Judge postpones GOP redistricting lawsuit
Ninth Judicial District Judge Fred Van Soelen ruled that a lawsuit brought by the state Republican Party and others challenging New Mexico’s new congressional map can continue, but that no changes will be made before the June 7 primary election. Van Soelen denied plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, noting in his ruling that “to require a change this late in the game would bring a level of chaos to the process that is not in the public’s or the candidate’s interest.” However, he also denied defendants’ request to dismiss the case—the suit names Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and other officials. The judge said the suit had made a “strong, well-developed case” for political gerrymandering in the congressional map, but did not weigh in on whether political gerrymandering violates the equal protection clause of the state Constitution. As the Albuquerque Journal details, the governor’s attorneys have argued claims of partisan gerrymandering constitute a political question outside of the court’s purview. Both sides in this case praised Van Soelen’s rulings yesterday. The governor’s office told the Journal the judge’s decision protects the upcoming election and, therefore, voters: “Protecting New Mexicans’ access to the ballot box is critical – any attempt to prevent New Mexicans from participating in our democratic process goes against our values,” Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said. In a statement, the state GOP Chairman Steve Pearce said the party is “pleased with the court’s ruling and that the court understands that we have important and legitimate claims under the Constitution.”
Gov announces nuptials
Vice President Kamala Harris will officiate Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Manuel Cordova’s wedding next month in Washington, DC. The governor and Cordova announced yesterday the event will take place May 21, followed by a gathering for family and friends in Northern New Mexico later in the month. According to a news release sent on behalf of the governor, Lujan Grisham and Cordova, a small business owner in Albuquerque, have been together since 2012, and previously postponed a wedding ceremony due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re delighted to celebrate our wedding in front of family and close friends,” they said in a joint statement. “Like so many New Mexicans, we’ve postponed family celebrations over the past two years during this pandemic. We feel fortunate to be with our loved ones in celebration of our marriage.” Both Lujan Grisham, 62, and Cordova, 66, have been married before. As the Associated Press reports, the governor was married to Gregory Grisham for more than 20 years until he died in 2004. CNN reports the DC wedding will take place at the Naval Observatory, where the vice president lives, and points out it is the second White House-related wedding announcement, following news that President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will host a wedding reception at the White House in November for their eldest granddaughter, Naomi Biden.
State health official expects rise in COVID-19 cases
SFR caught up with Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase yesterday to discuss the current trajectory of the pandemic, with topics including: masks on airplanes, sewage surveillance, the BA.2 sub-variant and breakthrough cases. Scrase, who renewed the state’s public health order last week through May 16, says the state is anticipating a rise in COVID-19 cases here due to the Omicron sub-variant BA.2. “I think we’re anticipating seeing some sort of peak,” Scrase said. “We don’t know what to expect, though. Case counts on the East Coast and West Coast are going up. I think we’re 23% higher than we were last week nationally. One [location] in their Omicron BA.1 peak went way up and then their BA.2 is about half that height. If that was our experience that would be 3,000 cases a day, but we seem to have a really slow evolution here to BA.2. And part of the problem with that is any data that we have is a minimum of two to four weeks old, and we get it every two weeks, so it’s like three to four weeks old. We think though that we are probably well above 50% now. But other than [BA.2] being resistant to [the monoclonal antibody treatment] Sotrovimab, it doesn’t seem to have much difference in terms of infectiousness so far; hospitalizations, deaths, resistance to vaccines. So, it’s kind of more of the same, but hopefully a lot less.”
COVID-19 by the numbers
New cases: 120; 520,402 total cases
Deaths: 11; Santa Fe County has had 271 total deaths; there have been 7,427 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 55; Patients on ventilators: four
Breakthrough cases: According to the state’s most recent vaccine report, published yesterday, during the four-week period of March 21 to April 18, 40% of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico were among people who had not completed a primary vaccination series; 20.8% were among those who had completed the series but had not received a booster; and 38.6% were among those who were fully vaccinated and boosted. For hospitalizations, those figures change to 55.7%,18% and 26.2%. The percentages shift to 45.5%, 22.7% and 31.8% for fatalities.
Resources: Vaccine registration; Booster registration Free at-home rapid antigen tests; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department; COVID-19 treatment info: oral treatments Paxlovid (age 12+) and Molnupiravir (age 18+); and monoclonal antibody treatments. Toolkit for immunocompromised individuals. 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.
PBS News Hour spent some time with students at Armand Hammer United World College talking about the war in Ukraine. The school’s 230 politically engaged students come from 90 different countries, including 19-year-old Masha Novikova, whose parents and three younger siblings live in Cherkasy, southeast of Kyiv. “Whenever I call them, I just want to make sure they’re alive and safe,” Novikova tells PBS special correspondent Kathleen McCleery. Moscow-born student Sophia Pavlenko, who now lives with her family in New Mexico, organized a fundraiser with her Russian and Ukrainian friends to raise money for Ukrainian hospitals.
US Sen. Heinrich talks hunting, conservation
US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, gave a long interview to Field & Stream magazine, discussing both his conservation work and his passion for hunting. Heinrich recently received Ducks Unlimited’s Wetlands Conservation Achievement Award in the senior federal official category, and has several conservation initiatives underway. He tells the magazine he became a hunter as an adult after getting to know several avid hunters through his conservation work. “The ability to learn from them changed everything for me,” Heinrich says. “Hunting quickly became one of the central activities I organize my life around.” He tries to help dispel what he calls misconceptions about hunting with his colleagues in Washington, DC by hosting wild game dinners. He also addresses hunters’ potential wariness about Democratic candidates because of polarized views on gun ownership. “The reason people are afraid of restrictions is there’s been this cycle of fear among organizations like the NRA and to some degree, industry participants,” he says. “We should celebrate the use of firearms in sports like hunting, in particular, and call into question the type of gun culture that we saw on January 6, 2021.” The interview also covers drought, Mexican gray wolf recovery, public lands access and the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which Heinrich is co-sponsoring (among other topics).
In the dark
New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns receives plenty of love on a regular basis from the national travel story industry (Thrillist even wrote about the best nearby Airbnb rentals recently). The national park also figures in former President Barack Obama’s memories, as relayed in a recent video promoting the new Netflix documentary Our Great National Parks, which Obama narrates. Obama sat down with former White House photographer Pete Souza and recalled how frightened the Secret Service had become when Obama visited Carlsbad Caverns in 2016. “I don’t know if you remember, there came a point when they turned off all the lights,” Obama said. “You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.” Souza remembered: “It’s the most nervous Secret Service has ever been because they could not see you for a good 15 seconds. You disappeared.” Obama concurred: “I vanished,” he said. “That was pretty spooky,” Souza replied. As for the caves themselves, Obama says: “They were remarkable. I didn’t expect them to be as massive as they were. You know, one thing you always get an impression of is what it must have been like if you were one of the first people to really see these places and survey them. You know, the amount of courage that would be involved.”
As the wind blows
Hot and windy are the watchwords today. The National Weather Service forecasts sunny skies with a high near 80 degrees and west wind 10 to 15 mph increasing to 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph. Fire managers reported the Cooks Peak Fire in Mora County as of last night remained very active at 3,500 acres and 0% contained. The Hermits Peak Fire near Las Vegas as of yesterday was at 81% containment and 7,581 acres.
Thanks for reading! The Word just finished watching the second season of Beforeigners and has time travel on her mind, so happily read this time-travel related interview with author Emily St. John Mandel (who will be in Santa Fe in May for the Santa Fe Literary Festival btw).