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TUES: NM Restaurant Loses Permit After Flouting Health Orders, + More

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New Mexico Restaurant In Sign Flap Gets Permit SuspendedAssociated Press

A New Mexico restaurant that sparked anger for erecting a sign that blamed China for the pandemic has had its food service permit suspended.

The Farmington Daily Times reports the New Mexico Environment Department suspended the food service permit last week for the Country Family Restaurant after accusing the Kirtland, New Mexico, restaurant of violating statewide health orders.

That order prohibits indoor dining and requires workers to wear masks.

Country Family Restaurant owner Steve Jackson told The Daily Times the state has not shown any proof that indoor dining increases the spread of COVID-19.

In March, Jackson generated anger for posting a sign blaming China for the coronavirus.

“CLOSED you can thank CHINA!!!” the sign read outside the Country Family Restaurant.

Former Navajo Nation Attorney General Harrison Tsosie said he would never eat at the place again and urged other members of the Navajo Nation to avoid it.

County In Oil-Production Zone Fights Stay-At-Home Order – Associated Press

A county in New Mexico's southeastern oil producing region is backing a legal challenge against a statewide ban on indoor dining amid surging coronavirus infections across the state.

Eddy County filed a legal brief with the New Mexico Supreme Court in solidarity with restaurants that say Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has overstepped her authority under a stay-at-home order that bans indoor dining.

County officials say summer heat in southeastern New Mexico makes it especially difficult to operate a restaurant without indoor dining, putting an outsized strain on the area's economy.

Lujan Grisham says restaurant service can be riskier than other business activity because face masks are removed when people eat.

It was unclear when the court will reach a decision.

On Tuesday, health officials confirmed 301 new cases of COVID-19 infection, with nearly 20,000 infected since the pandemic reached New Mexico.

Seven additional deaths were linked to the virus, all in people ages 60 or older. There were 160 hospitalizations.

The Jalisco Cafe in Silver City on Tuesday joined the New Mexico Restaurant Association in urging the court to strike down the indoor dining ban.

The restaurant was sanctioned by environmental officials last month for flouting the ban on indoor service.

Separately, a lawsuit backed by the state Republican Party is challenging the governor's authority to levy fines against businesses that defy public health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Oral arguments are scheduled in that case next week.

State health officials reinstated the ban in mid-July amid a surge in COVID-19 infections.

New Mexico Reports 301 New COVID-19 Cases And 7 DeathsKUNM, Associated Press

State health officials reported 301 additional cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total to 19,791.

Bernalillo County had the most cases at 80, followed by Lea County in southeast New Mexico with 25.

There were also 7 more deaths among people whose ages ranged from the 60s to the 90s. All had underlying health conditions. The number of deaths in the state related to COVID-19 is now 626.

There are currently 160 people who are hospitalized in the state for COVID-19 and 7,657 cases are classified as recovered.

The Department of Health has identified at least one positive case in residents and/or staff in the past month in 43 long-term care and acute care facilities.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Mexico has risen over the past two weeks by about 28%, from 253 newly confirmed cases per day on July 13 to 296 additional reported cases per day on July 27, according to an Associated Press analysis of data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

The seven-day average for virus-related deaths has increased from 4.57 per day to 6.14 over the same period.

Mother Of Nambé Teen Beaten To Death Gets 12 Years In PrisonAssociated Press

The mother of 13-year-old Jeremiah Valencia will serve 12 years for failing to protect her son from ongoing abuse and a deadly beating.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that 38-year-old Tracy Ann Peña was sentenced Monday in Santa Fe for her role in the Nambe boy's killing. She was actually sentenced to 21 years but had nine suspended as part of a plea deal.

Valencia's body was found inside a plastic container in a roadside grave near Nambé in January 2018. Prosecutors say he died after months of abuse inflicted on him by 21-year-old Jordan Nuñez and Nuñez's father, Thomas Ferguson.

Pena was dating Ferguson at the time. Ferguson died by suicide in April 2018 at the Santa Fe County jail.

Virgin Galactic Shows Off Passenger Spaceship Cabin Interior - By John Antczak, Associated Press

Virgin Galactic has revealed what the interior of the rocket ship will look like that will carry passengers on suborbital flights into the space's lower reaches.

An online event Tuesday showcased cabin details designed to enhance the experience of hurtling up into space, experiencing weightlessness and seeing the Earth far below.

One unusual amenity is a large mirror to let passengers see themselves floating against the backdrop of space.

Virgin Galactic officials say there will be a few more test flights before commercial operations begin at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico.

A start date has not been announced for the passenger flights.

Navajo Nation Casinos Begin Layoffs Amid COVID-19 ClosuresAssociated Press

Hundreds of people who had been on paid leave from their jobs with the Navajo Nation's gambling enterprise won't be paid after Monday.

Brian Parrish, who heads the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, said 900 employees began receiving letters and phone calls over the weekend about the layoffs.

Another 125 employees will be paid for another week, he said. A skeleton crew will remain on the payroll to handle human resources work, security, management and finances, Parrish among them.

The ability to continue paying 1,180 employees had been a source of pride for the gambling enterprise.

The revenue from tribal casinos often is considered a stand-in for property tax that isn't paid on reservations. It helps fund tribal governments and social services like health care.

Parrish said the Navajo enterprise exhausted its cash reserves and money it received from the federal Paycheck Protection Program to pay employees and no longer can afford it.

Dems Slam Cowboys For Trump Boss For 'Back To Africa' Video - By Russell Contreras and Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Democrats and civil rights leaders in New Mexico are denouncing the leader of the Cowboys for Trump group after he posted a Facebook live video calling for some Black athletes to go back to Africa.

The 35-minute speech from Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin on Facebook live  attacked Black NFL players who support standing before games for "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" — traditionally known as the Black National Anthem — as a gesture of solidarity against racial injustice.

New Mexico Speaker of the House Brian Egolf tweeted late Monday that Griffin's comments were racist and demanded that he resign his seat on the Otero County Commission.

U.S. Rep. and Democratic Senate candidate Ben Ray Luján calls Griffin's remarks racist and hurtful and says both Democrats and Republicans should denounce him.

Griffin also offered to give people of color what he called a "101" lesson on racial identity and said anyone who does not identify as "American" first or opposes the Second Amendment right to bear arms should leave the U.S. or "go home."

Devont'e Kurt Watson, a member of the Black Lives Matter movement in Albuquerque, said the "back to Africa" comment showed Griffin didn't see Black citizens as Americans who have a right to protest. "What we are doing is very American," Watson said.

Mike Curtis, spokesman for the Republican Party of New Mexico, declined comment on Griffin's comments in the video.

Griffin in an interview with The Associated Press defended his comments and said he was speaking out against a double standard that he says only holds white people responsible for racist behavior. He conceded that he may have poorly chosen his words that by suggesting that some Blacks go "back to Africa."

Griffin plans to attend a Wednesday appearance by President Donald Trump in the Texas portion of the Permian Basin oil region that stretches into New Mexico. He considers Trump a friend.

Cowboys For Trump Defends 'Go Back To Africa' CommentsAssociated Press

The founder of the Cowboys for Trump political support group urged people who support performances of the Black National Anthem at football games to “go back to Africa” and condemned as “vile scum” people who portray the Confederate flag as racist, in a live Facebook video that has since been removed.

The selfie video of Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin was recorded Sunday on Facebook and removed after about 2,200 views.

In one passage, Griffin sharply criticized those who support performances at football games of the song “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” — traditionally known as the Black National Anthem.

Harold Bailey, president of the Albuquerque chapter of the NAACP, called the remarks some of the most hateful things he’s heard in recent memory.

In March, Griffin faced calls to resign from his county commissioner's seat after he said in a video, “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”

New Mexico Breaks Records On Reported Virus Cases In A DayAssociated Press

New Mexico health officials say the state has shattered its record on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in a single day.

The state said Monday it has recorded 467 new cases of the novel coronavirus. That tops a July 23 report when New Mexico recorded 338 cases. New Mexico now has a total of 19,502 confirmed cases.

The state also reported that five more people died from the virus, bringing the total number of deaths to 619.

Officials said there are 159 people hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19.

There also are 7,459 COVID-19 cases designated as having recovered by the New Mexico Department of Health.

Official Regrets Voting For School Conquistador Name RemovalAssociated Press

A member of a New Mexico school board whose vote ended up removing the name of a brutal Spanish conquistador from a high school now regrets her decision.

Carol Cooper of the Las Cruces Public Schools Board of Education said she wishes she could go back in time and reverse her decisive July 14 vote to rename Oñate High School.

The Las Cruces Sun-New reported Thursday that if she had voted against the name removal, the vote would have been tied 2-2 and the school's name would not have been changed.

Cooper said she heard from many constituents who wished she kept the school's name. Officials have not come up with a new name for the school.

The vote by the school board came after a man in Albuquerque shot an activist who sought to take down a Spanish conquistador statue that resembles Oñate. The city removed the statue the next day.

Graduate Fighting To Keep Native American Caricature Logo – Associated Press

A graduate of a southwestern New Mexico high school is fighting the state’s lieutenant governor over his call to remove a baseball stadium’s logo of a Native American caricature.

The Deming Headlight reports Samantha “Sami” Morales has started a petition aimed at keeping the “Chief Wahoo” logo from the main sign at Cobre High’s baseball stadium in Bayard, New Mexico.

She said the logo is a source of pride in the community.

Lt. Gov. Howie Morales recently asked the Cobre Consolidated School District superintendent to remove the logo amid racial injustice protests across the U.S.

A similar logo was used by Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians until 2018.

Howie Morales coached Cobre’s baseball team to a state title in 2008 and retired shortly after.

The lieutenant governor said the school’s athletic teams, called the Indians, have a new logo that is not Chief Wahoo, but there’s been no update to the stadium sign.