TUES: Red Flag Law Seldom Used To Take Firearms, Project To Digitize Indigenous Oral History, + More

Feb 9, 2021

New Mexico Red-Flag Gun Law Seldom Used To Withdraw Firearms - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

Records show a red-flag gun law aimed at removing firearms from people who pose a danger to themselves or others has been applied just four times across New Mexico since it went into effect in May.

The Administrative Office of the Courts confirmed Tuesday that petitions for extreme risk firearm protection orders had been filed through January in Eddy, Santa Fe, Taos and San Juan counties.

Three resulted in one-year court orders for the surrender of firearms — with one order later rescinded.

A similar law in Florida has been used thousands of times since it was enacted in response to a mass shooting at a high school in 2018.

Fresh Funding Aims To Revitalize Indigenous Oral History - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

A major effort is getting underway at several universities, tribal museums and libraries to digitize the oral histories of thousands of Native Americans.

The recordings were collected a half century ago as part of a project initiated by the late philanthropist Doris Duke.

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has awarded more than $1.6 million to help with the translation and transcription of the recordings so they can be accessible to Native communities, students and the wider public.

The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums will serve as the national coordinator for the project. The participating schools include the Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona, University of Florida, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of New Mexico, University of Oklahoma, University of South Dakota and University of Utah.

Plans also call for expanding the collections with contemporary voices. The recordings come from a pivotal time in U.S. history when the civil rights movement spurred greater visibility of minority populations, including Native Americans.

Navajo Nation Reports 54 New COVID-19 Cases, 15 More DeathsAssociated Press

Navajo Nation health officials on Tuesday reported 54 new COVID-19 cases and 15 more deaths.

The latest figures raised the totals to 28,994 cases and 1,075 known deaths since the pandemic began.

The Navajo Department of Health has identified 44 communities with uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 from Jan. 22 to Feb. 4, down from 75 communities in recent weeks.

The tribe has extended its stay-at-home order with a revised nightly curfew to limit the virus' spread on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Navajo Nation also is lifting weekend lockdowns to allow more vaccination events.

New Mexico Employee Accepts Position In Biden AdministrationAlbuquerque

Journal and Associated Press

A top human resources employee for New Mexico's governor has stepped down  to take a new role with President Joe Biden's administration after more than two years in the position.

Pam Coleman, who was appointed to serve as director of the state personnel office in January 2019 under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, will now transition into a top-ranking job with the U.S. office of Management and Budget.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that Coleman said in her Jan. 27 resignation letter that she would take a "mutual passion for public service" to the Biden administration.

New Mexico Officials Hold Out Hope For More Vaccine Supply - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Officials at some of New Mexico's largest hospitals said Monday they are holding out hope that vaccine supplies will catch up with demand as state health officials confirmed that some pharmacies would begin receiving shipments this week.

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More than 590,000 residents have registered online to be vaccinated, but health care officials and the state Health Department acknowledge that demand is far outpacing current supplies. Some older New Mexicans and those with pre-existing health concerns that put them at greater risk have been waiting for weeks.

State health officials have acknowledged that residents in search of vaccines have been going to Texas, where individual clinics have been vaccinating people on a first-come, first-serve basis.

New Mexico has expanded eligibility beyond initial categories such as medical personnel, nursing home residents and staff to include all people over the age of 75 and other adults at high risk of several health complications from the virus.

That opens up a huge eligible population of roughly 900,000 people, within a state of 2.1 million, who will take several months to vaccinate even as the supply chain expands.

Officials at University of New Mexico Hospital and Lovelace in Albuquerque as well as Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe said they are all ready to ramp up vaccinations as soon as supplies grow. They pointed to increased production and new vaccines that will be hitting the market, saying anticipation is high that supply and demand pressures will ease.

On Monday, the New Mexico Department of Health confirmed Walgreens and other pharmacies in the state would begin receiving vaccine shipments this week under a federal plan aimed at boosting distribution.

Over 88,000 state residents have been fully vaccinated — or about 4.2% of the population. An estimated 340,000 people have received just the first shot out of two.

About 9,000 shots are being administered per day statewide. At the University of New Mexico's basketball arena, known as The Pit, officials plan to administer about 1,600 shots a day this week and under 1,000 shots next week based on supply forecasts.

The vaccination rollout comes as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to drop. On Monday, New Mexico reported its lowest daily case count in nearly four months with 315 cases and 13 more deaths.

Navajo Nation Getting Nearly 29K Doses Of COVID-19 Vaccines Associated Press

Navajo Nation officials say they are getting nearly 29,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines this week plus 82 more federal personnel to help with vaccinations.

Tribal President Jonathan Nez says the goal is to administer 100,000 total doses of the vaccines by the end of this month.

Navajo Nation health officials say the tribe will be receiving 26,000 more doses of the Moderna vaccine and 2,925 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Nez says that as of Sunday, the Navajo Area Indian Health Service received 78,520 vaccine doses and 94% of them had been administered.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allocated $210 million to the Indian Health Service to support COVID-19 vaccine-related activities for tribes and $790 million for COVID-19 testing efforts.

The funds were made available through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, which was signed into law in December 2020.

On Sunday, Navajo Nation health officials reported 23 new COVID-19 cases and one death. That raised the totals to 28,897 cases and 1,057 known deaths since the pandemic began.

The tribe has extended its stay-at-home order with a revised nightly curfew to limit the virus' spread.

The Navajo Nation also is lifting weekend lockdowns to allow more vaccination events.

Democrats Defend Online Legislative Work In New Mexico - Associated Press

A top-ranked state legislator is defending the move to online committee hearings and other pandemic safety rules that allow only three legislators at a time on the floor of the New Mexico House of Representatives. 

In legal filings made public on Monday, Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf urged the state Supreme Court to uphold emergency legislative procedures that rely heavily on videoconferencing. 

Egolf says more people are participating in online legislative hearings than could possibly fit physically into committee rooms under normal circumstances. 

Top House Republicans say that the health restrictions exclude people without internet service and are asking the Supreme court to intervene. They also say legislators are being prohibited from in-person participation.

An unnamed Republican lawmaker tested positive in January for the coronavirus at the Capitol, along with several staff.

The state Senate has its own pandemic rules that allow legislators to attend floor sessions in-person or remotely from an office in the state Capitol building. House members can participate from home.

Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf on Monday described robust online participation in the legislative process by the public as he defends strict precautions against COVID-19 infection at the Statehouse.

Democrats Advance Civil Rights Legislation In New Mexico - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

A bill is headed to the House floor for a vote that would open up state courts to a variety of civil rights claims against police agencies and local governments. 

A House committee on judicial affairs on Monday endorsed the bill that would allow damage awards of up to $2 million and court intervention in state and local government affairs where civil rights guarantees are violated under the New Mexico Constitution. 

Democratic legislators advanced the bill on an 8-4 vote without Republican support. Approval by the House would send the Bill to the Democrat-led Senate for consideration.

The proposal builds on recommendations of a civil rights commission chartered by the lawmakers as protests over police brutality and racial injustice swept the nation.

Sponsors of the bill say it would address possible civil rights violations in a variety of government posts — from child protective services to police — though only agencies can be sued and not individual officials. 

Supporters of the initiative say that would reinforce bedrock state constitutional guarantees against excessive fines, cruel and unusual punishment, due process, gun rights and more.

Law enforcement agencies and police associations remain staunchly opposed, along with school boards and city and county governments.

Few New Mexico Schools Rush To Offer In-Person Classes - By Cedar Attanasio Associated Press / Report For America

New Mexico's largest school districts aren't rushing to get back to in-person learning, despite getting a green light from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The Albuquerque Public Schools board last week tabled a discussion for a hybrid in-person plan with 50% of students in classrooms. The board instead asked officials to prepare a plan for even smaller groups.

In Santa Fe, a hybrid reopening plan relies on teacher volunteers, but only 15% are raising their hand to head back.

Other districts have simply given up on in-person classes, opting to educate remotely through the end of the spring semester.

All schools have been allowed to have some small in-person classes, with five students to a teacher for programs that involve special needs students and younger children who benefit even less from online instruction than their peers.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers are bitter over the way Gov. Lujan Grisham has restricted school openings over the past year.

On Monday, a Senate Education Committee hearing served as a platform for those grievances as legislators considered a bill that would take some emergency health order authority away from the governor and give it school boards.

Marijuana Producer May Lose License After Santa Fe Fire Associated Press

A medical marijuana producer is in danger of losing its license in the wake of a fire at a Santa Fe facility that left two workers hurt.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Saturday that the New Mexico Department of Health is weighing whether to revoke the license for New Mexicann Natural Medicine.

Authorities say the October fire started after two employees were in the midst of a cannabis extraction process. One lost his grip as both were carrying a large metal vessel with a mixture of ethanol and cannabis oil.

The state health department suspended the dispensary's ability to manufacture cannabis products, according to a notice from December. Officials say New Mexicann did not follow the rules of the Medical Cannabis Program, which include failing to train their staff on how to use the equipment properly.

It is the second incident at that location after an explosion occurred there in 2015.

New Mexicann, which has been licensed since 2009, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.