FRI: New Mexico Sets New Daily Record For COVID-19 Cases, + More

Oct 9, 2020

New Mexico Sets New Daily Record For COVID-19 Cases - KUNM, Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico set a new daily record for COVID-19 cases Friday with 488 new infections reported by state health officials.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the previous daily record was 455 and was set in July.

Bernalillo County, the state’s most populous, led with 135 new cases followed by Doña Ana County with 81. Southeast New Mexico continues to see a spike in cases as well. There were five new cases in the Cibola County Correctional Center among people held by federal agencies.

The surge comes a day after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham warned the state is at “extreme risk of uncontrollable spread” of coronavirus. There has been a total of 32,241 cases in New Mexico since the pandemic began.

Officials also reported three more deaths Friday, two men in Chaves County and one man in Sandoval County, bringing the total number of COVID-related deaths to 902.

There are currently 133 people hospitalized for COVID-19 and 18,335 cases are designated as having recovered.

Plot Puts Focus On Governors' Safety Amid Threats, Protests - By Geoff Mulvihill Associated Press

The alleged plot to kidnap Michigan's governor has put a focus on the security of top state officials, who have been the subject of threats and protests across the country this year.

In several states, protesters have been armed. Some officials say President Donald Trump needs to turn down his rhetoric against officials, including Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer.

In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said this week that news of the arrest of 13 men accused of planning the overthrow of Michigan's government rattled members of her family.

She said her daughters were often included in some of the negative messaging and she got a threat early in the pandemic from someone who said they hoped her grandchildren would get COVID.”

In August, a man pleaded guilty to making threats against the Democratic governor on social media and was sentenced to 14 months in prison.

During the pandemic, the state Capitol that houses her office has been closed to the public. But its grounds have been the site of protests, including some who carried weapons and are militia members.

Even with the glass doors locked, State Police have at times deployed additional security measures, such as putting up opaque screens inside the doors to hide their exact location from protesters.

The threat this year against public employees has risen enough that the bipartisan National Governors Association sent its members a memo in August laying out ways to try to discourage and deal with threats. Among them: Encouraging civil discourse with protesters, personally complying with mask and social distancing orders and prosecuting threats.

Officials Don't Explain Trump Claim Of 'Watching' Governors - By Michelle L. Price, Associated Press

Federal officials are not offering any explanation for President Donald Trump's comments this week that he has federal law enforcement "watching" the Democratic governors of Nevada and New Mexico ahead of the upcoming election.

Trump said in interview Thursday on the Fox Business Network that the U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal are watching Nevada. Gov. Steve Sisolak "very strongly" and that likewise the U.S. Marshal and U.S. Attorney in New Mexico were watching that state's Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The Justice Department referred questions to the White House, which declined to comment on the president's remarks.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the president's comments are harmful to the election process and questioned why U.S. Marshals, which are the law enforcement arm of the federal courts, would be involved at all.

"We have no knowledge of the U.S. Marshals having any involvement in our elections," spokeswoman Nora Sackett said in an email. "There would be no reason for them to be. Our elections are secure."

Sackett said, "The president's comments are obviously harmful. The president is a liar. He displays a criminal disregard for this country's free and fair elections and is only seeking to sow distrust in the voting process."

Other federal law enforcement authorities on Monday said they are stepping up their vigilance of any possible civil rights violations related to the Nov. 3 election by establishing an FBI command post in Albuquerque and assigning a prosecutor from the U.S. attorney's office to monitor complaints or threats.

Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver attended that announcement and expressed appreciation that federal authorities are putting extra resources toward safeguarding the integrity of the election.

Northern New Mexico District To Pick Its 1st Congresswoman - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

The two major party candidates competing to become the first woman to represent a Democrat-dominated New Mexico district have squared off in their last scheduled televised debate.

They touched on solutions to poverty, environmental degradation and improving health care.

Democratic attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez is competing against Republican engineer Alexis Johnson to succeed U.S. Rep Ben Ray Luján in Congress.

Luján is running in an open U.S. Senate race as Sen. Tom Udall retires. Democrats have monopolized the northern 3rd Congressional District since its creation in 1983 with the exception of one special election.

The winner in November will become the first woman to hold the seat.

Albuquerque Businesses Impacted By Canceled Balloon FiestaAssociated Press

Multiple business owners in New Mexico have said this October could prove challenging for their businesses since the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which brings tourists from around the world, was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

California-based commerce data company Womply reported that arts and entertainment businesses in the area bring in a 194% increase in revenue on average during the Balloon Fiesta.

A Womply official said the event is comparable to Louisville's Kentucky Derby or Phoenix's Cactus League.

Last year, the event generated an estimated economic impact of more than $186 million on the Albuquerque area and $6.5 million in tax revenues for the state.

Mountain West To Begin Conference Schedule In December - Associated Press

The Mountain West Conference will play an 18-game basketball schedule starting in late December.

The season will begin on Dec. 29 and conclude March 6. Each team will play nine home games and make nine road trips, with individual schedules to be released later.

The conference tournament will be held March 10 through March 13 in Las Vegas.

The NCAA pushed back the start of the 2020-21 basketball season to Nov. 25 due to the pandemic.

Youth Sports Won't Compete In New Mexico This Year - By Cedar Attanasio Ap/Report For America

High school students will not be able to compete in any sports this fall or winter after state officials clarified Thursday that they won't amend a state health order. 

Coaches of sports like volleyball and cross-country were so upbeat about returning to competition that a season's worth of matches was already scheduled. Some superintendents were also making contingency plans for in-person fans. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says the ban on club sports remains in effect. 

High school athletes are still allowed to practice under restrictions in groups of 10 or less, including a coach. Scrimmages are prohibited. Masks are required. 

College athletics including contact sports such as football at the University of New Mexico have been allowed to go forward after officials there agreed to a rigorous and expensive testing strategy to monitor potential outbreaks. 

High school coaches fear that athletes are losing an incentive to get good grades, which are required to participate in school sports. According to the New Mexico Activities Association, 70 percent of student athletes had at least one failing grade in September.

Governor Warns State At Risk Of Uncontrollable Virus Spread – Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham warned the state is at “extreme risk of uncontrollable spread” of coronavirus Thursday in a video address from her home where she was in isolation after coming into contact with a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19.

The governor warned that uncontrolled outbreaks would lead to an overwhelming of public services, such as hospitals.

New Mexico reported 387 new cases Thursday, bringing the total to 31,756. Three new deaths were reported, raising the state’s death toll to 899.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Lujan Grisham did not announce any changes to the state’s public health order, but said the state is at risk of tightening business restrictions that have been relaxed as cases fell.

The current public health order lasts through October 16, but officials could extend it. It requires people to wear masks in public, caps gatherings at ten people and limits capacities in businesses.

The Journal reported the state’s seven-day rolling average of publicly reported cases is at 300. That’s three times higher than the average on Sept. 12. The state reported its second-highest daily number of confirmed cases Wednesday.

New Mexico To Require Job Searches For Unemployment BenefitsAssociated Press

People who have claimed unemployment benefits in New Mexico during the coronavirus pandemic will soon be required to conduct weekly job searches, a requirement previously waived because of large-scale business closures resulting in a smaller job market.

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions announced Wednesday that it plans to reinstate the requirement on Oct. 25 barring any changes to the state health order from Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham or the state health department.

Claimants receiving regular unemployment benefits must now document at least two work search activities each week starting Oct. 18. Verifiable searches must be reported during the weekly certification process starting Oct. 25 and each week after.

The work search requirement also can be met by attending a workshop offered statewide by New Mexico Workforce Connection Online System, which offers access to current openings, job training and career services.

The U.S. Department of Labor said that there are about 82,000 people collecting regular unemployment benefits in the state.

Northern New Mexico District To Pick Its 1st Congresswoman - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

The two major party candidates competing to become the first woman to represent a Democrat-dominated New Mexico district have squared off in their first televised debate. 

They touched on solutions to poverty, environmental degradation and improving health care. 

Democratic attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez is competing against Republican engineer Alexis Johnson to succeed U.S. Rep Ben Ray Luján in Congress. Lujàn is running in an open U.S. Senate race as Sen. Tom Udall retires. 

Johnson, an environmental engineer for oilfield clients, cast herself as a pragmatist on wildfire prevention, through better management of forests and dead wood, and on energy policies that don't abandon fossil fuels. 

Leger Fernandez warned that if New Mexico ignores climate change “the pain we will feel will be drastic.” She defended her support for the Green New Deal as a concept for promoting investments in clean-energy infrastructure.

On health care access, Johnson said she would focus her energies in Congress on increasing transparency in medical billing, reducing prescription drug prices and lowering insurance premiums for the middle class.

Leger Fernandez warned that health care consumer protections are under threat from Republican efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act. She outlined her support for moving the country away from an employer-based health care system toward a single-payer insurance model run by the government.

Democrats have monopolized the northern 3rd Congressional District since its creation in 1983 with the exception of one special election. 

The winner in November will become the first woman to hold the seat.

New Mexico Offers Scholarships For Advanced Teacher Training - By Cedar Attanasio Ap/Report For America

State officials say they're making funds available to mid-level public school teachers to cover the cost of continuing education certifications that can lead to a significant salary increase. 

The Public Education Department says it will cover the approximately $2,000 cost of pursuing National Board Certified Teacher credentials to become a "Level 3" teacher. 

Teachers who complete the certification are eligible for a nearly $7,000 pay increase. 

Teacher salary increases were reined into 1% for the current school year in response to the economic downturn from the coronavirus, as educators pay for unexpected expenses related to the pivot to online learning.

To qualify for the scholarship, teachers must hold a level two certification, teach at a public or charter school in the state, and be a New Mexico resident.

Forest In Southwestern New Mexico Back In High Fire Danger - Associated Press

Federal officials say the national forest that covers much of mountainous southwestern New Mexico again faces a high fire danger. 

The Gila National Forest headquartered in Silver City said Thursday that's due to warm temperatures and limited precipitation from what turned out to be a below-average monsoon season. 

Officials said a "high" fire danger rating means that all fine dead fuels ignite readily and that fires start easily from most causes. Also, unattended brush and campfires are likely to spread. 

Forest officials urged hunters, campers, woodcutters and other forest users to be vigilant and to avoid using anything with an open flame or spark.

The forest on July 23 rescinded a campfire ban once the fire danger rating returned to a moderate level.

The Forest Service's Southwestern Region had imposed a campfire ban on April 15. The region includes national forests in New Mexico and Arizona.

Navajo Nation Reports 32 New COVID-19 Cases, One More Death - Associated Press

Navajo Nation health officials report 32 new cases of COVID-19 with one additional death. 

The latest numbers released Thursday bring the total number of cases to 10,582 including four additional cases that were previously unreported due to delayed reporting or reconciliation. 

The death toll now stands at 563 since the pandemic began. 

Tribal health officials say 111,430 people on the vast reservation that covers parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah have been tested for the coronavirus and 7,312 have recovered. 

A shelter-in-place order, mask mandate, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns remain in effect on the Navajo Nation.

Prent Corp. To Open Packaging Factory In New MexicoAssociated Press

A manufacturer of plastic packaging used for medical equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic plans to build its next factory in southern New Mexico. Prent Corporation will invest $12.5 million and create 85 jobs.

The Borderplex Alliance says the manufacturing plant could operate by the fall of 2021 if construction is approved at a large site in Santa Teresa.

Doña Ana County officials are welcoming the announcement as New Mexico's unemployment remains high compared to the national average.

The Wisconsin-based Prent Corporation has partnered with medical companies during the pandemic to ship personal protective equipment such as face shields.

The Borderplex Alliance promotes cross-border business interests in the tri-state, bi-national border region encompassing Las Cruces, New Mexico; El Paso, Texas; and Chihuahua, Mexico.