FRI: Archdiocese Of Santa Fe To Cease Sunday Mass As Virus Cases Surge Past 40,000, + More

Oct 23, 2020

New Mexico Diocese To Cease Sunday Mass Amid Virus Surge - Associated Press

One of the oldest Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States will again be foregoing Sunday Mass indefinitely as New Mexico marks its latest surge of COVID-19 cases. 

Archbishop John C. Wester is directing churches within the northern New Mexico diocese to cease regular Mass schedules after Sunday until further notice. 

He's encouraging Masses to be streamed via the internet or recorded so that they may be accessed at home. He's also calling for funeral services and weddings to be delayed. 

The guidance comes as state officials have been pushing people to stay home and adhere to the provisions of the public health order.

He pointed to data that shows the demographics of COVID-19 cases migrating toward the younger ages and the uptick of hospitalizations, saying there are concerns about the state's health care system reaching maximum capacity for treating patients.

Wester did say there has been no significant increase in the number of cases within the Catholic schools that are part of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. 

Under his guidance, schools may remain open in accordance with the judgment of the pastor, superintendent and principals. 

If cases begin to rise and the need arises to end in-person learning, he said schools should begin arranging to provide online classes exclusively.

New Mexico's total coronavirus case surpassed 40,000 Friday after officials announced 797 new COVID-19 cases.

There were also seven more deaths, bringing that total to 960. There are 229 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in New Mexico.

In New Mexico hospitals, 77% of general beds are occupied and 76% of intensive care unit beds. That includes people hospitalized for COVID-19 and other illnesses.

An amended public health order takes effect Friday. Restaurants, bars, retail stores, gyms and other businesses must close for two weeks if they have more than four separate outbreaks among employees within a 14-day period.

The state is now publishing a watch list of businesses that have had two or more outbreaks. 

US Grants Broadband Licenses To Native American Tribes - By Cedar Attanasio Ap/Report For America

The Federal Communications Commission has granted broadcast licenses to dozens of rural tribal governments.

The commission said Friday an initial 154 licenses of 2.5 gigahertz were awarded to Native American communities. That includes about 20 in New Mexico and Arizona.

The spectrum had long been reserved for educational institutions. Tribes fought to be first in line for a new batch of licenses for the wireless technology that is ideal for sending high-speed internet wirelessly.

The Pueblo of Zia, just northwest of Albuquerque, was among those. Zia Tribal Administrator Ken Lucero said it was a great opportunity.

Around 400 tribes applied for the permits as internet access becomes crucial for health and education during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some were granted temporary authority, including the Navajo Nation and Zuni Pueblo.

Telemedicine has become more important across the Navajo Nation, which spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The tribe has been hit hard by the pandemic with disproportionately high numbers of infections and deaths.

Connectivity for remote learning also has been a big issue for tribes. In New Mexico, 55% of Native American students could not connect to online courses.

Census Takers Fall Short Of Target Goal In Areas Of US - By Mike Schneide,r Associated Press

From tribal lands in the Southwest to storm-battered Louisiana, the U.S. Census Bureau did not achieve its goal of reaching 99% of households during the 2020 census.

Census takers only reached 94% of households in parts of Louisiana. In Window Rock, the capital of the Navajo Nation on the Arizona-New Mexico border that was ravaged by COVID-19, census takers only reached 98.9%.

Overall, the Census Bureau says it did reach 99.9% of the nation's households — but in a nation of 330 million people, the missing .1% still represents hundreds of thousands of uncounted residents.

In small cities, even handfuls of undercounted residents can make a big difference in the resources the communities receive. Community activists and civil rights groups say racial and ethnic minorities are historically undercounted.

Also, a high percentage of households reached does not necessarily translate to an accurate count: The data's quality depends on how it was obtained.

The most accurate information comes from people who "self-respond" to the census questionnaire online, by phone or mail. Census officials say 67% of the people counted in the 2020 census responded that way.

In any case, census takers, who go door to door, fell short of reaching all the households that hadn't filled out the census form in many pockets of the country.

Biden's Warning On Oil Tests Voter Resolve On Climate Change - By Ellen Knickmeyer and Kathleen Ronayne, Associated Press

Joe Biden has said the quiet part out loud on climate change. The Democratic presidential candidate spelled out for voters in Thursday's final debate that staving off the worst of global warming will require a "transition away" from the oil and gas industry over time.

It's the same thing Biden has said in written climate plans. But the GOP has moved quickly to use Biden's statement against Democrats in down-ticket races.

While polls show Americans are concerned about climate change, it's not clear if Biden's explicitness on the causes — oil, gas and coal — will hurt him Nov. 3.

Republicans, eager to shift focus away from the president's handling of the intensifying coronavirus pandemic, say Biden's plan would cost jobs.

Even some Democrats distanced themselves from Biden's comment, including Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, a first-term Democratic congresswoman in a tossup race in southern New Mexico, in the oil- and gas-rich Permian Basin.

"We need to work together to promote responsible energy production and stop climate change, not demonize a particular industry," she tweeted, adding that she was ready to "stand up to" the Democratic Party.

Lawsuit Argues New Mexico County Failed To Monitor Suicidal InmateAssociated Press

The family of an inmate who took his own life in jail is suing the New Mexico county that held him in custody.

The wrongful death lawsuit involving Fernando Rodriguez filed last week in U.S. District Court alleges that Grants County officials failed to properly monitor Rodriguez following his September 2018 arrest over a reported fight about drug use.

The lawsuit says Rodriguez had struggled with addiction and was placed in solitary confinement under a suicide watch. But court documents say guards neglected to watch him and the camera in the cell didn't work.

Grants County Manager Charlene Webb declined to comment.

New Mexico counties in recent years have been targets of lawsuits involving alleged mistreatment of inmates, some with mental health challenges.

New Mexico Military Institute Reports 63 COVID-19 Cases – Roswell Daily Record, Associated Press

A military junior college in New Mexico is under quarantine after reporting 63 employees and cadets tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Roswell Daily Record reported that the New Mexico Military Institute went into quarantine Monday. Institute President Maj. Gen. Jerry Grizzle said that the quarantine is expected to last until Oct. 29.

The Institute has been updating the status of its COVID-19 cases on a dashboard, which showed Wednesday that two employees and 61 cadets, including 53 still residing on the campus, have tested positive.

The closure comes as the state struggles with a surge in COVID-19 cases, with an additional 669 infections reported Thursday and three more deaths.

With high spread and positivity rates, health officials say the trend is expected to continue for the next two to three weeks and that more people will likely be hospitalized.

The recent surge has resulted in a nearly 150% increase in hospitalizations since Oct. 1.

TriCore Reference Laboratories, one of New Mexico's main diagnostic labs, has on a small scale started testing a number of samples together to boost capacity, called pool-testing.

If the pool is negative, then all the samples are considered negative. If the pool comes up positive, then tests are done on each sample to determine which one was positive.

Officials said the method is most effective when the positivity rate is low. New Mexico's rate has been increasing along with the surge in cases.

New Mexico Lab Begins COVID Pool-Testing - Associated Press

TriCore Reference Laboratories, one of New Mexico's main diagnostic labs, on a small scale has started testing a number of samples together to boost capacity. The technique is called pool-testing.

If the pool is negative for COVID-19, then all the samples are considered negative. If the pool comes up positive, then tests are done on each sample to determine which one was positive.

Officials said the method is most effective when the coronavirus positivity rate is low. New Mexico's rate has been increasing along with the surge in cases.

More Fire Restrictions Imposed As New Mexico Waits For Rain - Associated Press 

More national forests are imposing fire restrictions as New Mexico waits for some much needed rain. 

The Cibola National Forest is implementing the first stage of restrictions Friday on the Mount Taylor, Magdalena, Mountainair and Sandia ranger districts. 

That means no campfires or fireworks and smoking is limited to developed recreation sites, barren areas or inside vehicles or buildings. 

The Carson and Santa Fe national forests also are enacting restrictions. 

Officials say the risk of unseasonal wildfires across northern New Mexico is widespread, with a below average summer monsoon season and continuous dry fall being among the contributing factors.

The Gila forest in southern New Mexico also warned of high to very high fire danger.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque offered a glimmer of hope Thursday, saying confidence is growing for a major change that could bring colder temperatures and widespread snow and rain starting Sunday night and stretching into Tuesday.

However, the longer-term outlook indicates warmer and drier than normal weather for New Mexico through the cool season because of La Niña. 

Officials Mark Completion Of Navajo Water Treatment Plant Farmington Daily Times, Associated Press

Construction has been completed on a water treatment plant that will help provide parts of the Navajo Nation and surrounding areas with a clean and reliable source of drinking water.

Years in the making, the project is the result of a settlement agreement over water rights in the San Juan Basin. Construction still is underway on other parts of the system.

The Cutter Lateral Water Treatment Plant was constructed in two phases to receive San Juan River water for treatment then delivery by pipeline to Navajo communities and the southwest portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

The Farmington Daily Times reports the federal Bureau of Reclamation will test and monitor the treatment plant and an associated pipeline the next six months while the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority introduces water from the plant into six distribution systems.

After the pre-commissioning, the bureau will hand off operations, maintenance and replacement responsibilities to the Navajo utility.

For Navajo President Jonathan Nez, the plant and pipeline's completion will help with economic development in communities along U.S. Highway 550.

He said the Cutter Lateral can serve as a model for the Western Navajo Pipeline, a proposed infrastructure system to send water from Lake Powell to chapters in the western part of the reservation.

Cowboys For Trump Fends Off Financial Disclosures - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Time is running out before Election Day as New Mexico election regulators push the political support group Cowboys for Trump to disclose its financial backers.

The horseback-riding, New Mexico-based support group for President Donald Trump urged a judge on Wednesday not to dismiss its lawsuit challenging state financial disclosure requirements. A trial could stretch into late 2021.

The group was co-founded by Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin. It says less-onerous federal campaign finance laws override recent New Mexico legislation aimed a greater financial transparency for independent political expenditure groups.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, says Cowboys for Trump has ignored a binding arbitration agreement that found it was a political committee, subject to state registration and financial reporting requirements.

The group, also known by its C4T insignia, compared its plight in new court filings to the travails of the NAACP during the civil rights movement as Alabama sought unsuccessfully for disclosure of names and local addresses for members of the nation's oldest civil rights group.

'Roswell, New Mexico' To Film In New Mexico For 3rd Season - Associated Press

The CW-TV series "Roswell, New Mexico" will return to the state it's named after to film its third season. 

The New Mexico Film Office announced Thursday that the series will begin production this month through April and be filmed in Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, and Madrid. 

The series follows Liz Ortecho, played by Jeanine Mason, who is the daughter of immigrants. She discovers her teenage crush, who is now a police officer, is an alien who has kept his unearthly abilities hidden. 

"Roswell, New Mexico" is based on the "Roswell High" book series, written by Melinda Metz.

All film and television productions in New Mexico are required to follow the state's public health orders around COVID-19.