COVID-19 by the numbers
New Mexico health officials yesterday reported 999 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total so far to 506,348; DOH has designated 409,008 of those cases as recovered.
Bernalillo County had 304 cases, followed by San Juan County with 98 and Doña Ana County with 94. Santa Fe County had 58 new cases.
According to the most recent weekly vaccine report, between Jan. 17-Feb. 14, 51.7% of COVID-19 cases were among people who had not completed a primary vaccination series; 29.9% were among those who had completed the series but had not received a booster; and 18.4% were among those who were fully vaccinated and boosted. For hospitalizations, those figures change to 65.3%, 21.3% and 13.4%. The percentages shift to 67.1%, 23.6% and 9.3% for fatalities.
The state also reported 17 additional deaths, 14 of them recent; there have now been 6,746 fatalities statewide. As of yesterday, 427 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.Currently, 91.6% percent of adults 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 77.7% have completed their primary series. Among the same demographic, 43.5% have had a booster shot. In the 12-17-year-old age group, 70.7% of people have had at least one dose and 60.5% have completed their primary series. Among children ages 5-11, 37.5% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 27.7% have completed their primary series. In Santa Fe County, 99% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 86.7% have completed their primary series.
New Mexicans can register for a COVID-19 vaccine here, schedule a COVID-19 vaccine booster here and view a public calendar for vaccine availability here. Parents can add dependents to their vaccine profiles here. You can read the guidelines for quarantine and isolation here.
You can order free at-home COVID-19 tests here and find other testing options at findatestnm.org. New Mexicans living in ZIP codes disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 may be eligible for five free tests through Accesscovidtest.org. The health department is offering drive-through PCR testing through Feb. 21; to find an appointment (recommended only for people with symptoms), register here. You can self-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department here.
The City of Santa Fe also is distributing free at-home rapid antigen COVID-19 tests; residents and visitors may collect one kit per person (up to four per household) at all three library branches; all three recreation centers; the convention center and tourism office. See locations and times here (except for the Genoveva Chavez Community Center, which isn’t listed, but offers free tests during its operating hours).
For those who test positive for COVID-19, the state advises seeking treatments, such as the oral treatments Paxlovid (age 12+) and Molnupiravir (age 18+); as well as monoclonal antibody treatment. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.
You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.
Gov rescinds NM’s indoor mask mandate
In a surprise announcement yesterday in a post-legislative briefing, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham rescinded New Mexico’s indoor mask mandate effective immediately. The new public health order still requires masks in hospitals and congregate health settings such as nursing homes, and allows local school boards to decide whether to continue requiring masks. Santa Fe Public Schools Public Information Officer Cody Dynarski tells SFR SFPS officials will meet today to make a decision and will have a decision before students return on Feb. 22. A news release from the governor’s office issued several hours after the governor’s announcement says the number of hospitalized New Mexicans has dropped by 37% since the end of January, and the state’s Crisis Standards of Care declaration will expire March 11.”We’re turning the corner, and learning a new way to live with COVID together. Thank you for taking care of your communities, your family, and each other,” Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said in a statement. “We still need to be careful, get tested, get treatment.” DOH canceled its weekly COVID-19 briefing this week, citing commitments at the Legislature. At last week’s Feb. 9 briefing, Scrase addressed growing “demands” to remove the mask mandate by saying the state would rely on a “softening” of hospital-related metrics, noting: “masks are effective, the state is still in hot water, and we don’t really want to do that until we feel everyone will be safe. I can’t tell you a day. But as soon as we feel like we’re getting to that day, we’re going to let everybody know. It’s just too soon today.” The new health order does not preclude businesses or other entities from “imposing more stringent requirements.” As of press time, the City of Santa Fe had not yet rescinded its current emergency declaration requiring facial coverings in city facilities, but SFR anticipates an update on that today.
Speaker Egolf won’t run for re-election
In yet another surprise yesterday, House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, announced in the final minutes of the legislative session (11:57 am, to be precise) he won’t seek re-election in 2022 and is stepping down as speaker. Egolf has represented Santa Fe’s District 47 since 2009 and has been speaker since 2017. “I have truly enjoyed nearly every minute of service that I have given to the state and my constituents,” Egolf said, describing himself as “truly energized by the potential of our great state” and possessing the belief that “the future of New Mexico is incredibly bright.” He said his decision was recent, but “some time in coming over the past year,” as “the time I spent away from my family as a result of my public service has weighed on me more with each passing day, as my children get closer to leaving home and going to college or going on to what is after high school.” As a result, he said, he wants “to take every opportunity I can to spend as much time with them as I can” and that it is time to help his wife Kelly Egolf “raise our girls and it is also time for me to play a supporting role to Kelly’s dreams…as she has for me over the past 13 years.” Egolf, who has led myriad progressive initiatives on behalf of Democrats and is widely credited with building the Democrats’ numbers in the House, received a standing ovation following his announcement.
Leg passes crime bill, tax measures; voting bill dies via filibuster
While the Legislature’s closure was, perhaps, overshadowed by a string of surprise announcements, several notable bills made it to the finish line, as did a $8.5 billion spending plan. The Albuquerque Journal reports 64 bills and two constitutional amendments made it through the process, the lowest number to survive in a 30-day session in at least the last decade. The bills include pay increases for teachers; a bill capping interest rates on payday loans; expansion of the state’s Opportunity Scholarship; amendments to the state’s Harm Reduction Act, allowing for use of fentanyl strips to help deter fatal overdoses; expansion of the Buy New Mexico initiative; tax reform measures, which include exempting Social Security retirement income from taxation for certain income brackets; and a crime bill that includes myriad components, including law enforcement retention bonuses, enhanced criminal penalties for some crimes and new provisions related to ankle monitoring for pre-trial defendants.
Two of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s priorities, creation of a Hydrogen Hub Act and a pretrial rebuttal presumption did not pass. And a proposed voting bill failed to receive a vote after state Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, filibustered the measure with a multi-hour speech on the Senate floor. In response, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver issued a statement following the session’s adjournment describing herself as “extremely disappointed in today’s partisan filibuster by Senate Republicans that killed a critical bill for New Mexico’s voters and election administrators.” The bill, she said, “included important provisions to streamline election administration procedures that had buy-in from across the political spectrum. This bill would have protected election administrators from threats and intimidation, provided automatic address updates from the MVD, training for poll challengers, and allowed for the submission of electronic nominating petitions, among much more.” The governor has until March 9 to act on legislation.
PNM proposes plan to avoid summer blackouts
PNM yesterday filed a plan with the Public Regulation Commission, described in a news release as a “solution” to “keep the lights on this summer.” The plan follows recent announcements that PNM customers could face electricity shortages during peak months leading to blackouts this summer, and maybe next summer, pending the Public Regulation Commission and the utility company’s wherewithal to come up with some emergency solutions. PNM’s news release says while the state’s Energy Transition Act “set New Mexico on a responsible path to transition our energy to cleaner sources…there have been bumps in the road because of the perfect storm of regulatory challenges, global supply chain problems, and lengthier periods of unseasonably-hot weather driven by climate change.” The company now seeks PRC approval to run one of two operating units at the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station for an extra three months this summer to avoid rolling blackouts. Westmoreland Coal Co., which owns the nearby San Juan Mine that supplies the plant, also supplied a letter in support of the plan, but says the PRC will need to make a decision by March 25. “This is because Westmoreland must cease mining by the 26 if an extension is not approved,” PNM’s news release notes.
Santa Fe Art Institute hosts a virtual discussion, “Sites of Resistance,” as part of its Desierto Mountain Time series at 1 pm, Saturday, Feb. 19, featuring artists who work at the intersections between diasporic communities; cultures and places to forge sites of resistance; and sources of power: New Mexico multimedia visual artist and dancer Nikesha Breeze; Philadelphia-based artist Maria Alarcón; and Texas designer, artist and educator Nansi Guevara. Register here.
Honoring local artists
Nominations are now open for the City of Santa Fe Mayor’s Arts Awards, an annual recognition for individuals and organizations. Nominations can be made by anyone in the following six categories: Arts, Philanthropy, Culture Connects, Arts Innovator, Melissa Engestrom Youth Artist Award and Lifetime Accomplishment. The last category is new this year. “These awards celebrate the essence of Santa Fe,” Mayor Alan Webber said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to honoring the new and the traditional, the makers and the givers, all of whom support and nourish our vibrant arts scene.” Nominees should be 21 years of age or older for all of the awards, except for the youth award, which is open to anyone under 21. Nominations will not be considered for past recipients of the Mayor’s Awards and those that have received the Governor’s Arts Awards within the past five years. Online nomination forms are available via Survey Monkey or email [email protected] for a printed form. The deadline is 5 pm, March 15, 2022, with an event honoring recipients summer/fall 2022, COVID-depending.
Georgia O’Keeffe inspires yet another fashion designer (dedicated Morning Word readers may recall designer Ulla Johnson’s pre-fall 2022 show, photographed at Ghost Ranch). This time, it’s Raquel Allegra’s Fall 2022 collection, which Vogue says began with a book about O’Keeffe the designer picked up when she was visiting her second home near Taos. “Georgia was the first artist that I ever kind of became aware of as a little girl through my mom’s eyes, and she’s just been one of those artists for me that’s always been there in the background,” Allegra tells Vogue. “In a way, I’ve almost taken her for granted a little bit.” As for that how that translated into her new line: “Allegra looked to the artist’s intoxicating color palette of dusty ochres, twilight blues, and rich, piercing sunflower yellows for inspiration, while also paying homage to the various flora that inspired the sensual curves and lines of her forms by way of abstracted, hand-painted prints.”
Meow Wolf developing new…something
Meow Wolf is currently filming a multimedia production in Santa Fe: Meow Wolf Stream. According to a news release yesterday from the state Film Office, the production will employ approximately 55 New Mexico crew members and 10 New Mexico principal actors. The production is described as the company’s “next immersive experience,” and a “narrative-based multimedia piece.” Sandra Wang is serving as creative director (Convergence Station), and it is being produced by Jacqueline Delaney (Omega Mart, Convergence Station). “We can’t reveal too much, but let’s just say our next exhibition project will be an inspiring trip into the collaborative subconscious of Meow Wolf’s artists,” Delaney said in a statement. “Voyage into a strange psychic channel between worlds where creative ideas get lost and found. Travelers passing can learn to surf this stream and access their own creative flow.”
Weekend warm up
No more snow today, the National Weather Service says. Instead, look for sunny skies with a high near 45 degrees and north wind 10 to 15 mph. Sunny with temps in the low 50s will continue straight on through the long weekend, with another chance for snow (20%) Monday night.
Thanks for reading! The Word doesn’t normally seek out opera and cabaret in combination, but the recent Tiny Desk concert featuring Anthony Roth Costanzo (who was at the Santa Fe Opera last season) and Justin Vivian Bond in “Only an Octave Apart,” was pretty enjoyable. If you have a long weekend for Monday’s Presidents Day holiday, enjoy; The Word returns Tuesday, Feb. 22.