THURS: New Restrictions Take Effect As COVID Cases Rise To 35, + More

Mar 19, 2020

New Mexico COVID-19 Cases Rise To 35Associated Press

Health officials have confirmed a second positive test for coronavirus in New Mexico with no known connection to travel.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office on Thursday announced seven new positive tests including a first infection in northeastern San Miguel County. The Albuquerque Journal reported the others were in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties.

There have been 35 positive tests statewide.

Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said the two untraceable infections in Bernalillo County underscore the governor's call for people to stay home whenever possible.

New Restrictions Take Effect Around New MexicoAssociated Press

New public health orders by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to prevent the spread of the coronavirus took effect today around New Mexico

Restaurants are now limited to take-out and deliveries. Indoor shopping malls, health clubs, athletic facilities, movie theaters and flea markets, while limiting restaurant and bar operations to take-out or delivery service.

Hotels were ordered to scale back business to 50% of capacity or less with some exceptions including lodging for health care workers.

Additionally, supermarkets implemented opening hours for the elderly. The state began limiting purchases to three items each for toilet paper, baby formula, diapers, over-the-counter medicine and more. At a grocery store in Santa Fe, register clerks called out the restrictions as long lines of shoppers formed.

A drive-thru testing site in western Albuquerque closed temporarily because of snow.

State GOP Seeks Special Session On CoronavirusAssociated Press, KUNM

A slowing economy and plunging world oil prices combined with the coronavirus are looming over the long-term financial resources of New Mexico state government, which depends on the petroleum sector for more than a third of annual operating income.

Minority state House Republicans on Thursday urged the governor to reconvene the legislature to revise increased spending within a $7.6 billion general fund budget plan for the coming fiscal year that starts July 1.

State government has about $1.8 billion in financial operating reserves as a buffer against economic recession.

It was unclear how the Legislature would conduct business under health restrictions that prohibit gatherings of 10 people.

Albuquerque Hospitals Restrict Visitors To Prevent Spread Of Covid-19 – KUNM

The three primary hospitals in New Mexico’s largest city announced new visitors guidelines on Thursday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Officials with the city of Albuquerque’s Joint Information Center issued a statement that Lovelace Health System, Presbyterian Hospital and University of New Mexico Hospital each issued revamped rules on outside visitors.

Presbyterian Hospital is not allowing any visitors on any of its hospital campuses, although exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis.

UNM Hospital and the Sandoval Regional Medical Center are discouraging any visitors. Patients waiting for COVID-19 test results cannot have visitors. Visitors not feeling well are not allowed unless they’re seeking care and may be screened. No one under 14 is allowed unless seeking care.

Lovelace will screen all visitors for flu-like symptoms and they cannot re-enter a patient’s room if they exit. They will be limited to one caregiver in special circumstances such as the emergency department, labor and delivery and pediatric patients. Only immediate family will be allowed for patients who are critically ill.

FDA Approval Will Allow COVID Testing To Expand In New Mexico Santa Fe New Mexican

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized a molecular test by Abbott Laboratories for COVID-19 that could increase testing in the state.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich made the announcement Thursday, noting this could allow a TriCore References Laboratories in Albuquerque to double its testing capacity from 300 to 800 per day.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports there is no timeline yet on when the TriCore will get the materials. The state can process 700 tests per day right now at TriCore and the state laboratory.

The paper reported TriCore could run 1,000 samples on its molecular diagnostics machine but it has been unable to get reagents for the COVID test. Health care workers also do not have enough personal protective equipment.

UNM Asks Students To Leave Dorms While Continuing Classes OnlineAlbuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico has moved most of its classes online because of the coronavirus for the rest of the semester and now it wants students to move out of the dorms.

The Albuquerque Journal reports UNM sent an email to students living on campus directing them to vacate their dorm rooms by March 24.

Students can request an exemption by 1 p.m. on Friday if they feel it is safer for them to stay on campus, but most facilities will be closed, including the libraries and the Student Union Building.

Ruling Allows Question Asked Before Miranda Warning Given Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court says a police officer's questioning of an Albuquerque man being detained before he got Miranda warning didn't violate his constitutional rights against self-incrimination.

The justices on Thursday reversed a lower court's ruling that the man was entitled to a new trial because the officer asked him about whether the officer should know about anything in the man's possession.

The man replied that he had methamphetamine on him, and methamphetamine found on the man was used as evidence during a trial that led to a drug possession conviction.

The Supreme Court said the officer's question didn't violate the Fifth Amendment because police can ask questions to protect public and officers before giving a Miranda warning. 

New Mexico Cracks Down On Hoarding Of Medical SuppliesAssociated Press

New Mexico has confirmed a coronavirus infection that has no apparent link to travel as the governor takes new steps to limit the spread of the contagion by limiting restaurants to take-out service and closing down movie theaters, gyms and shopping centers.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday announced five new positive tests for coronavirus, bringing the state total to 28 infections. A woman in her 40s in the Albuquerque area is the first case of so-called community spread in which there is no clear connections to travel outside the state.

Purchases are being limited for over-the-counter medical and some sanitary supplies to prevent hoarding and shortages. New state orders take effect Thursday morning.

New Mexico previously closed schools, banned many large gatherings, ordered state personnel to work from home and shut down public access to state buildings.

Albuquerque Mayor Declares City Public Health Emergency  - Albuquerque Journal, KUNM News

In response to coronavirus, a public health emergency has been declared in the city of Albuquerque.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Mayor Tim Keller Wednesday declared the public health emergency by video. Keller told city residents that the declaration “frees up financial resources” in the interest of a flexible response to the pandemic. It also enables “emergency procurements”, allocation of staff, and requests for additional state and federal resources.

The Mayor was granted the power to close streets and places of “mass assembly” Monday by an ordinance passed by the Albuquerque City Council. Wednesday’s declaration does not, however, take such actions. The Mayor is able to issue additional orders in the future as necessary.

Coronavirus Tests Rural Health Networks In New Mexico - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico is bracing for the possible spread of coronavirus to some of America's most remote, impoverished communities, as hospitals across the state prepare to convert operating rooms into acute respiratory care units.

Health officials are outlining medical triage strategies in the state that struggles to keep physicians in rural areas. Those preparations take place as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham clamps down on social gatherings that might spread infection.

In rural areas, doctors are still concerned about shortages in protective medical equipment and limited access to ventilator machines that may be needed to save lives.

Getting Coronavirus Updates In Spanish Is Mixed Bag In US - By Astrid Galvan and Regina Garcia Cano, The Associated Press

As government officials across the country warn about the dangers of the coronavirus, they're doing so predominantly in English.

They're potentially not reaching the millions of Spanish speakers in the U.S. who aren't proficient in English to make sure they know how to stay healthy during a global pandemic.

In Arizona, the health department website doesn't have Spanish-language updates. But in Washington state, where most coronavirus deaths in the U.S. have occurred, officials have led the way in Spanish messaging and reaching people in many other languages. Advocacy groups and Spanish-language media are filling in the gaps as cities and states say they're working to translate guidance.

While states have started adding Spanish to their health department websites, it can be hard to find. A day after The Associated Press asked the New Mexico governor's office about a lack of Spanish on the health department website, its Spanish-language site went live and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham tweeted about it in Spanish. A purple-highlighted banner atop the website's main page has, in small letters, a link to Spanish updates.

The nation's most Hispanic state also has had a Spanish educator and health official at every news conference to do interviews with Spanish-language media.

New Mexico Seeks Dismissal Of Lawsuit On Education ChangesSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The state of New Mexico has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit that resulted in a 2018 ruling that the state failed to provide a sufficient education for every student.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported attorneys for the state public education system say New Mexico has complied with the ruling by increasing education funding and revising programs designed to assist at-risk students.

The state education department did not respond to a request for comment. A private law firm representing the state has argued the court should determine whether the state has complied with the terms of the ruling. Attorneys for the students and their families have argued otherwise.

Man Is Accused Of Threatening New Mexico Gov. Grisham Online Associated Press

Prosecutors say an Albuquerque man accused of threatening New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and others online faces up to five years in federal prison if convicted.

Daniel Mock appeared in federal court in Albuquerque on Wednesday. A criminal complaint charges the 33-year-old Mock with transmitting threatening communications in interstate or foreign commerce.  

According to the complaint, Mock threatened the life of Grisham and some law enforcement officers earlier this month.

Mock allegedly posted threatening messages to the governor's Facebook page on March 2 and 13. Authorities say Mock remains in custody pending a detention hearing Friday.  

It was unclear Wednesday if Mock has a lawyer for his case yet.

Report: Las Cruces Officer Used Neck Restraint On Suspect - Associated Press

New Mexico State Police have confirmed that Las Cruces police used a controversial vascular neck restraint and a stun gun on a suspect before he died. 

A state police report released Tuesday said Officer Christopher Smelser used a vascular neck restraint on Antonio Valenzuela who fled from a traffic stop last month. 

According to authorities, the 40-year-old Valenzuela had an open bench warrant for a parole violation. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 

The police use of vascular neck restraint, sometimes called a chokehold, has been the subject of protests in some communities.

Artist Sues Meow Wolf Over Copyright Infringement Claim - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

An artist whose quirky Space Owl features prominently in Meow Wolf's wildly successful interactive art exhibit is suing the company and its founder for copyright infringement. 

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Lauren Adele Oliver says in her lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court that the art collective convinced her to install a sculpture of Space Owl in its House of Eternal Return by offering her membership in the group and an "artist revenue share." 

Oliver says the group then backpedaled and offered her a choice between selling the character outright for pennies on the dollar or removing it without any additional compensation. 

Meow Wolf Vice President of Marketing Didi Bethurum calls the allegations "baseless."

Hispanic Catholics Asked To Skip Healing Sites Amid Outbreak - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

For years, Orlando Marquez and his family made the pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayó, a Catholic sanctuary located in northern New Mexico and known as the "Lourdes of America." 

Healing sand from its "el pocito" possesses the power to cure illness and fight cancer, devotees believe. Pleas to fight addiction or keep a marriage alive are written on notes posted on the sanctuary's walls. 

The 42-year-old Albuquerque realtor and mariachi musician this year wanted to ask God to protect the country from the novel coronavirus. He also planned to get some healing sand, just in case.

But with the outbreak of COVID-19, Chimayó is one of many historic Hispanic Catholic sites limiting access — or outright closing — to pilgrims seeking a last hope prayer. 

Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the sites are sacramental and help Catholics with their faith. "But this is going to change the way we think," Sanchez said.

Endangered Gray Wolf Population On The Rise In Southwest US - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

There are more Mexican gray wolves in the wild now than at any time since the U.S. government began reintroducing the endangered species in the American Southwest more than two decades ago.

Federal officials on Wednesday announced the result of the latest survey, saying there are at least 163 wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona.

That marks a nearly 25% jump in the population from the previous year. No matter the number, ranchers and rural residents say the situation for them has become untenable.

They point to thousands of dollars in losses as 2019 marked a record year for cattle killed by the wolves.