Morning Word

Federal Judge Temporarily Suspends NM Gun Ban

NM health officials expect new COVID-19 vaccine to arrive this week

Morning Word

Judge temporarily suspends gun ban in public health order

US District Judge David Urias yesterday granted a temporary restraining order to several people and organizations challenging a new public health order in New Mexico that includes a 30-day suspension of open and concealed weapon carry in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. In enacting the order Sept. 8, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham cited the shooting deaths of three children since July—including an 11-year-old boy last week—as well as two mass shootings in the state this year in Farmington and Red River. Urias, while acknowledging the violence that spurred the order, agreed to the temporary restraining order for that portion of the health order until another hearing in October. The governor, who has faced pushback from not just Republicans and litigants but State Attorney General Raúl Torrez and other Democrats over the constitutionality of the gun ban, said in a statement she remains resolute in finding ways to address gun violence. “I refuse to be resigned to the status quo,” she said. “As governor, I see the pain of families who lost their loved ones to gun violence every single day, and I will never stop fighting to prevent other families from enduring these tragedies.” She also noted that since executing the public health order she has seen more discussion about “resolving the crisis of gun violence” and called upon other elected officials to “stand with me to enact solutions that save people’s lives.”

In her statement, the governor also said her administration “intends to update the public health order with additional measures to address public safety and health shortly”; will be increasing the state police’s presence in Bernalillo County to arrest “the hundreds of violent offenders with outstanding warrants still on our streets”; and will direct “our healthcare system to immediately expand capacity to accept persons experiencing drug addiction and homelessness.” The State Police also issued a news release yesterday to say it will be dispatching additional officers to assist the Albuquerque Police and Bernalillo County Sheriff’s departments. “The extra State Police officers assigned to the area will focus on carrying out traditional proactive policing to stop violent crime and take violent criminals off the street,” the news release says. “Officers will conduct traffic and criminal enforcement operations like saturation patrols, warrant roundups and narcotics operations.”

NM docs endorse new COVID-19, flu and RSV vaccines

In keeping with national messaging, doctors from New Mexico’s major hospitals and the state health department yesterday advocated during a news conference for residents to seek out the new COVID-19 vaccine, along with this year’s flu shot and newly available RSV vaccines for children and adults. Officials expect the new COVID-19 vaccines to begin arriving in New Mexico this week. The news conference followed the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Sept. 12 recommendation of updated COVID-19 vaccines for everyone 6 months and older after the Food and Drug Administration earlier this week 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. “So whether you’ve had zero COVID vaccines in the past, or you’ve had seven COVID vaccines in the past, it doesn’t matter,” Dr. Miranda Durham, the state health department’s medical director, said yesterday. “This COVID vaccine is for you. Getting this year’s COVID vaccine is going to help boost your immunity and protect against the current circulating variants.” New Mexico, like the rest of the US, has experienced an uptick in both cases and hospitalizations, she said, although overall hospitalizations remain low and “we’d really like to see it stay that way through the winter,” she said, adding in a later statement that “we now have a unique advantage with vaccines available for the three viruses historically linked to most hospitalizations: COVID-19, RSV, and flu,” Christus St. Vincent Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Gonzales also noted how easily Christus can become overwhelmed by serving patients from surrounding areas, and the importance of not overwhelming rural hospitals with avoidable illnesses. “This puts a stress on the whole system,” he said, “but most importantly, it leads to poor clinical outcomes.”

Unsafe schools

A pending lawsuit against Santa Fe Public Schools illuminates weaknesses in the district’s policies and approach to student security. SFR staff writer Mo Charnot in this week’s cover story takes readers behind the scenes of a harrowing alleged sexual assault at Santa Fe High School by talking with the victim. She and her family contend SFPS, as well as several school officials and a private security firm named as defendants, did not take appropriate measures to protect students from a fellow student with a known violent and criminal background, and has no policy requiring them to do so. “Santa Fe Public Schools has a continuing duty to keep students safe when at school, and it’s not just their moral obligation,” Kate Ferlic, one of the family’s lawyers, tells SFR. “The law requires the school to ensure that students are safe on campus and have an equal opportunity for an education.” Police records provided to Ferlic from calls to the campus over the last six years show more than 50 reports from campus, including at least 20 assault/battery cases. Both the victim’s family and her lawyers hope the litigation will prompt the school district to strengthen security measures; the policy addressing students charged with serious crimes hasn’t been updated in more than a decade. “We did reach out to the school in advance of filing to determine whether they wanted to resolve the case and improve safety standards, and they declined,” Ferlic says. “Litigation really becomes a tool for change at a local level and a national level.”

Rail Runner adds train today for Gov. Richardson’s funeral

The New Mexico Rail Runner Express announced yesterday it will run a special train service today for Gov. Bill Richardson’s memorial services. Archbishop John C. Wester will hold a mass of Christian burial from 11 am to 12:30 pm at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will host a reception at the New Mexico Capitol Rotunda from 1 to 2 pm. Both events are open to the public. Hundreds turned up at the State Capitol yesterday to pay their respects to Richardson as he lay in state, including “political allies, proteges and acquaintances,” the Associated Press reports, as well as “several people touched” by Richardson’s work freeing American hostages. “Responding to people and trying to help people; that was his life’s mission,” former Richardson Press Secretary Stu Nagurka told KOAT. Lujan Grisham also paid her respects to her predecessor. “It’s different, because he was my boss,” Lujan Grisham, a former state health secretary told the station. “He was larger than life in terms of his legacies and the work that he did.” Another former cabinet member of Richardson’s administration, former Indian Affairs Secretary Alvin Warren, told the Albuquerque Journal Richardson will “leave a very impressive legacy of forming partnerships with tribes…I think what was really transformative was he brought more Native people into his administration than had ever served in state government,” he said. “He really gave an opportunity for Native people to have a voice and a seat at the table that had not happened before.” Richardson died in his sleep Sept. 1 at his home in Chatham, Massachusetts.

Listen up

The University of New Mexico’s new podcast, It’s (Probably) Not Rocket Science, debuts this week with a look at artificial intelligence and its impact on higher education and criminal justice. The show, scheduled to air biweekly on Tuesdays, “will unravel the complexities of hot topics and pertinent, impactful research through conversations with esteemed UNM faculty, creatives and researchers,” a news release says. UNM Communications Representative Carly Bowling will host and produce: “There is so much incredible research conducted at UNM and I’m excited to help share that work in a new way,” Bowling said. “I hope the show can serve as an extension of the learning opportunities offered at the University and that listeners will finish episodes feeling they’ve gotten to know our faculty a little bit and learned something new along the way.” Episode 1′s focus on AI includes a discussion with Leo Lo, dean of the College of Learning and Library Sciences, and Sonia Gipson Rankin, a computer scientist and professor at the School of Law.

Becoming themselves

New Mexico native and author Benjamin Alire Sáenz talks with Time magazine, alongside filmmaker Aitch Alberto, about how Sáenz’s award-wining 2012 YA novel, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe helped them “become themselves.” Alberto wrote and directed the film adaptation, produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Eugenio Derbez, which opened in theaters Sept. 8 and has thus far received strong reviews for its “subtle charms” and “tender closeness.” The story unfolds a friendship between two teenage boys, Aristotle (Max Pelayo) and Dante (Reese Gonzales) as they struggle with their sexual and racial identities, as well as their families, in El Paso Texas circa 1987. Sáenz, who came out late in life “always remembers how painful it was for him to be a boy, growing up in New Mexico, because he never fit in,” the story notes. “He hated himself, and he’ll never forget it. Like many young people, it took him a long time to love himself. He’s not alone, he says. ‘I always felt like I lived in two worlds. Always,’” Sáenz tells the magazine. “And that was a part of my identity. I’m too Mexican for Americans, not Mexican enough for Mexicans. And I felt, coming out [as] gay, that I’m not gay enough for some people, and I’m too gay for other people. And I always felt like, ‘Well, that’s where I am: in between.’”

Writing the existential crisis

Santa Fe-based novelist James Reich, whose sixth novel The Moth for the Star SFR featured in its fall reading issue, writes about his field of ecopsychology in an essay for LitHub, specifically looking at the intersection of nature with existential fiction. “Alienation from nature, extinction of species, loss of biosphere, and the mourning of biophilia leaves all of its characters pathological,” Reich writes. “It is the absence of biophilia that betrays an android. The abjection of nature and its uncanny turn or return present an existential crisis.” Reich’s latest novel, officially publishing this week, also received notice this week from CrimeReads and Volume 1 Brooklyn, the latter including it in its “books of the month” list. Another Brooklyn publication, The Brooklyn Railpublishes a discussion between Reich and his D. Harlan Wilson, editor-in-chief of Anti-Oedipus Press, which has published some of Reich’s previous novels. SFR also spoke with Reich in advance of his SFR-sponsored event last month; he and author Matthew Binder will both be at Bookworks in Albuquerque at 6 pm, Saturday, Sept. 16 for readings, signings and a Q&A.

Storm around

The National Weather Service forecasts a 50% chance for precipitation today via scattered showers and thunderstorms after noon. Otherwise, it will be mostly sunny, with a high temperature near 73 degrees and north wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon. We may see more scattered showers and thunderstorms this evening, mainly before midnight.

Thanks for reading! The Word is preparing for winter by meditating on the Arctic.

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