THURS: Restaurants, Gyms, Salons To Re-Open With Restrictions, + More

May 28, 2020

Restaurants, Gyms And Salons To Re-Open Next Week – Albuquerque Journal

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday restaurants, gyms and salons can reopen next week at partial capacity and with social distancing procedures in place.

The Albuquerque Journal reported the governor said the relaxing of restrictions is possible because the state has slowed the spread of COVID-19. Human Services Secretary David Scrase said officials are seeing improvements across the state.

Restaurants will be able to operate at 50% capacity, but bar and counter-top service is still prohibited. Gyms can also open at 50% capacity, but malls and salons must operate at 25% capacity.

Lujan Grisham said people must still wear masks in public and stay home when possible.

State health officials reported six more deaths on Thursday, bringing the death toll to 335. There were 108 additional positive tests for COVID-19. The state now has a total of 7,3694 cases.

There are now 166 cases among people held by federal agencies at four detention facilities in the state. State health officials have identified at least one positive COVID-19 case in residents and/or staff in the past 28 days at 36 congregate living and acute care facilities in the state.

Navajo Nation Reports 102 New COVID-19 Cases, 1 More DeathAssociated Press

The Navajo Department of Health reports 102 new cases of coronavirus on the Navajo Nation and one more known death.

That pushes the numbers to 4,944 positive COVID-19 cases and 159 known deaths as of Wednesday night. Tribal officials also say preliminary reports from eight health care facilities indicate about 1,620 people have recovered from the virus with more reports still pending.  

The tribe will have another weekend lockdown from Friday night until early Monday. It will be the eighth weekend lockdown that also requires the closure of all businesses on the Navajo Nation that stretches into northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico and southeastern Utah.

New Mexico's Courts System To Resume Jury TrialsAssociated Press

New Mexico's state court system plans in mid-June to resume jury trials that had been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

An order issued Thursday by the state Supreme Court's chief justice lifts the suspension that has been in place since March.

The order says the 13 judicial districts must first submit plans detailing operating procedures and precautions to protect public health and safety.

It also says courts will be reopened "in a safe and gradual manner that is based on the local circumstances and available resources in each judicial district."

New Mexico Horse Track Eases Into Racing Amid Restrictions - By Susan Montoya Bryan,  Associated Press

New Mexico horse racing regulators and horse owners are excited that live racing has resumed. No spectators are allowed, but the races are being streamed by Ruidoso Downs and wagers can be made online.

Still, officials are concerned that the bets represent only a fraction of the revenue that usually makes up the handle, and that's putting pressure on track owners.

State Racing Commissioner Billy Smith said during a meeting Thursday that the forced closures due to the coronavirus pandemic have been financially painful for the entire industry.

Commissioners and others are awaiting word on whether the state will allow casinos and tracks to reopen to the public soon.

Leader Of Cowboys For Trump Says Some Democratic Leaders Should Be ExecutedSanta Fe New Mexican, Daily Beast

The Otero County commissioner who drew fire for stating the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat told The Daily Beast this week that some Democratic governors could be guilty of treason and thus subject to the death penalty.

Couy Griffin, who leads Cowboys for Trump, singled out Democratic governors Ralph Northam of Virginia and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, who have imposed coronavirus lockdowns, as possibly treasonous.

“You get to pick your poison: you either go before a firing squad, or you get the end of the rope,” Griffin said. 

He also said anti-lockdown protestors would not rule out using violence.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Democratic Party of New Mexico Chairwoman Marg Elliston said the New Mexico Republican Party needs to condemn Griffin’s comments and called their silence “deafening.”

New Mexico Republican Party spokesman Mike Curtis said the party had nothing more to add to its statement last week about Griffin’s earlier remarks. The party said that any statements about harming another individual are wrong, regardless if they are in jest.

Congressman Urges New Mexico To Extend Mail-In Vote Deadline Associated Press, KUNM 

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján is urging New Mexico´s top election regulator to provide more time for people to submit absentee ballots by mail in the June 2 primary.

On Wednesday, he cited the delayed delivery of some absentee ballots in Santa Fe County and proposed that regulators allow ballots to be counted if they are postmarked on the final day of the June 2 primary and arrive afterward.

Under current procedures, ballots must reach election authorities by 7 p.m. on June 2. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver says the state's election codes do not give her the authority to extend the deadline.

According to a news release Wednesday, the Bernalillo County Clerk recommends residents who have not yet mailed their ballots drop them off in-person at voting convenience centers. There are 17 locations, most of which are open 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Poll workers have been provided PPE. All voters are being asked to wear face coverings.

Auditor Looking Into State Purchase Of Masks – Associated Press, Santa Fe New Mexican, Las Cruces Sun News

The New Mexico state auditor's office is looking into a $1.6 million purchase of masks at a significantly higher cost than the normal list price.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported the state Health Department bought the masks from a Chinese company in April as demand for personal protective equipment skyrocketed.

Officials with the Department of Health said the lack of a coordinated federal purchasing system for states meant New Mexico had to deal with demand for PPE in other states and other countries.

State officials reported an additional 127 coronavirus cases Wednesday, bringing the total to more than 7,250. McKinley and San Juan counties account for more than half of those infections. More than 200 people remain hospitalized and nearly 330 people have died.

Doña Ana County now has 439 cases and the County Commission voted 3-2 on Tuesday to give the Sheriff's Office authority to enforce a state requirement that people wear face coverings when out in public.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reported a violation of the ordinance could bring with it a fine of up to $300, but Sheriff Kim Stewart said she opposes the ordinance.

Former Spy, Issues Of Trump Loyalty Weigh In New Mexico Vote - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico is deciding on final contenders in open races for a U.S. Senate seat and a congressional slot that last changed hands a dozen years ago.

The retirement of Sen. Tom Udall has thrown open a window of opportunity for U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the presumptive Democratic Senate nominee in an increasingly blue state. Three Republicans are competing for the U.S. Senate nomination to take-on Luján in the fall.

Luján's imminent departure from the northern 3rd District House seat has set off a free-for-all in that seven-way Democratic primary. Candidates include former CIA operative Valerie Plame and several candidates with deep-rooted connections to Hispanic political traditions and Native American communities.

Attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez, a professional advocate for Native American pueblo communities and voting rights issues, is the clear favorite among party delegates, and national advocacy groups for progressive causes from abortion rights to the humane treatment of animals.

Three Republicans are competing for the U.S. Senate nomination to take on Luján in the fall.

Loyalty to Trump also is a major theme in the Republican primary for a swing district in southern New Mexico, where first-term Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small won by fewer than 3,000 votes in 2018 against state Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo.

In the state Legislature, prominent Democratic lawmakers including Senate President Mary Kay Papen are confronting primary challenges with all the seats in both chambers up for grabs. Democrats hold a 46-24 majority in the state House and a 26-16 advantage in the Senate.

GOP Contest For US House Seat In New Mexico Limps To End - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

GOP voters in New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District will finally decide Tuesday which Republican will challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. 

Oil executive Claire Chase, former state lawmaker Yvette Herrell and Las Cruces businessman Chris Mathys are vying for the GOP nomination amid a divided Republican Party of New Mexico. 

The primary campaign has been marred by personal attacks, dark money attack ads and claims over who's the most stalwart supporter of President Donald Trump. 

Herrell and Chase have exchanged the most punches, accusing the other of being a closeted "never Trumper." 

Candidates have also avoided offering any bold proposals to tackle issues like poverty in one of the nation's poorest congressional districts.

Amazon Fulfillment Center To Bring Jobs To Albuquerque Associated Press

Amazon has announced that construction began on a fulfillment center in Albuquerque that is expected to bring 1,000 jobs to the region.

The company said work has begun on the 465,000-square-foot multi-level center. It will use robotics to help employees fulfill orders for small items such as books, electronics and toys.

The facility is scheduled to open by the end of 2021. The Bernalillo County Commission approved a $6.5 million series of infrastructure upgrades Tuesday in the Upper Petroglyphs Industrial Park including street improvements, lighting and paving.

Bernalillo County Commission Chair Lonnie Talbert says this project represents further investment in the industrial region. 

Other large employers in the area include Tempur-Pedic, FedEx and Shamrock Farms.

An Amazon spokeswoman says employees will make $15 an hour and are expected to go through safety training.

New Mexico Governor Slammed For Buying Jewelry Amid ClosuresKRQE-TV, Associated Press

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is being criticized for a jewelry purchase from a store in Albuquerque that had closed its retail locations after she issued a public health order prompting the closure of all non-essential businesses.

The governor's office says the transaction was done remotely and didn't violate the order.

But Republicans are calling Lujan Grisham's behavior hypocritical and dishonorable. They say the jewelry purchase exemplifies recent weeks of harsh and inequitable treatment of small businesses at a time when the governor was telling people to stay home and only go out for essential items such as food.

The jewelry purchase was first reported by KRQE-TV. It said Lujan Grisham called an employee at Lilly Barrack in April and bought jewelry over the phone.

Management said the employee went to the store, got the jewelry and placed it outside the door of the store where someone who knew the governor picked it up.

While curbside delivery wasn't allowed until earlier this month, the governor's office claims no rules were broken.

Former New Mexico Air Base Becomes Home For Grounded Planes - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The downturn in the commercial air travel industry has turned into a boon for a former military base in New Mexico. 

The Roswell International Air Center has emerged as a major storage facility for planes that have been grounded by airlines due to age and lack of demand. 

Planes have arrived from carriers including American Airlines, United Airlines and Frontier Airlines. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports there are more grounded planes in Roswell now than at any point during the modern history of the former base. 

The commercial air travel industry has been hard hit as people stayed home to curb the spread of the coronavirus.