THURS: UNM Postpones Commencement, State Marks First COVID-19 Death, + More

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New Mexico Marks 1st Virus Death - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico has its first coronavirus death. Health officials said Wednesday the man in his late 70s was hospitalized in Artesia on Sunday and died the same day.

The state Health Department said he had multiple underlying health issues and his condition deteriorated rapidly.

Infections have climbed to 112 in the state, with schools shut down and a stay-at-home order in effect.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says the death marks a tragic day and urged residents to take precautions to limit the spread of the virus.

Non-Essential Medical Procedures Halted To Preserve Supplies For COVID-19 PatientsAlbuquerque Journal, KUNM News

Medical procedures that can be postponed and surgeries that are deemed “non-essential” have been halted in New Mexico in the interest of preserving medical equipment for those treating patients with COVID-19.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in a statement Wednesday cited a shortage of personal protective equipment or “PPE” as behind the ban on certain procedures.

If a delay in care of three months would pose “undue risk” to the health of a patient or cause permanent harm, it is considered essential and can proceed. All emergency surgeries and pre- and post-natal care will continue without delay.

Another public health order required medical providers and suppliers receive prior approval from the state Department of Health before selling or distributing PPE.

Santa Fe New Mexican Announces Layoffs Amid COVID-19 Associated Press

The Santa Fe New Mexican has announced nearly a dozen layoffs, salary reductions and a shortened workweek amid an economic downturn caused by the spread of COVID-19.

Publisher Tom Cross said Tuesday the moves are intended to keep the family-owned newspaper, its website and other operations as healthy as possible while the media outlet deals with a decline in advertisement.

Under the plan, New Mexican managers will see reduced salaries and staff will have reductions in hours worked. It's unclear if the layoffs affect the newsroom.

In addition, staffers at the alternative newsweekly Santa Fe Reporter announced the publication also had layoffs and salary cuts. The weekly has set up a "Friends of the Reporter" website to seek donations.

The Gallup Independent also said it would move its entire newspaper staff to part-time but still print regularly.

The New Mexican will continue to publish seven days a week and also will continue its commercial printing operations. The New Mexican's printing plant produces a variety of other newspapers, including The New York Times.

The New Mexican has been in business since 1849.

As the economy improves, Cross said the newspaper hopes to restore hours, positions and wages back to pre-COVID-19 levels.

The New Mexican, like other newspaper and media outlets, is defined as an essential service under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's recent stay-at-home order.

University Of New Mexico Postpones Commencement Due To Virus Associated Press

The University of New Mexico is postponing its spring commencement due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

The university said President Garnett Stokes will seek student input as she considers when to reschedule the commencement that had been scheduled for May 16 and how it will be conducted.

Stokes said the decision to postpone is regrettable and that she knows it’s a memorable part of graduates' university experience.  

The university is holding classes remotely and Stokes said the faculty is working on how grading will be conducted for the current term.

New Mexico Regulators Give Green Light To Solar Project - Associated Press

New Mexico utility regulators have approved a program that will allow local governments and large businesses to subscribe to a universal solar field to be built by the state's largest electric provider. 

Public Service Co. of New Mexico says the cities and businesses can make a 15-year commitment to match their energy use to the solar field's output. 

The utility says the arrangement will help cities and businesses meet their sustainability targets. 

The 50-megawatt facility will be built on Jicarilla Apache Nation land in northern New Mexico. Officials say it will be the first tribally owned, utility-scale solar project in the nation.

New Mexico Cannabis Company Exporting To Israel - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico medical marijuana company has begun exporting cannabis-based medicine to Israel. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports Ultra Health spokesperson Marissa Novel says the company started exporting earlier this month through a partnership with Israeli pharmaceutical group Panaxai. 

The medicine was created using hemp grown in Bernalillo County. 

Ultra Health is believed to be one of the first U.S. companies to export medical marijuana to Israel. 

Ultra Health CEO and president Duke Rodriguez says New Mexico officials played a crucial role in getting the export effort started.

Sheriff: Colorado Man Shot Near Carlsbad Caverns By Ranger - Carlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

Authorities say a Colorado man was shot and killed near Carlsbad Caverns National Park following a physical altercation with a National Parks Ranger. 

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports Eddy County Sheriff Mark Cage said Wednesday that Charles Gage Lorentz was shot by the ranger after being stopped for erratic driving on Saturday. 

Eddy County Sheriff's Office spokesman Capt. Matt Hutchinson says he was shot during the altercation that ensued and pronounced dead at the scene by the Office of the Medical Investigation. 

The ranger, whose name was not released by officials, was not injured.

Judge Clears Way For New Mexico Suit Over Kid Privacy Claims - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A U.S. district judge has rejected an effort to derail New Mexico's lawsuit against Twitter, Google and other companies that develop and market mobile gaming apps for children.

The judge concluded in a ruling Tuesday that the court has jurisdiction over the case, clearing the way for it to proceed. New Mexico's top prosecutor filed the lawsuit in 2018, alleging that the mobile apps violated state and federal laws by collecting personal information that could compromise privacy.

The case was initiated as public concerns escalated about whether information on online interests, browsing and buying habits were slipping into the hands of data brokers without their consent.