MON: Gallup Hospital Praises Lockdown As State Sees Record One-Day COVID Deaths, + More

May 4, 2020

Hospital Praises Lockdown On City On Edge Of Navajo Nation - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Medical personnel on the front lines of a rural coronavirus hot spot on the outskirts of the Navajo Nation are praising an aggressive lockdown involving roadblocks and the National Guard as they grapple with infections that have spilled over to hospital staff.

About 30 employees at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services in Gallup have tested positive for the coronavirus, adding to the logistical and psychological challenges of caring for a surge of COVID-19 patients at the 60-bed hospital.

Rehoboth McKinley and the 100-bed Gallup Indian Medical Center are contending together with one of the most virulent surges of coronavirus infections in rural America.

A local high school gymnasium has been converted with help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers into a recuperation facility with 60 oxygen-supplied beds.

New Mexico reported 4,031 positive COVID-19 cases as of Monday, with about 30% of them in McKinley County. There were five more deaths Monday as well, bringing the state’s total to 156.

The emergency declaration for Gallup will remain in effect until noon Thursday.

Navajo Leader Calls On Arizona Mayor To Be More RespectfulAssociated Press

The president of the Navajo Nation is calling on elected officials in towns that border the reservation to work with the tribe to combat the coronavirus.

Jonathan Nez made the comments in response to an online post by the mayor of Page, Arizona. Mayor Levi Tappan wrote online that he wished the tribe would put more resources into battling alcoholism.

Tappan has since apologized. While he understands alcoholism is a problem, Nez says Tappan's comments have far-reaching implications and urged him to be more respectful of the relationship between Navajos and the city of Page.

Tappan said he would meet with Nez later this week when Nez's administration distributes food, water and other supplies to Navajo communities near Page.

Bernalillo DA Spokesman Fired After Domestic Violence CallAssociated Press

The spokesman for Bernalillo County District Attorney has been fired in connection with a domestic violence investigation.

Second Judicial District Attorney Policy and Planning Chief Adolfo Mendez II says Michael Patrick was terminated after an investigation into allegations of domestic violence at his Albuquerque home.

Police lapel footage from April 14 show officers interviewing his wife, who says the 50-year-old Patrick pushed her into a closet following an argument over credit card expenses.

A criminal complaint says an agent from Discover Card heard Patrick's wife, KOAT-TV anchor Shelly Ribando, say Patrick hit her before the call disconnected.

Court records do not list an attorney for Patrick. 

New Mexico Utility Starts Work On Major Pipeline ProjectAssociated Press

A New Mexico utility has started work on a major infrastructure project that will stretch from Bernalillo to Santa Fe.

New Mexico Gas Co. announced Monday that the new pipeline will boost capacity and reliability for natural gas customers in northern New Mexico. As part of the project, crews will be installing a larger pipeline along an existing route that spans 35 miles along Interstate 25.

Officials say the work will not interfere with traffic along the highway, but motorists can expect construction signs and turning trucks on nearby roadways as sections of pipe are brought in.

Construction should be done by the winter.

Test Shows A Rabid Skunk Attacked A Person In New MexicoAssociated Press

The New Mexico Department of Health reports rabies has been confirmed in a skunk that attacked a person last week in De Baca County.

It's the second skunk that has tested positive for rabies in the county. The first one had an interaction with a dog last month.

State health officials say both the individual attacked by the skunk and the dog that was exposed in the first case have received appropriate rabies post-exposure vaccination.

They say there has been four rabid animals in New Mexico so far this year -- a fox in Grant County, one skunk in Curry County and two skunks in De Baca County.

Governor Extends Closure Of Roads In City Near Navajo Nation - Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has extended to Thursday the closure of all roads to nonessential traffic in Gallup, one of the largest communities bordering the Navajo Nation, where a surging coronavirus outbreak has already prompted widespread restrictions and weekend lockdowns. 

Lujan Grisham's extension of the order, which was issued Sunday, also required that businesses in Gallup close from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. in the city of about 20,000 people along Interstate 40, which remained open to through traffic. 

Gallup Mayor Louis Bonaguidi asked the governor to extend the order, which Lujan Grisham first issued on Friday. 

New Mexico Sees 118 New COVID-19 Cases, 12 Deaths - Associated Press

State health officials reported Sunday 12 more coronavirus-related deaths in New Mexico, pushing the state total to 151.  The Albuquerque Journal reports 12 is the highest one-day death count New Mexico has seen since the pandemic began.

They also said New Mexico had 118 new positive COVID-19 tests since Saturday's numbers were announced, increasing the state total to 3,850 cases. Due to a technical lapse, reporting results from some labs to the state Department of Health were delayed Sunday. As a result, the data reflects only a partial total and the delayed results will be included in the state's reporting Monday as soon as they are received and lab-confirmed. 

Of the 12 reported deaths, five were elderly residents of a Farmington life care center and four of them were women. All five had underlying medical conditions.

Authorities say there were two deaths reported in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties and one in McKinley, San Juan and Valencia counties.

Of the 3,850 coronavirus cases statewide, authorities say 1,144 have been in McKinley County and 920 in Bernalillo County, the state's most populous that includes the Albuquerque metro area.

State Supreme Court Denies Petition To Release Inmates Due To COVID-19 Risks - KRQE-TV, Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has denied a petition to release inmates in state prisons because of the COVID-19 threat.

KRQE-TV reported attorneys with the Law Offices of the Public Defender, ACLU of New Mexico and the New Mexico Criminal Defense Attorneys Association argued it was cruel and unusual punishment to keep hundreds of inmates in custody.

They also said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Department of Corrections are “deliberately and intentionally” putting prisons at risk.

The petition asked for the immediate release of those inmates at risk of serious illness from COVID-19, those within a year of release, and those held on infractions such as parole and probation violations. 

Attorneys also argued for widespread testing to find asymptomatic people in prison.

The request goes beyond the releases already ordered by Gov. Lujan Grisham in early April.

State Supreme Court To Hear Arguments On Releasing Some Prison Inmates Due To COVID-19 Risks - Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments in a case related to state prisons and the pandemic.

The justices are hearing arguments on a request by the Law Offices of the Public Defender, ACLU of New Mexico and the New Mexico Criminal Defense Attorneys Association for releases of inmates due to COVID-19 health risks in state prisons.

The hearing, scheduled for 1:30 p.m., will be held largely remotely with four justices in the courtroom in Santa Fe but one justice and attorneys in the case participating by video.

The court said in a statement that in-person attendance will be strictly limited to comply with gathering restrictions and that courtroom seating will be configured to meet social distancing requirements.

The petition being considered by the court asks for the immediate release of those inmates at risk of serious illness from COVID-19, those within a year of release, and those held on infractions such as parole and probation violations. 

The request goes beyond the releases already ordered by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in early April.

Pressure Mounts As Tribes Seek More Time On Drilling Plan - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The clock is ticking but Native American leaders say they're in the midst of a health crisis and unable to weigh in on a proposal by U.S. land managers that will guide oil and gas development for years to come in an area held sacred by some Southwest tribes. 

The chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors was joined Friday by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and others in renewing calls for the Bureau of Land Management to extend the comment period on a management plan for the area surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park. 

The deadline is May 28, and the Bureau of Land Management has remained silent despite receiving official requests on congressional letterhead and a flurry of emails and phone calls from environmentalists and others over the last month.

The Bureau of Land Management is planning to host a series of virtual meetings on the proposal but tribal leaders said in addition to the challenges related to the outbreak, many residents will be left out of the process because they live in rural areas that lack the bandwidth required to stream such an event.

Navajo Nation Has 2,292 Coronavirus Cases, 73 Known Deaths

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer have finalized another agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that will allow the Chinle Community Center to be used as an alternative care site to isolate positive coronavirus patients. 

The move was made to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19 on the vast reservation that includes parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. 

On Saturday, Navajo Department of Health officials reported 81 new coronavirus cases on the Navajo Nation but no additional deaths. The total number of COVID-19 cases has reached 2,292 with 73 known deaths.

Las Cruces To Hold Drive-Thru Graduation Ceremonies - Associated Press

High schools in New Mexico's second largest city will conduct their graduations as drive-thru ceremonies, with graduates picking up their diplomas while in cars with family members. 

Las Cruces Public Schools says processions for Class of 2020 graduates of six high schools will be scheduled May 21 and May 22 in parking lots at the Field of Dreams sports stadium. 

Superintendent Karen Trujillo says the plan, resulting from gatherings restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak, satisfies law enforcement officials and will give the graduates "a one-of-a-kind celebration." 

The district said speeches and the pledge of allegiance will be prerecorded and then streamed at each ceremony's designated start time.

Graduates then will dress in their cap and gown, decorate their vehicle and ride with up to four family members to the stadium.

Vehicles will stage in one parking lot before proceeding to another one where the principal will present graduation materials to the graduates.

New Mexico Woman Killed In Flight Accident Honored In Mural - KRQE-TV, Associated Press

A mural is honoring a New Mexico woman killed in a 2018 Southwest airline flight accident. 

KRQE-TV reports the permanent solar-powered mural dedicated to Jennifer Riordan was recently unveiled in Albuquerque. 

The mural uses Riordan's credo which was to "be kind, loving, caring and sharing." 

The New Mexico bank executive was killed when an engine explosion sent shrapnel into her flight. She died by blunt impact trauma to her head, neck and torso and her death was ruled accidental.

Albuquerque Police Make Arrests In Drag Racing Sting - KRQE-TV, Associated Press

Albuquerque police have arrested five and issued several citations in connection with a sting to fight drag racing in the city. 

KRQE-TV reports police conducted stings on Friday and Saturday evenings aimed at curbing reckless driving and racing on a popular street. 

The Albuquerque Police Department gave out more than 100 citations and made arrests around drunken driving and drug possession.

Illegal drag racing operations pop up occasionally around the Albuquerque area.

Tea Party-linked Super Pac To Spend $100K To Support Herrell - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

A Super PAC working to elect Tea Party-leaning candidates in U.S. House races is spending $100,000 to help a southern New Mexico hopeful. 

Political Moneyline, a website that tracks outside spending on races, reports that the House Freedom Action Super PAC is funding digital ads in support of former state lawmaker Yvette Herrell.

She is locked in a contentious GOP primary against oil executive Claire Chase and Las Cruces businessman Chris Mathys. 

All three are vying for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small of Las Cruces. 

Torres Small defeated Herrell in 2018 by less than 3,000 votes to flip a traditionally Republican seat.