MON: Healthcare Officials Warn Vaccine Alone Will Not Save Hospitals, + More

Dec 7, 2020

Vaccine Alone Won't Save New Mexico Hospitals, Leaders Say - By Cedar Attanasio Associated Press / Report For America

New Mexico hospital officials updated the public Monday on the overburdened healthcare system as cases and hospitalizations remain high.

They're begging the public to cancel social visits, wear a mask and wash hands to drive down the COVID-19 cases. They're working to manage congested hospitals and exhausted medical staff.

On Monday, health officials reported 1,872 newly confirmed infections and seven related deaths. There were 26 new cases among inmates held by federal agencies at the Cibola County Corrections Center.

Healthcare leaders said that their workers are getting COVID-19 from friends, family and community members more than co-workers and patients.

At least 18 health care workers are known to have died from COVID-19 before the start of December. There are 935 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state.

On Friday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham set the table for legal protections for hospitals for a scenario in which they have to triage, or ration medical care due to being swamped by COVID-19 patients.

Healthcare leaders say the expected delivery of 17,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine won't be a silver bullet for an overstretched workforce of doctors, nurses, techs and other hospital staff.

State Insurance Regulator Seeks To Block Exclusions - By Cedar Attanasio and Morgan Lee, Associated Press / Report For America

The state's top insurance regulator announced several directives Monday aimed at safeguarding access to health insurance, COVID-19 testing and treatment.

One directive from Insurance Superintendent Russell Toal puts a freeze on recent proposals by commercial insurers to exclude coverage for various risks presented by COVID-19, as regulators emphasize the need for "consistent and equitable review under meaningful substantive criteria."

The suspension lasts through the 2021 regular legislative session, which ends in March, and possibly longer.

Another bulletin reminds insurance companies of existing rules against "cost-sharing" in which medical patients are billed for coronavirus testing, diagnosis and treatment.

During the week ending Sunday, one person in every 165 people statewide was diagnosed with COVID-19.

New Mexico also is among the top 10 states for newly confirmed cases per capita over the past two weeks, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project.

Business closures as a result of repeated coronavirus infections have slowed to a trickle in recent weeks. The Environment Department shut down one business during the week ending Dec. 6 — a Chick-Fil-A outlet in Santa Fe, N.M.

The current public health order mandates certain establishments close for two weeks if they have four or more rapid responses within the last 14 days.

On Friday, the state began requiring employers to notify the state within four hours of learning about a positive case.

ID Of Man Who Found Rocky Mountains Treasure Chest Revealed - By Mead Gruver, Associated Press

A grandson of the late author and art dealer Forrest Fenn has confirmed that a medical school student from Michigan found an over $1 million treasure chest that Fenn stashed in the wilds of Wyoming more than a decade ago.

Shiloh Forrest Old wrote Monday on a website dedicated to the treasure that 32-year-old Jonathan "Jack" Stuef found the treasure in June.

Stuef had met with Fenn soon after finding the treasure. Stuef also identified himself to Daniel Barbarisi for an article published Monday by Outside Magazine.

Fenn left clues to finding the treasure in a poem in his memoir, "The Thrill of the Chase."

The poem inspired many to go treasure hunting — sometimes getting  into precarious situations in the unforgiving Rocky Mountain backcountry.

Fenn said repeatedly the treasure wasn't in a dangerous or especially hard-to-reach place but at least four people died searching for the chest.

Many others needed rescue, including a man who rappelled into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in winter.

Fenn announced June 6 that the treasure had been found but did not say who found it or where. He said in July the treasure was found in Wyoming and died in September at age 90 without identifying the finder.

ICU Beds Nearing Capacity On Navajo Nation As Virus SurgesAssociated Press

Navajo Nation officials say nearly all intensive care unit beds on the reservation are being are used as COVID-19 cases surge and warned the tribe is nearing a point where health care workers will have to make difficult decisions about providing care with limited hospital resources.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said there are few options to transport patients to other regional hospitals that are near full capacity. The tribe has extended its stay-at-home order to stop the spread of the virus hrough Dec. 28.

Officials reported 177 additional COVID-19 cases and no deaths related to the virus as of Sunday.

State Works To Disburse Emergency Funds Before Year End; New Mexico Reports 1,250 New COVID-19 Cases, 8 More Deaths - Associated Press

The New Mexico Human Services Department has been appropriated $5 million by the state Legislature to provide emergency financial assistance to low income state residents who didn't get a federal COVID-19 tax relief economic impact payment.

The Human Services Department has partnered with the Taxation and Revenue Department to disburse the funds to New Mexican families.

It will be a one-time payment of up to $750 for eligible New Mexico households, depending on the number of eligible applicants.

State residents must submit their information via an online portal by Dec. 11 to determine if they qualify. The Human Services and Taxation and Revenue departments are working to ensure this appropriation is distributed prior to a Dec. 28 deadline.

Health officials in New Mexico on Sunday reported 1,250 new COVID-19 cases with 11 additional deaths.

The latest numbers pushed the state's totals since the pandemic began to 108,088 cases and 1,749 known deaths.

On Saturday, New Mexico reported 1,925 cases and 32 deaths as the state continues to deal with a COVID-19 surge.

Health officials had been warning that cases could go up in weeks following family gatherings over the Thanksgiving holiday and related travel.

Concerns Raised About Costs Of New Mexico Civil Rights Act - Associated Press

A proposed New Mexico Civil Rights Act that would allow legal claims to be filed in state court over alleged infringements on free speech, freedom of religion and other constitutional rights is getting mixed reviews.

The proposal was recommended by the state's nine-member Civil Rights Commission, which is made up of attorneys, judges and law enforcement officials. The group heard expert testimony on legal and law enforcement issues during a series of meetings that began with the commission's creation over the summer.

The civil rights measure had its first vetting before a legislative panel last week at which dissenting commission members testified that the proposal would increase local governments' insurance costs and lead to law enforcement officers leaving New Mexico.

But lawmakers, including House Speaker Brian Egolf, pushed back.

The Santa Fe Democrat argued that holding the government accountable in cases of flagrant employee misconduct or wrongdoing should trump cost concerns. He also pointed out that plaintiffs would still have to prove their cases before state judges.

The proposed law is expected to generate a contentious debate during the 60-day legislative session that begins in January.

Albuquerque Closer To Agreement For Outside Probes On Police - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The city of Albuquerque and the Department of Justice are inching closer to an agreement to bring in outside investigators to probe police misconduct.

The special counsel for the Department of Justice's civil rights division, Paul Killebrew, said Friday that his office was in the process of negotiating with the city to file the measures in January.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the efforts come after a scathing report was released by an independent police monitor of the city police department which said law enforcement was failing to police itself.

Navajo Nation Reports 225 New COVID-19  Cases; ICU Beds Full - Associated Press

Navajo Nation health officials have reported 225 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths with intensive care unit beds at healthcare facilities now at full capacity.

Officials say the new numbers released Saturday night push the total of cases on the vast reservation since the pandemic began to 17,738 with 667 known deaths.

They say 170,343 people have been tested for coronavirus and 9,797 have recovered.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez extended a stay-at-home order through Dec. 28 to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The extension takes effect Monday and includes weekend lockdowns.

The Navajo Nation has had some of the most restrictive measures aimed at COVID-19 anywhere in the country, and most of those have been in place since March.

Energy Payments To States In US West Plummet In 2020 - Associated Press

Payments to western U.S. states, including New Mexico, have plummeted for oil, natural gas and coal extracted by private companies from U.S. lands.

The revenue drop comes after low crude prices and the pandemic idled drilling in many areas in 2020.

Federal data shows payments to states for drilling on public lands and in U.S. waters were down by $630 million, or about 26%, in this fiscal year.

New Mexico suffered the biggest fiscal hit, with U.S. government disbursals for energy production dropping about 40% to $707 million in 2020, the data shows. That compares with almost $1.2 billion in 2019.

Companies pay the U.S government for the right to drill for fossil fuels on public lands and in U.S. waters. The money is split with the states where drilling occurs.

As revenues dropped, states that depend heavily on money from energy production, including Wyoming and New Mexico, have grappled with major budget shortfalls.

North Dakota, Colorado, Utah, California and Montana also saw double-digit percentage drops in revenue. Several Gulf Coast states experienced revenue increases in 2020.


Native Americans Critique Data, Surveys Following Election - By Cheyanne Mumphrey And Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

The lack of visibility of Native Americans in exit poll data on network television hit a nerve in Indian Country in the days following the election.

On election night, Jodi Owings and her family watched the results reported live on television in their Oklahoma home.

That's when she noticed the wording on a CNN graphic that displayed returns by race as white, Latino, Black, “something else” and Asian.

Owings, a citizen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, asked her family if “something else” referred to them. The wording stood out because there's often a lack of reliable data on Native Americans, she said.

Some Natives responded with an outcry while others turned to humor to address what many describe as a longstanding problem.

Native Americans make up less than 2% of the U.S. population and often are listed as "other" or denoted with an asterisk in datasets.

Even when surveyed, the results can be considered statistically insignificant because the sample size isn't large enough or the margin of error is too great to accurately reflect the population.

The National Congress of American Indians has said there's a critical need for data that is accurate, meaningful and timely within tribal communities. The data limitations impact everything from community planning and resource allocation to policy development.

It's unclear whether Native Americans were surveyed in the exit poll used by CNN and other TV networks and who else was included in the "something else" category. The research manager at Edison Research, the company that conducts the poll, did not immediately provide further details about the survey.

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