THURS: NM Military Institute Under Quarantine As COVID-19 Cases Continue Rising, + More

Oct 22, 2020

New Mexico Military Institute Reports 63 COVID-19 CasesAssociated Press

A military junior college in New Mexico is under quarantine after reporting 63 employees and cadets tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Roswell Daily Record reported that the New Mexico Military Institute went into quarantine Monday. Institute President Maj. Gen. Jerry Grizzle said that the quarantine is expected to last until Oct. 29.

The Institute has been updating the status of its COVID-19 cases on a dashboard, which showed Wednesday that two employees and 61 cadets, including 53 still residing on the campus, have tested positive.

The closure comes as the state struggles with a surge in COVID-19 cases, with an additional 669 infections reported Thursday and three more deaths.

With high spread and positivity rates, health officials say the trend is expected to continue for the next two to three weeks and that more people will likely be hospitalized.

The recent surge has resulted in a nearly 150% increase in hospitalizations since Oct. 1.

TriCore Reference Laboratories, one of New Mexico's main diagnostic labs, has on a small scale started testing a number of samples together to boost capacity, called pool-testing.

If the pool is negative, then all the samples are considered negative. If the pool comes up positive, then tests are done on each sample to determine which one was positive.

Officials said the method is most effective when the positivity rate is low. New Mexico's rate has been increasing along with the surge in cases.

Officials Mark Completion Of Navajo Water Treatment PlantAssociated Press

Construction has been completed on a water treatment plant that will help provide parts of the Navajo Nation and surrounding areas with a clean and reliable source of drinking water.

Years in the making, the project is the result of a settlement agreement over water rights in the San Juan Basin. Construction still is underway on other parts of the system.

The Cutter Lateral Water Treatment Plant was constructed in two phases to receive San Juan River water for treatment then delivery by pipeline to Navajo communities and the southwest portion of the Jicarilla Apache Nation.

The Farmington Daily Times reports the federal Bureau of Reclamation will test and monitor the treatment plant and an associated pipeline the next six months while the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority introduces water from the plant into six distribution systems.

After the pre-commissioning, the bureau will hand off operations, maintenance and replacement responsibilities to the Navajo utility.

For Navajo President Jonathan Nez, the plant and pipeline's completion will help with economic development in communities along U.S. Highway 550.

He said the Cutter Lateral can serve as a model for the Western Navajo Pipeline, a proposed infrastructure system to send water from Lake Powell to chapters in the western part of the reservation.

Cowboys For Trump Fends Off Financial Disclosures - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Time is running out before Election Day as New Mexico election regulators push the political support group Cowboys for Trump to disclose its financial backers.

The horseback-riding, New Mexico-based support group for President Donald Trump urged a judge on Wednesday not to dismiss its lawsuit challenging state financial disclosure requirements. A trial could stretch into late 2021.

The group was co-founded by Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin. It says less-onerous federal campaign finance laws override recent New Mexico legislation aimed a greater financial transparency for independent political expenditure groups.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, says Cowboys for Trump has ignored a binding arbitration agreement that found it was a political committee, subject to state registration and financial reporting requirements.

The group, also known by its C4T insignia, compared its plight in new court filings to the travails of the NAACP during the civil rights movement as Alabama sought unsuccessfully for disclosure of names and local addresses for members of the nation's oldest civil rights group.

Renewable Energy Giant To Buy New Mexico's Largest Utility - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The parent company of New Mexico's largest electric utility will become part of energy giant Iberdrola's global holdings under a multibillion-dollar merger.

Under the agreement announced Wednesday, Iberdrola's majority-owned U.S. subsidiary Avangrid will acquire PNM Resources.

Officials say the transaction is part of Iberdrola's strategy for investing in regions where regulations related to renewable energy are stable and offer opportunities for growth.

New Mexico in 2019 adopted ambitious mandates to become carbon-free by 2045, and Public Service Co. of New Mexico has vowed to meet that standard by 2040 through the addition of more solar generation and battery storage.

The deal will have to be approved by regulators.

Officials with both companies say the transaction, if approved, will create one of the biggest renewable energy companies in the U.S. with 10 regulated utilities in six states.

PNM Resources Chairman, President and CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn said the merger will benefit customers, employees and shareholders and that PNM's leadership over the next year will be focused on closing the transaction and making sure to provide customers with excellent service.

Officials with both PNM Resources and Avangrid said the merger will provide for more opportunities to invest in infrastructure and technology to further their renewable energy pursuits.

PNM already is on track to divest in 2022 from the San Juan Generating Station, one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the American Southwest. It also recently broke ground on a new solar farm that will provide electricity for municipalities and other large customers as part of a new program to boost access to cost-effective renewable generation.

Under the proposed merger, PNM shareholders will receive about $4.3 billion in cash. The purchase price represents a premium of nearly 20% over PNM's average share price during the last 30 days.

New Mexico Reports Single-Day Record 827 New COVID-19 CasesAssociated Press, KUNM

Health officials in New Mexico on Wednesday reported a single-day record of 827 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths.

The latest numbers increase the total cases to 38,715 statewide since the pandemic started, with 950 known deaths.

Of the new cases, New Mexico Department of Health officials said 292 of them were in Bernalillo County and 172 more in Doña Ana County.

There are 202 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state. As of Wednesday, 80% of adult general beds in New Mexico hospitals are occupied and 71% of adult intensive care unit beds as well. Those numbers include people hospitalized for COVID-19 and other illnesses.

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

The New Mexico Department of Health has designated 20,332 COVID-19 cases as having recovered. However, studies show COVID-19 symptoms can linger even after recovery.

Navajo Nation Reports 29 New COVID-19 Cases, No New Deaths - Associated Press

Navajo Nation health officials report 29 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 but no additional deaths for the second consecutive day. 

The latest figures released Wednesday night bring the total number of cases to 11,030 with the known death toll remaining at 574. 

Tribal health officials said 118,092 people on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic started and 7,403 have recovered. 

A shelter-in-place order, mask mandate, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns remain in effect on the Navajo Nation. 

Watchdogs Push New Mexico To Limit US Nuclear Waste Dump - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

State environmental regulators are reviewing an application from the federal government to renew its permit to operate the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico.

It will be next year before a final decision made, but watchdog groups raised concerns with state lawmakers during a meeting Wednesday. 

They say the U.S. Energy Department wants to make operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant open-ended, removing any reference in the permit to 2024 as the date when closure and decommissioning were supposed to start. 

They say allowing the change will mark another step toward solidifying New Mexico as the nation's dumping ground for nuclear waste.

Watchdog Group Cites Interference At Polls In Latino Areas - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

A voting rights group says that caravans of flag-waving President Donald Trump supporters appeared to obstruct and intimidate voters at two polling locations in predominantly ethnic-minority neighborhoods last weekend in the Albuquerque area.

Common Cause New Mexico Director Heather Ferguson said Wednesday that the incidents took place on the first day of balloting at voter convenience centers in the South Valley area and the western reaches of Central Avenue.

The areas are heavily Latino. She estimates that dozens of potential voters in each location left without voting as a result of the incidents.

Local prosecutors say they are investigating.

State Republican Party spokesman Mike Curtis said he has no direct knowledge of the matter. Representatives for the Trump reelection campaign had no immediate comment when contacted.

State statute prohibits electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place, approaching a voter within 50 feet of poll doors or blocking access in any way.

New Mexico Health Agency Resends 30K Old Virus Test Results Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The New Mexico Department of Health has erroneously sent old coronavirus test results to about 30,000 people, of whom 1,600 were awaiting new test results when they received the notification.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that department spokeswoman Marisa Maez said thousands of people received a repeated notification about an old test because of a technical hiccup caused by a software update.

Maez said the department and software provider sent out follow-up messages apologizing for the error and asking people to disregard the notifications. She said the messages were not a result of any "malicious attack."