MON: Santa Fe Opera Cancels Season, NM GOP And Sheriffs Ask AG Barr To Review Health Orders, + More

May 11, 2020

Sheriffs Ask AG Barr To Review New Mexico Health Orders - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

New Mexico Republicans and sheriffs are asking U.S. Attorney General William Barr to review Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's COVID-19 health orders. 

State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce and New Mexico Sheriffs' Association President Tony Mace each sent letters to Barr seeking a review into health orders that have shuttered some businesses since late March. 

They say the orders, which closed a number of small businesses, violate residents' civil rights. 

New Mexico GOP House Minority Leader James Townsend also sent a similar letter.

A spokesperson for the governor declined to comment. 

State health officials reported 9 additional deaths from the outbreak, for a total of 200 as of Sunday with 87 additional positive tests, bringing that total to 4,863 confirmed cases statewide. 

Coronavirus Forces Santa Fe Opera To Cancel Upcoming Season - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

The famed Santa Fe Opera has been forced to cancel its season. General Director Robert Meya said Monday the opera explored every possible scenario  including how to test and quarantine, limit theater capacity and conduct wellness checks.

But he said the decision was made with the health and safety of staff, artists, patrons and the community in mind. More than $5 million in tickets already were sold.

Meya is asking patrons to donate the value of their tickets back to the opera to help compensate artists, musicians and seasonal staff who otherwise would have been working this season.

Meya said the donations would provide the opera with "a bridge over these dark and turbulent times."

In recent years, the open-air venue has been the backdrop for productions about the dawn of the nuclear age in 1940s New Mexico and a world premiere of a techno-infused opera about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg also has been a regular visitor to performances in Santa Fe.

Hospitals To Get Additional $66M As COVID Cases Surpass 5,000Associated Press, KUNM

State officials also announced Monday that hospitals are expected to get an additional $66 million in Medicaid payments to help cover losses during the health emergency.

The rate increases approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid include higher reimbursements for intensive care stays by 50% for the duration of the emergency.

Human Services Secretary David Scrace described intensive care as a key scarce resource for the state.

The number COVID-19 cases in New Mexico surged to 5,069 Monday with 207 additional positive tests. McKinley County continues to lead the state, followed by San Juan County. Both are in northwest New Mexico, which has been hard hit. A lockdown order for Gallup expired Sunday.

There were 8 more deaths as well, bringing the total to 208. State officials also reported 30 cases among detainees at the Otero County Processing Center run by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Virus Rampages Across Vast Navajo Lands, Close-Knit Families - By Felicia Fonseca and Tim Sullivan, Associated Press

The Navajo reservation spans three western U.S. states and has some of the highest rates of coronavirus in the country.

With roughly 175,000 people living there, the tribe has seen 3,122 cases. At least 100 people have died.

The numbers continue to grow. Handwashing and isolation are the most basic measures to fight the spread of the virus. But that can be difficult when many families live in close quarters and don't have running water.

If Navajos are susceptible to the virus' spread in part because they are so closely knit, that's also how many believe they will beat it.

They’re leaving boxes of food and supplies on the steps of elders’ homes or in grocery bags hanging from fence posts. They’re driving for hours to take relatives to hospitals. They’re delivering water to friends and family.

US Plans Reimagine Fighting Wildfires Amid Crews' Virus Risk - By Rebecca Boone, Associated Press

New plans offer a national reimagining of how to fight wildfires amid the risk of the coronavirus spreading through crews. But it's not clear how officials will get the testing and equipment needed to keep firefighters safe in what's expected to be a difficult fire season.

A U.S. group last week released broad guidelines to consider when sending crews to blazes. Different parts of the country can tailor the guidelines, which include having firefighters camp in smaller groups and keeping crews separated.

A letter from lawmakers says the U.S. Forest Service determined that large fire camps could have a disproportionately high mortality rate in worst-case scenarios.

Agency officials say that risk assessment is "outdated." 

Governor's Lockdown To Slow Outbreak In Gallup Expires - Associated Press

A governor-ordered lockdown designed to combat a surging coronavirus outbreak in the western New Mexico city of Gallup expired Sunday, but the mayor said the problem persists. 

Mayor Louis Bonaguidi says city officials likely will now ask every Gallup resident to wear a mask when they go outside. 

Gallup is in McKinley County, which has just 3.5% of New Mexico's population but has had nearly one-third of the state's coronavirus cases and one-fifth of known deaths. 

The county had 14 new confirmed cases as of Sunday, bringing the total there to 1,522 with 46 reported deaths. 

The city is one of the largest communities bordering the Navajo Nation, which is the nation's largest reservation with 175,000 people that extends into parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham invoked the state's Riot Control Act on May 1, sealing off all roads to nonessential traffic in Gallup.

The Navajo Nation also has imposed evening and weekend curfews on the reservation for several weeks now.

New Mexico To Receive Investigational Medication Shipment For COVID-19 - KOB-TV, Associated Press

New Mexico is set to receive a shipment of antiviral medication to help speed up the recovery process of coronavirus patients.


KOB-TV reports the state expects its first shipment of the medication Remdesivir Monday.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, in partnership with the University of New Mexico Hospital and state health department, have been working for several weeks to secure the medication.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the investigational drug to be used in the treatment of COVID-19 earlier this month.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. 

Small Tribes Seal Borders, Push Testing To Keep Out Virus - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

Small Native American villages in the southwestern United States are embracing extraordinary isolation measures that include guarded roadblocks to turn away outsiders and near-universal testing for the coronavirus. 

It comes in reaction to a contagion with frightening echoes of the past. 

At Picuris Pueblo in northern New Mexico, leaders say survival is at stake and are going further than a statewide order. Mandatory testing — under the threat of fines by the tribal council in Picuris Pueblo — is being performed by the state Health Department and U.S. Indian Health Service. 

Native Americans account for more than half of the COVID-19 infections statewide. 

New Mexico's 19 indigenous pueblos view the coronavirus as an existential threat after early infections raced through some of their communities.

New Mexico Woman, 105, Who Beat 1918 Flu, Has COVID-19 - Gallup Independent, Associated Press

A 105-year-old New Mexico woman who beat back the 1918 flu that killed millions, including her mother and infant sister, is battling COVID-19. 

The Gallup Independent reports Lubica "Luby" Grenko has been fighting the novel coronavirus since being diagnosed April 29 at the Little Sisters of the Poor in Gallup, New Mexico. 

The 1918 flu took the lives of her 28-year-old mother Marijeta Kauzlaric, and 1-month-old younger sister. 

Grenko's granddaughter Misty Tolson says she doesn't think her grandmother understands the current virus. 

More than 4,800 people in New Mexico have tested positive for COVID-19.

Feds OK New Veterans Cemetery Outside Of Albuquerque - KRQE-TV, Associated Press

U.S. officials have signed off on a new veterans cemetery outside of Albuquerque. 

KRQE-TV reports New Mexico is offering more than 200 acres in Sandoval County for the project. 

Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block says county officials, lobbyists and members of Congress were instrumental in getting the U.S. Veterans Administration to choose the county for the cemetery. 

There are two national veterans cemeteries in New Mexico – in Santa Fe and Fort Bayard. 

In recent years, there has been a push to add cemeteries so military members can be buried closer to rural communities. The state opened its own veterans cemeteries in Fort Stanton and Gallup, with one in Angel Fire opening soon.

Graves Uncovered At Site Reveal Part Of Santa Fe History - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associate Press

Construction of a new Santa Fe retirement community continues as the project awaits approval of testing connected to recently discovered graves. 

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports developers of the the future La Secoya de El Castillo retirement community are waiting for results around additional graves on what is presumed to be part of an old cemetery. 

A preliminary review revealed construction activities had partially exposed at least three graves. The existence of three more graves was discovered a day or two later.

A portion of the property under construction has long been suspected to include graves associated with what was once one of the largest 19th-century cemeteries in Santa Fe. 

The Masons and Odd Fellows Cemetery, which was incorporated by the Territorial Legislature in 1853, is the earliest non-Catholic burial ground in New Mexico's capital.

Until the state approves the testing plan, questions about the site remain unanswered.

Shutdown Of Tribal Casinos Deals Blow To Indian Country - By Nicholas K. Geranios Associated Press

Some 500 Native American casinos have shut down during the pandemic, often taking away tribes' main source of income. 

While some Native American-owned casinos have reopened or plan to in the coming weeks, most are still closed. 

Besides costing tribes millions of dollars, the closures have forced layoffs and furloughs.

One tribe in Washington state says it can't fund anything without the casino but recently reopened after two months. 

In New Mexico, Native American-owned casinos that provide $820 million in annual revenue to 14 tribes have been shut down.

Democratic state Rep. Derrick Lente, a tribal member from the Sandia Pueblo, which has shuttered its casino on the outskirts of Albuquerque, says, "I know for a fact that brings into question the economic stability of those tribes that have gaming operations," said 

While corporations or billionaires own casinos in places like Las Vegas, tribes are sovereign nations that operate them under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. The law was intended to help impoverished tribes build a sustainable economy.