FRI: Pandemic, Historic Election Top New Mexico's 2020 Headlines, + More

Dec 25, 2020

  Pandemic, Historic Election Top New Mexico's 2020 Headlines –Associated Press

From lockdowns in tribal communities to the economic and social fallout that has reverberated throughout New Mexico, the coronavirus pandemic dominated headlines in 2020.

COVID-19 infections are on track to top 140,000 by the end of the year, while more than 2,200 New Mexicans have succumbed to the virus.

The year also was marked by a historic election fueled by mail-in ballots.

Questions about election integrity prompted legal challenges. Culture clashes resulted in monuments being toppled in some spots. New Mexico's push toward renewable energy, its persistently troubled education system and the end of a decade-long treasure hunt inspired by a New Mexico antiquities dealer also made news.

New Mexico Governor Urges Safety During Holiday Season –Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is making another plea for people to be safe this holiday season.

She said in a tweet Thursday afternoon that her thoughts were with every New Mexican grieving the loss of a loved one. State health officials reported an additional 29 deaths Thursday, bringing the state's tally to 2,272 since the pandemic began. More than 1,900 confirmed COVID-19 infections also were reported for the day, pushing the overall statewide total to nearly 135,200.

New infections had tapered off over the last week, but health officials were concerned that Christmas gatherings would lead to another surge. 

FBI Cold Case Posters Being Translated Into Navajo Language –KOAT-TV

Federal authorities are incorporating the Navajo language in a bid to find leads in cold cases on or near the country's largest Native American reservation.

KOAT-TV in Albuquerque reported Thursday that the FBI has begun a new initiative to release posters on decades-old homicides and missing persons cases that are translated into Navajo. The posters include details of an incident, physical descriptions of victims and photos.

FBI spokesman Frank Fisher says the agency is hopeful that seeing details in their own language may jog people's memories. This initiative has been in the works for the past year.

Part-Time Las Vegas Resident Wins $15.5M Jackpot –Associated Press

A part-time Las Vegas resident has won a $15.5 million Megabucks slot machine jackpot.

The winner, identified only as Kevin by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, gambled $40 on Christmas Eve and won the state's largest slot machine jackpot in eight years. Kevin splits his time between Las Vegas and Alaska and he had made a Christmas Eve visit to the Boyd Gaming casino.

Kevin said that he plans on using his winnings to support his business and promised to "pay it forward" with the money.

Woman Denies Felony Charge That She Coughed On Health Worker –Associated Press

A New Mexico woman charged with felony battery after being accused of coughing on a health care worker in a medical center has denied the allegation and said she only lifted her mask at the time.

A criminal complaint filed with the Santa Fe Police Department by the worker claimed defendant Joy Ebel refused to wear a mask, verbally harassed employees at La Familia Medical Center in Truchas and coughed into the worker's face.

Ebel has said she did not cough on anyone intentionally and she does not have COVID-19.

She claimed the incident started because workers at the clinic did not like how she was wearing her mask.

Decade-Long Study Reveals Resilience Of New Mexico Acequias –Associated Press

Researchers from the state's two largest universities and a prominent national laboratory are detailing their findings from a decade-long study of New Mexico acequias.

They say the traditional irrigation systems are as much about culture and community as they are about hydrology.

Their 90-page publication was presented during the New Mexico Acequia Association's recent annual meeting. The researchers learned that the acequia system creates a responsive mechanism for the entire community to interact with the landscape and develop a specific water management approach depending on conditions.

The researchers hope the publication will serve as a tool for legislators and others when making decisions about acequias.

New Mexico Rail Runner Express Route Gets New Safety System –Associated Press

Federal regulators have certified that the New Mexico Rail Runner Express has met a year-end deadline to install a federally required safety system on the state-owned passenger service.

The Positive Train Control System is designed to prevent train collisions, high-speed derailments and incursions into track work zones.

The passenger service's operator, the Rio Metro Regional Transit District, began installing the $60 million system on the 100-mile route between Santa Fe and Belen south of Albuquerque in April 2019.

In addition to Rail Runner commuter trains, the route is also used by Amtrak long-distance passenger trains and Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight trains.

Navajo Nation Reports 272 New COVID-19 Cases, 7 New Deaths –Associated Press

The Navajo Nation has reported 272 new coronavirus cases and seven more deaths.

The latest figures reported Wednesday by the Navajo Department of Health bring the total number of cases on the reservation that extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to 21,833.

The death toll from the pandemic now stands at 762. The Navajo Nation remains in a three-week lockdown requiring all residents to stay home except for emergencies, shopping for essentials like food and medicine or traveling to an essential job.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says residents must not become complacent just because frontline health care workers on the reservation have started receiving recently approved vaccines.

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