MON: Jail Inmate Tests Positive For COVID-19, Military Hospital Coming To Albuquerque + More

Mar 30, 2020

Jail Inmate In Albuquerque Tests Positive For COVID-19Associated Press

New Mexico's largest metropolitan jail reported Monday that an inmate has tested positive for the coronavirus and that jail workers who came into proximity with the inmate were isolating themselves at home.

Bernalillo County officials who oversee the Metropolitan Detention Center say the infected inmate was placed in isolation and is receiving medical treatment.

Officials say the 39-year old male inmate was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center on Thursday and did not have COVID-19 symptoms at that time.

Two days after arriving at the jail, officials were informed that the inmate’s mother was hospitalized and tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The inmate had been caring for his mother before being jailed.

State officials announced Monday the number of COVID-19 cases had risen by 44 to 291. 

Governor Seeks Resources For Navajo Nation As Cases Rise To 281Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham pressed President Donald Trump on Monday to ensure adequate resources to the Navajo Nation where confirmed coronavirus infections have surpassed 125 during a conference call with other state governors.

New Mexico health officials confirmed the number of COVID-19 cases in the state rose by 44 Monday to 281. There were also two additional deaths, bringing the total to four. The latest fatalities were in Bernalillo County, a woman in her 90s and a woman in her 70s. Each had an underlying medical condition.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported President Trump will grant a U.S. Army field hospital to be placed in Albuquerque. Lujan Grisham had inquired about her standing request for the support hospital on the Monday call to preemptively boost treatment capacity for coronavirus patients.

The new federal economic rescue package included $10 billion for tribes, including $1 billion for the Indian Health Service that provides primary medical care to more than two million Native Americans.

New Mexico Election Regulators Want Mail-In-Only Primary - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Local elections official petitioned the New Mexico Supreme Court for permission to conduct the June 2 primary elections by mail because of the coronavirus.

County clerks said in the petition Monday that the pandemic makes it impossible to conduct traditional election-day balloting and that existing procedures for mail-in balloting should be adopted for all voting with limited in-person assistance.

They also say it is impractical for the Legislature to quickly meet and establish emergency voting procedures.

The Supreme Court had no immediate response. The number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in the state increased to 281 cases on Monday. 

Groups Say More Time Needed To Weigh New Mexico Drilling Plan - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Archaeologists, historians and environmentalists are joining New Mexico's congressional delegation and a coalition of Native American tribes in asking federal land managers to grant more time for the public to comment on a contested plan that will guide oil and gas development near Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

They say the federal government should wait until the coronavirus outbreak subsides to ensure the public has an adequate opportunity to participate.

Despite existing protections within its boundaries, the World Heritage site has been at the center of a decades-long fight over drilling in northwestern New Mexico.

The National Parks Conservation Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance and other groups issued their plea Friday, noting that many tribal communities vested in the outcome lack reliable internet service and that virtual meetings would be impossible for many.

Making a final decision on the proposed resource management plan without adequate public engagement would be a violation of federal laws and guidelines, they said.

The campaign to curb drilling in northwestern New Mexico's share of the San Juan Basin has spanned at least three presidential administrations. While drilling is off-limits within Chaco park's boundaries, concerns in recent years have expanded beyond environmental effects to the preservation of cultural landmarks.

Tribes, environmentalists and archaeologists all warn that unchecked development could compromise significant spots outside the boundaries of the World Heritage site.

While tribal leaders from outside the area want to halt drilling around Chaco, top Navajo Nation leaders have been more reserved as oil and gas provides a significant source of revenue for the tribe and for individual Navajo property owners.

Navajo lawmakers recently voted to support a buffer around the park only half the size of the one outlined in federal legislation pending in Congress.

The All Pueblo Council of Governors, which represents 20 tribal communities, said in its letter to federal officials that the public health emergency has forced the closure of many non-essential government operations and resources have been redirected to provide emergency services.

The groups are asking that the comment period be extended by at least 120 days. New Mexico's congressional delegation says that would also allow more time for tribes to craft an ethnographic study for the federal government to consider.

It was not immediately clear if federal officials would consider granting an extension.

Hobbs News-Sun To End Saturday Edition Amid Oil Price DropAssociated Press

The Hobbs News-Sun is ending its Saturday edition and shrinking the size of the paper amid falling oil prices and the downtown caused by COVID-19.

Hobbs News-Sun Publisher Daniel Russell announced Saturday the moves in response to economic pressures the newspaper faces in the heart of New Mexico's oil and gas country.

Russell says the newspaper will continue to print editions Tuesday through Friday and Sunday. He also says the width of the paper will go from 25 inches across to 23 inches across to save money on cost. 

The Santa Fe New Mexican announced last week nearly a dozen layoffs, salary reductions and a shortened workweek thanks to the economic downturn caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Gallup Independent also said it would move its entire newspaper staff to part-time but still print regularly.

The Lake Charles, La.-based Shearman Corp. owns the Hobbs News-Sun. The newspaper was named the New Mexico Associated Press Member of the Year in 2016.

New Mexico Unveils 'Pollinator Protection' License PlateAssociated Press

For the love of bees, New Mexico is now offering motorists a chance to help the pollinators through the purchase of a special license plate.

The state Transportation Department says proceeds from the new plates will help fund planting projects along state roads. The pollinator project also will create educational gardens and reduce mowing and spraying of herbicides along roadways as a way to improve habitat for bees and other pollinators.

The plate features the artwork of a student from the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy. It costs $25 for the initial purchase and $15 for yearly renewal.

Total Coronavirus Cases Rise to 237, Bernalillo County Sees 2nd Death In The State  Associated Press, KUNM News

The state Department of Health Sunday reported 29 additional coronavirus cases statewide, for a total of 237. 

The department's figures indicate that 17 of the state's 33 counties have at least one case of the virus. 

The new cases include 9 in Bernalillo County, four each in McKinley, San Juan and Santa Fe Counties. Chaves, Eddy and Valencia County each saw one new case, with two in Curry County and three in Sandoval. 

New Mexico reported Friday a second death related to the coronavirus, a man in his 80s who died in Bernalillo County. 

The state Department of Health said the man had been hospitalized and had multiple chronic underlying health conditions. 

Counties Without Coronavirus Are Mostly Rural, Poor - By Morgan Lee And Nicky Forster Associated Press

As the coronavirus rages through Europe, and major American cities like New York and Los Angeles, more than a third of counties across the U.S. still have not reported a positive test result for infection across what are predominantly rural areas. 

A data analysis by The Associated Press shows that 1,297 counties have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 out of 3,142 counties nationwide. 

Counties with zero positive tests for COVID-19 tend to have older, rural populations with lower incomes where rural health networks might be overwhelmed. 

In New Mexico, a state with 2 million residents spanning an area the size of Italy, nearly half of the state's 33 counties are free of any positive coronavirus cases. New Mexico is among the top five states in coronavirus testing per capita, though some virus-free counties aren't yet equipped with specialized testing sites beyond samplings by a handful of doctor’s offices.

The demographics hold major implications as the administration of President Donald Trump develops guidelines to rate counties by risk of virus spread, empowering local officials to revise social distancing orders 

Torrance County Manager Wayne Johnson said plans are being made for the first three dedicated COVID-19 testing sites in the high-desert county of 15,000 residents that spans an area three times the size of Rhode Island.

State Deputy Epidemiologist Chad Smelser said health officials have continued to painstakingly retrace the steps of infected patients and notify people who came into contact with them. 

There are dozens of connections per infection on average.

State health officials say it is unclear how many people have been tested for coronavirus in each county. 

Medical experts say uneven testing patterns across the country make it difficult to gauge whether remote areas are really better off.

Law Enforcement Denies Traffic Stops To Enforce Stay-At-Home Order - Associated Press

The New Mexico State Police and other law enforcement agencies across the state on Friday denied making traffic stops to enforce a statewide stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Several of the agencies said they were making the announcements because of false rumors on social media that officers were stopping drivers to enforce the order.

The governor's order, which was issued last Monday and took effect Tuesday, includes a stay-home instruction and a ban on mass gatherings and calls for residents to refrain from any unnecessary travel or congregation. The state's response to the outbreak also includes closing schools.

The stay-at-home order allows residents to travel for necessities including — but not limited to — groceries and supplies, for health care services, exercise, and to and from work that's deemed essential.

State police are the primary enforcement agency. But the agency said officers are not stopping vehicles to ensure compliance with the state order.

Supplies Brought To Navajos Who Lack Running Water At Home - Associated Press

Health officials have been telling people for weeks to wash their hands thoroughly to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

That's not always an easy task on the Navajo Nation, where 30% of residents on the vast reservation don't have running water in their homes. 

The Navajo Department of Health and Navajo Area Indian Health Service says the number of confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 has reached 115 for the Navajo Nation, which covers parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. 

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez announced Sunday a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. for reservation residents that will go into effect Monday. The stay-at-home order that Nez announced last week will remain in effect. 

New Mexico's coronavirus cases grew to 237 Sunday.

New Mexico Primary Challengers Face Uphill Fight Amid Virus - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

Restrictions limiting person-to-person contact to stop the spread of COVID-19 is hindering Democratic primary challengers seeking to unseat incumbent state lawmakers in New Mexico. 

Challengers are barred for weeks from campaigning by knocking on doors and shaking hands at public events. Instead, many are moving to aggressive social media pushes, multiple mailers, and virtual town halls. 

Most Democratic voters in the state's closed primary system tend to be older, and many live in rural areas where broadband internet access and cell service is limited. 

But candidate Carrie Hamblen says voters are more connected online than ever before. She's seeking to oust Sen. Mary Kay Papen — one of the most powerful Democratic incumbents in the New Mexico Senate.

Tribes Say Persistent Efforts Pay Off In Massive Stimulus - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

Tribes say their persistent efforts to be included in a massive stimulus bill to respond to the new coronavirus have paid off. 

Tribes have been lobbying Congress to help address shortfalls in an already underfunded health care system that serves Native Americans. 

They secured $10 billion in the bill that President Donald Trump signed Friday. Most of it is set aside as a relief fund that will be distributed based on need. 

More than $1 billion will go to the federal agency that provides primary health care for more than 2 million Native Americans. 

The Navajo Nation has been hardest hit by the virus with more than 90 confirmed cases.

Santa Fe Police Lieutenant Faces Domestic Violence Charge - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A Santa Fe police lieutenant has been placed on alternative duty after he was arrested for domestic violence. 

Court records show Christopher McCord faces an aggravated battery with a deadly weapon on a household member charge stemming from arrest early this month in Albuquerque. 

According to a police report, McCord's wife says an argument turned physical when McCord shoved her against a television stand and began punching her repeatedly. 

His wife told police she threw an iPad at McCord to defend herself. 

McCord told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the episode occurred after he filed for divorce.

Office Probes Claims Sheriff Showed Up At Standoff Drunk - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is reviewing a case involving a sheriff who police said showed up drunk to a SWAT standoff and tried to order officers away. 

Attorney General spokesman Matt Baca told The Associated Press late Friday a complaint naming Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan has been referred to the office and prosecutors are reviewing it. 

Española Police Chief Richard Jimenez wrote that officers reported Lujan smelled of alcohol and ignored commands to leave the "kill zone" in front of the house of the barricaded subject. 

Lujan told the Santa Fe New Mexican that the accusations in the criminal complaint are false. 

New Mexico Tech Startup Lands $5M Investment - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico startup has landed $5 million in private equity from investors to accelerate the marketing of super-fast cell-screening and analysis technology. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports that BennuBio Inc. won the funding from New Mexico and international investments, including money from Co-Win Ventures. 

BennuBio President and CEO Steven Graves says Co-Win's participation could substantially boost BennuBio's marketing success because that firm has extensive experience in the cytometer industry. 

Flow-through cytometers are used to analyze millions rapidly, and often billions, of cells for medical diagnostics and drug discovery. But today's cytometers can process only about 10,000 cells per second because tissue samples are pushed through cytometers one at a time.

New Mexico Extends Classroom Shutdown Due To Coronavirus - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Public school students in New Mexico will not return to classrooms or athletic fields during the current academic year because of the coronavirus.

Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart made the announcement Friday, calling it a painful decision. He says students are likely to be graded for coursework completed at home on a pass-fail basis.

High school seniors will be able to graduate by demonstrating competency through a series of assignments and tests including a college entrance exam. A stay-at-home order is in effect across New Mexico with exceptions for essential tasks and businesses.

The number of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico rose to 191 on Friday, including 27 new cases in Bernalillo County. There are 17 people who are hospitalized in the state due to the virus as well.

The governor on Friday ordered all air travelers arriving in the state to self-isolate for 14 days. 

The Department of Public Safety announced that cadets at the state law enforcement academy and state police recruits were being sent home Friday. Officials said training will continue once the public health emergency is over.

The state Motor Vehicle Division is closing field offices statewide as a health precaution. The state can process vehicle registration and driver's license renewals online but cannot issue some types of first-time licenses.

Privately operated offices for motor vehicle services closed earlier in the week.

New Mexico Cancels National Tourism Campaign Amid Virus - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

New Mexico is canceling its national tourism campaign and is halting related events as coronavirus restrictions have brought tourism in the state to a halt.

New Mexico Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Jen Schroer said Friday the state's popular destinations have suffered because of the health-ordered restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Schroer warned that hotels and tourist hot spots will continue suffering until restrictions are lifted. She says hotels can only operate until to 50% capacity but can house more guests if they include health care workers. 

Since Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other governors began adopting restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus, attendance at many popular tourist destinations has dropped to nearly zero.

The state's largest airport, Sunport International in Albuquerque, has experienced a traffic reduction of 90%.