Morning Word

City of Santa Fe Expands Alternative Policing Unit

NM State Fair opens today—with a cannabis exhibit

City alternative police unit expands

The City of Santa Fe continues to grow its Alternative Response Unit, launched in spring of 2021, recently announcing the addition of an emergency medical services captain and three case managers. The ARU unit now has 13 employees, allowing it to increase service from four to five days per week and double workforce capacity on Tuesdays and Thursdays, according to a city news release. The city’s Community Health and Safety Department created the ARU, a collaborative effort between it and the city fire and police departments, to “provide an appropriate level of response” to calls in which people need social and behavioral health resources (the Economist magazine last spring highlighted both Santa Fe and Albuquerque’s forays into alternative policing initiatives as examples of nationwide shifts in policing in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin). “We’re building on the successes of the program since it launched 16 months ago,” Kyra Ochoa, director of Community Health and Safety, said in a statement this week. “We’ve seen how much it means to people in crisis to have this alternative approach to meeting their needs and getting them the care they need. We will continue to assess and evaluate the program and further develop it according to needs and availability of resources.”

NM cannabis sales top $40 mil in August

As they did in July, cannabis sales last month in New Mexico exceeded $40 million—$40.6 million—slightly surpassing July’s $40.3 million and setting a new record since legal adult sales began last April. Of the recent figures, adult-use purchases accounted for approximately $24 million. Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces posted the top three sales figures, respectively, with Santa Fe showing about $3.5 million—just over $1.9 million from adult use sales. Overall, Albuquerque accounted for about 40% of cannabis sales in the state, Santa Fe for 9.8% and Las Cruces for 9%. Still have questions about the state’s newest industry? The State Fair opens today and hosts a new educational exhibit, “Discovering Cannabis,” co-produced by the fair and Verdes Cannabis, designed to “educate the public on New Mexico’s newest agricultural industry,” the state fair said in a news release. The exhibit, open to people 21 years and older, is located in the Manuel Lujan Building on the fairgrounds. “Our mission is to support New Mexico industry and educate our community,” State Fair General Manager Dan Mourning said in a statement. “And let’s face it, a lot of people have a lot of questions about cannabis. We want folks to get solid, factual information provided by professionals and experts who have committed their careers to getting this industry off the ground in New Mexico.”

NM downwinders meet with US cabinet secretary

US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra visited New Mexico yesterday, participating in roundtable discussions with US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-NM. Those discussions included one with downwinders—people whose families have suffered for generations as a result of living in proximity to nuclear testing. The Albuquerque Journal reports that Tina Cordova, co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, met with Becerra and described it as the first time a federal official from the executive branch had listened to downwinders’ stories. Leger Fernández, who said she set up the meeting with the downwinders at their request, said it was important for officials to hear first-hand the downwinders’ stories “because when you hear a story directly or hear her story of pain and loss that has affected so many family members…it’s vivid, it’s real. And I think it helps motivate you to search for the solutions.” Leger Fernández and US Sens. Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich, D-NM, have introduced legislation in their respective chambers to expand the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to include communities such as those in the Tularosa Basin, who were exposed to fallout from the 1945 Trinity Test, and the state’s uranium workers.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Sept. 7

New cases: 267; 613,277 total cases

Deaths: four; Santa Fe County has had 348 total deaths; there have been 8,475 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 119. Patients on ventilators: six. According to the state’s most recent statewide hospitalization report, 86 people have been hospitalized in the last seven days—about 12% fewer than the week before.

Case rates: According to the state health department’s most recent report on geographical trends for the seven-day period of Aug. 29-Sept. 4, Santa Fe County’s case rate continued to decline and was at 19.4, compared to 19.8 the previous week. The state recorded 2,407 cases statewide—based on reported cases—over the seven-day period, a nearly 30% decrease from the prior week.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent update for COVID-19 “community levels,” only one New Mexico county—McKinley—remains “red,” aka has high levels—down from three the week prior. Santa Fe County is one of 23 counties with green, or low levels. 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.

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

Earlier this summer, Sandia National Laboratory promoted the work of engineer Kenneth Armijo, who been experimenting with using solar energy to roast green chile. The Physics World podcast recently spoke with Armijo about his non-chile research in the solar field, as well as his quest to find a greener way to roast chile, using Sandia’s solar concentrator. Armijo grew up on a chile farm in Sabinal, and his family has been growing chile for decades “if not a century,” he says, including heirloom varieties he describes as his “weekend job.” Chiles, he said, are “ingrained in our DNA…it’s a part of our culture.”

Pursuing protection for Caja del Rio

Santa Fe City Councilor Renee Villarreal recently co-authored an op-ed for The Hill regarding the historical, cultural and ecological significance of the Caja del Rio. Villarreal, National Wildlife Federation Public Lands Field Director Rev. Andrew Black and Jemez Pueblo spiritual leader Joseph Brophy Toledo write that while the Caja del Rio “embodies the very history and identity of the American Southwest,” it lacks the protection of sites such as Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, the Valles Caldera and Bandelier National Monument. And the Caja del Rio faces significant threats, including “wildfires, mining, poaching, vandalism, desecration, illegal dumping and habitat fragmentation.” The Santa Fe City Council, Santa Fe County Commission and All Pueblo Council of Governors have all passed resolutions this year calling for federal protections for the area. “We urge Congress and President Biden to listen to the diverse communities in northern New Mexico that are advocating for permanent safeguards for the wildlife, ancient artifacts, lands and waters of the Caja,” the op-ed reads. “If this natural and cultural treasure isn’t protected, a large part of our history and our very identity will be lost with it.”

Travel to the future

Condé Nast Traveler examines the future of travel in a story highlighting “the 56 players, places and bold new concepts moving the industry into the future.” Virgin Galactic in Southern New Mexico makes the list, as a progenitor of space travel, with Richard Branson’s company currently taking reservations for 90-minute flights, scheduled to start next year. “The charismatic billionaire’s desire to see the world from a different perspective is infectious, indeed,” the story notes. “Virgin Galactic already has a customer pool of around 700 people, with another 800 placed on a wait list. Considering that only somewhere around 600 people have ever been to space in the history of humanity, this is clearly a huge leap forward.” Ted Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch also receives mention as part of Beyond Green’s portfolio of hotels and lodges with a sustainability focus. Vermejo has “restored and preserved more than 500,000 acres of natural habitat and provides guests with guided conservation tours,” CN Traveler says, and Beyond Green, “has done the legwork for environmentally minded guests looking for an eco-hotel.”

Hot & hazy

The National Weather Service forecasts another day of widespread haze, partly sunny skies and a high temperature near 87 degrees. North wind 5 to 10 mph will become southwest in the afternoon. The rain still looks on tap to potentially resume tomorrow.

Thanks for reading! The Word is enjoying the winning photos from this year’s Washington Post travel photo contest (particularly the second place winner of the bears from Alaska’s Katmai National Park) and National Geographic’s “Bears of Summer” feature.

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