Morning Word

NM COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Rising

Santa Fe City Council votes tonight on proposed ballot measures

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations rising

Both Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center have seen slight increases in COVID-19 patients over the last week. Christus Marketing, Communications & Public Relations Director Arturo Delgado tells SFR Christus currently has seven patients with COVID-19; Presbyterian, meanwhile, has two and saw more COVID-19-positive patients in the emergency department last week, as well as a slight increase in hospitalizations overall this month. While the numbers remain relatively low, Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center Hospital Chief Executive John Adams says, via a statement provided to SFR: “We are concerned whenever we see additional hospitalizations and serious illness due to COVID-19 in New Mexico. We continue to remind our community that the best protection is to stay up to date on vaccinations. It is also important to test if you have symptoms and stay home from work or school if you are ill. Individuals who are higher risk, such as people who are immunocompromised, may want to consider masking or avoiding crowded places if numbers continue to increase.” With cases rising, a new variant in the mix and winter in the offing, DOH Deputy Cabinet Secretary Dr. Laura Parajón tells SFR the department has stood up its COVID-19 situational awareness team again to “prepare ourselves for winter.” SFR spoke with Parajón by phone about how the public can do the same and the expectation that updated COVID-19 boosters will be available sometime this fall. “The way that people talked about it [previously] was ‘I have my first booster’ or ‘my second booster,’” Parajón says. “That just doesn’t matter anymore. It’s a clean slate and now it will be more like a flu vaccine where you get a vaccine every year. You don’t have to count booster vaccines; it’s just that every year you should probably get your booster vaccine for COVID.”

Council meets tonight on ballot proposals

The Santa Fe City Council will hold a special meeting at 5 pm today at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center Sweeney ballroom to vote on which potential ballot questions will appear on the Nov. 7 general election ballot for consideration by voters. Those measures include a proposal to impose a 3% excise tax on properties sold for more than $1 million by the purchasers, with the first $1 million not subject to the tax, in order to generate more revenue for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to combat Santa Fe’s housing crisis. Other proposals include measures to: create an independent inspector general for the city; to reduce the signature requirement for referenda and initiatives from 33.3% to 15%; to require the council, city commissions and boards to adopt procedural rules that establish “fundamental fairness” when operating in a quasi-judicial role; to amend the city charter to specify the charter commission’s appointment and procedures; an amendment to the charter limiting the mayor’s voting power to tie-breaking; a proposal to amend the charter to regulate the city’s budget and accounting processes to ensure timely audits and sufficient staff; and a proposal requiring the City Council to create an Office of Equity And Inclusion and a Human Rights Commission. The public can stream the meeting on the city’s YouTube channel and participate either in person or via Zoom. Details are available with the meeting’s agenda here.

State names new leader for Cannabis Control Division

Todd Stevens, who most recently worked as manager of training and development for one of Colorado’s largest cannabis companies, Native Roots Cannabis, is the new director of New Mexico’s Cannabis Control Division, the state announced yesterday. The division in March lost its third director since its inception. According to a news release from the CCD, in his job for Native Roots Cannabis, Stevens “gained extensive knowledge of the regulated cannabis industry operations, including cultivation, production and compliance.” He also reportedly created a retail sales training program, managed employee trainings and oversaw operations at five dispensaries. His experience, Regulation and Licensing Superintendent Linda Trujillo said, “made him the ideal candidate to take the lead at the CCD. I am confident in his ability to lead this team and make New Mexico’s regulated cannabis industry one to rival.” For his part, Stevens said in a statement New Mexico, over the past year since legalizing adult recreational cannabis, “has established a thriving new industry, licensed more than 2,000 cannabis businesses, and held those businesses to the high standard that comes with an adult-use cannabis market. I am committed to building on this success while protecting consumer safety and promoting business practices that help this new industry continue to be a transformational economic driver.”

Report: Lack of seatbelts top cause of NM motor deaths

Passengers not wearing seatbelts accounted for 64% of crash-related deaths in 2021, according to a report presented yesterday to lawmakers on the interim Transportation, Infrastructure Revenue Committee. The report, prepared by University of New Mexico researchers, is based on transportation data from the state, with preliminary data showing 180 unbelted people killed in 2022—potentially the highest number since 2006. According to the report, typically, 70% of such crashes occur on rural roadways, but urban roadways saw a record-high number of unbelted fatalities in 2020 and 2022. Distracted-driving crashes accounted for 41% of all people killed in crashes in 2021. Drug, alcohol and speeding crashes account for 39%, 37% and 35% percent or crashes, respectively. The report, citing federal data, says New Mexico has the highest pedestrian fatality rate in the country, and Albuquerque has the second highest pedestrian fatality rate compared to other cities with populations above 500,000.

Listen up

The Craft Beer and Brewing podcast hits the road for its 317th episode, coming to Santa Fe, where Keeping Together founder and beer-maker Averie Swanson recently relocated herself and her company from Chicago. Host Jamie Bogner—a fan of Santa Fe—talks with Swanson about Santa Fe and, of course, about beer and about Santa Fe and beer. “People here know what they’re doing,” Swanson says. “They care a lot about beer and I feel very grateful to be part of this community now.”

Location, location

A Variety story examining the role locations play in film and television production homes in on Albuquerque, where the city proved essential to AMC’s Better Call Saul. “There’s no telling if the series would even exist if creator Vince Gilligan had gotten his way back in the mid-2000s and the studio suits at Sony agreed to let him use Riverside, Calif., as the setting for its predecessor Breaking Bad (2008-2013), which established the ‘Saul’ characters and their dramatic universe,” Variety notes. Both shows’ success had a reciprocal relationship with Albuquerque, state Film Office Director Amber Dodson tells Variety. “These two series undoubtedly cultivated and fostered our highly skilled crew base, employing thousands of New Mexicans, from actors and grips, to caterers, drivers, and more,” Dodson says. “A lot of New Mexicans cut their teeth on these shows, and are now department heads and producers themselves.” Also on the New Mexico film tip, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the 2023 New York Film Festival (Sept. 29-Oct. 15) will include the world premiere of the first three episodes of a limited Showtime series, The Curse, from Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie and starring Emma Stone. The show, which filmed here last year, depicts Stone and Fielder as married entrepreneurs “who plan to flip homes and convert them to eco-friendly residences for struggling residents of Española, New Mexico for an HGTV-style reality show being overseen by Safdie’s producer.” (Here’s the trailer.) And speaking of locally filmed television shows, Variety also reports that Dark Winds’ second season’s viewership is up 146% over last year’s debut season. Good news for star Zahn McClarnon, who was spotted out and about during Indian Market weekend, and stopped in at the Santa Fe Playhouse over the weekend to say hello to the cast of Bear Grease, who sold out their entire nine-show run in Santa Fe last week, including an extra show on Sunday they added in response to audience demand (It was awesome; We wish we’d seen it twice).

Nuclear art

While Christopher Nolan’s film Oppenheimer does not mention the harm done to New Mexicans living downwind of the Trinity explosion, the film’s high profile has contributed to reinvigorated discussions about the compensation owed to both so-called “downwinders” and Native American uranium miners, both groups excluded from federal compensation under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. High Country News takes a close look at an exhibition in Southern New Mexico that uses art to advocate for expanding RECA to cover people who suffered from Oppenheimer’s atomic experiment. Trinity: Legacies of Nuclear Testing—A People’s Perspective runs through Sept 23 at the Branigan Cultural Center in Las Cruces, and was organized by the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium. The exhibition includes work by 17 artists exploring the impacts of nuclear colonialism through a variety of mediums and perspectives, such as bomb-stamped bolo ties and a bracelet by Tucson silversmith Adam Ramirez (Ute and Acoma Pueblo), the sales of which will benefit the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium. The exhibition is one of several examining the nuclear legacy—from testing to waste. Another, Specter by Cara Despain, shows at New Mexico State University Art Museum through Sept. 16 and “explores nuclear weapons development — addressing the difficult history and legacy of territory expansion, industrialization, and empire building in the US” through “sculptural and video-based installations created with found objects and archival film from the 1940-60s.” Southwest Contemporary magazine also delves into both exhibitions. The Albuquerque Journal reports state lawmakers said yesterday during a hearing they will send a letter supporting expansion of RECA, which the US Senate approved last month.

Come rain or shine

The National Weather Service forecasts a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Otherwise, it will be mostly sunny, with a high temperature near 88 degrees and southeast wind 10 to 20 mph.

Thanks for reading! The Word, an occasionally mopey Gen-Xer herself, is enjoying Justin E. H. Smith’s mopey Harper’s Magazine essay “My Generation” (especially the line: “It is often remarked that there will never be a Gen X president of the United States. No one wants us to lead, or cares what we think.”).

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