NM Starts New Year with New Health Secretary

New NM health secretary starts today

Patrick M. Allen takes over as New Mexico’s newest health secretary today, relieving Dr. David Scrase, who has been helming both DOH and the Human Services Department since Dr. Tracie Collins departed in July of 2021. “I’m grateful to Dr. Scrase for his service to New Mexicans as secretary of the Department of Health,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “Because of his leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our state had a nationally leading response that saved the lives of countless New Mexicans. On top of that, the Department of Health undertook numerous other initiatives that are improving health outcomes around the state. Thank you, Dr. Scrase.” (Scrase will continue to serve as cabinet secretary for DHS). Allen most recently served as the director of the Oregon Health Authority under Gov. Kate Brown—an agency characterized as problematic by Oregon’s gubernatorial candidates in interviews with SFR’s sister paper Willamette Week. Tina Kotek, who won that election, indicated during her campaign she would fire Allen if elected; in November Allen submitted his resignation, effective at the end of Gov. Kate Brown’s term this month. Prior to working for the Health Authority, Allen served in several roles at the state’s Department of Consumer and Business Services, including as director. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Oregon State University. “Patrick is a regulator and public health professional with a proven record in improving health care systems, and I have full confidence he will do the same here in New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “He shares my vision of a New Mexico that fosters better health outcomes for every resident of our beautiful state.” The governor also announced in her inauguration speech Jan. 1 (see below), she will be asking the Legislature to create a New Mexico Health Care Authority. Though starting his new role today, Allen’s cabinet appointment will require confirmation by the state Senate.

AG’s office proposes changes to Hermits Peak law rules

Shortly before his term ended, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed comments pushing for changes to the federal Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act. Those comments address concerns with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s appointed claims manager; limitations on damages; and the lack of a clear appellate process. Specifically, Balderas said he wants FEMA to appoint an independent claims manager with experience practicing law in New Mexico to oversee the process of reviewing New Mexico’s claims for losses and to provide a clear appellate process. While any disagreements over the claims manager’s decisions can be appealed, Balderas said he determined the regulations are unclear regarding how the appeal process will work. “We’re taking action today to begin recovery from a tragic wildfire that never should have occurred, and we are fighting for the federal government to acknowledge the gaps in the FEMA process that have historically ignored the unique needs of communities,” Balderas said in a statement. Balderas additionally suggests the regulations “remove financial barriers to allow for all claimants to be compensated for all of their losses, including the costs of assessing and estimating the damages.” The AG has also filed a “notice of loss” to seek compensation for billions of dollars in damages suffered by local and state government agencies resulting from the fires. Raúl Torrez was sworn in as the state’s new AG on Jan. 1.

Lujan Grisham: Housing, addiction priorities in second term

ICYMI, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales were sworn in for their second terms at midnight on Jan. 1, and held a public celebration later that day at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, followed by a public reception at the state capitol and a private ball at the Eldorado Hotel closed to the media. In her speech, Lujan Grisham described her first term as one that changed the “historical trajectory” of the state: “Workers have more rights and better opportunities; families have more support and better services; more of our natural environment and wildlife is protected by the power of the state,” she said. Priorities in her second term, she said, will include initiatives to address homelessness and affordable housing; opioid addiction; an expansion of health care and the creation of a New Mexico Health Care Authority; along with expanded initiatives to fight poverty; a proposal to cover all health care premium costs for all educators and school workers; and continuing to protect access to abortion. “I vow today that we will codify Roe v. Wade as the law of the land within our borders,” she said. “Never again, for all of time, will a woman in the state of New Mexico have anything less than full bodily autonomy and freedom of choice.” Read Lujan Grisham’s complete speech here. The next legislative session begins Jan. 17. Lawmakers can begin pre-filing legislation today.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Dec. 30New cases: 365; 659,056 total cases. Deaths: six; Santa Fe County has had 376 total deaths; 8,814; total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 95. Patients on ventilators: six

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Dec. 29 “community levels” map shows three counties categorized as “yellow”—medium risk—for COVID-19: McKinley, De Baca, Hidalgo counties. The rest of the state—including Santa Fe County—is green, aka has low risk. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.

Resources: Receive four free at-home COVID-19 tests per household via COVIDTests.gov; Check availability for additional free COVID-19 tests through Project ACT; CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; COVID-19 treatment info; NMDOH immunocompromised tool kit. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453. DOH encourages residents to download the NM Notify app and to report positive COVID-19 home tests on the app.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Listen up

Stand-up comedian Marc Maron doesn’t normally focus on his own upbringing on his interview podcast WTF with Marc Maron, but he ended last year with an episode featuring guitarist and singer-songwriter Eric McFadden that delves into their shared teen years in Albuquerque, “fostering their creative passions in art studios, record stores and guitar shops around town.” During the show, Maron and McFadden “finally sit down in the garage to talk about what happened when [McFadden] left New Mexico, how he wound up working with George Clinton, Bernie Worrell, Eric Burdon from The Animals and others, as well as launching his own solo career.”

Food for life

The Guardian profiles New Mexico’s Native American food truck scene, opening the story with a view of the long line for Chef Ray Naranjo’s (Santa Clara and Odawa) truck Manko where “attenders try to decide between a turkey sandwich with cactus fruit syrup, a salad layered with popped quinoa and amaranth grains and a host of other options.” Manko is just one example, The Guardian notes, of Native-owned food trucks “forging their own path—traveling the dusty highways and backroads of New Mexico to bring Indigenous recipes to customers.” The Food Truck Scholar podcast host Ariel D Smith tells The Guardian the food trucks are working to provide “four-star dining experiences” to locations that otherwise would lack access. In addition to showcasing the Native American fusion cuisine Naranjo offers, the story also highlights Yapopup, which offers Indigenous soul food. Ryan Rainbird Taylor (Ohkay Owingeh) launched his truck after he was furloughed during the pandemic by the Four Seasons in Santa Fe, and named his endeavor in honor of Popay, leader of the Pueblo Revolt. “Chef Ray is definitely my biggest influence, my biggest teacher,” Taylor tells The Guardian about Naranjo’s impact on his work. “We’re not related, we don’t have any family connection, but he’s never given up on me.” Min Arquero (Cochiti Pueblo) began her truck Over the Moon shortly before the pandemic, an initiative that harkens to her childhood selling frybread with her mom on the side of the road. Over the Moon offers Indian tacos and Frito Pies. “I do it all for my mom,” says Arquero, whose mother died of breast cancer in 2003. “I have her here in spirit, but now I have this business.”

The way we were/are

Condé Nast Senior Editor Megan Spurrell includes Santa Fe as one of her “best” trips of 2022, writing that meeting up here with four of her best friends from childhood reminded her that “even as the world reopens and begs us to travel further and further, there is so much to appreciate close to home, including loved ones we’re still catching up on time with. My friends and I ate enchiladas smothered in red and green chiles at Tia Sophia’s, we climbed into ancient cave dwellings at Bandelier National Monument, and walked the streets of old Santa Fe howling in laughter at jokes I don’t even remember. It was perfect.” The folks at Cool Hunting (an online magazine about trends, not hunting), also name Santa Fe in their roundup of best trips of 2022, pointing to their story from last summer (which we recall from the first time around) that highlighted pueblo toursDolinaLa Boca and many other fine local spots (speaking of La Boca, visiting its new bodega, which opened in December, is on our January resolutions list). And since we’re still in a quasi-nostalgic frame of mind, Travel Awaits looks back at its “most read” retirement stories of 2022, with “Small Towns In New Mexico Perfect For Retirees” clocking in at number 10. And, yes, Santa Fe is among the 12 small towns listed as perfect for retirees. To wit: “It’s tops for scenery, pleasant climate, fun cultural events, and great outdoor activities.” As for the new year, it’s pretty new, but Good Housekeeping has Albuquerque at number 14 on its list of 20 locales to visit in March (The National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show takes place March 3-5 at the Sandia Resort & Casino). And Hospitality Net forecasts visitors’ quest for out-of-this-world travel experiences could usher in increased visits to “extra-terrestrial hotspots” such as Roswell.

Take by storm

The National Weather Service forecasts a 30% chance of snow showers today between 2 and 5 pm, then a comparable chance for snow this evening before 8 pm, with total accumulation in both instances less than half an inch. Otherwise, today will be partly sunny, with a high temperature near 34 degrees and west wind 10 to 15 mph.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year! The Word has decided to embrace cluttercore in 2023, given her failures with decluttering last year.