FRI: New Mexico Governor To Lead Democratic Governors Association, + More

Dec 4, 2020

New Mexico Governor To Lead Democratic Governors Group - Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has been selected as the new chair of the Democratic Governors Association for 2021.

The first-term governor had previously served as a vice chair and was among those seen as possible U.S. Cabinet candidates for the post of health and human services secretary in the Biden administration. During the course of the pandemic, her administration has imposed some of the toughest public health restrictions in the nation.

Lujan Grisham, a former congresswoman, said in a statement that she was honored to lead the group and planned to focus on more gubernatorial victories for the party.

The vote by the nation's Democratic governors came Thursday during the group's annual meeting.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper will serve as vice chair. Outgoing chair New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was picked to serve as the group's finance chair.

Murphy said he was proud of the association's work over the past year in helping to get Democrat incumbent governors reelected. He also mentioned record fundraising levels that will benefit the association in coming years.

New Mexico Sets Priorities For Who Gets First Vaccine Doses - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

New Mexico's initial batch of 17,500 vaccine doses from drug maker Pfizer is slated to go to medical facilities and long-term care centers with an emphasis on people within those facilities who have high or medium exposure to the virus, the office of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday.

States across the country are drafting plans for who will go to the front of the line when the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine become available later this month, as U.S. deaths from the outbreak eclipsed 3,100 in a single day, obliterating the record set last spring.

New Mexico officials announced a record 44 virus-related daily deaths on Thursday, breaking the previous record of 40 that was set just a day earlier.

Matt Nerzig, a spokesman for the governor's office, said exact distribution of the vaccine in the first round is being mapped out through a survey of hospitals and a variety of federal population surveys.

Residents of New Mexico may receive an outsized number of initial vaccine doses because of a separate allocation to the federal Indian Health Service for Native American populations. Roughly 1 in 10 residents of New Mexico is Indigenous.

State health officials acknowledge that cold storage requirements for the Pfizer vaccine will present logistical challenges in tribal and other remote rural communities. The vaccine is expected to ship with cooling equipment that can help those efforts, according to the governor's office.

Final decisions still were being made Thursday about the first wave of distribution and associated cold storage facilities.
New Mexico's emphasis on exposure to the virus — and not particular job titles — would make a variety of health care workers and volunteers eligible for early vaccination.

The current plan hews closely to nonbinding guidelines adopted this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to put health care workers and nursing home patients first.

But tensions were building about prioritizing future vaccine distribution.

Lt. Gov. Howie Morales on Thursday said educators should be near the front of the line alongside health workers.

Morales, a former public school teacher and state senator from Silver City, said in a statement that it is imperative for schools to reopen for classroom teaching after nine months of almost entirely online instruction.

State health officials reported an additional 1,908 confirmed cases Thursday, bringing the statewide total to more than 102,860.

Hospitalizations also remained high.

Medical Officials Serving Navajo Make Urgent Plea: Stay Home - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

Medical professionals serving the Navajo Nation made an urgent plea to residents Thursday to stay home as coronavirus cases rise.

The numbers are testing the limits of health care on the reservation that is already scrambling to find places to transport critically ill patients.

The tribe is seeing more cases daily now than it did in the spring when it was a national hotspot. The difference now is that cases are rising in all the states that border the reservation, and the tribe no longer can draw on the resources it once did.

That has left medical professionals scrambling to find hospitals off the reservation to take in critically ill patients, extra nursing staff and supplies, like high-flow oxygen.

On the Navajo Nation, officials are responding by closing outpatient facilities and redeploying staff to hospitals. They're expanding the number of beds but still face challenges in finding enough people to care for patients. Dentists, physical therapists and nursing assistants are being called on to fill in for nursing duties.

The Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, New Mexico, has a 50% vacancy rate for nurses, some of whom left because of fatigue after the first wave of COVID-19 hit the Navajo Nation hard in March and as schools closed to in-person learning, said chief medical officer Ouida Vincent.

The Shiprock hospital and the Gallup Indian Medical Center in northwestern New Mexico are also constrained by the number of oxygen hookups in the aging facilities.
In the spring, the Navajo Nation sent patients in need of intensive care to hospitals in Phoenix, Flagstaff and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Doctors on the reservation increasingly are having a difficult time finding a place for patients in need of specialty care.

The Navajo Nation on Thursday reported 236 new coronavirus cases and five additional deaths, bringing the total to 17,310 cases since the pandemic began and 663 known deaths.

New Mexico To Delay Winter High School Sports Until February - Associated Press

The New Mexico Activities Association's board of directors has delayed the start of high school sports by four weeks until February as coronavirus cases continue to increase across the state.

Association Executive Director Sally Marquez said the board voted Wednesday that Feb. 1 is the latest the association would be able to get all sports played this academic year.

The new schedule allows fall sports — including football, cross-country, volleyball and soccer — to begin preseason workouts on Feb. 1, with live events a few days later.

Winter sports — including basketball, swimming and wrestling — are now allowed to begin in late March and traditional spring sports will maintain their current start date of April 5.

The decision is dependent on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who could approve or deny the start date for any activity.

Ruling: Threat To Get Warrant Can Make Searches Involuntary - Associated Press

A New Mexico Supreme Court decision says a person's consent allowing a search wasn't voluntary if a law enforcement officer threatened to obtain a search warrant but lacked probable cause to get a judge to issue a warrant.

The decision Thursday in a man's appeal in a drug case says that the trial judge should not have allowed marijuana and methamphetamine handed over during the search to be used as evidence because the search was coerced and involuntary.

The unanimous decision said consent is involuntary when a person believes refusal to consent would be futile.

The ruling sends the case back to state District Court for further proceedings.

New Mexico Lawmakers Consider Child Welfare Budgets Cedar Attanasio, Associated Press

New Mexico’s child welfare agencies on Thursday jockeyed with other state departments for slim funding as they presented their spending requests to state lawmakers.

From emergency internet access and welfare checks to a strained child care system, children and parents have more needs because of the pandemic, while state revenues are down and agencies are being asked to trim their spending by around 5% for the next fiscal year that starts in July 2021.

Pandemic restrictions and low pay for workers continue to hamper the opening of child care centers in New Mexico, though most have remained open in some capacity. Meanwhile, employees of grocery stores, banks and other businesses continue working in person while trying to figure out how to care for their school-aged children.

The Early Childhood Education and Care Department oversees childcare and prekindergarten programs. It's requesting $401 million, a slight decrease from last year.

Around a third of the budget is expected to come from federal funding.

New Mexico Research Group Adds ExxonMobil As Sponsor - Associated Press

A research group focused on the potential for reusing wastewater produced during oil and gas operations is getting some support from ExxonMobil.

New Mexico State University announced this week that the company has been added as a sponsor.

University Chancellor Dan Arvizu said research sponsors are critical to advancing new and innovative technologies necessary for New Mexico to ensure that produced water can be safely used for applications outside of the oil and gas industry.

As a member of the consortium, ExxonMobil engineers and scientists will participate in its research and engineering working groups and projects.

Established in 2019, the consortium is a public-private partnership designed to help New Mexico advance scientific and technological solutions related to the treatment and reuse of produced water generated by the industry.