presentation last month reported that between the 2021 and 2021 fiscal years, the number of certified law enforcement officers employed by municipal police departments, county sheriffs’ offices and state police grew just 1.8%, and remained relatively stagnant between 2014 and 2018, when the state experienced an increase in crime (the state’s violent and property crime rates have improved, but remain above the US average). To address some of these issues, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and law enforcement officials yesterday announced a new Law Enforcement Training Assistance Fund, launching with $800,000 in initial funding from the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. According to a news release from the governor’s office, the money will be used to aid local law enforcement agencies with the costs associated with certifying and equipping new police officers. The Department of Workforce Solutions, which will coordinate the funding, estimates the new program will support training for 80 new officers across the state. “This effort to incentivize the recruitment of police officers aims to address head-on the shortfall in police officers and will serve to decrease crime in many cities across New Mexico, in turn increasing the quality of life for New Mexicans,” Department of Public Safety Secretary Jason Bowie said in a statement. Lujan Grisham’s campaign also released an election ad yesterday accusing Republican candidate Mark Ronchetti of wanting to “slash budgets” for police. Crime has thus far emerged as a top issue in the gubernatorial campaign, with Ronchetti’s “crime plan” accusing Lujan Grisham of making it “easier to be a criminal than a cop.”

Virgin Galactic details plan for “astronaut campus”

Future astronauts and their guests will be able to hunker down at what Virgin Galactic is describing as the “first of its kind” astronaut campus on land it has secured in Sierra County near its operational headquarters. In a news release yesterday announcing the project, the commercial spaceline says it’s already started the “conceptual design” for the campus, which will include “training facilities, purposeful accommodations and tailored experiences as well as an observatory, wellness center, recreation activities, and unique dining options.” The campus also will be built “with a focus on sustainability and minimal impact to the surrounding environment” and designed with “bold simplicity, function, innovation, and emotional connectivity at the core, paying homage to the region’s spectacular natural vistas.” The company says it intends to complete the project at the same time as it expands its fleet. The company announced in May it had delayed the launch of its commercial spaceflights to the first quarter of next year. “At Virgin Galactic, the road to space begins in New Mexico, and we are proud to showcase the state as the launch point for our unique and unparalleled experience,” Blair Rich, Virgin Galactic president & chief business officer, commercial and consumer operations, said in a statement yesterday. “From the point of sale, our future astronauts begin a journey that is curated, high-touch and distinctly Virgin, which will culminate at the astronaut campus and training facility. Customers who buy a ticket today will stay and train here, along with their guests, for five nights. While our future astronauts are completing spaceflight training, their guests will live out a tailored itinerary of discovery and educational experiences on the campus and throughout southern New Mexico.”

SFPD trains to ID human trafficking

Santa Fe Police yesterday participated in training from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center to better understand and identify victims of human trafficking. US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-NM, who organized the training in response to requests for resources from Santa Fe Police Chief Paul Joye and Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina, said those victims often can be hiding in plain sight. The training comes as federal officials ramp up initiatives this year to combat trafficking, with the New Mexico Attorney General Human Trafficking Task Force identifying more than 100 cases of trafficking in 2020. Joye and others believe the actual numbers are higher, given how many instances go unreported. “The more I’ve learned in my positions about human trafficking—the identifiers and how to interact with the victims of this—you start to reflect on your own experiences out on patrol and investigations,” Joye said. “In my position, I hopefully get to better equip my officers and department with the tools that I feel like I was lacking when I was out there.”

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Aug. 2

New cases: 739; 593,758 total cases

Deaths: four; Santa Fe County has had 330 total deaths; there have been 8,261 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 169. Patients on ventilators: seven

Case rates: According to the state health department’s most recent report on geographical trends, published yesterday, for the seven-day period of July 25-31, McKinley County had the highest daily case rate per 100,000 population: 68.2, followed by Roosevelt County at 66.8 and Doña Ana County at 55.2; Santa Fe County’s case rate was 42.2, a decline from 46.6 last week. The state recorded 6,300 total cases statewide over the seven-day period, a 5% decrease from the week prior.

Acting Health Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase will provide updates on both COVID-19 and monkeypox (New Mexico has 10 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) at 11 am tomorrow, Aug. 4, which will stream live on the DOH Facebook page and with Spanish translation on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s YouTube channel.

Community levels: The CDC’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 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. Vaccines for children: Parents of children ages 6 months to 5 years can now schedule appointments for vaccinations at

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

Listen up

On the most recent episode of the Heating It Up podcast, host and James Beard Book Award winner Cheryl Alters Jamison chats with Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta Executive Director Mary Hallahan about the upcoming Sept. 21-25 fiesta featuring more than 90 wineries, 60 restaurants and five days of demos, tastings, talks and more. Tickets went on sale last month and some events have already sold out, so be sure to check out the schedule. Jamison also shares details of her latest food adventures, with recommendations for Sassella RestaurantAtrisco Cafe & Bar and Tesuque Village Market.

Meow Wolf touts community, approves union

CNN Travel spotlights Meow Wolf, particularly Santa Fe’s House of Eternal Return, in a segment looking at the proliferation and popularity of interactive spaces (like New York’s Museum of Ice Cream and Los Angeles’ Museum of Selfies). Meow Wolf co-founder Sean Di Ianni tells CNN that Meow Wolf aspires to provide more than “selfie” experiences: “You come to Meow Wolf, you might kind of let go of your expectations of what the selfie museum is like. And you can certainly take selfies here, but the hope is that you find something meaningful here that you can sort of take with you,” Di Ianni says. He attributes the popularity of all of Meow Wolf’s current locations—Santa Fe, Las Vegas and Denver—along with other interactive spaces—to the sense of community they provide. “People really have a desire to get out of their houses and connect with each other, with loved ones, and be in the presence of community,” he says. “It’s a spiritual space, really, it’s like a communal spiritual space that I think people are hungry for.” Also in Meow Wolf news, the company announced on Monday it will recognize two unions, representing security and operations workers, at Convergence Station in Denver. According to the Denver Post, the approval came quickly after 70% of Convergence Station’s employees signaled interest in joining. The swift approval, the Post reports, stands in contrast to the earlier negotiations in Santa Fe. The new bargaining units will be represented by the Santa Fe-founded Meow Wolf Workers Collective, under the Communications Workers of America

Southwest satire

Albuquerque’s new Breaking Bad statues were reportedly intended to signal the important role the show has played in that city’s economy. Statues are all well and good, but nothing signifies true cultural significance like being mocked in one of the country’s premiere satirical publications. No, not The Onion—the other one. McSweeney’s Internet Tendency (home of the famous “I’m Comic Sans, Asshole” monologue), recently published the satirical essay, “How I got the Commission to Design Saul Goodman’s House.” (Saul Goodman as in the titular character from Better Call Saul, in case that’s not obvious.) In the letter, “Brad Mayhew” of “Mayhew Design Collective” explains why he’s the guy for the job: “You can rest assured my firm has handled a range of design challenges over the years, and we wouldn’t be Albuquerque Style Now Magazine’s #4 interior design firm if we hadn’t left some smiles in our wake,” the letter reads, later adding: “Like you, I am a big fan of Renaissance art. People in Albuquerque are so hung up on adobe structures that speak to the history of our region that no one dares to brighten our community with the architectural classics. For example, your idea to recreate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in your powder room will no doubt give your guests the bathroom experience of a lifetime. I suggest painting the floor with a 3-D effect as if the toilet is on top of Michelangelo’s scaffolding.” And then later: “Also, Saul, I count myself as one of the proud citizens concerned over the intrusions of drug cartels on our daily lives here in Albuquerque. I’m sure you can agree with me that we all need to be vigilant. We can do the soil testing to confirm the structural viability of an underground system of concrete ‘hiding spaces’ you referred to last night. We have more experience in doing tunnel interiors than anyone else in town.”

Come rain, come shine

The National Weather Service foresees the possibility of scattered showers and thunderstorms today after noon and tonight before midnight, with a 40% chance for precipitation, some of which could could manifest as heavy rain. Today will otherwise be mostly sunny with a high near 88 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph becoming southeast in the afternoon. Be sure to check out High Country News’ deep dive into the science behind the Southwest monsoons, and the threat climate change poses to our favorite weather pattern.

Thanks for reading! The Word loves that Stephen King identified himself as a “freelance writer” when he testified yesterday in opposition of the Penguin Random House/Simon & Schuster merger.

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