New Mexico COVID-19 Cases: 5,938

COVID-19 by the numbers

Over the weekend, New Mexico health officials reported a total of 287 new positive tests for COVID-19, 190 on Saturday and 97 on Sunday. However, Sunday's figures are incomplete due to ongoing reporting delays from some private labs to the state Department of Health. The new numbers bring the total statewide cases to 5,938. Santa Fe County had eight new positive cases on Saturday and one on Sunday, with Saturday representing the highest number of reported cases in a single day for the county. The state also announced 12 new deaths over the weekend, bringing the state total fatality number to 265.

On Saturday, a new public health order went into effect for most of the state, opening retail and other businesses at 25% capacity, and requiring everyone wear face masks in public (except when exercising, eating or drinking). Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham discussed the order at a news conference on Friday, acknowledging that the new mask requirement has been controversial. "I know not everyone agrees with this," she said. "If you could try to make it practical and not political." The governor also announced a Mask Madness competition for the state. Submissions are open through March 24. There will be prizes.

In a new op-ed published by SFR over the weekend, Human Services Secretary David Scrase also urged the public to depoliticize the pandemic and wear masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. "As we start to reopen," Scrase writes, "COVID-19 spread is predicted to increase, which will increase the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths." A political divide "has emerged between those whose top priority is reopening the economy and those whose top priority is saving lives," he notes. "The good news is that adopting COVID-19 Safe Practices supports the goals of both."

You can read all of SFR's COVID-19 coverage here. If you've had experiences with testing or the virus, we would like to hear from you.

Pop quiz: Santa Fe County Treasurer

Democrats Lucinda Marker, Jennifer Manzanares and Robert Rubin all hope to be Santa Fe County's next treasurer. But which one knows the statutory beneficiaries who receive disbursements from the office? And who can rattle off the difference between the operational and debt service mill rates? If you're still awake after reading the preceding two sentences, be sure to check out these contenders' responses in SFR's latest pop quiz to the candidates competing in the June 2 primary. This particular race ends with the primary; neither the Republican nor Libertarian parties are fielding candidates in the general election. You can catch up on all of our election coverage here.

Pandemic voting

Speaking of elections, if you requested an absentee ballot for the upcoming election and haven't received it yet, you're not alone (the Word also is still waiting). Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver acknowledged some voters have yet to receive theirs during last Friday's COVID-19 news conference. In Santa Fe, County Clerk Geraldine Salazar says she's mailed out 22,239 ballots, but many have yet to be received; Salazar says she's reached out to the state's congressional delegation for help in addressing the slow mail delivery. Toulouse Oliver says clerks across the state also are having trouble finding adequate poll workers for the election, leading to concerns about a bottleneck on election night, particularly if more people end up voting in person than anticipated.

George RR Martin and friends buy Santa Fe Southern

As of Friday, the Santa Fe Southern Railway has new owners, and they have big—albeit stalled—plans for the popular train that has historically ferried riders between Santa Fe and Lamy. Game of Thrones author and Jean Cocteau Cinema owner George RR Martin, Violet Crown Cinema owner Bill Banowsky and New Mexico School for the Arts co-founder and Board Chair Catherine Oppenheimer have sealed the deal and plan to revitalize the train with theme rides, interactive experiences and more. The trio's proximity in the Railyard led to the friendship, which led to a fateful dinner with margaritas and the birth of Santa Fe and Lamy Railroad Partners LLC. COVID-19 has delayed plans until 2022, but Martin personally has visions of using the train in film productions and staging interactive events on board for passengers, such as a murder mystery event called "Murder on the Lamy Express." "We don't want this to be a shabby railroad on its last legs," Martin told the Albuquerque Journal. "We want this to be a real jewel."

Listen up

Episode 63 of "Your New Mexico Government" hones in on the domestic cleaners, hospital janitors, sanitation workers and home health workers who are part of the front-line workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. Guests include: University of New Mexico housekeeping staff members Delmy Nova and Alicia Hernandez, who say they are not receiving the same Personal Protective Equipment as the hospital's medical staff, and a custodial staff member who describes discrimination by other staff due to the lack PPE for such workers. UNM student Anita Reta launched a GoFundMe effort to aid UNMH custodial staff. Mayte Lopez, home healthcare coordinator for Encuentro NM and Navajo Family Caregiver Support Program's Valerie Tsosie discuss the challenges for their workers; and Billy Gallegos, deputy director of the City of Albuquerque Solid Waste Department, gives an update on sanitation workers. "Your New Mexico Government" is a collaboration between SFR, KUNM and New Mexico PBS.

The Midtown campus has a long history and a wide-open future. The recent Santa Fe City Council selection of a master developer for the 64-acre project re-ups questions about the best vision and use for the large swatch of land at the center of town. Since COVID-19, the property has been used to house homeless people during stay-at-home orders, but that's unlikely to last when the pandemic fades and the development process begins in earnest. In the latest episode of SFR's "Reported" podcast, Editor Julie Ann Grimm interviews Homewise Chief Executive Officer Mike Loftin about the project.

Who cried wolf?

Even before the pandemic and public health orders toppled the local economy, arts juggernaut Meow Wolf was facing financial problems. That's the story gleaned from a recording SFR acquired of an all-staff meeting the company held last month following the layoffs of 200 employees. In audio from the April 13 Zoom meeting, Meow Wolf's trio of CEOs—Carl Christensen, Ali Rubenstein and Jim Ward—told remaining workers the company had already needed new investors to stay viable beyond June, and were even grappling with the idea of contracting much of its work to outside companies in the months leading up to the temporary closure of its flagship House of Eternal Return installation in mid-March. "We knew we were going to hit our financial wall in June," Ward said in the meeting. "We were out trying to raise money in a very, very dry desert, and then, on top of that, COVID-19 hit us."

Butterflies are free to fly

In a challenge to the mainstream narratives of murder hornets and swarming moths, SFR serves up a look at the other flying creatures that showed up in large numbers this spring: painted lady butterflies. "Obviously the flood of painted ladies that we had this spring indicates that there was very successful reproduction in Mexico over the winter. So they flooded north. We'll just have to wait and see what happens," Butterfly Landscapes of New Mexico author Steve Cary tells SFR. "If conditions are good for them, which typically means that the caterpillars have lots of good food to eat…if it's a good year for thistles, it probably means we'll have a good population, another generation of painted ladies flying around."

Warmed over

Today's forecast: Sunny, with a high near 88 degrees today, coupled with north wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon. Looking like a sunny week overall, but temps will head down into the high 70s and low 80s starting Wednesday.

Thanks for reading! The Word has had more conversations about face masks in the last few days than she would have thought possible. Here's a decent think piece on face coverings from Dahlia Lithwick at Slate.