MON: N.M. To Switch From Statewide To County-By-County COVID-19 Restrictions Wednesday, + More

Nov 30, 2020

New Mexico Counties Have Long Way To Go Under Virus System – Associated Press

New Mexico is moving soon to a county-by-county system for responding to COVID-19 that allows local communities to shed restrictions if the virus retreats.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Monday at an online news conference the new system and the current trajectory of the pandemic.

At this point, only one of New Mexico's 33 counties — Los Alamos County — would be eligible to shed some restrictions on mass gatherings and to resume indoor dining at restaurants, according to the state's coronavirus dashboard. The new system is scheduled to take effect Wednesday.

The color-coded system for virus restrictions would rate counties with low rates of virus infection or positive test results as “yellow" or “green.” Tight restrictions will continue in “red” counties with high rates of coronavirus infection and positive test outcomes.

The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in New Mexico from COVID-19 has increased over the past two weeks from 13.9 on Nov. 15 to 22.4 on Sunday, according to The Associated Press.

The average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 1,331 to 1,932 on Sunday.

Navajo Nation Finds 177 More COVID-19 Cases, 5 New Deaths – Associated Press

The Navajo Nation is reporting more than 170 new COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths.

Navajo health officials announced Sunday a new tally of 177 newly confirmed virus cases, bringing the total to 16,427, including 27 delayed unreported cases. The death toll from COVID-19 on the reservation now stands at 653.

So far, 8,676 have recovered from COVID-19, and 157,860 COVID-19 tests have been administered.

Residents remain under a stay-at-home order, with an exception for essential workers and essential needs like food, medication and emergencies. Essential businesses also have been ordered to limit their hours to between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily.

New Mexico Ranks High For Coronavirus Diagnosis Rates - Associated Press

A rolling average of statewide deaths from the coronavirus has surpassed 25 as New Mexico nears the end of a two-week period of heightened restrictions.

Virus-related deaths on Sunday included 60-year-old middle school teacher Sylvia Garcia of the Las Cruces area. Las Cruces Schools Superintendent Karen Trujillo described Garcia as a "beloved, veteran educator with deep roots in this district." "We are devastated," Trujillo said in a statement.

The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in New Mexico has risen over the past two weeks from 14.9 deaths per day on Nov. 14 to 25.3 deaths per day on Saturday. That's according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data collected by Johns Hopkins.

New Mexico also ranks among the worst 10 states in diagnosis rates for COVID-19, with one out of every 144 people diagnosed with the virus from Nov. 21 through Saturday. North Dakota had the highest rate, with 1 out of 119 residents diagnosed with the virus.

The state plans to switch to a county-by-county risk evaluation system on Wednesday. The administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says that will allow local communities to shed burdensome restrictions when public health data show the virus is retreating locally.

State health officials on Sunday announced 1,443 newly confirmed virus cases and 13 related deaths.

With No Action By Washington, States Race To Offer Virus Aid - By Cedar Attanasio And Julie Carr Smyth Associated Press/Report For America

Governors and state lawmakers are racing to get pandemic relief to small-business owners, the unemployed, renters and others whose livelihoods have been upended by the widening coronavirus outbreak.

Some elected officials are spending the last of a federal relief package passed in the spring as an end-of-year deadline approaches.

Last week, the New Mexico Legislature passed a bipartisan relief bill that will deliver a one-time $1,200 check to all unemployed workers and give up to $50,000 to certain businesses.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the state took action to help residents "who have real issues about keeping food on their table, a roof over their head."

"While the United States of America is on fire, the Trump administration has left states to fight this virus on their own," she said, noting state efforts alone simply are not enough. "It is clear no help is coming — not from this president, not from this administration. As we have done every day this year, New Mexico will step up."

On Friday, the number of reported new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. for the first time topped 200,000 for a single day.

New Mexico Reports 1,443 COVID Cases, Record Hospitalizations Related To Virus - Associated Press

New Mexico on Sunday reported 1,443 additional COVID-19 cases and 13 new deaths.

The statewide totals increased to 95,417 cases and 1,540 deaths.

Friday saw New Mexico report a daily record 35 deaths. The previous record was 33 set Nov. 22.

The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 was reported on Sunday at 919. That surpasses last week’s record of 897.

The zip codes with the highest number of cases statewide were 88201 and 88203, both in the Roswell area, with over 60 cases each.

New Mexico To Require Details Of Water For Oil Well DrillingAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Officials say New Mexico oil and gas operators will be required to report the amount and quality of water used to drill wells.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the data collection is an attempt by state agencies to scrutinize water use across New Mexico's economic sectors.

Adrienne Sandoval of the state Oil Conservation Division says the reports will help fill a data gap for industry water use.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, blasts water, sand and chemicals underground to break through shale formations to retrieve oil.

Operators previously reported the amount of produced water injected into storage wells but were not required to disclose water data for well completions.

Produced water is a salty chemical mixture surfacing along with petroleum, which companies often recycle for future fracking.

"A justifiable concern from the public is that New Mexico is a very dry and arid state, and our oil and gas operations are consuming some of that fresh water," Sandoval said.

There are also anecdotal reports of companies using brackish water for drilling, but there is no supporting data, Sandoval said.

Office of the State Engineer data show oil and gas operations account for less than 1% of New Mexico's water use.

The Produced Water Act passed last year by the state Legislature sought to clarify oil field wastewater rules. Operators will be required to list the amount of dissolved solids in the water, which is an indicator of its quality.

Companies must now submit water use data through an online reporting system within 45 days of well completion.

"Once we have that info and data collected for a little bit of time, we can look at the state of things in a better light to see whether or not we need to add (water) regulations or if things seem to be in a good state," Sandoval said.

New Mexico Authorities To Crack Down On Drunken Drivers - Associated Press

New Mexico authorities say they will be cracking down on drunken drivers throughout the month of December.

State police issued the warning this week, saying sobriety checkpoints will be set up around the state.

Officers will also be asking for driver's licenses, vehicle registration cards and proof of insurance at the checkpoints.

They say it's an effort to reduce alcohol-related fatalities on New Mexico roadways.

Data collected and compiled by the state Department of Transportation and the University of New Mexico shows there were 74 alcohol-related fatalities from January through October. That's about half of what it was during the same period the previous year.

So far, January and May marked the months with the highest number of alcohol-related traffic deaths, at 12 each.

The data is used to help track fatalities and injuries caused by drunk drivers, giving authorities a better understanding of where such crashes are happening so they can focus their anti-DWI initiatives.

New Mexico University To Offer Industrial Hemp Certificate - Associated Press

Regents at New Mexico Highlands University have approved a new program that will offer students a certificate in industrial hemp entrepreneurship.

Approval came earlier this month, but school officials say the program must still go through any required state and accreditor reviews.

The Higher Learning Commission must also sign off.

Industrial hemp production was legalized in New Mexico in 2019.

The university's program will have two tracks — one for students focused on the business of industrial hemp and another for students interested in the science of plant production.

The certificate curriculum will include six courses for 18 credits.

Archdiocese Of Santa Fe In New Mexico Cuts 20 Positions - Associated Press, Albuquerque Journal

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe is cutting 20 positions and ending publication of its "People of God" magazine.

Archbishop John C. Wester announced the layoffs in a letter to parishioners last week.

Wester wrote that the layoffs include six positions in the Pastoral Ministries Division, five in the General Services Division and three each in the Office of the Vicar General and Office of the Chancellor.

Rev. Vincent Paul Chávez, pastor of the St. Therese Little Flower Catholic Church, says the archdiocese's income has been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which has limited in-church attendance.

The archdiocese had previously filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018 after a slew of child sexual abuse claims were filed against it. The Albuquerque Journal reports about 300 of those claims have been settled.