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THURS: Governor Halts Indoor Dining As COVID-19 Cases Spiking, + More


New Mexico Reinstitutes Some Restrictions As COVID Cases SpikeAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Indoor dining in restaurants and breweries will once again be prohibited under a revised public health order by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The Albuquerque Journal reported during an online briefing the governor said the state is in an untenable situation as coronavirus cases rose by 238 Thursday and there were six additional deaths, include two among women in their 30s. A total of 533 people have died in the state from COVID-19.

Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase said COVID-19 cases are climbing at an “alarming rate” and there are increasing cases among young people.

Scrase said the average number of new daily infections increased by 79% over a recent 16-day period. That includes what he called “astronomical growth” in the southeastern part of the state.

The total number of cases is now 14,251.

Restaurants and breweries can still offer patio seating at 50% capacity and curbside pickup services under the restrictions, which take effect Monday, July 13.

With an eye to spiking virus rates in Arizona and Texas, state parks will also be off limits to visitors from outside the state. The governor also said contact sports will not be allowed in the fall.

Gyms will not be closed, but people are required to wear masks while exercising inside.

Navajo Nation Reports 40 More COVID-19 Cases, 3 More DeathsAssociated Press

Navajo Nation health officials have reported 40 more coronavirus cases and three additional known deaths.

Tribal Department of Health officials say 7,981 people on the vast reservation that spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah have tested positive for COVID-19 with 382 known deaths as of Wednesday night.

Health officials also say reports from all 12 health care facilities on and near the Navajo Nation indicate 61,371 people have been tested and 5,693 have recovered from COVID-19.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. 

Agencies, Group Take 'Step Forward' With Mexican Owl Talks - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Negotiations among environmentalists and state and federal officials in Arizona and New Mexico have resulted in a set of recommendations and other provisions that environmentalists say will help protect the threatened Mexican spotted owl and allow forest thinning projects to move forward.

The Center for Biological Diversity says it's backing down from its threat to sue as a result. Environmentalists have complained for years that the U.S. Forest Service has failed to consider the effects of thinning and logging on the owls.

Regional officials with the Forest Service say the new understanding made public Wednesday marked a positive step in an ongoing battle over the owl.

A separate case that raised similar concerns by the group WildEarth Guardians is still pending. The parties are working toward a settlement but it's unclear how soon an agreement may be reached.

North Dakota Man To Pay $74K For Poaching Trophy Mule Deer Associated Press

A North Dakota man has been ordered to pay $74,000 in restitution for poaching a trophy mule deer buck in northwestern New Mexico.

The state Department of Game and Fish says Cody Davis also was ordered to make a $3,000 donation to the Operation Game Thief program.

Authorities say Davis killed a mule deer out of season and didn't have a license.

The investigation started in 2015 when game officers found a large headless buck near Lindrith. They put up surveillance at the site and caught Davis four months later when he returned to retrieve the severed head that was stashed nearby.

Complaints Up Against Santa Fe Police Department – Santa Fe New Mexican, KUNM

A newly released report shows complaints against the Santa Fe Police Department increased in 2019.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the numbers, compiled and released by the police department itself, are part of an annual data review. It shows that Santa Fe officers in 2019 received 58 misconduct complaints, a 32 percent increase from the prior year, and the highest amount seen in three years.

Complaints can include numerous violations, including unnecessary use of force. The report shows the department reviewed 45 cases around use of force concerns, about an 18% increase from 2018.

The specific complaints against officers and any disciplinary actions are not made available in the report because of city and police department employee confidentiality policies.

New Mexico Mandates Police Body Cameras In Wake Of Protests – Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed legislation to require that police officers wear body cameras as a deterrent against excessive use of force.

Signed Wednesday, the policing reforms apply to local and state law enforcement officers with the exception of tribal agencies.

The legislature, led by Democrats, approved the bill in June during a four-day special session. Gov. Lujan Grisham first called for the body camera requirements amid demonstrations set off by George Floyd's killing at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Bill sponsor Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces has invoked the killing of Antonio Valenzuela at the hands of Las Cruces police officers in a video-recorded encounter in February that has led to a charge of involuntary manslaughter against one officer.

Police agencies that flout the new body-camera requirement can be sued for withholding evidence.

Until now, at least a half-dozen sheriff's departments in New Mexico have gone without body cameras — including the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department that oversees the state's most populous county encompassing Albuquerque.

New Mexico Marks 2nd Highest Daily New COVID-19 Case Count - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Wednesday marked New Mexico's second-highest daily new case count yet, and officials warned that the virus continues to spread statewide.

New Mexico on Wednesday reported an additional 290 cases, bringing the statewide total to more than 14,000. 527 deaths in the state have been attributed to the virus. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in a tweet Wednesday described the situation as untenable. "This virus is real. It is deadly. We cannot afford to become complacent. Your actions can make a difference. I beg you to take it seriously," she wrote.

Worldwide, the number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported numbers because many people haven't been tested. Studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.

Mayor Of Las Vegas Names New Police Chief - Associated Press

The mayor of Las Vegas, New Mexico, has named a new police chief days after telling the current top officer he would be replaced. 

The Las Vegas Optic reports Mayor Louie Trujillo will appoint Adrian Crespin as the city's next police chief. 

Crespin is currently the head of security at New Mexico Highlands University and retired from the Las Vegas Police Department in 2015. 

Trujillo confirmed last week he told current Police Chief David Bibb he will be replaced. 

Since Juan Montaño retired as chief in 2018, the city has seen 4 acting chiefs.

New Mexico Court To Hear Arguments Over Public Health Order - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

It will be up to the New Mexico Supreme Court to decide a case over the state's authority to enforce certain provisions of public health orders amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Arguments will be presented during an Aug. 4 remote hearing.

About a dozen business owners and companies sued in May, challenging Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's authority to levy hefty fines for violating public health orders.

The plaintiffs say state law authorizes fines of $100 or less in such cases, not the $5,000-per-day penalty cited by state officials.

Initially filed in the state's 9th Judicial District, the lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction barring the state from threatening to impose the larger fines.

The governor has declined to reopen any more of the economy because of an uptick in COVID-19 cases. 

New Mexico State Extends Suspension Of Athlete Workouts - Associated Press

New Mexico State University says it will continue its temporary suspension of student-athlete workouts as it waits for more COVID-19 testing results. 

The college said this week the suspension will remain after six student-athletes and a sports performance staff member tested positive for the virus last week.

Additional tests have resulted in 135 negative cases, 20 positive cases, and seven others are still awaiting results. 

The cases affect multiple sports. 

Workouts and other team activities will resume once medical personnel approves.