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FRI: Pandemic Prompts Cancellation Of New Mexico State Fair, + More

New Mexico State Fair

Virus Concerns Force Cancellation Of New Mexico State Fair - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico officials say they are heartbroken but that the coronavirus pandemic has forced them to cancel this year's state fair.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham raised concerns Thursday about a recent uptick in COVID-19 infections in the state, indicating that it might be no-go for funnel cakes, turkey legs and the rest of the pageantry that makes up the annual September spectacle.

The fair's general manager said Friday in a video message that it was a difficult decision.

Other large events including the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the Gathering of Nations Powwow and Santa Fe's popular summer art markets also have been canceled.

While New Mexico's stay-at-home order remains in place, Lujan Grisham's administration has allowed for some businesses to reopen at limited capacities.

But the governor warned this week that further openings will depend on whether people adhere to the public safety guidelines issued by state health officials and if the rate of spread comes back down.

The state on Friday reported another 225 cases, bringing the total to more than 11,400.

Governor Signs 3 Bills From Special SessionAssociated Press

The creation of a state commission on civil rights and changes aimed at ensuring access to Election Day polls on Native American lands are among the measures signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The governor on Friday also signed a bill authorizing the issuance of short-term bonds to help stabilize state finances amid the economic upheaval prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. The three bills were among eight that lawmakers passed during the recent special session.

Lujan Grisham still has to act on the budget solvency bill and one that would mandate police body cameras for nearly all state and local law enforcement officers. 

Gov. Lujan Grisham Grants Clemency For 19 PeopleAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has granted clemency for 19 people convicted of crimes in the state.

The governor's office announced Friday the first pardons of her administration and said the majority of those receiving clemency had been convicted of a non-violent offense.

Lujan Grisham's predecessor, Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, pardoned a total of just three people during her term.

Those receiving clemency by Lujan Grisham had convictions of forgery, drug possession, burglary, larceny, issuing a worthless check and conspiracy, among others.

The office says all of the offenses were at least a decade old. It added the majority of the applicants provided clemency by Lujan Grisham had also previously applied for pardons under the previous administrations of Martinez or former Gov. Bill Richardson.

The governor refers requests for executive clemency to the state Parole Board, which conducts investigations and provides non-binding recommendations. The Parole Board recommended clemency in each of the 19 cases.

3 Die In New Mexico From Drinking Hand SanitizerAssociated Press

New Mexico health officials say three people have died, three others are in critical condition and one person is permanently blind after apparently drinking hand sanitizer that contained methanol.

The Department of Health said Friday that the cases were reported to the state poison control center. The first case came in early May. The others have occurred since May 29.

The health department confirmed that the cases were related to alcoholism. Authorities have noted that people with substance abuse issues, particularly within the homeless community, have been known to use sanitizer and other products as a substitute for alcohol.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently warned consumers not to use nine brands of sanitizers that contained methanol.

A toxic form of alcohol, methanol can cause kidney damage, blindness and death. It may be fatal when inhaled, applied topically or ingested.

State Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said there is an antidote, but the earlier someone gets treated for methanol poisoning, the better the chance of recovery.

New Mexico Puts Bilingual Signs At Lakes On Invasive SpeciesAssociated Press

New Mexico has erected its first-ever bilingual Spanish-English billboards at two lakes around invasive species.

The state Department of Game and Fish announced this month officials posted two billboards at Elephant Butte Lake and a third at Caballo Lake. The signs inform boaters in English and Spanish to "clean, drain and dry" their watercraft and that watercraft needs an inspection when encountering an open inspection station.

Inspecting watercraft is the first defense against accidentally transporting aquatic invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels into New Mexico waters.

The bilingual signs are funded by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

New Mexico Governor: 'We're On Hold' As Virus Cases Climb - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Efforts to open more of New Mexico's economy are on hold because of an uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent days. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during a briefing Thursday that there's a false sense of security that has developed among Americans and that people are not being vigilant about staying home, wearing masks when they go out and keeping their distance from others. 

She blamed lax social behaviors for the recent increase in New Mexico and noted the risks presented by the exponential growth in infections in neighboring Arizona and Texas. 

She stressed that New Mexico's stay-at-home order remains in effect and that people need to take the virus seriously or she could be forced to consider reverting to tougher restrictions that would include broader quarantines and citations if the trends continue in the wrong direction. 

State health officials on Thursday reported 207 new COVID-19 cases, marking just the latest in a string of days in which the infection count has been climbing. In all, New Mexico has nearly 11,200 cases. The death toll stands at 485, including five new deaths reported Thursday. 


New Mexico Official Called On To Resign Over Police Shooting - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

Pat Davis, one of Albuquerque’s most liberal city councilors who has made police reform part of his agenda, is facing calls to resign over his 2004 shooting of a Black man as a Metropolitan Washington, D.C., police officer.

The left-leaning ProgressNow New Mexico  — an advocacy group Davis founded in 2011 — demanded Thursday that he step down from his council seat and other positions. 

The call came following a blog post by former Albuquerque Chief Public Safety Officer Pete Dinelli that detailed a 2006 federal lawsuit filed by the Black man who Davis shot. 

Davis, who is white, dismissed those calls and said the man he shot later pleaded guilty to firearms charges.

In a statement, the group said Davis' shooting of the man was "troubling" and it criticized "tough on crime" promises he made during his unsuccessful 2009 campaign for Bernalillo County sheriff.

"ProgressNow New Mexico finds it imperative to continue calling out racism when we see it and holding perpetrators accountable for their actions," said Alissa Barnes, executive director of the group. "No matter who that person is."

The demand for Davis to resign came amid nationwide anti-racism and police brutality protests that are pressuring cities to reform their police departments and change how officers treat Black residents. 

Navajo Nation Reports 69 New Coronavirus Cases And 11 Deaths Associated Press

The Navajo Department of Health has reported 69 new cases of coronavirus on the Navajo Nation with 11 more known deaths.

That pushes the total of positive COVID-19 cases on the reservation to 7,157 with the death toll at 347 as of Wednesday night.

Preliminary reports from 11 health care facilities indicate about 3,802 people have recovered from COVID-19 with one hospital report still pending.

Tribal health officials said 51,144 people have been tested so far.

The Navajo Nation stretches into northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico and southeastern Utah.

COVID-19 outbreak reported at Otero County Prison Facility – Associated Press

About 80% of inmates at the Otero County prison in southern New Mexico have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The outbreak started in early May when officials learned a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

State Corrections Secretary Alisha Tafoya Lucero says more than 400 inmates tested positive and three have died. The prison also holds inmates serving time on federal convictions, mostly related to drugs.

There were 275 positive cases among those inmates. The percentage of federal prisoners infected with COVID-19 is unclear.

When the pandemic was declared, the American Civil Liberties Union and criminal defense attorneys began calling for the state to reduce inmate populations in hopes of preventing a potential outbreak.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the corrections secretary rejected that strategy.

Instead, the governor ordered the release of a small group of inmates who fit specific criteria and are within 30 days of their release dates. About 71 inmates have been released since April.

Virgin Galactic Marks Second Glide Flight Over New MexicoAssociated Press

Virgin Galactic is celebrating the second successful glide flight of its spaceship over Spaceport America in southern New Mexico. 

The space tourism company announced the completion of the test flight Thursday. 

Unlike the first glide test in early May, the pilots flew at higher speeds to help evaluate the ship's systems and performance in preparation for the next stage of testing. 

That will involve rocket-powered flights. While the company is in the midst of final testing and making modifications to the customer cabin, officials have yet to offer a date for the start of commercial flights.

Virgin Galactic is the anchor tenant of the taxpayer-financed Spaceport America — the world's first facility designed and built specifically for launching commercial passengers and payloads into suborbital space. The company now has close to 180 people working out of the desert outpost.

New Mexico Launches New Anti-DWI Campaign With Mask Twist – Associated Press

New Mexico is launching a new anti-drunk driving campaign that also encourages people to wear face coverings and keep their distance from one another.

Officials say this will mark the first time the state uses animation in its "ENDWI" television spots and social media posts.

Transportation Secretary Mike Sandoval says alcohol sales increased when people started staying home due to the coronavirus pandemic and the concern is there could be an increase in impaired driving as the state opens and people begin socializing.

Figures show there were 33 alcohol-related fatalities in New Mexico over the first five months of the year.

Tribe, Environmentalists Fight Rollback Of US Water Rule - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

The nation's largest Native American tribe and several environmental groups are waging a legal challenge to a revised federal rule that lifts protections for many streams, creeks and wetlands across the U.S.

Critics say the rule, which took effect Monday, drastically reduces the number of waterways across the Navajo Nation and arid regions that are protected under the Clean Water Act.

The Navajo Nation and environmental groups filed complaints this week in federal court. Some groups contend New Mexico is disproportionately affected because of the large number of small streams in the state that flow only during wet times of the year.

The tribe filed its claim Monday in U.S. District Court in New Mexico. New Mexico was among the states that went to court in May seeking to keep the rule from taking effect.

Amigos Bravos, the New Mexico Acequia Association and the Gila Resources Information Project followed with their own appeal Tuesday and the Environmental Integrity Project filed a separate claim in Washington, D.C. on behalf of four other environmental groups.

The cases name the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agencies in charge of administering aspects of the rule.

In adopting the change, federal officials have argued that the previous Obama-era rule imposed unnecessary burdens on property owners and businesses and that the change will bring regulatory certainty for farmers, homebuilders and landowners.

At the time, New Mexico Environment Secretary James Kenney warned that the rule would leave nearly 90% of the state's rivers and streams and about 40% of its wetlands without federal protection. He predicted that would "devastate New Mexico's scarce and limited water resources."