Editorial: Credit where due for public servants rising to the occasion - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Credit where due for public servants rising to the occasion

Solutions are, by definition, reactive. After all, you can’t have a solution without a problem first.

Lately, government has stepped up to address some major problems. As often as the Journal Editorial Board points out problems that affect New Mexicans and Metro residents, we’d be remiss not to acknowledge when government responds in a beneficial way.

First, a big hand to Operation Blue Crush — a fitting code name for a 90-day operation targeting “the growing fentanyl threat” and suspects in violent crimes.

About 20 local, state and federal agencies around New Mexico conducted the operation, netting 310 arrests — 60% of which were related to fentanyl — and the seizure of 100 firearms and 130 kilograms of drugs.

Greg Millard, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s El Paso division, said that, to his knowledge, no other state has conducted an operation specifically targeting fentanyl traffickers.

“These aren’t fentanyl users; we were very clear to the enforcement initiatives we’re not going after users,” he said. “We’re going after the dealers.”

New Mexico State Police Deputy Chief Troy Weisler said of the 130 kilograms of drugs seized during the operation, 54 kilograms were fentanyl.

“(It) would have caused untold numbers of overdoses and deaths in our community had it made it to the street,” Weisler said. “The value of that fentanyl — this is just the fentanyl — $5.4 million.”

•••

During a Legislative Finance Committee meeting in mid-May, New Mexico Public Education Department officials said data from the SAT, the standardized test for juniors, would be available in August. But data for the final Measures of Student Success & Achievement assessments, the tests for grades three through eight for reading and math, wouldn’t be available until November. Testing for both wrapped up in May.

New Mexico Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus acknowledged that turnaround time was “just not acceptable.” He was right. Delaying the release of student testing data until well into the next school year would have been a setback for every New Mexico school district seeking to gauge learning loss during the pandemic and get students on track.

PED officials apparently exerted the requisite pressure on the contractor that processes assessment results, Cognia Inc., to provide a more reasonable timeline.

Earlier this month, PED announced a quicker turnaround.

Results for the SAT were expected in early June instead of the original timeline of August, according to a memo from the PED. End-of-year Measures of Student Success & Achievement (MSSA) results are expected in late August or early September.

Much better. Well done, PED.

•••

Same goes for the New Mexico Department of Health. It reversed course on a policy to withhold certain COVID data. While its reasons for doing that were well justified — officials grew concerned that the numbers allowed for a misperception about vaccine effectiveness — we felt the data should be presented in a clear, complete, transparent and consistent manner to quell accusations DOH had something to hide.

After briefly removing data on breakthrough cases in its weekly epidemiology reports in mid-April, DOH reverted to its original reporting format in May, with an important disclaimer that the data are difficult to interpret.

Many factors have made the data less useful for showing how effective the vaccine is. Among them: People have had varying numbers of shots; behaviors have increased their exposure to the virus; a lot of people are taking home tests and not reporting their positive cases; and infection numbers don’t account for issues like comorbidities, reinfection status, time since a person’s vaccination, age and access to care.

The data still show vaccines remain protective against staving off death and serious illness; that takeaway is simply no longer as obvious as it used to be.

At any rate, DOH deserves credit for wanting to do the right thing and, ultimately, doing the right thing.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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