COVID-19 by the numbers
Over the weekend, New Mexico health officials reported 521 new positive test results for COVID-19, 280 on Saturday and 241 on Sunday. The new cases bring the statewide total thus far to 16,971. Health officials have designated 6,764 of those cases as recovered.
Bernalillo County added the highest number of new cases over the weekend—198—and now has the most cases in the state: 3,775, surpassing McKinley County for the first time in the pandemic. Doña Ana County added 76 new cases total. And Lea County, where health officials say travel over the Texas border is contributing to the growth there, added 45 new cases. Santa Fe County has 21 new cases, 11 on Saturday and 10 on Sunday, bringing the county total to 417, of which the health department has designated 174 as recovered.
The state also announced six new deaths over the weekend: four on Saturday and two on Sunday. There have been 571 fatalities. As of today, 161 people are hospitalized for COVID-19.
State modelers continue evaluating school re-openings
Human Services Secretary David Scrase provided an overview of COVID-19 in New Mexico to news reporters on Friday in a data-heavy presentation of the rising caseload across the state. "It's contributing to virtually every region," Scrase said. "COVID is everywhere. It's everywhere people are." Scrase said modelers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have been mathematically investigating various school re-opening scenarios and he hopes to present their statistical analysis to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham this week. "We know it's the number one issue on the public's mind," Scrase said. "Independent of everyone's political or emotional responses, I think we will have done everything we could to look at those scenarios carefully." Scrase also reviewed data related to the rising numbers of young people being tested, testing positive, as well as semi-optimistic indications that statewide mobility—which has historically correlated to rising and falling cases—appears to be leveling off.
Santa Fe restaurants support health order
Several prominent Santa Fe restaurant owners have joined together in support of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's July 13 amended public health order re-closing indoor dining at restaurants. State officials say restaurants have regularly comprised 15% of the businesses in the health department's "rapid response" protocol (used to respond to COVID-19 incidents in the workplace). Nonetheless, last week, the New Mexico Restaurant Association organized a virtual statewide protest for restaurants opposed to the decision: Restaurants, using the hashtag #letusserve, photographed workers and employee numbers. Now, in response, Santa Fe Greater Restaurant Association board members have written a letter to the governor expressing their support and asking her to consider inviting one or two Santa Fe restaurant owners to serve as advisors during the crisis. "As restaurateurs, we view this as a public health concern first and foremost," reads the letter, which was signed by a number of prominent owners and managers and provided to SFR by an anonymous source over the weekend. "Sadly, members of our board have lost people close to them as a result of the virus, deepening our commitment to participate in the solution. None of us pretend to be scientists and soothsayers."
As for those restaurant workers…
Last week, Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley noted that workers who can prove their employers aren't providing a COVID-19 safe environment can collect unemployment even if they resign (as lack of COVID-safety precautions would constitute "good cause"). As of today, that is the case for all Pizza Inn employees in Hobbs and Carlsbad. According to a DWS news release, any such employees who voluntarily leave their jobs over the next two weeks due to concern for workplace safety violations can collect unemployment as those restaurants have continued to violate the public health order by offering dine-in service even after having their food service permit suspended by the New Mexico Environment Department on July 14. "Unfortunately, Pizza Inn ownership has refused to follow the order to stop dine-in service, putting New Mexican workers at an unnecessary risk. Unemployment benefits will therefore be extended to any worker wishing to leave their employment at this time until Aug. 1," McCamley said in a statement. On July 17, the environment department suspended food permits for four more restaurants—three in Farmington and one in Hobbs—for also violating the order.
From the folks who brought you Your New Mexico Government (SFR, KUNM and New Mexico PBS) comes a new weekly podcast airing live at 11 am on Sundays: No More Normal. Its first episode centers on endurance. Guests include: Liz McKenzie, who runs 20 miles in the Albuquerque summer heat wearing a mask; Richard Moore, a founder of the Black Berets; former Black Panther Party member Aaron Dixon; A. Billi Free and Tensei from southern New Mexico, who offer up a song about hanging in there even when your back's up against the wall; and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.
A 37-year-old Los Alamos woman was attacked by a bear Friday night at the Pajarito Ski area while she and her husband were sitting on the deck "observing Comet NEOWISE," according to a news release from the New Mexico Game and Fish Department. Reportedly, the bear came within a foot of the couple, began to chase the woman and then attacked her in the parking lot, leaving her with broken bones, a collapsed lung, bite marks and scratches; she was taken to Los Alamos Medical Center and then air lifted to University of New Mexico hospital. When Los Alamos police arrived in response to her husband's 911 call, they shot and killed a bear who was eating trash in the area. Now, conservation officers will work with the Veterinary Diagnostic Services lab in Albuquerque to examine the bear. DNA samples will be collected from the victim, her clothing and the area where the attack occurred and will be analyzed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Forensic Laboratory to verify that this was the bear involved in the attack. The department recently warned of increased bear sightings in and around Santa Fe; here are Game and Fish tips for living safely in "bear country" (and what to do if you encounter one).
Outside Magazine pitches writers
Outside Magazine says it's is always looking to work with new freelancers. We believe them because the mag has published a detailed guide for such putative freelancers that includes useful information such as how much the work pays (rates start at 50 cents per word); how long it takes to get paid (45 days from publication) and also what they're looking for: "stories about adventure sports, gear, travel, fitness, health, culture, and the environment…reporting, essays, service pieces and cultural criticism focused on the outdoor world." The guide includes lots of other info, but candidly the Word stopped reading after the 50-cent-per-word info and fell into a weird blacked-out fugue state and had to lie down with cold compresses on her head. But, we digress. While you're on the site, you should probably check out this recent piece on inconsistent mask enforcement at national parks, in case you were thinking of visiting one.
Today will be mostly sunny with a high near 86 degrees with scattered showers and thunderstorms primarily after 3 pm. More such storms expected tonight before 9 pm. Chance of rain for all that weather at 30%. As of now, looks like a stormy, monsoon-filled week!
Thanks for reading! The Word recently mentioned her admiration for writer Susan Orlean, which was enhanced by Orlean's hilarious drunken Twitter display Saturday night. When she sobered up, she talked to the Washington Post and the LA Times about it since, of course, the thread went viral.