TUES: State Opens COVID-19 Testing To All Workers, + More

May 12, 2020

New Mexico Opens COVID-19 Testing To All Workers In StateAssociated Press

New Mexico officials have announced that COVID-19 testing is now available for all workers in the state.

The New Mexico Department of Health said Monday testing would be open to government employees, utility and construction workers, grocery and pharmacy employees, and anyone in food service or other service industries.

Officials also say testing would be available for any worker seeking a test, symptomatic or not.

New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel says the state has expanded "open drive-up testing" sites.

Testing for the novel coronavirus in New Mexico has increased from limited testing in early March to around 20,000 a week. State officials want to test 7,500 people a day eventually.

New Mexico officials announced Tuesday the state has 5,212 COVID-19 cases with 199 people hospitalized. There have been 219 deaths. Of the 11 deaths reported Tuesday, 5 were in congregate living facilities.

There are 31 cases among detainees at the federal Otero County Processing Center run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Senators Seek To Designate Gila River As 'Wild And Scenic' - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Portions of the Gila River would be designated as "wild and scenic" under legislation proposed by New Mexico's two U.S. senators.

Spanning parts of New Mexico and Arizona, the river and other main tributaries make up the largest remaining network of naturally flowing river segments in the Southwestern U.S.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission are gathering public comments on an environmental review of a proposal that calls for diverting and storing some of the water.

Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich say their legislation takes into account feedback gathered from landowners, local officials and others. They add such a designation for the stretches in New Mexico could boost the river's national visibility and result in more outdoor economic potential.

Udall called the Gila an irreplaceable treasure.

Body Of Missing Woman Found In SUV In New Mexico ReservoirAssociated Press

A sheriff says a Truth or Consequences woman missing since late January has been found dead in her SUV after it was discovered in Elephant Butte Reservoir.

Sierra County Sheriff Glenn Hamilton said there was no immediate indication of foul play in the death of 88-year-old Janet Lorraine Mimovich. Hamilton said investigators believed Mimovich got disoriented while driving home after dining out.

The sheriff said state park workers spotted Mimovich's silver Mercedes SUV on Monday when part of it emerged from the water when they raised a cable anchoring a boat dock.

Hamilton said authorities previously searched in the area unsuccessfully because they suspected Mimovich took the wrong road while returning home.

Hospitals To Get Additional $66M As COVID Cases Surpass 5,000 Associated Press, KUNM

State officials announced Monday that hospitals are expected to get an additional $66 million in Medicaid payments to help cover losses during the health emergency.

The rate increases approved by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid include higher reimbursements for intensive care stays by 50% for the duration of the emergency.

Human Services Secretary David Scrace described intensive care as a key scarce resource for the state.

The number COVID-19 cases in New Mexico surged to 5,069 Monday with 207 additional positive tests. McKinley County continues to lead the state, followed by San Juan County. Both are in northwest New Mexico, which has been hard hit. A lockdown order for Gallup expired Sunday.

There were 8 more deaths as well, bringing the total to 208. State officials also reported 30 cases among detainees at the Otero County Processing Center run by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Sen. Martin Heinrich Backs Progressive Statehouse Candidates - Associated Press

Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is throwing his political weight behind primary challengers to socially conservative Democrats in the New Mexico Legislature.

Heinrich on Monday invited constituents to attend an online fundraiser for the campaign of school psychologist Siah Correa Hemphill of Silver City in her primary election bid to unseat state Sen. Gabriel Ramos and for Pamela Cordova of Belen as she challenges state Sen. Clemente Sanchez of Grants.

Ramos, appointed in 2019 to take the Senate seat of newly elected Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, and Sanchez voted in 2019 against a bill that would have removed the state's dormant criminal ban on most abortion procedures. 

The statute could become relevant as efforts to roll back abortion rights make their way to the increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court.


Coronavirus Forces Santa Fe Opera To Cancel Upcoming Season - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The famed Santa Fe Opera has been forced to cancel its season. 

General Director Robert Meya said Monday the opera explored every possible scenario – including how to test and quarantine, limit theater capacity and conduct wellness checks. But he said the decision was made with the health and safety of staff, artists, patrons and the community in mind. 

More than $5 million in tickets already were sold. 

Meya is asking patrons to donate the value of their tickets back to the opera to help compensate artists, musicians and seasonal staff. 

A group of patrons has offered to match all donated tickets dollar-for-dollar up to $3 million. 

Meya said the donations would provide the opera with "a bridge over these dark and turbulent times."

In recent years, the open-air venue has been the backdrop for productions about the dawn of the nuclear age in 1940s New Mexico and a world premiere of a techno-infused opera about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg also has been a regular visitor to performances in Santa Fe.

Vandalism Up At New Mexico's Petroglyph National Monument - KRQE-TV, Associated Press

Vandalism at one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America appears to be on the rise. 

KRQE-TV reports Petroglyph National Monument Superintendent Nancy Hendricks said last week crews have reported three episodes of vandalism this year at the monument in Albuquerque. 

Those acts include spray paint on the rocks at Boca Negra Canyon in the past two months, vandalism at headquarters and carved rocks at the Rinconada Canyon Trail. 

To help prevent vandalism, the monument has a group of trail watch volunteers, and rangers have adjusted work schedules.

Albuquerque police are investigating the vandalism. No arrests have been made.

Petroglyph National Monument features designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago.

Mesalands Community College Fires President, Mum On Reason - Associated Press

Mesalands Community College has fired its president after placing him on indefinite paid administrative leave in March. 

The eastern New Mexico school's board voted last month to terminate the contract of John Groesbeck. 

The board declined to comment on the reason for placing him on leave and for his termination. Since March, he had not been allowed on campus. 

Groesbeck was hired as Mesalands president in July 2018 after the retirement of Thomas Newsom. 

The board gave Groesbeck a two-year contract extension last year. 

The board named Vice President of Academic Affairs Natalie Gillard as interim president.

Virus Rampages Across Vast Navajo Lands, Close-Knit Families - By Felicia Fonseca and Tim Sullivan, Associated Press

The Navajo reservation spans three western U.S. states and has some of the highest rates of coronavirus in the country.

With roughly 175,000 people living there, the tribe has seen 3,122 cases. At least 100 people have died.

The numbers continue to grow. Handwashing and isolation are the most basic measures to fight the spread of the virus. But that can be difficult when many families live in close quarters and don't have running water.

If Navajos are susceptible to the virus' spread in part because they are so closely knit, that's also how many believe they will beat it.

They’re leaving boxes of food and supplies on the steps of elders’ homes or in grocery bags hanging from fence posts. They’re driving for hours to take relatives to hospitals. They’re delivering water to friends and family.

US Plans Reimagine Fighting Wildfires Amid Crews' Virus Risk - By Rebecca Boone, Associated Press

New plans offer a national reimagining of how to fight wildfires amid the risk of the coronavirus spreading through crews. But it's not clear how officials will get the testing and equipment needed to keep firefighters safe in what's expected to be a difficult fire season.

A U.S. group last week released broad guidelines to consider when sending crews to blazes. Different parts of the country can tailor the guidelines, which include having firefighters camp in smaller groups and keeping crews separated.

A letter from lawmakers says the U.S. Forest Service determined that large fire camps could have a disproportionately high mortality rate in worst-case scenarios.

Agency officials say that risk assessment is "outdated." 


Eastern New Mexico Taps Southern Indiana Assistant As Coach - Associated Press

Eastern New Mexico has named Southern Indiana assistant Brent Owen as its new men's head basketball coach. 

Eastern New Mexico Athletic Director Matt Billings announced last week that Owen will take over the program from Tres Segler.

Segler resigned on April 6 to pursue other opportunities outside of basketball. 

Owen joins the Greyhounds following a nine-year tenure as an assistant coach at Southern Indiana. 

A native of Chrisman, Illinois, Owen was a three-time Academic All-GLVC performer during his career at Southern Indiana from 2006-2009. 

Eastern New Mexico posted an 8-19 record this season.