MON: State Begins Lockdown To Curb Surge Of COVID-19 Cases, + More

Nov 16, 2020

New Mexico Begins Lockdown As State Looks To Curb Spread – Associated Press

New Mexico is starting its lockdown as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and hospital administrators look to curb COVID-19 infections.

Under the latest public health order taking effect Monday, people are being asked to stay at home and only essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, big box retailers, hardware stores and other necessary operations will be open.

Universities say they're transitioning back to full online classes while many municipal government offices are closed to walk-in requests.

Also as a result of the restrictions, Virgin Galactic says its plans for the first space test flight from Spaceport America will be pushed back.

State health officials reported an additional 1,259 COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the total to nearly 65,500 since the pandemic began. The death toll stands at 1,236, including 21 deaths reported Monday.

Because of the ongoing surge, health officials also announced Monday they were changing the way they accounted for hospitalizations.

Previously, COVID-19 related hospitalizations were reported to the Health Department through case investigation and contact tracing, but the increase in cases has made timely individual contact more difficult and less reliable.

The department instead will report the number of hospitalizations using data it receives directly from hospitals each day.

As of Monday, 738 individuals were hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19. Officials said this number may include people who tested positive out of state but are hospitalized in New Mexico.

Navajo Nation Reports 117 New COVID-19 Cases, 4 New DeathsAssociated Press

Navajo Nation health officials are reporting 117 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths.

The latest figures released Sunday bring the total number of known cases to more than 13,300 with 602 known deaths. Tribal health officials said more than 138,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic started and around 7,900 have recovered.

The news comes as the Navajo Nation on Monday reinstated a stay-at-home lockdown for the entire reservation.

The coronavirus has affected 29 communities throughout the reservation, which spans more than 27,000 square miles in parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Tribal President Jonathan Nez last Friday vetoed a resolution that requested support for the reopening of some tribal casinos in Arizona and New Mexico at half capacity.

Nez said he remains committed to finding additional alternative funds to support tribal businesses and enterprises.

In August, the Navajo Nation approved $24.6 million in CARES Act funds to avoid layoffs of gaming employees.

Panel Recommends Higher Purchase Limits For Medical Cannabis - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A panel of doctors and other health care professionals is recommending increasing the amount of marijuana that can be purchased by participants in New Mexico's medical cannabis program.

The advisory board voted Monday in favor of nearly doubling the limit to 15 ounces over 90 days. Supporters say that would at least put New Mexico on par with Nevada and Arizona. They noted other states have much higher limits.

The panel also recommended expanding the list of qualifying conditions to include anxiety, attention deficient disorders, Tourette's and some substance abuse disorders.

The state health secretary will have the final say.

The petition seeking the higher purchase limits comes as participation in the program has ballooned, even amid the coronavirus pandemic.

State officials reported Monday that just over 100,000 people now have medical cannabis cards, marking a nearly 30% increase over the past year.

That total doesn't include those patients with cards from programs in other states who are allowed to purchase from New Mexico producers, the officials said.

Dr. Tracie Collins, dean of the College of Population Health at the University of New Mexico, is set to take over the department in December. Her priorities include the state's response to the pandemic.

The agency also is in the middle of making new rules that would govern reciprocity for those patients whose authorization to use medical marijuana originated in other states.

New Mexico Supreme Court Affirms State's Repeat Offender LawAssociated Press

New Mexico's highest court is upholding the increased prison time for a repeat offender of domestic violence.

The New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday against an Alamogordo man appealing his heightened jail sentence under the Habitual Offender Act.

James Barela pleaded no contest in 2015 to battery against a household member. It was his third misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. He also had a 2010 felony conviction for false imprisonment.

State law calls for a defendant with a previous felony that is not a DWI to face up to an additional year in jail. Barela's attorneys argued the misdemeanor conviction should not have been reconsidered as a felony.

Acoma Tribal Governor Says Hospital Cut Vital Services Associated Press

Native American authorities at Acoma Pueblo say that federal authorities have suspended emergency and in-patient medical care at a hospital on Acoma tribal lands.

A Friday statement from Acoma Gov. Brian Vallo condemned the suspension of services at Acoma-Canoncito-Laguna Service Unit hospital by the Indian Health Service as reckless in the midst of a major coronavirus infection surge.

The Indigenous community of about 3,000 people says it has experienced a surge of COVID-19 cases, with about 100 positive tests in November.

Vallo says tribal members now must travel an hour by car for intensive medical care to Albuquerque, where emergency rooms are strained by the contagion.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, who co-chairs the Congressional Native American Caucus, issued a statement criticizing the closure.

U.S. Citizenship Test Adds More Questions, Draws Criticism Associated Press

Updates to the U.S. citizenship test will require applicants to answer more questions than before and could slow down the number of tests administered each day.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the updated test now has 128 civics items to study from and will require applicants answer 20 questions instead of 10.

Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, says the changes to the naturalization test could possibly triple the amount each USCIS officer spends on testing applicants.

Agency spokesman Dan Hetlage said the new test “covers a variety of topics that provide the applicant with a more well-rounded testing experience.”