TUES: COVID Cases Rise To 23 As National Guard Delivers Food, + More

Mar 17, 2020

Coronavirus Cases Jump To 23 As National Guard Delivers FoodAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Health officials say two more people in New Mexico have tested positive for the coronavirus. A man in Taos County in his 50s and man in Santa Fe County in his 40s both recently tested positive for COVID-19.

That brings the total number in New Mexico to 23. It's the first positive test in Taos County. The state Department of Health has active investigations into each of the positive patients, which includes finding people they were in contact with and swabbing those with symptoms.

The National Guard is helping deliver food to some school districts scrambling to feed children on the first day of a statewide school shutdown.

Nine districts lacked supplies because students there were supposed to be on spring break. 

State officials on Tuesday said many businesses have seen rapid declines in customer traffic and sales. Employees at businesses that close temporarily can access unemployment benefits without having to search for a new position.

Emergency Help Coming To Aid Of NonprofitsAlbuquerque Journal

A new emergency fund will provide grants to nonprofits struggling with lost revenue due to the coronavirus.

The Albuquerque Journal reported United Way of Central New Mexico and the Albuquerque Community Foundation will provide grants from $500 to $5,000 from the fund to nonprofits in the greater Albuquerque area.

Nonprofits can fill out requests at the Community Foundation’s website. People can also make donations to the Emergency Action Fun at the website.

UNM Makes Changes To Spring Break ScheduleAlbuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico is modified its plans to extend spring break in response to the COVID-19.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that originally officials extended spring break from March 16 through April 5. But the university provost office sent a clarification on Friday that there will be no delay for online coursework that is already scheduled.

There are also a number of academic units in the university working to put instruction online and other activities will continue such as research, internships and studio project work.

Hazardous Waste Found Under Housing Site In New Mexico – Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A crew in northern New Mexico has found low-level radioactive waste buried on land the U.S. Energy Department had transferred to Los Alamos County. The discovery has stopped construction of an affordable housing project northwest of Santa Fe.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that the state Environment Department ordered the agency to provide more information about the waste found last month at a former Los Alamos National Laboratory site.

The Energy Department has supplied documents to the state and is now analyzing the waste. There are concerns over the potential threat to human health and the environment.

Officials say dozens of housing units were scheduled to be built.

Watchdog group Nuclear Watch New Mexico has expressed concern about waste being discovered at a construction site that state and federal agencies had deemed clean.

Storm System To Cross New Mexico On Wednesday, ThursdayAssociated Press

The National Weather Service says a storm system producing widespread rain, mountain snow and strong wind will move eastward across New Mexico on Wednesday and Thursday.

The weather service says impacts on travel are possible over high terrain and strong winds are likely Thursday with gusts of 55 mph possible.

Forecasters say a few thunderstorms are likely and that snow levels will be at 8,000 feet but fall to near 5,000 feet by Thursday morning.

Man Fatally Shot By New Mexico Police Officer IdentifiedAssociated Press

New Mexico authorities have identified a man fatally shot by a State Police officer during an encounter after the man allegedly fired at a Luna County sheriff's deputy in Deming last month.

State Police Officer Daniel Soliz shot 36-year-old Rodrigo Aguirre after Aguirre disregarded commands by the officer to put down a shotgun during the Feb. 22 incident, the State Police said Tuesday in a statement.

According to the State Police, Aguirre previously had led Deming police on a pursuit and later ired the shotgun at a sheriff's deputy who was not injured.

The agency said the fatal shooting occurred after earlier gunfire when Aguirre's minivan got stuck and he got out and fired several times at the deputy.

Teen Pleaded No Contest For Impersonating New Mexico DeputyKRQE-TV, Associated Press

A New Mexico teen has pleaded no contest after being arrested for impersonating a sheriff's deputy.

KRQE-TV reports Brenden Wysynski was sentenced to a year of probation following his arrest in last year. Authorities say Wysynski pulled over a car in Albuquerque. An officer was driving by and noticed the situation didn't appear right.

The officer found Wysynski was driving what looked like a police car and he also had a badge on his belt. He told police he was a Bernalillo County deputy. Wysynski was arrested after the officer checked and found he was not with the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office.

Albuquerque City Council Extends Mayor's Emergency Powers As COVID-19 Cases RiseAlbuquerque Journal

As the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in New Mexico rose to 21 Monday the Albuquerque City Council broadened the emergency powers that can be used by the mayor.

The Albuquerque Journal reports a bill introduced by Council President Pat Davis passed 6-3 to give the mayor authority to close streets and places of mass assembly as well as daycare centers in the event of a “public health emergency”. 

An amendment, introduced by Councilor Isaac Benton, narrowed the mayor’s ability to put limits on the number of items retailers can sell to each customer during an emergency. The approved version of the bill allows such limits to only be placed on “medical, health and sanitation” products. 

The Monday night council meeting was closed to the general public because of statewide restrictions on large gatherings. Public comment was taken remotely. 

Albuquerque Hospital Pauses COVID-19 Testing Amid Supply Shortage- Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press, KUNM News

Drive-up COVID-19 testing has been halted at one Albuquerque hospital after the site ran low on supplies. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports the downtown Lovelace Medical Center, which began offering drive-up services on Friday, and limited its hours Sunday following a supply shortage, has paused testing all together, according to a hospital spokesperson. 

The Presbyterian Healthcare Services COVID-19 testing site, located at the PresNow urgent care center on Albuquerque’s westside, remains open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. According to hospital spokesperson Alyssa Armijo, patients must be pre-screened before receiving a test, which can be conducted via the state Department of Health’s hotline. 

The tests are sent to TriCore Reference Laboratories and results are made available within 48 to 72 hours.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Governor Tells Trump States Need More ResourcesNew York Times, Santa Fe New Mexican

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in a conference call Monday with President Donald Trump said states need more resources from the federal government to avoid putting the entire nation at risk in the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

The New York Times reported Lujan Grisham and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee were angry when Trump told governors on the call Monday morning that they should try getting more equipment like respirators and ventilators themselves rather than waiting for the federal government.

Lujan Grisham also said the federal government was creating a scenario where states would compete with one another for resources.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Lujan Grisham has issued five executive orders authorizing $3.25 million in emergency response and disaster relief aid funding.

Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki told the New Mexican the governor got a requested followup-call from Vice President Mike Pence who assured her New Mexico would get resources to accelerate testing.

Archdiocese Postpones Chimayó And Tome Hill Pilgrimages KUNM News

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe is postponing traditional pilgrimages around Easter Week to Tome Hill south of Los Lunas and the Santuario de Chimayó in northern New Mexico.

Archbishop John Wester said in a news release this is a “very difficult decision” that was made with a “great sense of sadness.” Hundreds of New Mexicans take part in the pilgrimages each year.

He also strongly discouraged individual pilgrims from visiting the Santuario de Chimayó, which many believe has miraculous healing properties, to avoid contracting COVID-19 or passing it on to others.

Wester wrote that if people are unwilling or unable to postpone their pilgrimage to Chimayó, they should follow guidelines on social distancing and safety protocols to protect fellow pilgrims and their families.

New Coronavirus Hits New Mexico, Visiting Actor - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

As Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham urged the Trump administration on Monday to help the state expand testing for the new coronavirus, a popular music store in Santa Fe suspended business after film star Idris Elba shopped there and tested positive. Elba had been scheduled to film in New Mexico.

Randy Cook, co-owner of The Candyman Strings & Things, said the store weeks ago started a rigorous, hourly cleaning and canceled weekend gatherings including a ukulele club after the first infections appeared within the state — but it wasn't enough.

Economic development officials confirmed that Netflix and NBCUniversal Studios, which both have operations in Albuquerque, have paused work on current productions for two weeks.

Prisons and county jails have halted contact visits with inmates over the new coronavirus. And Lujan Grisham freed up over $3 million in additional funding for emergency response and disaster relief.

Across the state, 21 people have tested positive after 1,270 tests.

Annual UFO Festival In Roswell Remains A Go Despite Virus - KOB-TV, Associated Press 

An annual New Mexico event dedicated to UFOs isn't changing plans despite concern around the new coronavirus. 

KOB-TV reports the UFO Festival in Roswell that draws thousands remains scheduled for July 3 to 5 and organizers say they have no plans to move it. 

Mainstreet Roswell board member Molly Boyles says organizers still have time and will only cancel or postpone if government agencies recommend it. 

Boyles, the owner of Once Again Consignment and Resale, also says she doesn't plan to close the doors to her shop anytime soon. 

Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh says the city so far has no positive cases of COVID-19. 

Roswell is the site of a supposed UFO crash in 1947. 

Mathys Says He Has Signatures For Ballot In US House Race - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

A Las Cruces businessman says he has collected enough signatures to qualify to be placed on the ballot in a crucial U.S. House race in southern New Mexico. 

Chris Mathys told The Associated Press he will submit more than 3,000 signatures and is planning to be on the Republican primary ballot for New Mexico's 2nd Congressional seat. 

His announcement comes days after failing to obtain enough delegates at a statewide GOP convention. 

Mathys, former state lawmaker Yvette Herrell and oil executive Claire Chase are seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. 

Herrell earned top billing at a statewide GOP convention on the Republican primary ballot for the 2nd Congressional District.

New Mexico Groups Share Federal Funding For Water Planning - Associated Press

Three New Mexico organizations will be sharing nearly $300,000 for projects aimed at improving watersheds. 

The Bureau of Reclamation says the money will go toward work being done by the Jornada Resource Conservation and Development Council, the Santa Fe Watershed Association and New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. 

The alliance will work with experts from the University of New Mexico and the U.S. Geological Survey to assess water quality and ecological resiliency in the Rio Chama. 

In southern New Mexico, one of the projects involves forming a task force to develop a comprehensive watershed plan for the Hatch and Mesilla valleys.

In all, the federal agency awarded $2.8 million to 29 projects across the West.

New Mexico Officials Say Proposed US Cleanup Budget Falls Short - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Top New Mexico officials are concerned the U.S. government isn't taking seriously its obligations to clean up waste left behind by decades of nuclear research and bomb-making at one of the nation's premier laboratories.

The birthplace of the atomic bomb, Los Alamos National Laboratory would see only a fraction of the $6 billion the U.S. Energy Department is proposing to spend next year on cleanup work nationwide.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's administration is taking another look whether it can make stronger a 2016 agreement with the federal government that spells out cleanup milestones and consequences for not achieving them.

ENMU Chancellor Will Not Seek Contract RenewalAssociated Press

The head of Eastern New Mexico University System is stepping down.

University officials announced over the weekend that Chancellor and ENMU-Portales President Dr. Jeff Elwell is not extending his contract.

Elwell notified the ENMU Board of Regents that his tenure will end June 30, 2021.

He says he wanted to give early notice so the board has plenty of time to search for a successor.

Elwell is credited with furthering unity between all three campuses of the ENMU system through his "One Eastern" plan.