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FRI: More Than 10,000 Residents File For Unemployment, + More

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Over 10,000 New Mexico Residents File For UnemploymentAssociated Press

More than 10,000 residents of New Mexico have filed for unemployment benefits in less than a week, potentially doubling the number of recipients amid economic upheaval linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

The state has waived work-search requirements temporarily for people receiving unemployment benefits of up to $461 a week. Claims are paid out of a trust with a current balance of about $465 million that is supported by payroll taxes.

New Mexico provided unemployment benefits to as many as 60,000 people in the aftermath of the Great Recession, but that enrollment built gradually.

The number of infections statewide increased Friday to at least 43 with positive tests in the Gallup and Las Cruces areas. 

State Gives Residents More Time To File And Pay TaxesAssociated Press

New Mexicans will have extra time to file and pay their taxes as the state looks to ease the economic hardships brought on by the coronavirus.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has put limits on public gatherings as restaurants have moved to pick-up or delivery service only and casinos have closed.

Personal state and federal tax returns will now be due July 15 — 90 days later than the usual deadline. The state also is pushing back deadlines for corporate taxes and for employers to remit taxes they withhold from workers' paychecks.

Nonprofit Helps Company Ramp Up Hiring For Remote Jobs - KUNM

A nonprofit jobs program in Grants is working with a business services company to provide more opportunities for work-at-home customer services positions.

Solo Works Cibola says it is leading a weeklong hiring event from March 16 to 23rd for Concentrix.

Solo Works Executive Director Shelly Fausett said her group is processing applications rapidly with Concentrix for jobs paying $12 per hour.

The positions are seasonal lasting into April, but Fausett said those hired will have the option of transitioning to another client.

More than 10,000 residents of in the state have filed for unemployment benefits in less than a week.

Public Officials Go Into Self-Quarantine As Virus SpreadsAssociated Press

As the number of people with positive COVID-19 tests rose to 43 in New Mexico, Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small of Las Cruces has gone into isolation as a precaution, though she is not exhibiting any symptoms of the coronavirus.

Earlier this week, Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-Santa Fe, said he would self-quarantine after a brief interaction with an individual who later tested positive.

In southern New Mexico, District Attorney Dianna Luce of the 5th Judicial District said she and several colleagues were under self-quarantine after coming into proximity with a public defender who was being tested. She said the situation highlights the need for further precautions in the state judiciary.

The New Mexico Supreme Court has issued orders limiting courtroom attendance to 25 people and suspended jury trials with limited exceptions. Luce said those precautions appear to be insufficient and that remote communication technology can further reduce exposure without jeopardizing due process guarantees.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez notified the Supreme Court that his prosecutors will no longer appear in person for hearings that can be conducted by video, starting Monday.

The governor had ordered all nonessential state personnel to work from home, but the state Corrections Department said its entire staff — including office workers — are considered essential and cannot work from home, in some instances because of technological limitations.

Across the state, prisons and county jails have suspended visits with inmates.

Endangered Mexican Gray Wolf Death Prompts InvestigationAssociated Press

U.S. wildlife managers are investigating the death of a Mexican gray wolf found last month in Arizona.

Officials with the wolf recovery team announced the death Thursday but didn't provide any details about how the endangered animal might have died or exactly where it was found.

The latest death follows three others that were reported in January, all of which were in Arizona.

A subspecies of the Western gray wolf, Mexican wolves have faced a difficult road to recovery that has been complicated by politics and conflicts with livestock. The latest survey documented at least 163 wolves in the wild in Arizona and New Mexico.

New Mexico Man Charged In Teenage Cousin's Shooting DeathAssociated Press

Albuquerque police say a 19-year-old man fatally shot his teenage cousin while retrieving a shotgun he intended to take home for protection amid the coronavirus public health emergency.

Authorities say Anthony Padilla told detectives he recently purchased the gun and was storing it at his cousins' home because his mother didn't allow him to have guns at home.

Padilla told police he pulled the trigger once and nothing happened so he racked the gun and pulled the trigger again. It fired and struck the 13-year-old boy. Padilla is facing an open count of murder.

It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney.

Fight Over Jaguar Habitat In Southwest Heads Back To Court - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A federal appeals court is ordering a New Mexico judge to reconsider a case involving a fight over critical habitat in the U.S. Southwest for the endangered jaguar.

Ranchers had sued, arguing that a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to set aside thousands of acres for the cats violated the statute that guides wildlife managers in determining whether certain areas are essential for the conservation of a species.

The appellate court this week overturned an earlier ruling that had sided with federal officials.

At issue is more than 170 square miles that span two desert mountain ranges along the Arizona-New Mexico border.

New Mexico Governor Anticipates Special Legislative Session - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham indicated she is likely to call legislators to a special session to revise a recently signed state budget, address public health needs and provide economic relief in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Confirmed statewide coronavirus infections climbed Thursday to 35. 

In a letter to legislators, the governor said a clear picture of emergency federal aid is needed before state budget revisions can take place. 

A sputtering economy and plunging world oil prices are threatening to undermine major sources of state government income shortly after lawmakers approved a 7.5% increase in state general fund spending for the fiscal year starting July 1. New Mexico relies on the petroleum sector for more than a third of annual state income.


Remote Work Is Not An Option For Some In Courts, Corrections - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

A district attorney in southern New Mexico says she and several colleagues are under self-quarantine after coming into close proximity with a public defender who was being tested for the coronavirus. 

Lovington-based District Attorney Dianna Luce said Thursday that her situation under self-quarantine highlights the need for further public health precautions in the state judiciary to guard against exposure to COVID-19. 

The state Supreme Court has issued orders that limit courtroom attendance to 25 people and suspended most jury trials to guard against coronavirus transmission. 

Luce says greater use of remote communication technology can reduce exposure without jeopardizing due process guarantees.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez also said that state courtrooms continue to gather too many people into confined spaces unnecessarily for hearings that might be conducted with videoconferencing.

He notified the Supreme Court that his prosecutors will no longer appear in person for hearings that can be conducted by video, starting next Monday.

New Mexico COVID-19 Cases Rise To 35Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Health officials have confirmed a second positive test for coronavirus in New Mexico with no known connection to travel.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office on Thursday announced seven new positive tests including a first infection in northeastern San Miguel County. The Albuquerque Journal reported the others were in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties.

There have been 35 positive tests statewide.

Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said the two untraceable infections in Bernalillo County underscore the governor's call for people to stay home whenever possible.

Albuquerque Hospitals Restrict Visitors To Prevent Spread Of Covid-19 KUNM News

The three primary hospitals in New Mexico’s largest city announced new visitor guidelines on Thursday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Officials with the city of Albuquerque’s Joint Information Center issued a statement that Lovelace Health System, Presbyterian Hospital and University of New Mexico Hospital each issued revamped rules on outside visitors.

Presbyterian Hospital is not allowing any visitors on any of its hospital campuses, although exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis.

UNM Hospital and the Sandoval Regional Medical Center are discouraging any visitors. Patients waiting for COVID-19 test results cannot have visitors. Visitors not feeling well are not allowed unless they’re seeking care and may be screened. No one under 14 is allowed unless seeking care.

Lovelace will screen all visitors for flu-like symptoms and they cannot re-enter a patient’s room if they exit. They will be limited to one caregiver in special circumstances such as the emergency department, labor and delivery and pediatric patients. Only immediate family will be allowed for patients who are critically ill.

UNM Asks Students To Leave Dorms While Continuing Classes OnlineAlbuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico has moved most of its classes online because of the coronavirus for the rest of the semester and now it wants students to move out of the dorms.

The Albuquerque Journal reports UNM sent an email to students living on campus directing them to vacate their dorm rooms by March 24.

Students can request an exemption by 1 p.m. on Friday if they feel it is safer for them to stay on campus, but most facilities will be closed, including the libraries and the Student Union Building.

New Restrictions Take Effect Around New MexicoAssociated Press

New public health orders by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to prevent the spread of the coronavirus took effect Thursday around New Mexico

Restaurants are now limited to take-out and deliveries. Indoor shopping malls, health clubs, athletic facilities, movie theaters and flea markets are closed.

Hotels were ordered to scale back business to 50% of capacity or less with some exceptions including lodging for health care workers.

Additionally, supermarkets implemented opening hours for the elderly. The state began limiting purchases to three items each for toilet paper, baby formula, diapers, over-the-counter medicine and more. At a grocery store in Santa Fe, register clerks called out the restrictions as long lines of shoppers formed.

A drive-thru testing site in western Albuquerque closed temporarily because of snow.

FDA Approval Will Allow COVID Testing To Expand In New MexicoSanta Fe New Mexican

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized a molecular test by Abbott Laboratories for COVID-19 that could increase testing in the state.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich made the announcement Thursday, noting this could allow TriCore References Laboratories in Albuquerque to double its testing capacity from 300 to 800 per day.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports there is no timeline yet on when TriCore will get the materials. The state can process 700 tests per day right now at TriCore and the state laboratory.

The paper reported TriCore could run 1,000 samples on its molecular diagnostics machine but it has been unable to get reagents for the COVID test. Health care workers also do not have enough personal protective equipment.

New Mexico Panel Weighs Decision On Coal-fired Power Plant - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

New Mexico regulators are close to deciding whether to approve an application by the state's largest electric provider to abandon its interest in a major coal-fired power plant in 2022. 

The Public Regulation Commission plans to issue its order April 1. 

If commissioners approve it, Public Service Co. of New Mexico can recover investments in the San Juan Generating Station by selling bonds that will be paid off by utility customers. 

PNM also would impose an energy transition charge on monthly bills to cover the debt service payments. 

Some commissioners say the final order should include protections for customers.

New Mexico Courts Deem Hunter Information As Public Record - Associated Press

The New Mexico Game and Fish Department has been ordered to release information about hunters as part of two separate court cases. 

A state district judge is ordering the agency to turn over the names and addresses of those who won big game draws between 2015 and 2019 to a Los Alamos resident who had sought the records. 

Meanwhile, the state appellate court ordered the agency to turn over the email addresses of individuals who applied for hunting licenses between 2015 and 2016 to former Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn. 

Officials say the courts concluded that information collected from the public in connection with the administration of the agency's public duties are subject to disclosure.

Ruling Allows Question Asked Before Miranda Warning GivenAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court says a police officer's questioning of an Albuquerque man being detained before he got Miranda warning didn't violate his constitutional rights against self-incrimination.

The justices on Thursday reversed a lower court's ruling that the man was entitled to a new trial because the officer asked him about whether the officer should know about anything in the man's possession.

The man replied that he had methamphetamine on him, and methamphetamine found on the man was used as evidence during a trial that led to a drug possession conviction.

The Supreme Court said the officer's question didn't violate the Fifth Amendment because police can ask questions to protect public and officers before giving a Miranda warning.