MON: Officials Warn About Hospital Capacity, Lawmaker Flees Home After Threatening Messages, + More

Oct 26, 2020

New Mexico Officials Issue Warning About Hospital Capacity - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Officials with three of the largest health care systems in New Mexico say that if COVID-19 continues to spread like it has in recent weeks, hospitals and health care workers in the state will not be able to keep up.

They issued the warning Monday, as New Mexico deals with a surge of infections. Despite having some of the most restrictive public health requirements since the start of the pandemic, New Mexico has seen three record-setting days for daily case totals in just over a week.

Hospitalizations also have skyrocketed with nearly 290 people being treated around the state. That marks a four-fold increase over the past month.

Dr. Jason Mitchell, chief medical officer at Presbyterian Healthcare Services, said his organization is seeing its highest volume of patients since the pandemic began. Of the several dozen COVID-19 patients at Presbyterian, about 30% are being treated in intensive care units.

While hospitals have been able to cross-train staff, move some workers around and bring others on board, Mitchell and officials with Lovelace Health System and the University of New Mexico Health System said there would not be enough workers or beds to accommodate COVID-19 patients or other medical emergencies if the pace of infection continues or grows over the next two months.

Another 732 cases were confirmed Monday, bringing the statewide total to 42,586 since the pandemic began. Another nine deaths also were reported, bringing that total to 976.

Mitchell said modeling by scientists with the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Presbyterian shows that around 900 additional COVID-19 cases a day fills about 180 ICU beds as a result.

The seven-day rolling average of New Mexico's positive infection rate has risen from 3.2% of those tested at the end of September to 7.5%, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Comparing seven-day averages of newly confirmed cases smooths out anomalies in the data, including delays in test results.

The hospital officials also made another plea for people to wear masks, wash their hands and keep their distance from other people.

New Mexico Blasted By Snow, Wind And Freezing TemperaturesAssociated Press

Blowing snow and slick roads are creating hazardous travel conditions for northern and central New Mexico.

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque says travelers should be cautious as road conditions were expected to deteriorate Monday evening and overnight.

Forecasters say the storm system is expected to reach peak intensity Tuesday with widespread effects, especially in the high terrain and across eastern New Mexico.

Up to 2 feet of snow was expected in the northern mountains, while there could be several inches to a foot in the central and eastern areas of the state.

Forecasters said wind gusts between 35 and 50 mph also were possible along with freezing fog in the early hours.

In Albuquerque, the city deployed crews to clear and salt the roads over the next 48 hours as the winter storm warning would be in effect through Wednesday evening. The crews were focused on major emergency routes, bridges and intersections.

The moisture offered a much-needed break for many parts of the state that have gone weeks without rain. According to the latest drought map, the entire state is suffering from moderate drought or worse.

It's much different than last year, when just over one-third of the state was in that situation.

New Mexico Legislator Flees Home After Threats Received - Associated Press

A New Mexico state senator says he received anonymous threatening telephone messages shortly after publicly criticizing a political demonstration that took place outside the state Capitol, and that he fears for his safety. 

State Sen. Jacob Candelaria said Sunday that he received a series of profanity-laced telephone voice messages. One caller accused the Democratic senator from Albuquerque of not knowing what it means to be an American and said that “we’re going to get you out one way or another." Candelaria took the message as a possible death threat.

Another message included homophobic slurs against the openly gay legislator and attorney.

Candelaria expressed frustration with the response by law enforcement after a visit from State Police officers. 

The messages were left hours after Candelaria appeared in a TV newscast Saturday night to criticize as risky and irresponsible a rally in which a few hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Statehouse mostly without masks to urge the governor to reopen the economy and denounce pandemic restrictions. Campaign flags for President Donald Trump were on prominent display. 

State health officials have banned gatherings of more than five people and mandated masks in public, with a variety of restrictions on businesses, amid a series of record-setting statewide daily tallies for COVID-19 infections in recent days.

Candelaria said he was fleeing Albuquerque for his safety and the safety of his spouse.

He described the response from local and state law enforcement authorities as inadequate in light of credible recent threats against politicians such as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Candelaria said State Police officers arrived at his home after more than 12 hours. Candelaria said he grew frustrated when officers suggested the voice messages were not necessarily a threat.

State Police Lieutenant and spokesperson Mark Soriano said Sunday the agency's investigations bureau is actively handling Candelaria's complaint of threats, with no further information available.

The initial response by State Police personnel also is being reviewed.

Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesperson for the Albuquerque Police Department, said Sunday that a city officer contacted Candelaria after his initial 911 call and arranged a type of periodic surveillance of the senator's home. He said State Police are leading the investigation.

New Mexico Reports 828 New Coronavirus Cases, 2 More Deaths - Associated Press

At least seven states — New Mexico, Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Oklahoma — saw record high infection levels Saturday. A day after reporting a record number of new COVID-19 cases with 875, New Mexico health officials reported 828 more confirmed cases Sunday along with two additional deaths. 

The latest numbers increase the state's totals to 41,863 cases and 967 known deaths. 

New Mexico Department of Health officials say 206 of the new cases were in Doña Ana County with 156 more in Bernalillo County, the state's largest that includes Albuquerque. 

Saturday's case count topped the 827 cases newly reported on Wednesday. New Mexico reported 669 cases Thursday and 797 on Friday. 

More than 350 doctors, nurses and other health care professionals in New mexico signed a letter imploring residents to stay home as much as possible, wear masks and limit large gatherings to help prevent another wave of “lonely deaths.”

Navajo Nation: No New COVID-19 Deaths For 7th Day In A RowAssociated Press

Navajo Nation health officials are reporting 63 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, but no additional deaths for the seventh consecutive day.

The latest figures released Monday bring the total number of cases to nearly 11,362 with the known death toll remaining at 574.

Tribal health officials say 121,827 people on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic started.

In that same time, nearly 7,500 have recovered.

A shelter-in-place order, mask mandate, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns remain in effect on the Navajo Nation.

Navajo Nation Reports No New COVID-19 Deaths For 6th Day In A RowAssociated Press

Navajo Nation health officials are reporting 76 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 but no additional deaths for a sixth consecutive day.

The latest figures released Sunday night bring the total number of cases to nearly 11,300 with the known death toll remaining at 574.

Tribal health officials said more than 121,000 people on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic started. In that same time, nearly 7,500 have recovered.

A shelter-in-place order, mask mandate, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns remain in effect on the Navajo Nation.

Navajo Nation: No New COVID-19 Deaths For 5th Day In Row - Associated Press

Navajo Nation health officials report 64 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 but no additional deaths for the fifth consecutive day. 

The latest figures released Saturday night bring the total number of cases to 11,217 with the known death toll remaining at 574. 

Tribal health officials said 121,274 people on the vast reservation have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic started and 7,466 have recovered. 

A shelter-in-place order, mask mandate, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns remain in effect on the Navajo Nation. 

Lawyer: APD Allegations Against Former Police Spokesperson 'False'- Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A lawyer for a now-former Albuquerque police officer denies allegations that his client wrongfully collected thousands of dollars of overtime pay while serving as the department's spokesperson. 

Attorney Sam Bregman told the Albuquerque Journal that allegations in a police department news release regarding former Officer Simon Drobik are "absolutely false." 

The police department said in a statement Friday that an internal investigation concluded that Drobik violated policies on overtime pay and would have been fired if he hadn't retired during the investigation. 

According to the department, Drobik got paid for work he didn't perform while multiple supervisors looked the other way.

The department said one supervisor will be disciplined as a result of the investigation and that the department is overhauling its practices for overtime.

The department also said it has made referrals and notifications to the Office of the State Auditor, the State Law Enforcement Academy Board and the Office of the Attorney General.

Drobik retired in July after serving as the department's public face for years.

Minority Pushes Trump Agenda Largely Unpopular Among Tribes - By Felicia Fonseca And Morgan Lee Associated Press

The Navajo Nation vice president is part of a vocal minority pushing Donald Trump's agenda in areas long considered Democratic territory. 

Myron Lizer argues that Native American values of hard work, family and ranching align more with the GOP than with Democrats. 

It's difficult to say how most tribal members vote because the majority do not live on reservations and county lines don't align with tribal voters. 

Historically, the Native American community has been considered a Democratic Party constituency. Lizer says he wants to shake up that belief. 

He and other Native American leaders well-known in Republican circles recently helped launch a Native Americans for Trump coalition.

Lizer's political ideology isn't popular among many Navajos. He's been criticized for meeting with Trump, speaking at the Republican National Convention, not always wearing a mask in public and infusing virtual town hall meetings with scripture.

But the former pastor, who is Navajo and Comanche, believes he's opened the door for Native American Republicans, including evangelical Christians and veterans, to express their views.

Former Longtime New Mexico Lawmaker Nick Salazar Dies At 91 - Associated Press

Former New Mexico state Rep. Nick Salazar, who served in the Legislature for 46 years until his retirement in 2018, has died. He was 91. 

State officials said Salazar died late Friday. No cause of death was immediately available. But when Salazar announced his intention to retire, he said he had developed problems with his heart and vision. 

Salazar, a Democrat, served District 40 representing parts of Colfax, Mora, Rio Arriba, and San Miguel counties. 

He's credited with his work on behalf of New Mexico's seniors including sponsoring the creation of the Aging and Long Term Services Department. 

Salazar, of Ohkay Owingeh, served on the Rio Arriba County Commission in the 1960s before he was elected to the House in 1972.

Former Alamogordo Officer Sentenced In Fatal Roswell Wreck - Roswell Daily Record, Associated Press

A former Alamogordo police officer has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a 2019 wreck in Roswell in which one person was killed and two others injured. 

Luke Maxwell Towner faces a Dec. 14 hearing after pleading guilty Thursday in state District Court to homicide by vehicle, aggravated DWI and great bodily harm. 

The Roswell Daily Record reports that Judge James Hudson said a plea agreement recommends a 15-year sentence, including 12 years in prison and three years suspended and served on supervised probation. 

Court documents indicate Towner was driving at 70 mph when his pickup rear-ended a vehicle at a traffic light.

Doug Annis, 26, of Roswell, was in the other vehicle's backseat and was fatally injured. That vehicle's driver and a second passenger were injured.

Towner was an Alamogordo police officer from 2013 to 2016.