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SAT: US Navy medics due at New Mexico hospital strained by COVID , + More

San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington
PGP:0xa0a295abdc3469c9 http://baltakatei.com
San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington

US Navy medics due at New Mexico hospital strained by COVIDAssociated Press

A team of U.S. Navy health care providers is expected to arrive this weekend at San Juan Regional Medical Center, where an official said a continuing surge in COVID-19 patients has pushed the hospital to more than 200% of its critical care capacity.

Dr. Brad Greenberg, an emergency physician and medical director of emergency preparedness at the hospital, told The Farmington Daily Times the facility in northwest New Mexico faces the greatest critical care challenge among hospitals in the state.

Greenberg said the 194-bed hospital has been at more than twice its critical care capacity for several weeks.

Twenty military medical doctors, respiratory therapists and nurses are due to arrive Sunday to take over from a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Disaster Medical Assistance Team.

The hospital declared a standards-of-care crisis in early November, the Daily Times reported.

San Juan County had the largest rate of hospital admissions statewide in mid-November, at almost 60 patients per 100,000 population, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.

The rate fell last week to about 44 hospital admissions per 100,000, behind De Baca County's nearly 74 per 100,000.

State health officials say unvaccinated patients made up 84% of COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide and 89% of deaths from Feb. 1 to Nov. 29.

Scenes from week 1 of Ghislaine Maxwell's sex-abuse trial By Tom Hays Associated Press

The first week of the sex-abuse trial of Ghislaine Maxwell saw the first of her four main accusers taking the witness stand to give emotional testimony accusing the British socialite of coaxing her — at just 14 — into sexual encounters with financier Jeffrey Epstein.

The jury at the federal trial in Manhattan also heard from former employees who offered an inside look at a lavish lifestyle Epstein shared with Maxwell, who was his girlfriend and then his employee. Her lawyers say she's a scapegoat for Epstein, who killed himself in 2019 while awaiting trial behind bars.

Here are snapshots from a trial drawing international attention:


The first Maxwell accuser's story began innocently enough: She was a 14-year-old eating ice cream at a music camp in 1994 when she was approached by Epstein and Maxwell, walking her Yorkie. What followed over the next few years, the accuser said, scarred her for life.

The witness — a woman now in her early 40s who was introduced to jurors as "Jane" to protect her privacy — testified that Maxwell and Epstein groomed her by taking her shopping and inviting her and her mother to Epstein's mansion in Palm Beach, Florida.

Soon she was visiting the home by herself when, she said, Maxwell and Epstein lured her into unwanted sexual contact that Maxwell treated as "no big deal." It was a pattern prosecutors hope to prove was repeated over and over with other girls and young women.

On Friday, the prosecution unfolded a green massage table from the Epstein home to corroborate the accuser's testimony that massages were used as pretense for the sexual encounters.

The defense demanded to know why "Jane" had taken so long to come forward.

"I was scared," she said, choking back tears. "I was embarrassed, ashamed. I didn't want anybody to know any of this about me."


Prosecutors say Maxwell created "a culture of silence" to shroud her and Epstein's crimes. And a piece of evidence seemed to put that culture in writing.

Those instructions were part of a 58-page booklet with rules for staff working at the mansion. As if to drive home the point about keeping Maxwell and Epstein's secrets, prosecutors say Epstein ordered the construction of a detached staff quarters surrounded by a tall wall that prevented any view of the main house.

Juan Alessi, a former estate manager, testified he considered the privacy measure "a kind of warning that I was supposed to be blind, deaf and dumb, to say nothing of their lives."

Alessi recalled seeing "Jane" several times at the residence and noticed she looked underage. But he also said he never saw her enter the master bedroom with Epstein — or noticed anything else suspicious about her and the revolving door of young women that would have indicated sex crimes were occurring in his workplace.

He claimed no one alerted him to any misconduct.

"I wish they would have because I would have done something," he said.


The defense displayed some of the tactics it plans to use to discredit "Jane" and three other key accusers who are slated to testify before the end of the month.

Maxwell's lawyers are seeking to portray their accounts of abuse as unreliable, suggesting they have faulty memories and are being manipulated by lawyers encouraging them to play up Maxwell's role in civil claims after Epstein died. One of the lawyers went so far as to infer that "Jane" — a veteran television actor — could be using her acting skills to embellish her testimony.

The lawyer ran down some of the plot lines "Jane" has tackled over the years: protective mom, victim of bullying, someone stalked by serial killers, prostitute. "Not my favorite role," the witness said of the last.

When asked whether her background made her adept giving a "melodramatic and sentimental treatment of interpersonal situations," she demurred.

"Hopefully, not melodramatic," she said. "Just dramatic."


Three more main accusers are waiting in the wings to testify against Maxwell. When that will happen remains unclear, with prosecutors staying tight-lipped about the order of their witnesses.

But the defense's opening statement gave hints about the accusers up next.

A Maxwell lawyer said one is a psychotherapist who met Epstein in New York City when she was 16 and later visited his ranch in New Mexico. Another is a former model from Britain who once dated one of Maxwell's friends. The third is someone the defense claims introduced Epstein to other victims who are not in the case.

Other evidence the prosecution still plans to introduce: flight logs of Epstein's private planes — prosecutors say they confirm that Maxwell, Epstein and alleged victims traveled together — and FedEx records confirming that Epstein sent a gift to one victim when she was just 15 years old.

It's projected the trial could last another five weeks.

Details of teacher raise proposal emerge in New Mexico By Cedar Attanasio, Associated Press, Report For America

New Mexico's top educator says a staffing crisis is the top problem facing public schools.

On Friday, the state's education secretary shared details of a $200 million plan to increase teacher salaries by at least 7%, part of a budget proposal to compete for teachers with surrounding states and make it more worthwhile for people to become teachers.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced this week that she wants teachers in her state to be the best paid in the region based on 2019 numbers by raising salaries to $64,000 on average.

The Legislature is likely to back a salary increase, with a boon in revenue expected from oil revenues, and school districts already flush with cash from pandemic relief money.

Neighboring states are also getting federal money, and seeing the economy rebound.

"They're likely to be passing salary increases also," said state Sen. Bill Soules, chair of the Senate Education Committee, which will likely consider the legislation in January once it is written.

Proposed legislation in neighboring Colorado would implement a minimum salary of $40,000, slightly less than what New Mexico is now. Earlier this year, Texas created a Teacher Incentive Allotment that allows up to $32,000 in payments to teachers who oversee growth in their student's academic outcomes, meaning some teachers can earn $100,000 annually.

New Mexico has already created incentives to pay teachers to work a longer school year, but school district leaders have declined the money citing disinterest among staff and parents.

In New Mexico, fewer young people are choosing to become teachers, and those who are teaching tend to be older, tied only with Maine for the most elderly teacher population. Many are entering retirement.

"We are losing so many people out of the profession right now," said Las Cruces Democrat Soules ahead of the Friday hearing. "My biggest concern in education right now is there are no teachers to be had."

Teacher vacancies in the small state have increased to around 1,000 this year. Schools are also struggling to find nurses, counselors, teaching assistants, and bus drivers.

When asked by one legislator for the problem he'd most want the Legislature to solve, education secretary Kurt Steinhaus answered without pause.

"If we could get those 1,000 teacher vacancies filled, that would be No. 1," he said.

Soules said that the Legislature has made its own recommendation on pay increases for teachers that are similar to Lujan Grisham’s, but a lot of details still need to be worked out, like how to raise salaries for those who are between the three tiers of payscale.

Under the Steinhaus and Lujan Grisham proposal, entry-level teachers could see a pay increase of around 20%, bumping the minimum teacher salary to $50,000.

"If the teacher gets a minimum salary, and that's already a 7% raise, that's it. But if they get a raise to a minimum and they're short 1%, they would get an additional 1%," Steinhaus said.

As with the current salary minimums, they apply equally across the state including in rural areas where living costs are lower. Teachers in urban districts like Santa Fe and Albuquerque say their pay hasn't kept up with the costs of rent and childcare.

Despite the relative pay advantage, rural districts also struggle to attract teachers. Some have resorted to four-day weeks to make teaching more attractive.

Steinhaus said some school districts offer housing to teachers to lower living costs.

Republican Sen. Gay Kernan said one hiring roadblock in her rural, eastern New Mexico district was a testing requirement for teachers. She asked Steinhaus to look into why teachers struggle to pass it.

"Maybe teachers trying to get into the workforce have difficulty with that test due to the fact that maybe English is their second language," said Kernan, of Hobbs.

The Public Education Department has taken some steps to make becoming a teacher easier, like sponsoring 500 teaching assistant positions for people who want classroom experience while they study to become a teacher.

Legislation proposed by the governor would also allocate $1.5 million for educator recruitment and $500,000 to support teachers seeking certifications that can increase their pay.