KUNM

FRI: Families Prep For Extended School Closures Across State, + More

Mar 13, 2020

Families prepare for extended school closures in New Mexico - By Morgan Lee And Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico health officials say 10 people in the state have now tested positive for the new coronavirus, with the new cases including household members of those who had previously tested positive.

The new cases in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties come as students pick up laptops and books from school to settle into life at home without public gatherings for at least three weeks.

Schools statewide were ordered to close as New Mexico authorities try to isolate known infections from the coronavirus. Catholic churches and schools in central and northern New Mexico also announced closures.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham acknowledged the closures are difficult and have social and economic impacts.

She asked the public for help in limiting their contact, washing their hands and finding ways to pitch in as state officials "do everything we can to minimize the negative impacts of this public health emergency."

Schools Scramble To Feed Students After Coronavirus Closures - By Cuneyt Dil And Hope Yen, Associated Press

Millions of students across the U.S. may go without free lunches and breakfasts they receive at schools, as more districts decide to close due to the coronavirus.

Many schools are rushing to arrange grab-and-go lunch bags or set up delivery routes so America's poorest children don't go hungry while classes are out of session.

The outbreak has already temporarily closed schools in states including Ohio, Maryland, Michigan, Virginia, Oregon and New Mexico. Cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Houston, Seattle, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., also announced public schools would shut down.

Meanwhile, Congress may take action to waive regulations nationwide to make it easier for school meals to be distributed at more sites.

New Mexico Supreme Court Asked To Weigh In On Water Fight - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A coalition of outdoor groups is asking the New Mexico Supreme Court to weigh in on a long-running dispute over public access to rivers and streams that flow through private property.

The New Mexico Wildlife Federation and others filed their petition Friday. They are seeking to invalidate a rule adopted previously by the state Game Commission that gives landowners the ability to petition wildlife managers to certify waters on private property as "non-navigable" and prohibit public access.

Critics say the rule violates the state Constitution and that wildlife managers don't have the authority to determine how waterways should be classified.

Jackson Wink Mma Academy Adjusts Training Amid Covid-19 - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A storied mixed martial arts gym that has trained UFC light heavyweight champion Jon "Bones" Jones is adjusting its training amid rising cases of the new coronavirus.

The Albuquerque-based Jackson Wink MMA Academy announced Friday it is moving to more striking-based training to curtail contact among fighters.

Gym spokesman James Hallinan says fighters who are sick or who may have had exposure to COVID-19 won't be allowed to train at the facility.

The announcement comes after the UFC said Friday it would proceed with its plans to hold a fan-free event Saturday night in Brasilia, Brazil.

Police Get Tips On 30-Year-Old Bowling Alley Massacre CaseAssociated Press

Detectives are examining dozens of new tips related to the massacre at a southern New Mexico bowling alley more than 30 years ago following the announcement of a new reward. 

KVIA-TV reports the tips come a month after Las Cruces police detectives announced a $30,000 reward for information leading to the suspects behind a deadly robbery that left four dead.

Police say two unidentified robbers came into the Las Cruces Bowl in February 1990 and shot seven people before burning a portion of the building.

Las Cruces Detective Amador Martinez said he's combing through 50 to 60 tips he's received since holding a news conference in early February. 

Census Faces Challenges As It Aims To Hire Up To 500,000 - By Mike Schneider And Angeliki Kastanis, Associated Press

The U.S. Census Bureau says it has reached its goal of recruiting more than 2.6 million applicants, but it has been a bumpy road to get there.

The agency is facing an abundance of jobs in the U.S. and concerns that some areas won't make recruitment goals. The bureau is working to hire up to a half-million temporary workers before May.

An Associated Press analysis shows that low unemployment is complicating the bureau's recruiting efforts. It also demonstrates that urban counties are more likely to hit recruitment goals than rural areas. The bureau has yet to account for how hiring could be affected by novel coronavirus concerns.

U.S. Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Deb Haaland of New Mexico told Census Bureau officials last month that residents had applied for jobs but never heard back. The two Democrats worried that recruiting and hiring problems would lead to undercounting of hard-to-count communities in their districts, which both have large numbers of minority groups.

In New Mexico, the recruiting shortfall seems most drastic in Hispanic communities and Indian country, Haaland said.

All New Mexico Public Schools To Close For Three WeeksAssociated Press, Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico's governor announced Thursday that K-12 schools will close for three weeks in an effort to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a news release that the extended closure will begin at the end of the school day Friday. Many public school districts had shorter spring breaks scheduled next week.

Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said the extended closure is designed to guard against the spread of COVID-19 within communities.

The Albuquerque Journal and The Santa Few New Mecican report The Archdiocese of Santa Fe yesterday announced it will also close its schools, in addition to cancelling church services, until April 6.

The state confirmed a sixth positive test for coronavirus for a woman in her 50s from Santa Fe County.

A nonprofit lab on Thursday increased the state's capacity to test for the virus by an additional 5,000 people.

Gov. Lujan Grisham has declared a public health emergency to help secure emergency provisions and personnel.

New Mexico Finds 6th Virus Infection, Bans Big Gatherings - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico health officials are temporarily banning many mass gatherings that involve 100 or more people in a space such as a stadium or auditorium in an effort to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

The move came as the state announced a sixth person had tested positive for the virus. The public health order Thursday on gatherings provides exemptions for airports, mass transit, shopping malls, homeless shelters, courthouses, health care facilities, places of worship, weddings and funerals.  

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has declared a public health emergency to help secure emergency provisions and personnel and to enforce health directives.

The latest cases of coronavirus are a Santa Fe County woman in her 50s who traveled to Italy, according to a release Thursday evening from the Department of Health.

The fifth case was a woman in her 40s from Bernalillo County. A possible travel link was being investigated. That is the second infection in the Albuquerque area. Other positive tests include a couple in their 60s in Socorro County who recently returned from Egypt and a woman in her 60s from Santa Fe who had visited New York.

Plan To Store Nuke Fuel In New Mexico Gets 1st Regulatory OK - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Federal regulators are recommending licensing a proposed multibillion-dollar complex in southern New Mexico that would temporarily store spent fuel from commercial nuclear reactors around the United States.

But the preliminary recommendation of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is making waves with critics who say the agency did not look closely enough at potential conflicts with locating the facility in the heart of one of the nation's busiest oil and gas basins.

New Mexico's governor and other politicians are among those with concerns. But regulators indicated in a draft environmental review released this week that the facility wouldn't interfere with the oil industry or affect the environment.

The commission noted in its draft environmental review that the facility would not affect the environment or interfere with the oil industry because drilling taps into layers that are far deeper than where the storage site would be located.

New Jersey-based Holtec International is seeking a 40-year license to build what it has described as a state-of-the-art complex near Carlsbad. The first phase calls for storing up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium, which would be packed into 500 canisters. Future expansion could make room for as many as 10,000 canisters of spent nuclear fuel.

New Mexico Village Gets Federal Funds To Respond To Drought - Associated Press

A mountain village in central New Mexico has been awarded nearly $750,000 in federal funds that will be used to help the community bolster its resiliency to drought. 

The grant announced Thursday for Tijeras is part of an overall announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation that included 12 projects that will share $7.5 million to increase the reliability of water supplies as well as improve water management and the environment. 

Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said communities throughout the West need to take steps to prepare for drought.

The latest federal drought map shows more than 40% of New Mexico is dealing with some level of dryness, although conditions have improved somewhat in recent weeks and are vastly better than a year ago. 

Officials say Tijeras will use its funding to drill a new well that will provide half of the village's drinking water supply. 

In 2011, a drought combined with wildfire and disruptions in production from one of the village's two wells caused the aquifer level at the remaining well to drop by 75 feet. The village identified this project as a top mitigation strategy.

Health Emergency Declared For Navajo Nation Because Of Virus Associated Press

The Navajo Nation is now under a public health state of emergency declared by tribal President Jonathan Nez due to the growing spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Nez's office said in a statement announcing the declaration Wednesday that there were no confirmed cases on the tribe's sprawling reservation that includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. But Nez said the declaration is a "proactive measure to help ensure the Navajo Nation's preparedness and the health and well-being of the Navajo people."

Nez also imposed travel restrictions for all executive-branch employees. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. But for some, it can cause more severe illness.  

Lawyer Says Archdiocese Moved Assets Before Bankruptcy Filing Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A lawyer says a creditors committee of clergy abuse survivors believes the Archdiocese of Santa Fe moved assets to hinder creditors before it filed for bankruptcy protection.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that attorney James Stang told a federal judge Monday that the committee may seek standing in the case to challenge the movement of assets.

Parties in the Chapter 11 case were in court Monday updating a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge on the status of mediation.

Ford Elsaesser, an attorney representing the archdiocese, says good faith mediation continues and he was hopeful litigation involving church assets could be avoided.

Archbishop John C. Wester has said in the past that he decided to file for reorganization to ensure that all claims of child abuse survivors, including those who come forward in the future, can be settled "fairly and equitably."

New Mexico Supreme Court Upholds Woman's Murder Conviction - Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of a Raton woman in the fatal 2016 shooting of her boyfriend.

The state's highest court unanimously decided Thursday there was sufficient evidence to support Crystal Vigil's conviction. 

The court also rejected Vigil's arguments that she failed to receive a fair trial.

She says the judge prevented the cross-examination of a witness about text messaging statements concerning the murder and declined to make an instruction to the jury that the defense initially requested but later withdrew.

Vigil was sentenced to life in prison for killing Zachariah Holderby in the house they shared in Raton. 

Authorities say the couple were in the process of separating and the shooting occurred on a day in which they drank and used methamphetamine before arguing. 

Vigil must serve 30 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole.

Mom In New Mexico Christian Sect Sentenced In Son's Death Gallup Independent, Associated Press

The mother of a teen whose death prompted a raid of a paramilitary Christian sect in New Mexico has been sentenced to prison.

The Gallup Independent reports Stacey Miller was sentenced earlier this month to nine years in prison after pleading guilty in connection with the death of her 13-year-old son, Enoch Miller.

Miller entered a plea agreement Dec. 16 in which she admitted to abandonment of a child resulting in death. The secretive sect Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps in the small ranching community of Fence Lake, New Mexico, was spotlighted when authorities raided its compound in 2017 in connection with a child abuse investigation.

Police Get Tips On 30-Year-Old Bowling Alley Massacre Case - KVIA-TV, Associated Press

Detectives are examining dozens of new tips related to the massacre at a southern New Mexico bowling alley more than 30 years ago following the announcement of a new reward. 

KVIA-TV reports the tips come a month after Las Cruces police detectives announced a $30,000 reward for information leading to the suspects behind a deadly robbery that left four dead. 

Police say two unidentified robbers came into the Las Cruces Bowl in February 1990 and shot seven people before burning a portion of the building. 

Las Cruces Detective Amador Martinez said he's combing through 50 to 60 tips he's received since holding a news conference in early February.