FRI: Lockdown Shows Divide In Border Town, + More

May 8, 2020

Extreme Lockdown Shows Divide In Hard-Hit Navajo Border Town - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Tens of thousands of people living on and around the vast Navajo reservation in the U.S. southwest do their shopping in Gallup, a town of 22,000 people.

The town has been locked down because of a coronavirus outbreak that has infected hundreds. The effectiveness of the lockdown is up for debate. Infections are still climbing as local hospitals, homeless shelters and nursing homes are reeling from demoralizing outbreaks of their own.

The dividing line traced by roadblocks also is tugging on sensitivities about birthrights and inequities. Native American visitors worry about the social stigma of being locked out because of the contagion. 

The outbreak on the huge Navajo reservation, the nation's largest with 175,000 people, has made people in Gallup nervous. Many see hints of the racism that has divided people in the town for centuries.

At Gallup's main hospital, Rehoboth McKinley Christian, the battle against the virus has taken a toll, with 32 infections among employees. The hospital's sole pulmonologist left Wednesday without a replacement, and patients with serious respiratory conditions are being flown to Albuquerque.

From Oilfields To Food Banks, New Mexico Feels Jobless Sting - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico already was among the most poverty-stricken states in the U.S. before oil prices crashed and the coronavirus outbreak derailed efforts to diversify the economy.

Now, more than 130,000 have either lost their jobs or had their hours cut, putting even more pressure on families and food banks.

An army of volunteers helps daily to sort, label and pack tons of food inside a giant warehouse in Albuquerque for distribution to pantries throughout the region as more people seek assistance.

Roadrunner Food Bank has sent out more than 7.3 million pounds of canned food, dry goods, fruits and vegetables over the last two months, marking a 20% increase over the same period last year.

Fresh faces in the line at the food pantries range from professionals who have been laid off to graduate students who are no longer getting stipends to help with expenses.

Numbers released Friday show New Mexico saw a nearly 40% increase in unemployment applications for the week ending May 2.

Overall, about one in six New Mexico workers have filed claims since mid-March.

College On Navajo Has Record Number Of Bachelor's Degrees - Associated Press

A college on the Navajo Nation says it has a record number of students receiving bachelor's degrees this year.

The coronavirus forced Diné College to cancel its graduation ceremony Friday. Students instead are being recognized on the college's website with their biographies, photos and congratulatory messages.

Most of the graduates are receiving associate's degrees. More than 50 are getting bachelor's degrees, including 21 in psychology and 10 in business administration.

The college is the first in the country established by a tribe and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Coronavirus Cases In New Mexico Surpass 4,670; 181 Dead Associated Press

New Mexico on Friday recorded another 181 coronavirus cases, pushing the statewide total to more than 4,670.

The state Health Department announced the latest numbers, saying there were also nine additional deaths attributed to COVID-19. That includes five deaths in McKinley County that includes Gallup and part of the Navajo Nation. Around 180 people have died in total.

McKinley County New Mexico in the number of confirmed cases, accounting for nearly one of every three cases statewide.

Gallup will remain under a lockdown until noon Sunday. The order limits business hours and states that residents should remain at home except for emergency outings.

Beyond the northwest corner of New Mexico, state officials are beginning to ease some restrictions as they look for opportunities to restart the economy.

On Friday, officials announced dentists in all but three counties may resume providing nonessential care as long as they agree to comply with guidelines developed to protect the supply of personal protective equipment.

State health officials said about 200 people are hospitalized due to the virus and that cases have turned up in nearly 30 nursing homes and group homes around the state.

 New Mexico Extends Lockdown For Town That's A US Hot Spot- By Morgan Lee,NwewAssociated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has extended the lockdown on a small New Mexico city that’s one of the nation’s worst coronavirus hot spots to help stop the spread of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation.

The governor on Thursday lengthened a lockdown on Gallup, New Mexico, until noon Sunday. Under the order, businesses will stay closed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., and only two people may travel together in a car. Gallup residents are ordered to remain at home except for emergency outings.

Health officials fear that Gallup, a popular supply stop for rural residents of the Navajo Nation, became a vector for transmission of COVID-19 at stores, restaurants and water fill-up stations for people without full household plumbing.

Health officials say per-capita infections in Gallup and surrounding McKinley County are twelve times the rate for Albuquerque, the state's largest metropolitan area.

State Reports 204 Additional COVID-19 Cases And Three Deaths Albuquerque Journal, KUNM

New Mexico officials reported an additional 204 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and three additional deaths, bringing the overall death toll to 172.

There are now 4,493 cases of COVID-19 so far in the state and 197 people are hospitalized. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports about 70% of the new cases are in McKinley and San Juan counties in northwest New Mexico, which has seen a consistent surge of infections.

Two of the deaths reported Thursday were in congregate living facilities. Health officials have found at least one positive COVID-19 case in residents and/or staff in 29 such centers around the state.

Audit Slams Española Public Schools' Finances - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

An audit has found a financial takeover of the Española Public School District by state officials in 2016 led to a series of mistakes costing millions of dollars. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports the district's annual audit for fiscal year 2019, performed by Las Cruces-based firm Fierro and Fierro, found 17 instances of noncompliance in Española Public Schools' finances. 

Those findings range from uncashed checks worth more than $140,000 to school accounts not matching New Mexico Public Education Department cash reports. 

Department spokesperson Nancy Martira says the department was still reviewing the findings, but they will reach out to district officials about the issues.

Court Overturns Restitution Order For Extradition Costs - Associated Press

A New Mexico court ruling says criminal defendants generally cannot be ordered to pay restitution for costs of being extradited. 

A Court of Appeals ruling overturns a restitution order that a woman pay $2,100 to the San Juan County Sheriff's Department for extradition costs in a forgery case. 

Natisha George pleaded guilty under an agreement in which other charges were dismissed. But she appealed the restitution order for costs of being returned from New York where she had moved to live with her father. 

The Court of Appeals said there wasn't a direct tie between George's criminal conduct and the extradition costs and that extradition costs typically are a non-recoverable cost of administering a system of justice.

New Mexico State Basketball Coach To Stay For Another Season - Associated Press

New Mexico State's head basketball coach is staying for another year. 

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports head coach Chris Jans put to rest speculation on Wednesday that he would leave for East Tennessee State. 

Jans announced on Twitter that he would return to the Aggies next season. 

Jans remains under contract through the 2022-2023 season with an annual base salary of $290,000. 

The Fairbank, Iowa, native is now entering his fourth season as New Mexico State's shot-caller with an 83-17 record under his belt.

Man Sues New Mexico Police After Being Hurt In Chase, Crash Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A man has sued a New Mexico State Police officer who crashed into his vehicle in January 2019 while chasing a truck.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the 62-year-old says he suffered spinal fractures and other injuries in the head-on collision. The lawsuit filed this week accuses the officer of pursuing a driver because he was not wearing a seat belt. It alleges the chase reached speeds over 80 mph.

The man is seeking compensation for pain and suffering and his medical expenses. A state police spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Man In New Mexico Impress Cartel Killing Heading To TrialHobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

A southeastern New Mexico man who reportedly said he wanted to prove himself to a Mexican drug cartel when he allegedly killed another man is heading to trial.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Anthony Breeding is scheduled to face a jury trial beginning October 26 in connection with the death of Jose Angel Rivera.

Deputies discovered Rivera lying underneath the carport in a pool of blood from an apparent gunshot wound to the head in December.

The 35-year-old Breeding was arrested and charged with murder and aggravated burglary.