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TUES: Santa Fe Public Schools to go remote next week, + More

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Santa Fe Public Schools to go remote next week - By Nash Jones, KUNM News

Public school students in Santa Fe will return to remote learning next week.

Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez announced the change in a news release Tuesday, saying the district was “doing so with as much notice as possible.”

Chavez says schools will finish out this week in person, and will begin virtually on Tuesday, Jan. 18, following the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

Chavez says that getting back to the classroom the following week, on Jan. 24th, will depend on the status of COVID-19 cases in Santa Fe’s schools and broader community improving.

The news release says the district last week saw a record 361 cases among both students and staff. Chavez says cases could reach the 600 mark this week as spread within classrooms continues to rise.

Informing the decision to move to remote learning for at least a week, Chavez says, are concerns over staffing shortages and the ability to keep schools safe amid increased absences as employees quarantine.

New Mexico education officials miss transparency deadline - By Cedar Attanasio Associated Press / Report For America

An initiative aimed at providing greater accountability for public spending on education missed its inaugural deadline.

The New Mexico Public Education Department acknowledged Tuesday that it missed a year-end deadline to launch a website to provide details about how much schools spend and on what.

The site went live following inquiries Monday from The Associated Press.

Lawmakers and transparency advocates decried the delay, which ran afoul of state statute.

"Yes, by missing the deadline PED is out of compliance with the law. It is no Surprise considering that the governor has had three public education (secretaries) in just two years," wrote Republican Rep. Rebecca Dow, of Truth or Consequences, in an email.

The deadline was the first of an annual reporting schedule mandated by a transparency law passed by the state Legislature in 2020 and signed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Lujan Grisham is running for reelection this year, and Dow is running for the Republican nomination in a bid to challenge her.

The agency had promoted the website starting in August with a countdown clock set to hit zero on Dec. 31. On Monday and Tuesday, the countdown clock on the website read "0," while a note below said the project is "on schedule and on budget."

"It's disappointing that they missed this deadline," said Shannon Kunkel, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government. "Public officials have a responsibility to get timely information out that would affect policy decisions."

The state transparency website could make it easier to see details of how much schools spend on administrative costs, like central office workers, versus classroom costs, like teacher salaries and student supplies.

Data on the website could inform policymakers who sit down next week to forge the state's education budget, likely to exceed $3 billion.

"It is imperative for parents and taxpayers to easily see and understand how school districts and charter schools are spending their dollars since this spending directly impacts their children and they may have good questions or suggestions on how best to spend this money," Fred Nathan Jr., executive director of Think New Mexico, a nonpartisan education policy group, said in a statement.

On Monday, Think New Mexico renewed support for a law that would cap growth in administrative spending in school districts, arguing classroom spending is more impactful than administrative spending.

Citing data from 2007 to 2017, the organization says administrative spending on central office staff grew 34% while spending on teacher salaries and classroom materials grew by around 4%.

After questions from the AP on Monday, the Public Education Department held a meeting with its software vendor, according to spokeswoman Judy Robinson.

The site went live before noon Tuesday, with a note that it's a work in progress and may contain errors.

"The portal was ready in mid-December and 'soft-launched' at that time," Robinson said.

That beta testing came at the tail end of a planned six-month window for school district superintendents and financial officers to test-drive the software. Robinson said those users flagged concerns about the site's functionality.

Albuquerque's proposed vaccine mandate sparks debate - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The mayor of New Mexico's largest city is telling thousands of municipal workers to prepare for a vaccine mandate in the coming weeks, but union leaders who represent Albuquerque police officers, firefighters and other employees say not so fast.

They say a mandate would amount to a major change of working conditions and that means Mayor Tim Keller would first have to come to the negotiating table to hash out the parameters of any COVID-19 testing requirements and details about whether workers would be entitled to sick time if they have adverse reactions to the vaccine.

The police and fire departments already have voiced concerns about losing personnel if a mandate is imposed.

The push by Keller also comes as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs President Joe Biden's workplace vaccine rule. The court's conservative justices have cast doubt on the administration's authority to issue its vaccine-or-testing requirement.

Keller, a Democrat, sent an email to all city employees late last week, saying federal and state decisions this month will require all city employees to be fully vaccinated.

"We've done everything within our control to protect our employees throughout the pandemic, and this is the next step we're being required to take," the mayor wrote.

They mayor said during a news conference Tuesday that roughly 5,000 city employees would be affected. They would have report their vaccination status by Jan. 21 and those who are unvaccinated would be required to test weekly.

Keller said unvaccinated employees will be placed on unpaid leave until they submit a negative test result.

Detective Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers' Association, said calls from displeased officers have been nonstop since the mayor sent the email.

"It would be a wild misstep for the mayor's office to institute any new policies in relation to vaccine mandates without going to the negotiation table first," Willoughby said, noting that the police union has had the demand to bargain the issue before with the mayor's office for several months but that has not happened.

Willoughby said vaccine mandates are one of the most divisive and complex issues in the U.S. and the mayor's office has an unfair expectation to negotiate the matter in under 30 days.

Many businesses and some states already have imposed mandates, and many legal challenges still are pending. In New Mexico, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has ordered health care workers and all state employees to be fully vaccinated.

While no changes are planned when it comes to the state's vaccination policies, Lujan Grisham's office said Tuesday that the governor has long encouraged other government bodies and private sector businesses to adopt similar vaccination policies.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases have been skyrocketing due to the more contagious omicron variant, but data so far indicates that many of these positive cases are milder infections that do not require hospitalization. Officials with two of New Mexico's largest health care providers said during a briefing Monday that infections are happening among vaccinated hospital staff but symptoms mostly have been mild.

City health officials said Tuesday that vaccinated people can spread the virus and must take precautions. When asked why testing would be limited to only unvaccinated workers, the mayor acknowledged that widespread COVID-19 testing — much like the city's drug testing program — would be better but is impractical given the shortage of tests.

He said Albuquerque is working on contracting with a testing provider to ensure access to tests for city workers.

"Over 58% of the Albuquerque police personnel that are infected with COVID right now are already vaccinated so the mandate is literally meaningless. It's not going to prevent any outbreaks in the Albuquerque Police Department or in the city of Albuquerque," Willoughby said.

He also noted that many personnel in the department already have recovered from COVID-19 infections. In all, state data shows that nearly 320,000 people in New Mexico are listed as recovered.

Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis on Monday proposed measures aimed at reining in the mayor's authority when it comes to public health orders and to prohibit a vaccine mandate. Lewis said city employees should have peace of mind that they will not have to receive an unwanted vaccine to keep their jobs.

New Mexico church official urges nuclear disarmament talks - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The head of one of the oldest Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States says now is the time to rejuvenate and sustain a global conversation about the need for nuclear disarmament and how to develop ways to avoid a new nuclear arms race.

Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester released a lengthy pastoral letter on the subject Tuesday, noting during a virtual news conference that Los Alamos National Laboratory — the birthplace of the atomic bomb — is preparing to ramp up production of the plutonium cores used in the nation's nuclear arsenal.

Wester called the arms race a vicious spiral.

"We can no longer deny or ignore the extremely dangerous predicament of our human family and that we are in a new nuclear arms race far more dangerous than the first," he said. "We need nuclear arms control, not an escalating nuclear arms race."

Nuclear watchdog groups welcomed the letter, which marks just the latest instance of the Catholic Church wading into the debate. In 2020, Pope Francis marked the 75th anniversary of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima by calling for peace and repeating that the mere possession of atomic weapons is immoral.

Last week, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace welcomed a recent pledge by several countries that are members of the United Nations Security Council to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Wester said he also was encouraged by the pledge.

Wester said the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, which covers parishes throughout northern New Mexico, has a special role to play given that two prominent federal laboratories — Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories — are located in the state. He also mentioned the U.S. government's repository of nuclear weapons at an air base in Albuquerque.

He suggested that spending more money to modernize the nation's nuclear arsenal robs from efforts to address poverty.

Federal officials spanning the Obama, Trump and now Biden administrations have argued that modernization is necessary given geo-political instability and ongoing national security concerns. Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation also have supported efforts to expand work at Los Alamos, pointing to billions of dollars in investment and new jobs that will result.

Wester said the focus should be on shifting weapons work to "life-affirming jobs" that involve environmental cleanup of Cold War-era waste, nonproliferation programs and projects that address climate change. He acknowledged that wouldn't be easy but said it's possible, pointing to changes that resulted from the technological revolution and now the transformation of the energy industry.

"It's really such an important topic. We really can't dally," Wester said.

New Mexico high court upholds deal on coal-fired power plant -Associated Press

The state Supreme Court has upheld provisions of an environmental law that provides financial arrangements for an electric utility to abandon investments in a coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico.

In a unanimous opinion announced Monday, the court upheld a finance order from state utility regulators that helps end the use of the San Juan Generating Station by Public Service Company of New Mexico.

The order allows the investor-owned utility to bill $361 million to utility customers as it moves forward with plans to abandon the power plant and raise money to shore up local employment.

Two advocacy groups for utility customers challenged the financial arrangements and the constitutionality of the 2019 Energy Transition Act that aims to phase out electricity sources linked to heavy emissions of climate-warming gasses.

An opinion from Justice David Thomson says that advocacy groups were unable to show that the new law results in unreasonable charges on utility bills.

The court rejected arguments that the Legislature overstepped its constitutional authority or infringed on the utility commission's responsibility for regulating utility companies.

"While the New Mexico Constitution delegates to the Commission the exclusive responsibility for carrying out public utility regulatory policy, the parameters of that policy are, in the first instance, for the Legislature to decide," Thomson wrote.

The opinion was applauded by a long list of environmental advocacy groups, including the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Western Resource Advocates.

"The court's decision now frees up this important funding for worker training and community assistance," said Steve Michel, deputy director of clean energy at Western Resource Advocates, in a news release.

Jail is hemorrhaging medical staff, doesn’t have a doctor, court documents show – Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico

Attorneys representing inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo County say even after the jail hired a new medical provider, the same old patterns of unconstitutionally bad health care continue.

Last fall, the Tennessee-based company Corizon Health promised more health care staff at MDC, and as county officials signed a $64.8 million contract with the company, they said they hoped it would ease strain on guards.

But according to interviews with two former jail employees and court documents filed at the tail end of 2021, that’s not what’s been happening since Corizon took over in mid-October.

Instead, attorneys say there hasn’t been a medical director or an on-site physician, and more and more nurses are resigning, leaving a skeleton crew, especially at night.

A leaked email from a psychiatric nurse who resigned in early December warns that the medical and psychiatric staff shortage — compounded by a lack of correctional officers — is a “recipe for disaster.”

That situation is the subject of the Dec. 29 filing by lawyers representing inmates in McClendon v. Albuquerque, a decades-old class-action case about conditions at the largest jail in the state. They are asking the court to quickly hold a hearing about what they say is systemic inadequacy in medical care there.

The longtime staff shortage reached a crisis point that is putting inmates in danger, said Alexandra Freedman Smith, one of the lawyers representing the inmates.

Her clients are locked in their cells for days at a time with MDC staff only checking on them once per hour, she said, making it impossible for them to take showers, call their families, or even get to court proceedings.

In November, a man was beaten to death by a cellmate because there were not enough jail guards to supervise them, and there was no one to answer the calls for help from other inmates as he was killed, Freedman Smith said. Calls for help in medical emergencies, including seizures, have also gone unanswered, she added.

“There simply aren’t enough staff to adequately supervise the inmates at that jail,” she said.

The previous medical provider, Centurion Detention Health Services LLC, prematurely ended its contract with the county in June 2021. County Manager Julie Morgas Baca told the Associated Press that the county government asked Centurion to address concerns about inmates dying on their watch, but the company just pulled out of the contract instead.

ONE NURSE FOR 1,200 PEOPLE

On a daily basis, MDC has about 1,200 incarcerated people inside, the attorneys wrote, with many suffering from mental or physical health issues, including life-threatening illnesses and conditions.

Incoming inmates aren’t screened correctly when they’re entering the jail, according to a former worker who spoke with Source New Mexico on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation from Corizon. Along with some work shifts having a single nurse covering both detox and psychiatric care — or with no detox nurse at all — that means people suffering from substance use disorders do not get the right detox treatment, the worker said. That can be deadly.

“They’re saying, ‘You need to do detox and the psychiatric area.’ But then you’re not doing a good job in either one,” the ex-employee said.

A lack of medical staff also means inmates with other conditions — heart problems or diabetes, for instance — do not get their medications administered on time, according to the former staffer.

Inmates often have wounds that, if left untreated, could turn septic and fatal. But at one point over the holidays, the worker said, the jail didn’t do its daily wound clinic for a week because there was no wound care nurse to run it.

Source New Mexico also corroborated these allegations with another MDC staff member who left because of poor working conditions and who also requested anonymity because the staffer is not authorized to discuss company policies or practices.

Nurses have to cover multiple assignments at MDC due to a severe shortage, according to court documents and both former employees.

Often, one nurse is asked to take on the duties of several critical positions that must be staffed for the jail’s medical system to function, even during graveyard shifts, they said.

Attorneys learned that sometime in the last couple of weeks, there was only one nurse on staff to oversee the entire facility for her shift. A second nurse arrived later, they wrote.

“We only have one full-time nurse practitioner who’s been taking the brunt of all of this going on, especially with the COVID numbers rising and everything like that,” said the first former worker. “They’re taking the brunt of it.”

Sometimes, Corizon is putting nurses who are underqualified into critical positions and leadership roles, both former employees said, and that puts the inmates in danger but also threatens the nurses’ medical licenses.

HISTORY OF ABUSE AND NEGLECT

Hundreds of prisoners sued Corizon over its medical practices in New Mexico prisons. The company was eventually fired by the Department of Corrections.

The Santa Fe New Mexican published a series in 2016 looking into whether state officials were ignoring warning signs or were doing an inadequate job overseeing Corizon. Prisoners were sexually abused by a doctor Corizon hired, according to inmates who filed lawsuits saying they experienced dangerous mistreatment and neglect while Corizon was in charge of health care inside N.M. prisons.

But that didn’t stop Bernalillo County from hiring Corizon to provide medical services in its jail.

County commissioners unanimously voted in September to award the company a four-year, $64.8 million contract.

Commissioner Adriann Barboa told the other commissioners at the meeting in September that at that point in the year, 10 people had died in the jail.

Before the vote, Barboa said she was thankful that the contract called for an increase in medical staff, a phlebotomist to ease stress on the nurses, an addiction treatment specialist, and seven full-time medical staff who could monitor patients.

Barboa also brought up the fact that local media outlets sued to obtain settlement agreements between Corizon and state prisoners related to medical malpractice by the company. Corizon fought to keep the records secret but ultimately lost the case.

But none of the other abuses documented in lawsuits and media reports came up during the meeting before the vote on the contract.

County Manager Morgas Baca said a couple of days after the vote, “Bernalillo County always strives to provide quality medical care for the inmates and this agreement will set a new standard for healthcare at MDC.”

None of the commissioners had yet returned requests for comment about whether the company’s medical care complies with the contract or the law before press time.

Damaged O'Keeffe painting on display again after restoration -Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A damaged Georgia O'Keeffe painting is back on display after conservators spent 1,250 hours and $145,000 restoring it.

Dale Kronkright, head of conservation at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, called the job the most massive restoration project he has ever worked on.

The results will be on display at the museum through Oct. 10. The painting will then travel to the San Diego Museum of Art in 2023.

The late American modernist artist painted the piece, titled "Spring," in 1948. It was last seen by the public in 2019, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

The painting combines such O'Keeffe trademarks as desert primroses, a large vertebra and the northern New Mexico mountain peak named Pedernal. Measuring about 4 by 7 feet, it was the largest canvas the artist had painted up to that point.

The water damage likely was caused by a tarantula tunneling through the roof at the artist's 18th century adobe home in Abiquiú, in northern New Mexico.

Conservators had to repair not only the water damage but previous restoration work that had failed. The artwork also had been varnished, a process no longer used in conservation.

"The damage is consistent with it being stacked against another painting," Kronkright said. "It's clear at some point that it was sanded. It was almost as if the paint had been pulled off."

O'Keeffe Museum Curator Ariel Plotek said the work feels like a statement about a new chapter in the artist's life. The painting of "Spring" coincided with O'Keeffe's return from New York — where she spent three years settling the estate of her late husband, Alfred Stieglitz — and the remodeling of her New Mexico home.

"The primrose is associated with mourning; the bones are connected to death. It's interpreted as a kind of a memorial to Alfred Stieglitz," Plotek said.

Plotek said the fact that O'Keeffe kept the painting for several decades shows it was important to her.

In letters to her New York gallerist, Edith Halpert, O'Keeffe wrote that she didn't know if anyone else would like it.

After the water damage, O'Keeffe sent "Spring" to her personal conservator in New York, calling it "unmanageable and hard to clean." It was restretched and cleaned. Ultraviolet light showed large sponge marks on the painting, likely attempts by the artist to clean it, Kronkright said.

The museum acquired the painting when it opened in 1997.

A $75,000 Bank of America grant funded part of the restoration work, while the museum's operating budget paid for the rest.

New Mexico hospitals warn of wait times for the less sick - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Officials with two of New Mexico's largest health care providers issued a warning Monday: People showing up at hospital emergency rooms with minor or mild complaints should be ready for long waits.

The officials with University of New Mexico Hospital and Presbyterian Healthcare Services told reporters that their emergency departments are overwhelmed and that the situation is expected to get worse.

They stressed that the sickest patients are being treated first and that emergency rooms are no place for people seeking COVID-19 test who do not have severe symptoms.

"If you are very sick, we are here for you and we want you to come in. If your illness is mild, we really encourage you to seek care through your primary care physician, a virtual visit or some other alternative and not come to the emergency department," said Dr. Steve McLaughlin, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of New Mexico.

At Presbyterian, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Mitchell said staff is trying to deal with overrun emergency rooms by treating patients with mild issues in hallways or in waiting rooms.

He also encouraged people to get COVID-19 and influenza vaccinations, saying help keep infections mild so hospital trips can be avoided.

The situation is no different in other states, where staffing shortages among health care workers has complicated issues. Even before the pandemic, New Mexico was dealing with a nursing shortage and had among one of the lowest patient-to-bed ratios among states.

Despite the increase of confirmed COVID-19 infections due to the omicron variant, most of the patients hospitalized in New Mexico now are being treated for illnesses other than COVID-19. However, the officials said that even a small number of COVID-19 patients adds to the crush for hospital staff.

"We really are in a public health crisis and we're asking for the public's help," Mitchell said.

The officials also warned that cloth masks aren't effective and that people "need to up the game" given the high rate of transmissibility of the omicron variant.

Infections are happening among vaccinated hospital staff as well, but the officials said symptoms mostly have been mild. Still, McLaughlin said it was a "huge challenge" to have workers out due to mandatory quarantines.

If conditions worsen, Mitchell said it's possible the quarantine time for health care workers with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic could be cut further to address staffing shortages. He said Presbyterian continues to follow federal guidelines.

Gallup Indian Medical Center adopts crisis standards ­– By Arlyssa Becenti, Source New Mexico

The Gallup Indian Medical Center implemented its Crisis Standards of Care in late December due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. That was two weeks before the first case of omicron had even surfaced on Navajo Nation.

Within the Gallup Service Unit health care facilities, the Tohatchi Health Center reported it is also receiving an influx of patients infected with coronavirus. Since there is a strain on resources, the Crisis Standards of Care are meant to prioritize patients in the most precarity.

“There’s certain guidelines and how to do it,” said Dr. Kevin Gaines, acting chief medical officer at GIMC. “It is individualized to the facility based on the facility’s resources and the abilities that they have to change operations to best meet the needs of the patients that they serve.”

Gallup leadership and staff got together to develop a plan around the standards and started using it Dec. 23, Gaines confirmed.

TRYING TO FIND BEDS FOR PATIENTS

This Crisis Standards of Care means medical staff prioritize the sickest patients first. This could cause non-emergency patient care to be delayed, and some appointments for routine health services may be canceled. Wait times for appointments might also grow longer.

GIMC has 99 beds, and six of those are ICU beds, according to its website. But Gaines said the staff is struggling to find available beds for patients in other hospitals.

“There are extended periods of time, sometimes a day or more, to find a bed for a patient that needs a bed that we can’t provide,” Gaines said. “And that’s part of the reason that Gallup declared Crisis Standards of Care.”

It could take as many as 40 to 50 calls to various hospitals to ask if there are any available beds, he said, and these hospitals could be in different parts of the country such as Kansas, Texas, California. This adds hardships for families and takes time away from providers as they search for a bed for their patients.

“We always try to find the closest bed possible but right now those beds are very, very limited,” said Gaines. “And so unfortunately, we’re having to send our patients at times farther away from home to get the care that they need.”

STAFFING SHORTAGES AND MORE PPE

GIMC has also been experiencing nurse shortages like the rest of the country. But Gaines said they have had a bit more success recently in acquiring additional nursing staff through contracting, as well as hiring some more permanent nurses.

As the more contagious omicron virus starts coming into the facility, GIMC has improved its PPE game, Gaines said.

“The big thing that we’ve been able to do so far is step up our level of PPE required due to the higher infectious nature of the omicron variant,” he said. “So our staff are now utilizing more N-95 respirators and face shields.”

GIMC continues to provide between 15 and 18 patients a day with antibody monoclonal treatments. But Gaines said some scheduled patients don’t always show up for this infusion, so they’re not actually infusing that many people most days.

THE ONSLAUGHT OF OMICRON

Omicron has quickly become the dominant variant in the county. Near the Navajo Nation, the first case in Utah was confirmed on Dec. 3, in Arizona on Dec. 8 and in New Mexico on Dec. 13.

Navajo Nation had been keeping vigilant and worked to prevent this virus from reaching Navajo for as long as possible. But, on Jan. 3, it was reported that the first case of omicron was found in the Utah Navajo Health Care Service Unit.

The Navajo Department of Health reported that as of Wednesday, Jan. 5, delta was still the dominant variant with 1,107 identified cases so far.

“We did our very best,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. “We did extremely well pushing this variant off the Navajo Nation. But it’s all around us. It’s everywhere. It’s contagious.”

The number of COVID-19 cases grew from double digits to triple in recent days. As of Sunday, Jan. 9, there were a reported 242 new COVID-19 cases for the Navajo Nation and no deaths.

The Navajo Nation continues its mask mandates, which have been in place since April 2020, and will continue to make vaccines and boosters available at Navajo health care systems.

“We encourage people to get tested,” Nez said. “If you’re sick, don’t go to work. If you’re sick, don’t go to school. Let’s protect our Navajo citizens.”

New Mexico woman accused of abandoning newborn in dumpster

An 18-year-old New Mexico woman is facing charges after police say she abandoned her newborn baby in a dumpster.

A group of people was looking through a dumpster for anything of value Friday in Hobbs, near the Texas border, when they heard what they thought was a dog or kitten, Hobbs Police Chief August Fons said during a news conference Monday. They moved a trash bag and found a baby inside, wrapped in a dirty blanket with its umbilical cord still attached.

They immediately called authorities and tried to keep the boy warm until police and paramedics arrived. Authorities estimated the child had been in the dumpster for about six hours before he was discovered.

"Their collective quick response to this emergency, including notification of 911, was absolutely pivotal in saving this baby's life," Fons said.

Officers administered aid before paramedics took the child to the hospital. The baby has since been transferred to a hospital in Lubbock, Texas, and is in stable condition.

Investigators used surveillance video to identify a car suspected of being involved. That led them to Alexis Avila, of Hobbs, who admitted to giving birth at another location and then leaving the baby in a dumpster.

Fons said during the interview with detectives, Avila said she was not aware that she was pregnant until Jan. 6 when she sought medical attention for abdominal pain. She told detectives that she was experiencing stomach pain the next day and unexpectedly gave birth.

"She further explained that she panicked and did not know what to do or or who to call," Fons said.

According to a court documents, Avila told authorities she started driving around until she decided to place the baby inside a dumpster near a shopping area.

Search warrants for Avila's car and her family's home turned up blood evidence, clothing and a towel.

She was booked on a charge of attempted first-degree murder or in the alternative felony child abuse. Prosecutors said the charge will be determined during an upcoming preliminary hearing.

Ibukun Adepoju, a public defender who is representing Avila, said in a statement that her client is "barely 18 herself."

"Whatever happened is already a tragedy for her family and the community," Adepoju said. "As humans, we should practice compassion as we wait for the justice system to work."

Like other states, New Mexico has a safe haven law, which allows parents to leave a baby younger than 90 days at a safe location without criminal consequences. The laws began to pass in state legislatures around the nation in the early 2000s in response to reports of gruesome baby killings and abandonments, which received copious media attention.

Hobbs authorities reiterated that police and fire stations are among the places that are considered safe havens under the law and encouraged anyone in a similar situation to reach out for help.

'Trespasser' hit by Rail Runner train in Albuquerque -Associated Press

Authorities are investigating after someone was hit by a New Mexico Rail Runner train in Albuquerque.

Rail Runner officials say "a trespasser" was struck early Monday by a train heading to Santa Fe.

The train was not carrying any passengers as it was supposed to start service in Santa Fe.

Rail Runner spokeswoman Augusta Meyers says train service has been suspended between the downtown Albuquerque and Los Ranchos train stations until the afternoon.

New Mexico State Police are overseeing the investigation.

Meyers did not give any details about the person hit including their status.