Health officials advise COVID caution heading into holidays
Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Stay home if you’re sick. New Mexico health officials yesterday offered a familiar litany of advice as a concomitant familiar pattern of cold weather ushering in higher COVID-19 cases has begun to emerge across the state. “We are clearly on an upward trend with COVID cases in the state,” Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said during a news conference, noting that models indicate the state is approximately mid-way through its current surge. He encouraged residents to monitor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention community levels mapping to track COVID-19 levels (yesterday’s CDC update actually shows improvement statewide; find details below in the COVID-19 section). COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled in the last month, he said, although the percentage of people on ventilators as the result of COVID-19 illness is about 3%—significantly lower than in the past. Nonetheless: “We still continue to have people die pretty much every day from COVID and that death count continues to mount,” Scrase said. While rising COVID-19 cases heading into the winter holidays echoes the dynamic of the past few years, this year has a twist, as cases of both flu and RSV, which impacts children, also are increasing, creating a so-called “triple threat.” As such, Scrase, Deputy DOH Secretary Dr. Laura Parajón and UNM Children’s Hospital Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anna Duran urged New Mexicans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and flu, and to take precautions heading into Thanksgiving and the holiday season. “Don’t go to Thanksgiving dinner if you’re sick,” Scrase said. “Stay in your bedroom and have them bring you a plate and maybe watch football in your room…don’t mingle with the rest of your family.”
NM lawmakers introduce Chaco protections
Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation yesterday reintroduced the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, intended to prevent future leasing and development of oil, gas and minerals on federal lands located within a 10-mile buffer zone around the park. “Since I was elected, protecting Chaco Canyon’s precious environmental and cultural resources has been my top priority,” US Sen. Ben Ray Luján said in a statement. “After leading a successful effort to pass my legislation in the House, I’m proud to reintroduce legislation in the Senate to continue those efforts to preserve this sacred landscape that has been the center of so much history and heritage for Pueblos and Tribes in New Mexico.” Reintroduction of the bill follows a proposed 20-year withdrawal of a 10-mile radius around Chaco, which would bar new federal oil and gas leasing on those lands. The Bureau of Land Management is currently taking public comments on the proposed withdrawal. In response to the reintroduction of the legislation, the Greater Chaco Coalition, which includes a variety of Native American and environmental organizations, released a statement calling it “a step in the right direction.” However, “much broader measures are needed to protect communities, public health and the climate from the cumulative and widespread impacts of oil and gas extraction on the Greater Chaco Landscape,” the statement notes. “This region has been treated as a sacrifice zone for far too long.” The coalition says BLM “continues to rubberstamp industrialized fracking across the region, with more than 90% of the landscape already leased for oil and gas,” and that the “proposed mineral withdrawal will have minimal impact on oil and gas extraction.”
Outside mag announces more layoffs
At least two Santa Fe-based editors at Outside magazine were among the new round of layoffs company CEO Robin Thurston announced this week. “Earlier this year, we began a major push to focus on profitability, with significant steps beginning in May to reduce expenses across all areas of the business,” Thurston wrote in a Medium post to the company. “Unfortunately, the economic headwinds that every media and technology business is facing have only intensified, and those reductions haven’t closed the gap enough on the timeline we must hit.” As such, he said, the company laid off 12% of its staff, including Santa Fe- based editors Luke Whelan and Kelsey Lindsey, both of whom announced their job losses on Twitter. Thurston’s company, Pocket Outdoor Media, purchased Outside magazine along with several other lifestyle and recreation assets in February, 2021. As Denver’s 5280 magazine reported last April, Outside staffers at the time expressed cautious optimism the acquisition might help the struggling publication. At the start of this year, several editorial staff members at the magazine expressed interest in unionizing, but had backed off by the third week of February saying they had met with management and were going to try to work through their issues. In May, the company reportedly cut about 15% of its workforce. Regarding the new round of cuts this week, Thurston said in his post “there’s no good way to do a layoff, but please know that we’re treating your former colleagues respectfully by providing severance, healthcare, and job placement support. Over the coming months, we’ll do everything we can to help them secure new employment.” He also said the company would take today off “so everyone has some time to hopefully get outdoors.”
COVID-19 by the numbers
Reported Nov. 17: New cases: 818; 638,873 total cases. Deaths: three; Santa Fe County has had 366 total deaths; there have been 8,692 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 170; Patients on ventilators: six.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Nov. 17 “community levels” map, which uses a combination of hospital and case rate metrics to calculate COVID-19 risk for the prior seven-day period, shows improvement, with only four counties categorized “orange”—high risk—for COVID-19, versus eight last week. They are: Bernalillo, Sandoval, San Juan and Valencia counties. Both Santa Fe and Los Alamos counties, which were orange last week are among the “green,” counties, signifying lower risk. Nine New Mexico counties are “yellow,” or medium. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.
Resources: CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; Curative testing sites; COVID-19 treatment info; NMDOH immunocompromised tool kit. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453. DOH encourages residents to download the NM Notify app and to report positive COVID-19 home tests on the app.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
The Lensic Performing Arts Center’s “Fill the Seats” food drive commences today and continues through Nov. 30, in conjunction with The Food Depot and Century Bank. As the name indicates, the goal of the food drive is to raise enough donations to fill all 821 seats in the theater with bags full of food. Donation bins will be in the lobby through the end of the month; you can also donate the cash equivalent online. Learn more about hunger in Northern New Mexico and the work done by The Food Depot from Deputy Director Jill Dixon in her recent interview with Lorene Mills on Report from Santa Fe.
Dwell magazine’s November/December issue features a story on changes at art markets to benefit the “crafting communities” whose interests have been historically overlooked and exploited, including Santa Fe Indian Market. “Much like the framing of Santa Fe as a tourist destination by travel industry businessmen for those going out west in the 1850s to experience an idealized version of the Native American culture for a day or two, the market has exploitative roots,” the story notes. Former SWAIA Executive Director Kim Peone (Colville Confederated Tribes and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) underscores this idea with historical context about the market, which marked 100 years last summer: “It was established through an anthropological and patriarchal system,” she says. “Native Americans weren’t even invited to sell their own work until 1938. The perspective one hundred years ago was ‘They’re going to be extinct, so let’s collect their wares.’” Today, SWAIA’s emphasis is on “quality, transparency, accountability standards, and innovation,” SWAIA Acting Director Jamie Schulze (Northern Cheyenne and Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate nations) tells Dwell, and the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted that digital spaces are “vital to economic growth for Indigenous artists,” she says.
As the last pre-Thanksgiving grocery-shopping weekend begins, one might want to make a plan. A pie plan, that is. Where better to look than Pie Town Pies: Making Pies with the Pie Lady of Pie Town, a cookbook by former Pie Town Pie Lady Kathy Knapp? For a preview, New Mexico Magazine offers a taste (sorry) of some of Knapp’s greatest hits, aka recipes, such as chocolate chess pie with red chile and nuts; New Mexico apple pie with green chile and pine nuts; and a recipe for Pie-O-Neer pie crust. And, yes, the Pie-O-Neer, now owned by Sarah Chavez, is still open and serving pie in Pie Town. A whole lot of pie. Closer to home, today is the last day to order Thanksgiving pies from YouthWorks (including Chimayo red chile caramel pecan pie) and other goodies. Of course, Thanksgiving isn’t just about pie…apparently. NM Magazine also has a New Mexico-style guide to the holiday (our two cents is if you aren’t putting red chile on your mashed potatoes, you’re not doing it right). And, of course, if you’re planning to eat out rather than cook in, options abound. Tasting Table includes the Thanksgiving menu at Indian Pueblo Kitchen—at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque—in its roundup of America’s “best restaurants for celebrating Thanksgiving.” The restaurant will offer several dinner options, one of which includes pumpkin French toast, and no reservations are required. Here in Santa Fe, we’re thinking you might want to make those Thanksgiving reservations right about now-ish. If neither eating out nor cooking in sounds doable, Izanami’s Thanksgiving take-out menu (order by Monday) looks pretty tempting. And for you vegans, our pals at Liberty Gourmand will have options ready for pre-order today, also through Nov. 21 (or until sold out).
The National Weather Service forecasts a mostly cloudy day with a high temperature near 33 degrees and south wind around 15 mph. It doesn’t look as though Santa Fe will be heavily impacted by the expected “freezing fog,” but drive carefully nonetheless. The weekend should be sunnier, but still cold with temps in the high 30s on Saturday and the low 40s on Sunday.