MON: Navajo Nation Starts Reopening With Restrictions As Virus Cases Fall, + More

Aug 17, 2020

Stay-At-Home Order Lifted As Navajo Nation Starts ReopeningAssociated Press

The Navajo Nation has lifted its stay-at-home order, but is still encouraging its residents to leave their homes for only emergencies or performing essential activities and errands.

The stay-at-home order was rescinded Sunday, when 24 additional coronavirus cases and zero deaths were reported. The numbers are a vast change from earlier this year, when the tribe had one of the highest per-capita rates of infection in the U.S.

Last week, the tribe released its reopening plan, including letting popular tourist destinations such as Canyon de Chelly welcome back tourists Monday.

Much of the Navajo Nation has been closed since March as the coronavirus swept through the reservation that extends into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.

The tribe's plan allows hair salons and barber shops to open by appointment only, businesses to operate at 25% of maximum capacity, and the reopening of marinas and parks with safeguards.

In all, 9,400 cases and 480 deaths have been recorded on the Navajo Nation since the pandemic began.

The majority of people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 recover. For some people it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others who contract the virus, especially those who are older or have underlying health conditions, it can cause more severe illness and death.

Activists Say Police Killings Of Latinos Lack Attention - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

Latino activists are joining the multiracial Black Lives Matter protests while trying to draw attention to their history of deadly police encounters.

Advocates and families of those killed by police say they aren't trying to pull the focus away from Black lives, but want to illustrate their own pain and suffering from systemic racism.

Activists say cases from Phoenix to Springfield, Massachusetts, point to patterns of violent interactions by police against Latinos similar to those that Black residents face.

Antonio Valenzuela, a 40-year-old Hispanic man, was choked to death by a Hispanic Las Cruces police officer in February just like George Floyd.

According to the Washington Post, between 2015 and April 2020, Black Americans are killed at the highest rate in the U.S. (31 per million residents). Latinos are killed at the second-highest rate, 23 per million residents, according to the newspaper's analysis. Both are disproportionate rates considering their percentages of the population.

But Valenzuela's death embodies the lack of attention about Latinos' violent encounters with police. Las Cruces, a city where nearly 60% of residents are Hispanic, recorded a rate of police killings of 26.2 for every million residents. The Washington Post reported that was the highest rate for a city in the nation,.

New Mexico, a state with the largest percentage of Latino residents in the nation, also had the second-highest rate of all police killings, behind Alaska.

New Mexico Officials Report Hantavirus Case In Taos CountyAssociated Press

A northern New Mexico man in his 50s is in the hospital after contracting hantavirus.

The New Mexico Health Department says the Taos County man reported that he had cleaned a rodent-infested shed about three weeks before he began to feel sick.

Hantavirus is a severe and sometimes fatal respiratory disease that is transmitted by infected rodents through exposure to their urine, droppings or saliva.

Early symptoms may look and feel like the flu or a stomach bug and include fever and muscle aches, possibly with chills, headache, nausea, vomiting. Two of the three people who became infected in New Mexico last year died.

Although there is no specific treatment for HPS, health officials say the chances for recovery are better if medical attention is sought early and the health care provider is told about the exposure to rodents or their droppings.

New Mexico Daily COVID-19 Count Drops Below 100 – KUNM, Associated Press

For the first time in many weeks, the daily number of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico dropped below 100 on Monday.

State health officials reported 95 additional cases, including 6 among federal inmates at the Cibola County Correctional Center.

There were also four more deaths, including a man in his 40s from Curry County who had underlying conditions. The total number of New Mexicans who have died from COVID-related illnesses is 718.

New Mexico has had 23,500 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

State officials have been pressing for residents to stay home and avoid gatherings in order to keep the numbers low. They have been monitoring the average daily case counts along with other factors to determine whether public schools can begin some limited in-person classes after the Labor Day holiday.

Despite the trend downward, the number of infections is thought to be higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

There continue to be cases in numerous long-term care facilities. State health officials have identified at least one case among staff and/or residents in 56 such facilities over the last month.

According to the Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard, the largest number of cases have occurred among people in their 20s. The next largest group is among those in their 30s.

Hispanics and Latinos account for nearly 43 percent of cases and Native Americans make up nearly 34%.

New Mexico Reports 113 More Coronavirus Cases, 3 More Deaths - Associated Press

Health officials in New Mexico report 113 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths. 

The latest numbers released Sunday push the state's totals to 23,408 cases and 714 known deaths. Officials say 22 of the new cases occurred in Bernalillo County, the state's largest that includes the Albuquerque metro area. 

According to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press, the seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases and daily deaths in New Mexico dropped over the past two weeks.  

The new case average went from 318 on July 31 to 173 on Aug. 14, while the deaths average went from 5.5 on July 31 to 4 on Aug. 14.

Navajo Death Row Inmate Seeks Supreme Court Review Of Case Associated Press

Attorneys for the only Native American man on federal death row are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision from a lower court regarding potential racial bias in his case.

Lezmond Mitchell, who is Navajo, is scheduled to be put to death Aug. 26 at a federal prison in Indiana where he's being held. He lost a bid in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to interview jurors.

The court said Mitchell failed to show any discrimination occurred among the jury and pointed out several safeguards were in place. Mitchell appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court late last week. 

Mitchell's attorneys say his trial was tainted by inaccurate reporting, a largely white jury and prosecutors inappropriately referencing Navajo religious beliefs and culture.

Most federal districts within the 9th Circuit allow attorneys to contact jurors after the trial ends. Arizona does not.

Lack Of Oversight Hobbles New Mexico's Broadband Efforts - By Cedar Attanasio AP/Report For America

New Mexico legislative researchers and others say efforts to expand high-speed internet in the rural state are being hobbled by a lack of oversight.

Some $325 million in federal and state funding has been leveraged since 2014 to expand broadband to every school district in the state and many libraries.

But New Mexico has missed out on funds due to poor staffing and coordination, according to a report by legislative researchers Monday.

Some emergency measures have been put in place to get internet devices and Wi-Fi connections to students as classes online-only classes resume. It's unclear how many have been connected since March, when half of public school students failed to attend online classes.

State legislators are considering bills for the next session to fund long-term internet infrastructure projects.

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the lack of broadband access in low-income and rural areas of the U.S. and created a new imperative for leaders to meet the needs of the estimated 3 million students nationwide who are without  internet at home.

An AP analysis last year of census data showed an estimated 17% of U.S. students do not have access to computers at home and 18% do not have home access to broadband internet.

New Mexico State Faces Faculty Cuts As Professors Eye Union - Las Cruces Sun-News, KVIA-TV, Associated Press

New Mexico State University faculty members are considering forming a union after President John Floros recently announced faculty cuts were possible amid the pandemic. 

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports university regents approved a budget reduction after the state took money to accommodate for its COVID-19 pandemic response. 

The revised budget means a 10.5% budget cut to the main campus. 

Every unit at NMSU needs to submit plans to Floros by Sept. 15 for a 6%, 9%, and 12% budget cut. 

Government professor Christa Slaton told KVIA-TV the president's comments helped stir pro-union sentiments among faculty.

CDC: New Mexico Has Highest Rate For Alcohol-Related Deaths - Associated Press

According to a recently published report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New Mexico continues to have the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths in the country. 

New Mexico's alcohol-related death rate of 52.3 per 100,000 population was almost twice the U.S. rate for the years 2011 through 2015.  

The average U.S. alcohol-related death rate per 100,000 population was 27.4 for the same period. 

The CDC report used data from the Alcohol-Related Disease Impact application.  ARDI is a measure of total deaths associated with alcohol use, including those for which other causes of death were involved. 

Rates were calculated based on the updated ARDI, which uses alcohol attributable fractions for 58 conditions.

New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel says the state "must use every tool available to reduce alcohol-related death and years of potential life lost due to excessive alcohol use."

New Mexico Deputy Sheriff Accused Of Criminal Solicitation - Associated Press

A New Mexico undersheriff is accused of ordering his subordinates to draw guns on other officers who arrested his boss in May. 

Prosecutors say Rio Arriba County Undersheriff Martin Trujillo ordered his deputies to a police station where other officers were gathered to execute a warrant on Sheriff James Lujan. 

Trujillo directed his officers to draw their weapons on the Taos and Española officers. He surrendered to New Mexico State Police on Friday and was booked into the Los Alamos County jail. He was released the same day. 

He is charged on the accusation of criminal solicitation to commit assisting the assault upon a peace officer, which is a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine, according to the affidavit.

His lawyer says Trujillo is innocent and is being used as a pawn in political machinations.

Work Ongoing At US Nuclear Repository Despite Virus Cases - Carlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

Managers of the federal government's underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico say operations are ongoing despite a recent increase in COVID-19 cases among workers. 

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has seen cases among employees and contract workers more than double in the last week. 

The plant last Monday announced four new cases among employees of Nuclear Waste Partnership, the contractor that oversees daily operations at the facility. In all, the plant has reported at least 14 positive cases among employees and subcontractors.

The plant is in the second phase of resuming normal operations after having slowed the emplacement of waste this spring when the pandemic began.


Popular N.M. Music Camp Canceled For The First Time In Over 60 Years - KRQE-TV, Associated Press

A popular music camp in New Mexico canceled its summer program for the first time in more than 60 years because of COVID-19. 

KRQE-TV reports organizers for the Hummingbird Music Camp in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, made the decision this summer as the state remained under health orders due to the virus. 

Camp Director Teena King says organizers had no choice. 

King says she's keeping her business afloat by renting out the cabins on the camp's property to families. She also says several past and present campers started online fundraisers to support the camp.

Health officials in New Mexico on Sunday reported 113 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths.

The latest numbers push the state's totals to 23,408 cases and 714 known deaths.

Officials said 22 of the new cases occurred in Bernalillo County, the state's largest that includes the Albuquerque metro area.

Navajo Woman Sues Tribal Government Over Canceled Primary - By Felicia Fonseca The Associated Press

A member of the Navajo Nation is suing the tribal government to try to force a primary election that was canceled because of the coronavirus. 

Eloise Brown alleges in the complaint that tribal officials don't have the authority to alter election dates. She says that power is reserved for the Navajo people. 

The lawsuit filed in tribal court seeks to postpone the November general election until a primary election can be held. 

Navajo Nation Council Speaker Seth Damon's office didn't respond directly to the lawsuit but said the council established a record of its discussion on a bill to cancel the primary.