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MON: Non-Essential Businesses Ordered To Close As COVID Cases Rise To 83, + More

New Mexico Department of Health via Wikimedia Commons
Creative Commons
Map of the COVID-19 outbreak in New Mexico counties where at least 1 COVID-19 case has been confirmed as of March 21, 2020

New Mexico To Order 'Non-Essential Businesses' To CloseAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has announced new restrictions aimed at fighting the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The governor said Monday the state will order all "non-essential businesses" to close on Tuesday and require "100 percent" of the state's non-essential workforce to work from home.

The announcement came as the state officials said New Mexico now had 18 new positive novel coronavirus cases bringing the state's total to 83. The new restrictions ask state residents to now limit gatherings to five people or less.

The action follows a series of emergency public health orders that have closed down the state's indoor shopping malls, gyms, and movie theaters. The state will ramp up surveillance efforts to monitor businesses.

The new restrictions ask state residents to now limit gatherings to five people or less.

Lujan Grisham said residents can still go for a jog and walk their dogs.

New Mexico Now Has 65 Coronavirus Cases Including Young Child - Associated Press

Health officials say eight more people have tested positive for the coronavirus in New Mexico, pushing the total to 65. 

The New Mexico Department of Health said in a statement that one of the new cases was a 9-year-old in McKinley County. 

Officials said two other COVID-19 cases were in Bernalillo County, which includes metro Albuquerque and now has 34 of the 65 overall cases. 

Officials said a woman in her 60s and a man in his 30s tested positive in Bernalillo County while a woman in her 50s and another in her 20s had positive tests in Doña Ana County. 

A man in his 30s and a man in his 40s were the news cases in Santa Fe County along with a man in his 50s in San Juan County.

Albuquerque Public Schools officials said the Department of Health notified them Friday that it was investigating a case involving a Del Norte High School student.

Economic Fears, Shortages Dominate At Congresswoman's Forum - Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has given orders to establish a coronavirus testing site in each of the state's 33 counties. 

Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said she received the order to expand the reach of testing facilities on Sunday as the COVID-19 virus spread far beyond the Albuquerque-Santa Fe population corridor to the oil-producing southeast corner of the state. 

The state lists 20 available coronavirus screening sites in 14 cities, with most offering drive-thru assessments and testing.

Kunkel joined a town call-in forum on state and federal responses to the coronavirus hosted by U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small by phone. 

Callers denounced shortages in protective equipment for medical workers and probed for economic survival tips. 

Native Americans Put Digital Spin On Traditions Amid VirusIndian Country Today, Associated Press

People across Indian Country are organizing online and social-distancing powwows and posting videos of healing dances to offer support during the coronavirus pandemic.

Indian Country Today reports community song and dance have always been a part of health and prayer for Native Americans. And now they're putting a digital spin on these traditions.

Jingle dress dancers are sharing videos on YouTube and Facebook from Montana, Arizona, the Dakotas and elsewhere. And Facebook groups like Social Distance Powwow are connecting dancers, vendors and others.

Community song and dance have always been a part of health and prayer for Native people, Indian Country Today reported. And the jingle dress — or zibaaska'iganagooday, the dress of exploding sound in the Ojibwe language — in particular has a long history of healing.

In Wisconsin, jingle dress dancers and singers performed outdoors on the Bad River Reservation over the weekend. Community members watched from their cars.

Earlier this month, the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque announced the cancellation this year of what organizers bill as North America's largest powwow that typically draws thousands of indigenous people together from around the globe.

Survey Eyes Internet Access, Cell Service On Navajo NationFarmington Daily Times, Associated Press

Navajo Nation residents are being asked to fill out a survey about internet access and cellular service on tribal land.

The Farmington Daily Times reports an ad hoc group comprised of tribal government employees and technology professionals is conducting the survey and will use responses to develop a strategic broadband plan for the nation's largest Native American reservation.

Magellan Advisors CEO Courtney Violette says the goal is to design a network capable of delivering a minimum of 25 megabits per second to every person on the Navajo Nation.

The Federal Communications Commission's definition for broadband is a minimum of 25 megabits download and three megabits upload.

Santa Fe Police Sued In Elderly Woman's Freezing DeathSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The family of a 92-year-old woman who froze to death in Santa Fe has filed a lawsuit saying Santa Fe police did not try hard enough to find her. 

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports a lawyer for Antonia Garcia's family said last week they believe she may have gotten lost while on her way to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in March 2019.

The wrongful death complaint filed in state District Court says a neighbor called police around 11:25 p.m. that day to say she saw an elderly woman leaning against a metal post.

But court documents say the dispatcher and police officers treated the call as "a low priority call." A city spokeswoman declined to comment on the pending litigation.

City Of Albuquerque Hosts Coronavirus Town Hall By PhoneAlbuquerque Journal, KUNM News

The City of Albuquerque is hosting a town hall by phone Monday to address community concerns over the coronavirus.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the telephone town hall will convene at 12:30 p.m. Monday. Mayor Tim Keller will join the call along with other leaders to field questions about what actions the city is taking.

Residents who would like to attend are being asked to register prior to getting on the call.

Oil Companies Cut Permian Basin Presence Amid Virus, Prices - Carlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

Oil companies have begun reducing operations in the Permian Basin as the new coronavirus slows global energy demands and adds to the drop in the price of oil. 

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports Houston-based Apache Corporation announced it would pull all its oil and gas rigs out of the Permian to save on short-term spending. The company plans to reduce its 2020 capital investment by almost $1 billion.

Pioneer Natural Resources, which operates mostly in the Delaware Basin on the western side of the Permian and is one of the largest acreage holders in the region, also announced a significant cut in operations. 

Overall, Pioneer's capital budget was to be cut by 45 percent.

Robert McEntyre, a spokesperson for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, said the state's industry is well-positioned to emerge from the financial crisis a leader in energy production.

But until the virus is contained and the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia is resolved, McEntyre said the industry faces uncertainty.

Albuquerque Parks Remain Open Amid Coronavirus Outbreak - Associated Press

The city of Albuquerque has no immediate plans to close its parks in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak which has already caused many businesses to shut down.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller confirmed the city’s parks remain open, adding that he's encouraging people to get outside and exercise during the pandemic at a safe distance from others.

Albuquerque Director of Parks and Recreation Dave Simon said his employees are ensuring that the parks are disinfected.

City officials told Albuquerque TV station KOB that they started cleaning parks more frequently using a bleach solution. 

The city oversees 290 parks and 30,000 acres of open space.

City officials are encouraging park visitors to abide by the 6-foot social distancing rule. Groups of more than 10 people are not allowed to congregate in the park.

More Time Sought For Public Input On Nuclear Fuel Proposal - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation are calling out federal nuclear regulators. 

They want the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the public comment period for an environmental review related to a multibillion-dollar complex that would store spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants around the U.S. 

In a recent preliminary recommendation, the commission favored approval of a license for Holtec International to build the facility in southeastern New Mexico. 

The comment period is set at 60 days, but the New Mexico officials say that should be extended and any public meetings delayed given the health emergency that has resulted from the new coronavirus. 

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Reps. Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small all signed Friday's letter to the commission. 

They're asking that regulators wait for the threat of COVID-19 to pass and to schedule public meetings at locations around New Mexico to allow ample opportunity for full participation.

New Mexico Agencies On Edge Amid Rising Ransomware Attacks - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico school districts, universities and government agencies have spent millions of dollars to regain control of their computer systems amid rising ransomware attacks. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports the attacks came after employees unknowingly opened emails containing an encrypted code that effectively shut them out of their systems. 

The ransomware attacks occurred between January 2018 and February 2020, and have put school districts and agencies on edge amid warnings of more technology terror. 

The most recent attack victimized the Gadsden Independent School District in February. 

Computer servers, internet, phones and email service across all 24 schools were locked out. 

New Mexico Junior College Votes To Raise Tuition - Hobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

The New Mexico Junior College Board has voted to raise tuition. 

The Hobbs News-Sun reports the governing board of the southeastern New Mexico school approved Thursday a plan to increase tuition by $1 per semester hour. 

Under the plan, in-district tuition will go from $38 to $39 per credit hour for the first 15 credit hours. Out-of-district tuition will go from $57 to $58 per credit hour for the first 15 credit hours. Out-of-state tuition will go from $69 to $70 per credit hour for the first 15 credit hours. 

Ranchers, Potash Company In Fight Over Pecos River Rights - Associated Press

Ranchers in a southeastern New Mexico community and a potash company are locked in a fight over water rights connected to the Pecos River. 

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the Denver-based Intrepid Potash recently claimed ownership of about 35,000 acre feet of water rights along the Pecos, with 19,000 identified for consumption. 

Ranchers in a rural area south of Carlsbad said that move could completely drain the Pecos. 

The Carlsbad Irrigation District filed litigation intended to block Intrepid's ownership of the water and seven "preliminary authorizations" granted by the Office of the State Engineer to change the point of diversion and manner of use of the water. 

Intrepid's attorney declined to comment.

Rules To Reduce New Mexico Methane Emissions Being Drafted - Farmington Daily Times, Associated Press

Two New Mexico departments reportedly plan to release draft complimentary regulations for reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sectors later this year.

The Farmington Daily Times reports the New Mexico Environment Department and Energy, Minerals and the Natural Resources Department have wrapped up their information gathering phase, which included public meetings and the Methane Advisory Panel.

They now are starting on second phase, which is developing the draft rules.

The Methane Advisory Panel's report focused largely on technology that could help reduce emissions and also includes information about how expensive that technology would be to implement.