MON: Lawmaker Asks AG To Review Evictions At Nursing Home, + More

May 18, 2020

Nursing Home Reviews Ongoing Amid PandemicKRQE-TV, Associated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is considering a request by a state lawmaker to look into an Albuquerque rehabilitation center as part of the agency's ongoing review of health and safety concerns at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

The office said Monday it received a request from Republican Rep. Gregg Schmedes to investigate the eviction of senior residents with disabilities at Canyon Transitional Rehabilitation Center.

All 54 patients were moved out in April as part of an agreement with state health officials to make room for coronavirus patients. Schmedes called the forced move unconscionable and indefensible.

Albuquerque television station KRQE reported that under the agreement, Canyon would receive $600 a day for each COVID-19 patient admitted and $600 a day for each empty bed, up to 30 empty beds.

Before the agreement, KRQE reported the long-term care facility was receiving about $280 a day to care for a 102-year-old patient, for example.

State health officials have defended the move, saying they needed a place to put COVID-19 patients who were recovering, saying having a designated facility would keep more people safe.

Genesis HealthCare, which runs the rehab center, has said it was honored that the state asked to use its facility and that it moved quickly to convert Canyon into a dedicated COVID-19 recovery center.

New Mexico has nearly 6,000 COVID-19 cases, with more than half located in McKinley and San Juan counties.

New Mexico's Capital City Forecasts $100M Budget DeficitSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico's capital city is forecasting a budget deficit of $100 million for the upcoming fiscal year. Officials said Monday the staggering shortfall stems from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

Santa Fe's Finance Director Mary McCoy said during a virtual news conference that the expected deficit was unprecedented.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported it remains to be seen exactly how the city plans to make up the shortfall, and officials declined to say how residents and city employees might be affected.

The projected gap for the upcoming fiscal year follows an estimated $46 million shortfall in the current fiscal year that triggered furloughs.

New Mexico Forecasters Warn Of Heat, Critical Fire WeatherAssociated Press

Weather forecasters are warning of record heat that is setting the stage for critical fire weather this week.

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque says chances for dry thunderstorms will increase for portions of central New Mexico on Tuesday as the forecast calls for low humidity and gusty winds.

State and federal land managers already are imposing fire restrictions for many parts of New Mexico. That includes prohibiting campfires on three of northern New Mexico's national forests starting Wednesday.

Restrictions already are in place for the Lincoln National Forest in southern New Mexico.

New Mexico Offers Grants To Boost Youth Outdoor AccessAssociated Press

New Mexico's Outdoor Recreation Division for the first time is offering what it calls equity grants to local governments, tribes and nonprofit organizations to get more young people outside.

Officials say the Outdoor Equity Fund was created to foster stewardship for the state's natural spaces and its cultural heritage particularly among low-income youth who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to experience the outdoors.

The application deadline is Aug. 1. The grants will range from $1,500 to $15,000 for entities with a plan to educate underrepresented youth about climate change and the environment. 

Some New Mexico Churches Reopen With Restrictions -Albuquerque Journal, Santa Fe New Mexican, KUNM News

Many churchgoers across the state returned to in-person services Sunday for the first time since March.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham further loosened restrictions for religious gatherings Friday to 25% of capacity. This comes after an order just two days prior to maintain 10% capacity.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Santa Fe Archbishop, John C. Wester, allowed some parishioners inside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi for the first time in over two months Sunday.

Around 60 people were chosen by lottery to attend Sunday Mass. They sat at a distance as families in every other pew. All parishioners were required to wear face coverings except when receiving communion, which was placed in their hands rather than their mouths. Singing was also discouraged.

Despite the eased restrictions, some churches remained closed or planned to reopen this week while enforcing capacity restrictions and protective equipment requirements.

New Mexico Passes 6,000 In COVID-19 Cases With 5 More DeathsKUNM, Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico reported 165 additional positive tests for COVID-19 Monday, bringing the total to 6,096.

Five more people died as well, two in Bernalillo County and 3 in northwest New Mexico. The total death rate is now 270, with McKinley and San Juan counties leading in the number of cases.

There are now 35 congregate living facilities where state health officials say at least one staff and/or resident has tested positive for the virus.

State health officials said there are now 84 cases among people held by federal agencies at four detention centers in the state, with most in the Otero County Prison Facility and the Otero County Processing Center.

State data shows Native Americans make up nearly 58% of cases, despite being just about 11% of the population.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that any non-essential businesses were allowed to re-open over the weekend.

But under order issued Friday by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, employers must allow for distancing of six feet between workers and all employees must wear face coverings in the presence of others. They must also be screened before they enter work for COVID-19 symptoms.

New Mexico Reports 97 New Coronavirus Cases, 6 More Deaths - Associated Press

Health officials in New Mexico have reported six more deaths and 97 new cases of the coronavirus statewide.

Figures released by state officials pushed the death toll to 265 with the total number of cases now at 5,938.

Health officials say 1,888 of the positive COVID-19 cases have been in McKinley County with 1,344 cases in San Juan County and 1,210 cases in Bernalillo County.

Three of the six deaths reported Sunday were in McKinley County.

Though only three of the state's 33 counties haven't reported any COVID-19 cases, the outbreak is most prevalent in Bernalillo County, neighboring Sandoval County and northwestern New Mexico's McKinley and San Juan counties. 

Northwestern New Mexico includes parts of the Navajo Nation, which has become a hot spot in portions of New Mexico and Arizona.

Navajo Nation Has 172 More Coronavirus Cases, 13 More Deaths - Associated Press

Health officials have reported 13 more deaths from the coronavirus on the Navajo Nation along with 172 new cases of COVID-19. 

According to the Navajo Department of Health, the number of positive coronavirus cases on the vast reservation has reached 3,912 with 140 known deaths as of Saturday. 

Tribal health officials say about 544 people have recovered from COVID-19 with more reports still pending as of Sunday. 

They say that of 23,791 coronavirus tests have been administered with 17,409 negative results. 

In March, health care experts projected that the Navajo Nation would see its peak in new cases in mid-May. The reservation extends into parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

The Navajo Nation has daily nighttime curfews and requires people to wear masks when out in public. Government offices are closed or have limited services. 

Over the weekend, residents of the Navajo Nation were under the strictest lockdown yet. Grocery stores, gas stations and other businesses were closed starting Friday night. Essential workers also were being told to stay home until Monday around dawn.

New Mexico To Get $5.5 Million For Affordable Housing - Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is awarding public housing authorities across New Mexico more than $5.5 million in grants. 

The funding will be aimed at increasing access to affordable housing amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The state's congressional delegation announced the funding Friday, saying it's part of the relief package approved by Congress. 

New Mexico previously was awarded more than $16.7 million in HUD grants. 

Democrat Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small says the grants come at a critical time as thousands of New Mexicans are facing reduced work hours, layoffs and increased economic uncertainty and state and local budgets are strained.

Federal Contract Awarded To Repair Northern New Mexico Dam - Associated Press

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has awarded a contract to a Virginia-based company to repair a dam along the Rio Chama in northern New Mexico. 

The agency announced Friday that the two-phased contract with CARPI USA Inc. is worth up to $16.7 million. 

A study determined that El Vado Dam needed to be modified and repaired to reduce seepage and erosion. 

Repairs will include the installation of a liner on the upstream face of the dam. A separate contract will be awarded later for replacement of the spillway. 

Water stored at El Vado is used to meet the needs of several Native American communities.

Water operations will continue as usual this year as the Bureau of Reclamation moves toward construction in the latter half of 2021. 

The first phase of construction is expected to last about a year.

Police Seize New Mexico Sheriff's Phones In Obstruction Case - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Police have seized cellphones of a New Mexico sheriff accused of showing up drunk to a SWAT standoff. 

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the Española Police Department executed a search warrant Thursday at the Rio Arriba County Sheriff's Office for the personal and work cellphones of Sheriff James Lujan. 

The search warrants are part of an investigation into a misdemeanor charge filed against Lujan by Española police for resisting, evading or obstructing an officer. 

Police say officers reported Lujan smelled of alcohol and ignored commands to leave the "kill zone" in front of the barricaded house in March.