TUES: State Releases Plan For Reopening Public Schools, + More

Jun 23, 2020

New Mexico Releases Plan For Reopening Public Schools - By Cedar Attanasio Associated Press/Report For America

New Mexico's Public Education Department is outlining a path for how schools will reopen this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Under a plan made public Tuesday, the state is requiring schools to open at 50% capacity. Students will alternate between time in the classroom and continuing with online lessons at home.

Based on regional testing data, schools could be forced to close or allowed to fully open. Regardless of infection numbers, children and staff will be required to wear masks and large gatherings like pep rallies are to be avoided.

Officials say the goal is to move into a full school schedule as soon as safely possible.

The guidance comes after a month of consultation with a task force that was made up of parents, teachers and administrators.

They considered many ideas that might have been logistically challenging, such as requiring bus drivers to check every student's temperature.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory also explored numerous school infection scenarios, according to state Human Services Secretary David Scrase.

Scrase said officials are looking at what’s happening in Europe, noting that preliminary data out of Denmark and Iceland suggest that children may not transmit COVID as much, but state officials still are hoping more can be learned about the virus.

Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan contributed to this report.

New Mexico Hospital Under Review Over Profiling Allegations - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

State officials say the findings of a recent survey at a women's hospital in New Mexico are in the process of being referred to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights after allegations of racial profiling were raised.

The survey at Lovelace Women's Hospital in Albuquerque was completed last week. While the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has yet to finalize the report, state health officials say initial findings identified noncompliance.

State officials called for an investigation after the online publications New Mexico In Depth and ProPublica reported that several unidentified clinicians at the hospital alleged that pregnant Native American women were singled out for COVID-19 testing and separated from newborns after delivery while their test results were pending.

The hospital denies that extra scrutiny was given to pregnant Native American patients amid the coronavirus pandemic. Some tribal communities in the Southwest have been hit hard by the virus.

In New Mexico, just over half of the cases are among Native Americans.

New Mexico Urging Visitors To Use Masks To Stop Virus SpreadSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico is under a state order for residents and travelers to wear masks in public places, but visitors to Santa Fe continue to stroll through the city's downtown with uncovered faces.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported city and tourism officials plan to post signs by this weekend encouraging the use of face masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Santa Fe City Council has approved a measure requiring everyone in the city over age 15 to wear a mask in most public settings, with repeat offenders facing a $50 fine for second and subsequent violations.

The state reported seven new deaths related to COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total to 476. There were 147 additional positive tests. New Mexico now has more than 10,800 COVID-19 cases.

A prison facility in Otero County that holds state and federal detainees has 687 cases.

Vandals Cause Estimated $100K Of Damage To Indian RestaurantSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Vandals damaged the interior furnishings of an Indian restaurant in downtown Santa Fe and spray-painted racist comments on walls and art objects in the building.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the cost of the damage Monday to the India Palace was estimated at $100,000. The damage included smashing a buffet and overturning tables and chairs.

Cameron Brown, an associate of the restaurant owner and his son, said the comments included "white supremacist stuff." 

The Anti-Defamation League's Mountain States Region said Tuesday in a statement that it was "deeply disturbed by reports of significant vandalism and racist, xenophobic graffiti at India Palace restaurant in downtown Santa Fe."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned the vandalism as "disturbing hate attack."

New Mexico Lawmakers Back Mandatory Police Body Cameras - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

The New Mexico Legislature has approved a proposal to make police body cameras mandatory for nearly all state and local law enforcement officers. 

The Democrat-led House of Representatives voted 44-26 to send the police accountability reforms to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for consideration. 

Video must be archived for 120 days, and police agencies that flout the camera requirement could be sued for withholding evidence, under the legislation.

The bill also includes new sanctions for police convicted for unlawful use of force or failure to stop excessive force by colleagues -- permanently revoking police certification unless the conviction is pardoned by the governor.

Republicans largely opposed the bill as hastily written and financially burdensome to law enforcement agencies, which will be given 90 days to deploy cameras.

In a statement, Lujan Grisham complimented the Legislature for launching "an important and overdue conversation about accountability in law enforcement and in ensuring a just and safe New Mexico for all."

Man Charged In Oñate Statue Protest Melee To Be Released - Associated Press

A New Mexico judge ruled Monday that a man who opened fire after a fight broke out as protesters tried to tear down a statue of a Spanish conquistador will be released pending trial on charges of aggravated battery and unlawful carrying of a handgun.

The decision came during a detention hearing for Steven Ray Baca, 31. As part of the release conditions, Judge Charles Brown ordered Baca to not attend any protests, nor have contact with any witnesses or carry a weapon.

The charges stem from interactions with three unidentified women during the protest.

Prosecutors have not filed charges related the shooting that injured one man, saying the investigation is ongoing.

Video taken moments before protesters started chasing Baca showed him throwing a woman to the ground after she positioned herself in front of him and began blocking him with outstretched arms.

State Legislature OKs Small Business Loans, Abandons Anti-Racism Bill - Associated Press

Lawmakers Monday sent an economic recovery bill to the governor that would offer more than $400 million in low-interest loans to small businesses and local governments in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The bulk of the loans are reserved for small businesses including nonprofit organizations.

Individual business loans are capped at $75,000 and reserved for those with less than $5 million in annual revenues that have lost significant income since the local virus outbreak began in March. The loans would flow from the state's multibillion-dollar severance tax permanent fund.

The program was endorsed by the state House on a 59-5 vote at the close a special session focused primarily on solvency issues for state government.

The House abandoned a bill aimed at identifying and uprooting institutionalized racism in state government. The measure would have documented the ethnic and racial demographics of agency workforces and provided training to avoid institutional racism.

The state Senate adjourned on Saturday from the special legislative session before it could endorse minor House amendments to the bill in response to concerns by state personnel officials.

Democratic Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque vowed to revive the bill when the Legislature returns in 2021.

International Balloon Fiesta Grounded Over Virus Concerns - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

There will be no hot air balloons lifting off this fall as part of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. 

This would have marked the 49th year for the annual event. 

It usually draws hundreds of thousands of visitors and ballooning teams from around the world for nine days in October. It also contributes millions of dollars to the economy. 

The fiesta's board of directors had considered numerous options for trying to make the spectacle happen but instead decided to put off this year's gathering until October 2021. 

Board president Matt W. Guthrie made the announcement Monday, citing the safety of the pilots, spectators, sponsors, staff and volunteers.

Organizers said those who already have tickets and reservations for RV spaces will be able to use them in 2021. Keeping existing reservations will be one way people can support the fiesta during what Guthrie called a “challenging time.”

In 2019, the balloon fiesta recorded an estimated 866,414 visits over nine days. The Albuquerque area saw an economic boost of nearly $187 million as a result.

New Mexico Reports 128 More Coronavirus Cases; No New Deaths - Associated Press

Health officials in New Mexico report 128 more coronavirus cases around the state, but no additional known deaths. 

It's the first time since April 15 that no COVID-19 deaths have been reported in New Mexico. 

The total number of cases is 10,694  as of Monday while the death toll remains at 469. 

Department of Health officials say 32 of the new confirmed cases were reported in McKinley County in northwestern New Mexico. They say 22 new cases were reported in Bernalillo County, the state's most populous that includes the Albuquerque metro area. 

Health officials say 4,742 people who had COVID-19 in New Mexico have recovered. 

Navajo Nation Reports 55 New COVID-19 Cases, No New Deaths - Associated Press

The Navajo Department of Health reported 55 new cases of coronavirus on the Navajo Nation on Monday, but no additional deaths. That pushes the total of positive COVID-19 cases to 7,045 with the death toll remaining at 335. 

Tribal officials also say preliminary reports from 11 health care facilities indicate about 3,716 people have recovered from COVID-19 with one hospital report still pending.  

The Navajo Nation has resumed weekend lockdowns with businesses closed as the number of coronavirus cases off the reservation increases, most notably in Arizona. 

 

Robot Helping To Sanitize Albuquerque International Sunport - KOAT-TV, Associated Press

New Mexico's largest airport has enlisted a robot to help with cleaning in the age of coronavirus.

KOAT-TV reports the Albuquerque International Sunport is employing an autonomous robot to sanitize spaces in the airport.

Airport officials say the robot, dubbed Breezy One, will be employed every night.

The device came from Build with Robotics and Fetch Robotics.

Fetch Robotics officials say it decontaminates spaces of more than 100,000 square feet in under two hours. The robot uses a disinfectant developed at Sandia National Labs.