MON: Thousands Sign Up On State Vaccine Site, Work Starts On Huge Transmission Line, + More

Jan 4, 2021

  

230K New Mexicans Sign Up On State Vaccine Registration SiteAssociated Press

More than 230,000 New Mexicans have signed up since the state launched its vaccination registration website two weeks ago.

The state Health Department said Monday that the site has been updated to allow people to complete a comprehensive profile that includes personal medical conditions, employment information and other data.

Officials said the site was created to help manage distribution once more vaccines become available.

Those who register will be notified when they become eligible and shots are available in their area.

The state also plans to launch a call center to provide additional support for those who wish to register or ask questions about the process.

State health officials reported that confirmed COVID-19 infections in New Mexico now total 147,315, including the 936 additional cases reported Monday. More than 2,570 deaths have been linked to the virus since the pandemic began.

Pattern Energy Begins Work On New Mexico Transmission LineAssociated Press

A California-based renewable energy company says financing is in place and work has started on a new transmission line that will funnel wind power from central New Mexico to other markets.

Pattern Energy Group said Monday that the Western Spirit transmission line and more than a gigawatt of wind projects are expected to come online by the end of 2021.

CEO Mike Garland called it the largest single-phase construction of renewable power in the U.S. New Mexico's largest electric utility — Public Service Co. of New Mexico — will own and operate the 150-mile long transmission line when its complete.

Spanning Guadalupe, Lincoln and Torrance counties, developers are promising more than 1,000 temporary construction jobs, 100 permanent jobs and $2 billion in economic impact for the state.

New Mexico Begins Public Meeting On Proposed Methane Rules - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico oil and gas regulators on Monday kicked off a public hearing on proposed rules for managing venting and flaring by the industry.

Oil and gas revenues underpin the state's budget, but Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has promised that her administration would adopt some of the toughest rules in the U.S. for cracking down on methane and other emissions.

Under the proposal, operators would need to reduce their waste by a fixed amount every year to achieve an ultimate gas capture rate of 98% by December 2026.

Environmentalists are concerned about loopholes, saying the state should prohibit all venting and flaring.

Representatives of the oil and gas industry have argued that operations already are taking advantage of new technology to reduce emissions. Industry officials are expected to make opening statements Tuesday when the hearing continues.

New Mexico's effort to build a new regulatory system for methane pollution began nearly two years ago and involved a special committee of experts that hosted hours of discussion and technical presentations by scientists, environmentalists and other industry experts.

The rules being considered by the Oil Conservation Commission deal specifically with waste due to venting and flaring in oilfields. Separate rules drafted by the state Environment Department are aimed at oil and gas equipment that emit volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.

Navajo Nation Reports 110 New COVID-19 Cases, 3 More Deaths – Associated Press

Navajo Nation health officials on Monday reported 110 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths.

The latest figures increased the tribe's totals since the pandemic began to 23,841 cases and 822 known deaths.

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

Also on Monday, the Navajo Department of Health on Monday identified 73 communities with uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 on the tribe's vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Navajo Nation has renewed a mandated lockdown requiring all residents to stay home except for emergencies, shopping for essentials like food and medicine or traveling to an essential job. The lockdown is slated to last until Jan. 11.Officials say regulating these emissions also will result in reducing methane pollution.

 

Navajo Nation Reports 146 New Cases Of COVID-19, 3 DeathsAssociated Press

The Navajo Department of Health on Monday identified 73 communities with uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 on the tribe's vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Navajo Nation has renewed a mandated lockdown requiring all residents to stay home except for emergencies, shopping for essentials like food and medicine or traveling to an essential job.

The lockdown is slated to last until Jan. 11. Late Sunday, tribal health officials reported 146 additional cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths.

The latest figures increased the tribe's totals since the pandemic began to 23,728 cases and 819 known deaths.

 

About Half Of Applicants Get New Mexico Virus Relief Grants - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

More than 6,500 New Mexico businesses and nonprofits will receive up to $50,000 under a state program created to help companies cope with economic fallout from the pandemic. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports that's about half of the companies that applied. 

The state implemented the program to help businesses as part of a bigger $320 million coronavirus relief package passed by New Mexico lawmakers. The program uses $100 million in federal coronavirus relief funds allocated to the state. About $40 million of that sum was allocated for businesses located outside of the state's four largest cities.

Marquita Russel, CEO of the New Mexico Finance Authority, said that while the agency had expected to receive roughly 10,000 applications, it received over 14,000. In all, 6,530 applications were funded.

Russel said the agency prioritized businesses that experienced the most significant losses as a result of the pandemic.

In order to receive money under the program, small businesses had to be majority-owned by New Mexico residents and have 100 or fewer employees.

The state on Sunday reported 1,033 additional known COVID-19 cases and 17 additional deaths, increasing the state's totals since the pandemic began to 146,394 cases and 2,551 deaths.

New Mexico Education Official To Focus On Equity, Identity - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

One of the semifinalists for Albuquerque Public Schools' superintendent job has instead taken a top post with New Mexico's Public Education Department.

Vickie Bannerman is the new deputy secretary for the Identity, Equity and Transformation division of PED, which she started this month.

She said she's been an equity advocate in the Albuquerque school district for about two years and has experience as a teacher and substitute teacher, among other administrative roles. She told the Albuquerque Journal that she has tried to have an "equity lens" throughout her career.

The position oversees efforts at the heart of a major education lawsuit that found the state wasn't meeting its constitutional obligation of providing a sufficient education to all students, namely those considered at risk, such as those with a disability or students from families with low incomes.

While Bannerman said she's very familiar with the Yazzie-Martinez lawsuit and its findings, she admits there's more to learn.

She's familiar with the needs students have, coming to the job after serving as principal at Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque since 2017. And she's seen firsthand how important it is to get students instruction that is relevant to their culture and experiences.

Bannerman was a semifinalist for APS' superintendent post, but she took herself out of the running to lead the PED division.

Bannerman said she jumped at the chance to make differences in education statewide versus at one district.

She said that while the PED has provided good road maps in the form of policies and rules, she's looking to help push that further into action at the school level.

To get there, she will focus on teamwork. She wants more partnerships across bureaucratic lines, including between districts and the department.

She acknowledged there may be distrust — whether between schools and their district or between districts and the PED — to overcome. But she wants to take that on to make collaboration more than a buzzword.

National Weather Service: Dryness Defined 2020 In Southwest - Associated Press

National Weather Service forecasters say they're still looking at the data for 2020 but that it's clear that there was record or near-record dryness in much of the Southwest last year.

In New Mexico, the weather service office in Albuquerque reported that the statewide average precipitation through November was only 5.22 inches. That was 8.03 inches below normal and put the state on track to make 2020 the fourth driest year on record.

In Arizona, Flagstaff had only 9.59 inches of rain in 2020, compared with the normal amount of 21.86 inches. Flagstaff's previous record low of 9.90 inches was in 1942. 

USPS Reports Spate Of Armed Mail Thefts In Albuquerque - KOB-TV, Associated Press

Authorities in New Mexico are investigating a spate of recent armed mail robberies in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas. 

U.S. Postal Inspector Brook Robinson tells KOB-TV that officials usually investigate mail and parcel thefts during the holidays, but that armed robberies are unusual. 

He says armed robbers could face 25 years in prison if they're caught. 

Robinson says agents are investigating eight cases since mid-October, including one last week and three in November in northeast Albuquerque. 

In Santa Fe, a letter carrier reported a robbery in late November.

Graffiti-Damaged Pandemic Mural Spurs Santa Fe Conversation -KRQE-TV, Associated Press

Two Santa Fe art groups say they'll complete and debut a mural designed to bring people together during the pandemic, despite graffiti damage found on it just before Christmas. 

KRQE-TV reports the mural features animals, color, hints of New Mexico and a central figure homage to the Tewa people. 

All Aboard Earth co-founder Jonathon Meade says creators were saddened to find graffiti on a work that aims to convey togetherness, happiness and "upliftment." 

Playful Passages founder Hannah Rapp says the muralists would rather talk with the taggers so everyone feels heard. 

The work was commissioned with coronavirus relief funds and a mini-grant from the City of Santa Fe.

Meade said it will be completed in the coming days.

Fast Rollout Of Virus Vaccine Trials Reveals Tribal Distrust - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

Few Native American tribes have signed up to participate in clinical trials as coronavirus vaccines are developed. 

The reasons range from suspicion and distrust tied to unethical practices of the past to the quick nature of the studies, which typically may need several layers of approval from tribes. 

Researchers say that without participation from Native Americans, tribes won't know which vaccine might best be suited for their citizens. 

About a handful of tribes have agreed to allow researchers to enroll their citizens in vaccine trials, including in the Southwest and Pacific Northwest. They point to a need to slow the virus among a population that's been disproportionately affected.

The Navajo Nation, wanting to ensure a COVID-19 vaccine would be effective for its people, said it would welcome Pfizer clinical trials on its reservation. Right away, tribal members accused their government of allowing them to be guinea pigs, pointing to painful times in the past when Native Americans didn't consent to medical testing or weren't fully informed about procedures. 

A Navajo Nation review board gave the study quicker approval than normal after researchers with Johns Hopkins University's Center for American Indian Health made the case for diversity. 

About 460 Native Americans participated in the trials for the vaccine by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, including Navajos. The enrollment reflects a growing understanding of the role that people of color play in vaccine development and the push to rapidly deploy it to curb infections among populations that have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

While vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna Inc. roll out across Indian Country, others are being studied.

 

Navajo Nation Reports 266 Additional Virus Cases, 7 Deaths - Associated Press

The Navajo Nation has reported 266 additional known cases of COVID-19 and seven more deaths. 

The figures reported late Friday increased the tribe's totals since the pandemic began to 23,429 cases and 813 deaths. 

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

The tribe's reservation was under a 57-hour weekend lockdown that began Friday evening and will end Monday at 5 a.m.

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