FRI: New Mexico Officials Say Virus Fight Needs To Be Sustained, + More

Aug 21, 2020

New Mexico Officials Say Virus Fight Needs To Be Sustained - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Top New Mexico officials are elated that the state is meeting all of its benchmarks when it comes to addressing the coronavirus pandemic, but they warned Thursday that the recent progress will have to be sustained to clear the way for public health restrictions to be eased and for more of the state to be reopened.

A series of charts and graphs presented during a briefing showed the average daily case counts are below the reopening targets set by the state. 

The rate of spread, testing and tracing capacities and the number of hospitalizations also are trending downward.

Health officials said all of the factors are linked to public behavior, something Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham recognized in a tweet Thursday as she praised residents.

"Your actions are unequivocally saving lives in our state and I am so grateful," she wrote. "We are winning the fight against this hideous virus — but we have to remember how we got here and the risk of letting our guard down."

Today, the New Mexico Department of Health reported 150 new COVID-19 cases and 5 additional deaths.


New Mexico Rights Commission Reconsiders Immunity For Police - -Associated Press

An effort to reform qualified immunity provisions that protect police officers from lawsuits against misconduct is getting underway in New Mexico.

The state’s newly appointed civil rights commission met today for the first time to arrange assistance from the legal affairs office of the Legislature and state procurement officials. The nine-member commission has until Nov. 15 to present findings and recommendations to the Legislature and governor, leaving two additional months for lawmaker to craft legislation before the next regular legislative session.

The Democrat-led Legislature and allied Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham approved policing reforms during a special session in June that include the mandatory use of police body cameras. Protests over racial injustice and police brutality have prompted several states to pass significant policing reforms at a quick pace, often with bipartisan support.

Energy Resources Tested As Western States See Soaring Demand - - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

New Mexico's largest electric provider is asking people to cut back on air conditioning and the use of other major appliances to reduce strain on the power grid.

The reason? The Public Service Company of New Mexico is worried about cloud cover affecting the ability of solar panels to generate electricity as demand increases because of higher temperatures.

Temperatures in the West have been soaring, resulting in increased air conditioning use. Utility managers say the power grid is put to the test during the late afternoon and early evening because of higher demand and as solar energy production declines.

Environmentalists argue that the heat wave is in part caused by climate change and that the situation underscores the need to address pollution from traditional coal-fired and natural gas power plants.

Forecasters with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque warned Friday of more record heat for the western part of the state over the next several days.


Health Officials Say Low Prevalence Of Virus Key To Reopening N.M. Schools - - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Human Services Secretary David Scrase and state epidemiologist Chad Smelser said in a briefing Thursday the case totals and other data are only part of the equation as state officials consider whether to reopen more segments of the economy or allow for more in-person classroom time for students. 

While a low prevalence rate is key, they acknowledged that studies have shown children often do not learn as well at home and that the state lacks the infrastructure to ensure every student has broadband access for online learning. 

They also said the socialization that comes with children being in school is also important for development.

The discussion about schools came as New Mexico's largest public school district in Albuquerque opted to extend online instruction through the end of the first semester. 

The governor earlier this week expressed hope that most elementary school students will be able to return to classrooms after Labor Day under a hybrid mode. 


Navajo Nation Reports 19 New COVID-19 Cases, 3 More Deaths - Associated Press

Navajo Nation health officials have reported 19 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths. 

That brings the total number of people infected to 9,519 with the known death toll at 487 as of Thursday. 

Navajo Department of Health officials say 90,304 people have been tested for the coronavirus and 6,996 have recovered.  

The Navajo Nation lifted its stay-at-home order last Sunday, but is encouraging residents to leave their homes only for emergencies or essential activities.  

Much of the Navajo Nation has been closed since March as the coronavirus swept through the reservation that extends into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.