Morning Word

NM Gov Designates $10 Mil for New Abortion Clinic

Deadlines loom in NM/Texas Rio Grande groundwater litigation

Gov commits $10 mil for new health clinic, abortion services

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday unveiled a new executive order pledging $10 million of her 2023 capital outlay funds to build a new clinic in Doña Ana County that provides reproductive health care, including abortion. The order also directs the health department to develop a plan to expand access to reproductive care in underserved portions of the state and to assess the “feasibility of the provision of medication abortion in public health clinics overseen by the department.” The order, Lujan Grisham’s second since the US Supreme Court June 24 decision overturning Roe v. Wade, also directs the Human Services Department to improve access to reproductive health services. The governor discussed the new measures to protect abortion access in a virtual news conference along with state lawmakers and members of the New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women, which recently passed a complementary resolution. Lujan Grisham is running for her second term on the Nov. 8 general ballot against Republican Mark Ronchetti, who describes himself as pro-life and accuses Lujan Grisham of turning New Mexico into “the late-term abortion capital of America.” In her remarks yesterday, Lujan Grisham noted that protecting “women’s constitutional rights and protections” has now fallen to states with Democratic leadership. “The notion that women cannot have control over their bodies, dignity, respect and autonomy is outrageous,” she said. “And this is a state that is not going to let that be the status quo in any context for anyone anywhere in the country.”

Bright ideas

In response to the City of Santa Fe’s LED streetlight conversion project, nonprofit Santa Fe Conservation Trust has embarked on a night-sky monitoring project to collect baseline data and track changes in the night sky. Light-monitoring equipment on Santa Fe County buildings will collect light pollution data every five minutes throughout the night as part of a long-term light pollution study with the Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition. Retired astrophysicist Sam Finn, who introduced the group to the monitoring equipment, says currently the only data available comes from weather satellites, “but that data is crude and you have to make a number of assumptions in order to use it to make statements about changes in the light level.” Members of the Conservation Trust believe the city switch to LED has increased sky glow, but lack of baseline data makes it difficult to say conclusively (Public Works Division Director Regina Wheeler says the lights are “the warmest and dimmest design you could do”). SFCT is working with Santa Fe County Commissioner Hank Hughes to finalize the equipment’s placement. “I’ve lived here 30-plus years, and we’ve already seen the sky get brighter from the lights in Santa Fe,” Hughes tells SFR. “There’s already some degradation, so that’s why I think it’s important not to let it get any worse and hopefully, maybe even make it a little bit better.”

Deadlines loom in water litigation

The state Interstate Stream Commission and Elephant Butte Irrigation District will be holding closed meetings this week to consider next steps in the state’s groundwater litigation with Texas. Lawyers have until Sept. 23 to reach a settlement under an order issued by US Circuit Judge Michael Melloy, who is serving as a special master in the case. That order includes various deadlines, including one tomorrow by which any settlement drafts related to “intra-New Mexico issues” must be disclosed. All parties have until Sept. 21 to file a status report, with a conference scheduled to take place Sept. 27 in El Paso, Texas. The dispute centers on Texas’ contention that New Mexico is shorting its water deliveries to the state under the Rio Grande Compact through its groundwater pumping south of Elephant Butte Reservoir. The Albuquerque Journal reports Texas attorney Stuart Somach’s recent comments that by failing to adhere to the compact, New Mexico is harming both farmers downstream and municipalities.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Aug. 31

New cases: 443; 611,310 total cases

Deaths: 15; Santa Fe County has had 343 total deaths; there have been 8,447 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 150. Patients on ventilators: three

Case rates: According to the state health department’s most recent report on geographical trends for the seven-day period of Aug. 22-28, Santa Fe County’s case rate continues to decline and was at 19.8, compared to 20.5 the prior week. The state recorded 3,420 cases statewide—based on reported cases—over the seven-day period, a nearly 11% decrease from the previous week.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent update for COVID-19 “community levels,” updated yesterday, only three New Mexico counties have “red” or high levels—down from four last week. Santa Fe County is one of 22 counties with green, or low levels (compared with 13 last week). The state map, which updates each Thursday for the prior seven-day period, uses a framework that combines case rates with hospital metrics. The community levels site has accompanying recommendations at the bottom of the page. The CDC also provides a quarantine and isolation calculator.

A federal program providing free at-home rapid tests ends tomorrow; order now if you are still eligible for free tests (the site will tell you if you are not).Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, yesterday reported on social media that she has now tested negative two days in a row and is resuming her in-person schedule (masked).The US Food & Drug Administration yesterday approved updated booster shots specifically targeting the Omicron variant. The CDC will need to sign off on them next.

Resources: Vaccine registration; Booster registration Free at-home rapid antigen tests; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department; New Curative testing site: 9 am to 5 pm, Monday-Friday, Santa Fe Technology Department, 2516 Cerrillos Road; 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 Report from Santa Fe, from New Mexico PBS, state Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Doña Ana, chairman of the Legislature’s interim Radioactive & Hazardous Materials Committee, joins host Lorene Mills to talk about New Jersey-based Holtec International’s pursuit of a permanent nuclear waste repository in Lea County. In June, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission published its final environmental impact statement for Holtec’s application and recommended issuing the license. “This is a four-alarm fire moment for considering the next 100 years of environmental future,” Steinborn says. “This decision will impact New Mexico far into the future.” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has publicly opposed the proposal, as have members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Some like it hot

If you’re going to write a column in a national newspaper calling for the end of the Scoville scale to measure the heat of chile peppers, you’re going to have to talk to someone in New Mexico. Washington Post food columnist Tamar Haspel does just that. She describes the 1912-era Scoville heat units as “antediluvian,” and she talks to retired New Mexico State University researcher Paul Bosland, who co-founded and formerly led the NMSU Chile Pepper Institute (the school named an endowed a chair after him). As the story notes, peppers’ heat derives from a group of chemical compounds called capsaicinoids, the most common of which is capsaicin. In 1912, pharmacist Wilbur Scoville came up with a method of drying peppers, dissolving them in alcohol, diluting them with sugar and then quantifying human reaction to the dissipating heat. This, in 2022, turns out to be a better job for a machine, Haspel writes. Bosland backs her up. “Humans differ. We vary in our taste buds and receptors,” Bosland says, “but with a machine, we can measure very accurately.” The machine is high-performance liquid chromatograph that doesn’t require taste buds (although a machine can’t measure a pepper’s flavor, which we would argue is just as important as its heat quotient). The column dissolves into silliness, but it’s worth a read for chile lovers.

Chew on this

Afar magazine singles out Albuquerque’s South Valley/Barelas area as New Mexico’s best food neighborhood in a “coast-to-coast look at the culinary oases that keep us coming back for more.” The area hosts the South Broadway Cultural Center and National Hispanic Cultural Center, home to both Torreón and La Fonda del Bosque, where, Afar writes, diners “may be tempted by the Chinese barbecued duck quesadilla or Albuquerque French Dip, served with a green chile red wine au jus.” Other recs include La Mexicana Tortilla Co. for breakfast; El Modelo for lunch, particularly its stuffed sopapilla; and Nexus Brewery + Smokehouse for dinner, a Black-owned restaurant, Afar says, that “made its bones with brisket and burnt ends, but the catfish tacos and Enterprise sandwich (pulled pork, brisket, and hot links topped with green chile and coleslaw) are nothing to sniff at.” Those are the three meals, but the story also recommends Grandma’s K&I Diner if you’d like to Instagram a 10-pound burrito and Sidetrack Brewing Company for happy hour, among other spots. Speaking, and sopapillas in particular, Food & Wine magazine rounded up the best fried food in every state (ours is not to reason why) and, yes, those “puffs of almost pre-historic magic” beat out all of New Mexico’s other fried foods.

Howdy, September

The National Weather Service forecasts a 20% chance for some precipitation today courtesy isolated showers and thunderstorms after noon. Otherwise, it should be sunny with a high temperature near 85 degrees and west wind 5 to 10 mph becoming east in the afternoon.

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