MON: Vaccinations Begin In New Mexico, Trump Files Suit As Electors Vote For Biden, + More

Dec 14, 2020

Vaccine Arrives In New Mexico As Deaths Mark Another High - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

The first coronavirus vaccines have arrived in New Mexico as hospitals prepare to distribute doses to frontline health care workers.

The first vaccinations came Monday with health care workers at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe.

New Mexico will get more than 17,500 doses as part of the first wave. The shipments come as new COVID-19 cases have decreased but hospitalizations and deaths remain high.

On Sunday, New Mexico tied its previous record of 44 for the number of coronavirus-related deaths reported in a single day.

The statewide death toll inched toward 2,000 with an additional 21 deaths reported Monday. Meanwhile, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began has topped 121,200.

Leaders of three of the state's largest health care providers said during a briefing Monday that they're excited about the prospect of vaccinations for medical staff who work daily with COVID-19 patients and other health care workers who are at high risk.

But they said the vaccinations won't change the way hospitals operate and that personal protective equipment and other protocols that have been adopted over the last several months will remain in place.

Hospital officials in Albuquerque said they expected to receive their doses later this week and would immediately vaccinate frontline workers who opt in. Receiving the vaccination will be voluntary for the health care workers.

Under the state's plan, later shipments will be distributed to staff and residents at long-term care facilities such as nursing homes. Decisions are still pending about which groups of people to vaccinate after that.

State health officials have said critical workers and vulnerable populations include police and corrections officers, public transit workers, child care center personnel and possibly teachers.

New Mexico Electors Cast 5 Votes For Joe Biden As Trump Files SuitAssociated Press, Albuquerque Journal

Five New Mexico electors have cast their votes for Joe Biden to formalize the Democratic candidate's victory in the state's presidential vote.

The electors wore face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus as they met Monday inside a Statehouse committee room.

Biden won the statewide popular vote by a margin of nearly 11 percentage points over President Donald Trump. The last time New Mexico sided with a Republican presidential candidate was for the 2004 reelection of George W. Bush.

Monday's meeting was accessible to the public and media by video webcast only. Electors of diverse backgrounds greeted the public briefly in English, Spanish and a Native American language.

The Albuquerque Journal reported the Trump re-election campaign filed suit in federal court on Monday against Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver targeting the use of absentee ballot drop boxes.

The suit does not make specific fraud allegations. However, it argues the Secretary of State’s office overstepped her authority by allowing the boxes this year during the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesman for Toulouse Oliver called the lawsuit a “desperate attempt” to undermine a lawful election in New Mexico.

US Supreme Court Sides With New Mexico In Pecos River FightAssociated Press

The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with New Mexico in a fight with Texas over the Pecos River.

The decision issued Monday centers on evaporation and New Mexico's obligations to deliver a certain amount of water to Texas each year.

The court found that the river master overseeing the compact between the two states correctly calculated that New Mexico should get credit for floodwater it stored in 2014 at the request of Texas.

That state had argued that a significant amount of water had evaporated while it was in storage. The states wanted the court to clear up how to account for the evaporated water.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that Texas' arguments disregarded the history of proceedings related to the Pecos River and that both states previously agreed to the water master's regulations that meant New Mexico would not be held accountable for evaporative losses.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and the state's top water official, State Engineer John D'Antonio, said they were pleased with the court's decision.

New Mexico and Texas also are feuding over management of the Rio Grande in separate case pending before the Supreme Court.

New Mexico Reports 1,459 New COVID-19 Cases, 44 More DeathsAssociated Press

Officials in New Mexico on Sunday reported 44 more deaths related to COVID-19, tying the previous one-day record set earlier this month. The state also reported 1,459 new COVID-19 cases. The latest numbers increase the state's totals to 119,800 cases and 1,957 known deaths since the pandemic began.

On Saturday, the New Mexico Department of Health reported 1,803 new cases and 24 deaths as the coronavirus virus showed signs of slowing over the past two weeks.

New Mexico ranks 12th among U.S. states for the most new cases per capita over the past 14 days.

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.

State officials on Friday announced a delay in the return to in-person learning after schools' winter break, in an effort to help mitigate what may be a post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases and to minimize the risk of exposure in in-person learning environments during that time.

New Mexico public education officials said no in-person learning will be permitted during the weeks of Jan. 4 and Jan. 11.

Navajo Nation Reports 183 New COVID-19 Cases, 2 More Deaths Associated Press

Navajo Nation health officials have reported 183 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths.

As of Sunday, the tribe has now reported 19,608 cases and 720 known deaths since the pandemic began.
Navajo Department of Health officials said more than 182,000 people on the vast reservation that includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah have been tested for COVID-19 and over 10,000 have recovered.

Tribal officials have said nearly all intensive care unit beds on the reservation are being used as COVID-19 cases surge.

The tribe has extended its stay-at-home order though Dec. 28 in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

Navajo Nation Reports 203 New COVID-19 Cases, 7 More DeathsAssociated Press

Navajo Nation health officials have reported 203 new COVID-19 cases and seven more deaths as they implement a weekend-long lockdown for reservation residents.

As of Saturday night, the tribe has now reported 19,420 cases and 718 known deaths since the pandemic began.

Navajo Department of Health officials said more than 181,000 people on the reservation have been tested for COVID-19 and over 10,000 have recovered.

The lockdown that began at 8 p.m. Friday will require everyone on the reservation except essential workers to stay at home. All businesses are required to remain closed until the lockdown ends at 5:30 a.m. Monday.

States Will Start Getting COVID-19 Vaccine Monday, US Says - Associated Press

The nation's first COVID-19 vaccine will begin arriving in states Monday morning, according to U.S. officials, after the government gave the final go-ahead on Saturday to the shots needed to end an outbreak that has killed nearly 300,000 Americans.

Trucks rolled out Sunday morning as shipping companies UPS and FedEx begin delivering Pfizer's vaccine to nearly 150 distribution centers across the country. An additional 425 sites will get shipments Tuesday, and the remaining 66 on Wednesday.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said last week that the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive in New Mexico within 24 hours of federal approval.

There are 17,500 doses of the vaccine reserved for New Mexico, which plans to distribute the initial allotment to health workers at high or moderate risk of exposure.

UNM Professor Who Started Flamenco Degree Program To Retire KRQE-TV, Associated Press

A University of New Mexico professor who started a Flamenco degree program has announced that she's retiring and her daughter will take over.

Eva Encinias tells Albuquerque TV station KRQE that she will continue her work at the National Institute of Flamenco during her retirement.

Encinias said she belongs to one of the Flamenco families that came to the United States after the Spanish Civil War and her family brought the dance to New Mexico.

She went on to get a degree in dance at UNM, later developing the Flamenco concentration at the university which took off around the year 2000.

Encinias says hundreds of students go through her Flamenco classes every year and come from all parts of the country plus Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.

She has spent two-thirds of her life at the university growing the program and recruiting dancers from Spain to teach. Encinias also was responsible for starting Festival Flamenco Albuquerque.

US Agency Looks To Open Rare Lizard's Habitat To Oil And Gas Carlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

Federal wildlife managers are considering offering permits to landowners in the Permian Basin that environmentalists say could further compromise habitat for a rare lizard found only in parts of southeastern New Mexico and West Texas.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be accepting comments on the proposal through Dec. 21.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that the permits would be available to landowners who are participating in candidate conservation agreements with the federal government.

The permits would cover situations when lizards are harmed or killed during oil and gas operations, sand mining, renewable energy development, agriculture or construction activities.

A candidate for federal protection for nearly two decades, the lizard has yet to be added to the list of threatened and endangered species.

'Lost Connection' Hampers Virgin Galactic's Test Flight - By Susan M0ntoya Bryan And Paul Davenport Associated Press

A Virgin Galactic test flight Saturday ended prematurely as the spacecraft's rocket motor failed to ignite. It then glided down safely to its landing site in southern New Mexico.

The spacecraft's engine is supposed to ignite moments after the craft is released from a special carrier jet, sending the craft into a near-vertical climb towards the edge of space.

Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement that the spaceship's onboard computer that monitors the motor lost connection, triggering a fail-safe scenario that halted ignition.

It was to be the first rocket-powered flight to space from Virgin Galactic's headquarters at Spaceport America.