Morning Word

New Mexico Readies for New COVID-19 Vaccine

US Sen. Heinrich, Dems criticize Gov. Lujan Grisham’s gun order

FDA approves new COVID-19 vaccine

With COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths rising nationally, a new vaccine may be available within the week. The Food and Drug Administration yesterday approved and authorized for emergency use Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines updated to include a monovalent (single) component that corresponds to the Omicron variant XBB.1.5. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is scheduled to meet today to discuss recommendations on who should receive the updated vaccine, as well as other clinical considerations. In New Mexico, the health department also is readying for the newest round of vaccines. DOH spokesman David Barre, in response to questions from SFR, says as with previous shots, pharmacies are likely to be the top provider (they distributed 60% of the bivalent boosters). Individual providers also will have access, and will bill insurance for the vaccine as they do with flu shots. Medicaid, Medicare (part B) and most private insurances will cover COVID vaccine, he said. For those lacking insurance or facing large copays, the federal Bridge Access Program “will have vaccine at no cost,” Barre writes via email. DOH will have vaccines available under the Bridge Access Program, as will Walgreens and CVS, he says, as well as some as-yet-to-be-announced pharmacies under eTrueNorth. DOH Deputy Secretary Dr. Laura Parajón, with whom SFR recently spoke about the rise of COVID-19—reiterated via a statement provided to SFR her recommendation that people receive the new vaccination upon its availability. “The immunity provided by vaccines wanes over time so staying up to date is the best way to protect ourselves,” she said. “In the meantime, vulnerable populations can take other steps to protect themselves including masking, hand-washing and social distancing.” DOH and hospital officials, as of press time, were expected to call a news conference tomorrow to discuss the new vaccine.

Dems also calls out Gov. Lujan Grisham’s gun order

Along with other Democrats, US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, yesterday called out Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s new public health order’s institution of a 30-day suspension of open and concealed weapon carry in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. Following the order’s rollout on Friday, National Association for Gun Rights filed suit in US District Court, and additional lawsuits and a call for impeachment have also emerged. Critics say the governor’s order is unconstitutional, given US Supreme Court’s ruling last summer in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, which struck down a concealed carry law in New York. Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen, a Democrat, yesterday held a press conference to say he will not enforce the ban because it’s unconstitutional. Moreover, he added: “I have enough violence in Bernalillo County. I do not want to have political violence toward my deputies or here in Bernalillo County. My job is to keep the peace.” Allen also said he did not believe the law would “do anything to deter gun violence.” State Sen. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, on the site formerly known as Twitter, also called upon the governor to rescind the order: “An unconstitutional approach undermines the important collaboration gun issues deserve, and the important role of a Governor to lead genuine reforms,” he writes. Outside New Mexico, US Rep. Ted Lieu, D-CA, also called out the ban’s constitutionality, prompting a reply from Lujan Grisham (and national attention), who responded: “Hey Ted, conceal and open carry are state laws that I have jurisdiction over.”

Not so, Heinrich says: “The gun violence in New Mexico and across our country has had devastating impacts on families, communities, and our sense of safety,” Heinrich says. “It’s why I led the effort on the first federal gun reform law passed in nearly three decades. There is more that can and should be done to stem the violence and ensure every American can feel safe at school, at the grocery store, or at the movie theatre. As we do that work, we need to focus on solutions that are constitutional and enforceable. That’s what will save lives.” The ACLU of New Mexico also issued a statement expressing concern over the new public health order, which emerged following the shooting death of an 11-year-old boy last week. “The ACLU of New Mexico is heartbroken over the recent death of a child and shares the governor’s concern for the well-being of our community,” ACLU of New Mexico Litigation Manager Lalita Moskowitz said in a statement. “However, we are equally concerned that her solution to the complicated problems of substance abuse, addiction, and gun violence is to pour more resources into law enforcement.”

City of Santa Fe: Guadalupe Street reconstruction project begins

A long-awaited plan to revamp Guadalupe Street begins this week, according to the City of Santa Fe’s weekly Orange Barrel report, and will last for the next 18 months. “The project is a complete reconstruction of Guadalupe from Alameda to Paseo De Peralta,” the city notes, and will “include closures, lane shifts and flagger operations.” The first phase, starting this week and lasting an estimated six weeks, will be reconstruction of the bridge deck at Guadalupe and Alameda, which will close Guadalupe in both directions at the bridge and require lane shifts on Alameda as well (popular gastropub Fire & Hops cited the incoming construction in its bevy of reasons for closing permanently). City Public Works Director Regina Wheeler tells the Santa Fe New Mexican the $11.3 million project is “super exciting” for her department and will “significantly enhance pedestrian and bicycle access on that street” and provide safety improvements. Meanwhile, also on Alameda, the work to fix and replace the failed culvert, which led to the road closure last spring, should be finished and the road reopened the first week of October.

DOI awards NM Indian Youth Corp funds

Several New Mexico tribal and nonprofit projects will receive grants through the federal Department of Interior 2023 Indian Youth Service Corps, DOI announced yesterday. Of the eight projects nationally receiving a total of close to $3.5 million, $480,223 will fund new Native youth corps in collaboration with the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps, Pueblo of Acoma, Pueblo of Isleta and Pueblo of Zuni. “Youth will work to restore local Indigenous food systems through agriculture, seed saving, and intergenerational knowledge-sharing,” a press release says of the project. In a second New Mexico-based project, $250,000 was awarded to the Urban Native Barrio Corps (Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps and La Plazita Institute) to “engage Native youth and young adults from the greater Albuquerque area to provide restorative justice programming and technical training in environmental conservation and natural resource management.” Thirdly, New Mexico also will partake of $1 million—as will Arizona, Utah and Colorado—awarded to expand the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps’ Wood for Life Program, that engages Native youth from tribes and pueblos in all four states in reforestation efforts, wildland fire mitigation, forestry, as well as local tribal fuel and firewood needs. “Growing up in New Mexico, I helped my grandfather tend to our family’s cornfield. My experiences taught me invaluable lessons about how deep our connection to the earth really is,” Secretary Deb Haaland (Pueblo of Laguna) said in a statement. “I launched the Indian Youth Service Corps to help empower the next generation of Native leaders as they engage in the co-stewardship of public lands and the application of Indigenous Knowledge. The Corps will help these young people strengthen their connection to the lands and waters that their ancestors have cared for since time immemorial.”

Listen up

A new health podcast from CVS Health, Research and Justice For All, features a New Mexico native on its inaugural episode: Mass General Brigham Chief Medical Officer Dr. Thomas Sequist (Taos Pueblo). Sequist, also a professor of medicine and health care policy at Harvard Medical School, cites his upbringing in Taos as one reason for his interest in health equity. “I have a wonderful cultural background and very proud of my heritage,” Sequist says. “But I would also say that I’ve seen a lot of poverty in that environment and the impacts of that poverty…which can be manifest through health outcomes, emotional sort of and mental health conditions and then many other downstream consequences.”

Hit the road

Condé Nast Traveler provides White Sands wanna-be-travelers with tips for where to stay when visiting the “remotely located” national park to experience its “gleaming gypsum crystal dunes” by foot, bicycle or saucer sled. The options include the pet-friendly Hotel Encanto, 50 minutes away, where one might opt to stay in the Deluxe Terrace Room, “crafted in collaboration with Virgin Galactic,” thus “blending Southwestern aesthetics with space travel inspiration.” Another possibility: The Stanton House, 1.5 hours away in El Paso, Texas, where top amenities include sensory deprivation tanks, freestanding soaking tubs and alpaca throws (the latter presumably is a blanket, not an activity). And for those in search of reasons to visit Albuquerque other than the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta (Oct. 7-15) and its Breaking Bad cred, Paste Magazine provides 10, including Bow & Arrow Brewery; and Sandia Peak Tramway, reportedly “the longest aerial tramway in the Americas.”

Frybread Face and Me has Toronto premiere

The filmed-in-New Mexico narrative debut Frybread Face and Me from writer-director Billy Luther (Navajo, Hopi and Laguna Pueblo) had its Toronto premiere yesterday at the Toronto International Film Festival. As Deadline reported last month, Luther, who worked on both seasons of AMC’s Dark Winds, signed with CCA following positive reviews for Frybread Face and Me at SXSW last spring. The film tells the story of city-kid Benny (Keir Tallman) who is sent to spend the summer in Arizona on his grandmother’s ranch on the reservation where his Grandma Lorraine (Sarah H. Natani) and cousin Frybread (Charley Hogan) teach him about their world. Speaking to Variety magazine this week, producer Chad Burris, executive director of the New Mexico Media Academy, talks about the casting choices, as well as his draw to Luther’s material. “What I thought was interesting was how the story of Benny was juxtaposed with Native life, and I thought it was so fresh. It had a casual approach to what it was saying,” Burris says. He also says he was glad to bring the production to New Mexico. “We built Grandma’s ranch from a blank piece of dirt. We built every single thing you see on screen. None of that existed. We brought the trailer in, the swing, the barn and the sheep coral. I was amazed at what the crew pulled off. It was an absolute work of art,” Burris tells Variety.

Sweatshirt weather

It must be said: Waking up to rain is the best. More ahead, according to the National Weather Service, which forecasts an 80% chance for showers and possibly a thunderstorm before noon, then scattered showers and thunderstorms between noon and 3 pm, then showers and possibly a thunderstorm after 3 pm (so...rain all day). Look for a high temperature near 65 degrees, with southeast wind 10 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon. Also: a 70% chance for rain tonight and a decent chance for more in the coming days.

Thanks for reading! The Word enjoyed seeing Zozobra’s Sept. 1 burn in Santa Fe make the Atlantic magazine’s Photo of the Week roundup.

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