THURS: Governor Extends Lockdown in Gallup, + More

May 7, 2020

New Mexico Governor Extends Navajo Nation Gateway Lockdown - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has announced she will extend the lockdown on a western New Mexico city to help stop the spread of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation.

Her office said Thursday she will lengthen the lockdown on Gallup, New Mexico, until noon Sunday. Under the order, businesses will stay closed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., and only two people may travel together in a car. Gallup residents are ordered remain at home except for emergency outings.

The city sits along the border of the Navajo Nation and is a place where many members buy food and supplies.

Health officials fear that Gallup, a popular supply stop for rural residents of the Navajo Nation, became a vector for transmission of COVID-19 at stores, restaurants and water fill-up stations for people without full household plumbing.

Health officials say per-capita infections in Gallup and surrounding McKinley County are twelve times the rate for Albuquerque, the state's largest metropolitan area.

As of Wednesday, the county had 1,337 confirmed coronavirus infections and 29 related deaths. Intensive care beds are full at two local hospitals, and patients with acute respiratory symptoms are being transferred to Albuquerque.

Infections Climb Amid Lockdown At Gateway To Navajo Nation - Associated Press 

State and local authorities are weighing their options for containing the spread of coronavirus at a normally busy gateway to the Navajo Nation on the possible expiration date for an emergency lockdown on the city of Gallup. 

Emergency powers under the state Riot Control Act were scheduled to expire Thursday at noon unless extended by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. 

Sheriff's deputies and state police have blockaded roadways leading in and out of the city since May 1 to restrict travel and business to emergency services and provisions, while limiting vehicles to two occupants.

Health officials say per-capita infections in Gallup and surrounding McKinley County are twelve times the rate for Albuquerque, the state's largest metropolitan area.

As of Wednesday, the county had 1,337 confirmed coronavirus infections and 29 related deaths. Intensive care beds are full at two local hospitals, and patients with acute respiratory symptoms are being transferred to Albuquerque.

State Reports 204 Additional COVID-19 Cases And Three Deaths – KUNM

New Mexico officials reported an additional 204 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and three additional deaths, bringing the overall death toll to 172.

There are now 4,493 cases of COVID-19 so far in the state and 197 people are hospitalized. The Albuquerque Journal reports about 70% of the new cases are in McKinley and San Juan counties in northwest New Mexico, which has seen a consistent surge of infections.

Two of the deaths reported Thursday were in congregate living facilities. Health  officials have found at least one positive COVID-19 case in residents and/or staff in 29 such centers around the state.

Man Sues New Mexico Police After Being Hurt In Chase, CrashSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A man has sued a New Mexico State Police officer who crashed into his vehicle in January 2019 while chasing a truck.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the 62-year-old says he suffered spinal fractures and other injuries in the head-on collision. The lawsuit filed this week accuses the officer of pursuing a driver because he was not wearing a seat belt. It alleges the chase reached speeds over 80 mph.

The man is seeking compensation for pain and suffering and his medical expenses. A state police spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Man In New Mexico Impress Cartel Killing Heading To TrialHobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

A southeastern New Mexico man who reportedly said he wanted to prove himself to a Mexican drug cartel when he allegedly killed another man is heading to trial.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Anthony Breeding is scheduled to face a jury trial beginning October 26 in connection with the death of Jose Angel Rivera.

Deputies discovered Rivera lying underneath the carport in a pool of blood from an apparent gunshot wound to the head in December.

The 35-year-old Breeding was arrested and charged with murder and aggravated burglary.

New Mexico Officials Report More Coronavirus Cases, Deaths - Associated Press

New Mexico health officials say another 153 coronavirus cases have been confirmed, pushing the statewide total to nearly 4,300. 

Seven additional deaths were also reported Wednesday. That includes four people in McKinley County, a rural area in western New Mexico that accounts for nearly one-third of the state's cases. 

During the pandemic, state officials say New Mexico agencies have delivered more than 5.4 million meals to children and youth, more than 293,000 meals to seniors and more than 400,000 pounds of food items to those communities most in need.

The state has also increased enrollments and benefits to families under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and has authorized additional support to go to each child in foster care for the duration of the governor's stay-at-home order.

Memo Outlines Budget Hole For New Mexico State Government - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

The economic fallout in New Mexico from the coronavirus pandemic is likely to wipe out between $2.1 billion and $3.9 billion in previously anticipated state government income by mid-2021, a group of state economists announced Wednesday.

A memo from staff economists at three executive agencies and the Legislature outlined two scenarios for the economic downturn and recovery.

Both involve plummeting state revenues from personal income taxes and gross receipts taxes on sales and services, as well as reduced income from severance taxes and federal royalty payments on oil production.

The decline in revenue far outstrips the $1.25 billion earmarked for New Mexico under the main federal coronavirus relief package that was designed to help businesses, workers and the health care system. Additional federal relief was earmarked for Native American communities.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham plans to call the Legislature to a special session the second week of June to rewrite the $7.6 billion general fund spending plan for the fiscal year that starts on June 30.

The governor wants the Legislature to consider temporarily tapping more money from the state's $18 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to shore up state finances and the economy, at the risk of reducing routine annual distributions over the long run.

LANL Studying New Virus Strain As NM Cases Rise To 4,291 Albuquerque Journal

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory working with other scientists say there may be another strain of coronavirus emerging that is more contagious.

The Albuquerque Journal reported the team published its initial research last week and found this new strain is replacing the strain from China and could make people more susceptible to reinfection.

The work could inform development of a vaccine, but it has not yet been peer-reviewed.

There were 153 more positive tests for COVID-19 in New Mexico on Wednesday. There are now 4,291 in total. Officials said there were also seven additional deaths, bringing that total to 169.

Two of those deaths were in congregate living facilities in Bernalillo County.  State health officials say they have identified at least one positive case in residents and/or staff in 29 such facilities around the state.

McKinley County in northwest New Mexico continues to lead in the number of cases with more than 1,300.

Sierra County Sheriff Deputizes 20 Churchgoers Amid Pandemic KOB-TV, Associated Press

A rural county sheriff in New Mexico has deputized about 20 church members at an in-person church service, working around Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's public health order designed to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

KOB-TV reported that Sierra County Sheriff Glenn Hamilton said it's about recruiting help and preparing for the worst but he also noted that law enforcement is exempt from the governor's stay-at-home order, meaning people can now attend future services.

The newly deputized can help with administrative staff duties and crowd control, but not actual law enforcement. These deputies have no authority until called into service, which has not happened yet.

There has been one case of COVID-19 in Sierra County so far.

Official Says US Must Move Ahead With Nuclear Weapons Work - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A top nuclear security official says the U.S. must move ahead with plans to ramp up production of key components for the nation's nuclear arsenal despite challenges tied to the coronavirus.

Federal officials have set a 2030 deadline for increased production of the plutonium cores used in nuclear weapons. The work will be split between facilities in New Mexico and South Carolina and will attract billions of federal dollars.

The head of the National Nuclear Security Administration said in a recent letter to U.S. Sen. Tom Udall that her agency has worked with the contractor that manages Los Alamos on precautions to protect employees from the virus while moving ahead with defense work.

Watchdog groups have called for a more in-depth look at the plutonium core project at Los Alamos, but the National Nuclear Security Administration rejected those efforts earlier this year.

The agency opted to prepare a supplemental analysis of an environmental review done for Los Alamos more than a decade ago.

Lawsuit: New Mexico Man's Body Mutilated To Fit Into Coffin - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A lawsuit says a New Mexico funeral home broke the legs of the body of a tall man so he could fit into a smaller coffin. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports the family of Dakota Powell has filed a lawsuit in state district court against French Funerals and Cremations for allegedly mutilating his corpse and ignoring family instructions for a Jewish burial. 

Funeral home president Tom Antram says an investigation conducted by the funeral home's insurance company found no wrongdoing. 

The funeral for the 26-year-old was held in French's chapel in August 2017. 

The family seeks an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages.


Tea Party Super PAC Calls Gop Us House Hopeful A 'Liberal' - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

A new ad by a Super PAC working to elect Tea Party-leaning candidates in U.S. House races is calling one GOP hopeful "a Trump-hating liberal." 

The ad released this week by House Freedom Action Super PAC attacks oil executive Claire Chase over old Facebook posts from the 2016 presidential primary, where Chase expressed dislike for Donald Trump's behavior. 

The ad then says the president needs allies, not "liberal enemies" like Chase or "nasty" Rep. Nancy Pelosi in Congress. 

Chase has since apologized for the old post and says she supports Trump now. 

Chase campaign manager Mike Berg called the ad "disgusting" and said Chase opponent Yvette Herrell has been linked to anti-Trump events.