TUES: State Sets Another Record For Daily COVID-19 Cases, Voter Participation Surges, + More

Nov 3, 2020

New Mexico Sets Record For Daily COVID-19 Cases Amid SurgeAssociated Press

New Mexico on Tuesday set a new record for the number of COVID-19 cases reported in a single day and hospitalizations marked a new high for the 12th day in a row.

State health officials reported an additional 1,141 cases Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 49,240 since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The death toll stemming from the pandemic also has increased to 1,045 and hospitalizations reached a record 401 on Tuesday.

New Mexico has been dealing with a surge for weeks now despite having some of the toughest public health restrictions in place, including mandates that call for face coverings and limited interaction with others.

The latest high in the daily case count comes as people line up at the polls around New Mexico to cast their ballots. The state's top election administrators have been posting messages on social media saying that it's safe to vote and that all polls are following COVID-safe practices aimed at preventing spread of the virus.

New Mexico Poised To Elect All-Female U.S. House Delegation - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

No matter who wins, New Mexico will send its first all-female U.S. House delegation to Congress.

Women are vying for all three congressional seats and the close race in the state's southern district is attracting the most attention. Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small is trying to hold her traditionally GOP-leaning seat against Republican challenger Yvette Herrell in a rematch that will be decided by turnout.

Democratic attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez and Republican engineer Alexis Johnson are competing for the open northern New Mexico seat.

Democratic incumbent Debra Haaland is seeking reelection against Republican challenger Michelle Garcia Holmes for the Albuquerque seat.

Open Senate, House Races Test Democratic Hold On New Mexico - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Election Day voting is progressing in New Mexico where Democrats are pushing to maintain control of New Mexico's delegation to the U.S. Senate and hand Joe Biden a presidential victory.

Republicans are trying to flip a Senate seat and change the course of statewide politics.

In the open Senate race, northern New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Luján was vying Tuesday to succeed Sen. Tom Udall and take a seat in the upper chamber of Congress.

His challenger is Republican former television meteorologist Mark Ronchetti. Voter participation was on a record-breaking trajectory, surpassing 830,000 before noon Tuesday statewide.

New Mexico's previous record was about 833,000 ballots cast in the 2008 presidential election.

Sentence Delayed For Man In Killing Of Navajo Police OfficerAssociated Press

The sentencing of a man who pleaded guilty in the fatal shooting of a Navajo police officer has been delayed until March.

The Gallup Indpendent reported Monday that the delay was announced after Kirby Cleveland's attorneys asked for more time to see if a coronavirus vaccine will be ready in time to bring witnesses to testify on his behalf in an attempt to receive a reduced sentence.

Cleveland pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Cleveland had acknowledged that in 2017, he consumed alcohol and shot and killed officer Houston Largo with a rifle several days after Cleveland was attacked by bandits.


Voter Participation And Virus Infections Surge In New Mexico - Associated Press

New Mexico election officials are bracing for a final day of in-person voting and absentee-ballot deliveries as Democratic candidates seek to extend their domination in federal elections and Republicans try to reclaim a footing in Congress and reelect the president. 

New Mexico has open races for a U.S. Senate and a northern congressional seat and there is a hard fought rematch in the southern 2nd congressional district along the U.S. border with Mexico. 

Election authorities announced Monday that voter participation has surpassed 770,000. That nearly exceeds overall participation of about 804,000 in 2016. New Mexico has about 1.3 million registered voters.

New Mexico has marked another daily high for the number of patients hospitalized as a result of a COVID-19 infection.

State health officials say there are more than 380 people hospitalized around the state. They also reported an additional 877 coronavirus cases Monday, boosting the statewide total to more than 48,100 since the pandemic began.

Another 10 deaths also were reported, bringing that statewide tally to 1,036.

The latest cases include 245 in Bernalillo County, the state's most populous area, and another 220 in Doña Ana County in southern New Mexico.

Monday also marked the first day for flags across the state to fly at half-staff. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had issued the order last week after the state marked the 1,000th death related to the pandemic.

She called for a week of mourning, saying each victim should be remembered. The order runs through sundown Friday.

Navajo Nation Lawmakers Approve Casino Reopening Plan - By Felicia Fonseca Associated Press

Lawmakers on the Navajo Nation have approved legislation to reopen the tribe's four casinos. 

The action Monday came despite a tribal health expert warning that the coronavirus is spreading uncontrollably. 

The tribe's casinos in New Mexico and Arizona have been closed since March. The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise got the blessing of the Navajo Nation Council to reopen them at a minimum 50% capacity later this month, but it still needs an OK from the tribal president.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has 10 days to act on the legislation once it reaches him. He has not indicated whether or not he'll support it.

The casinos employ nearly 1,200 people, most of whom are Navajo. They have been on paid administrative leave. 

The tribe reported 47 additional cases of the coronavirus as of Monday and three confirmed deaths. The latest figures bring the total number of reported cases to 11,875 and the known death toll to 584 on the reservation. 

A shelter-in-place order, mask mandate, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns remain in effect on the reservation that extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Navajo Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Over Tribe's Primary ElectionAssociated Press

A Navajo Nation judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to force a primary election that was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Elouise Brown filed the complaint in August, claiming the voting rights of Navajos were violated when all of the primary election candidates moved on to the tribe's general election ballot.

Window Rock Judicial District Judge Malcolm Begay dismissed the lawsuit last week. He says the court didn't have jurisdiction because Brown didn't follow provisions in tribal law to sue the tribal government.

The decision came days after the tribe filed a motion to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit sought to postpone Tuesday's general election until a primary election could be held, and to extend the time for people to file for elected offices, such as school boards and community leadership positions.

Navajo Energy Company To Acquire Shares In Coal Power Plant - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

The Navajo Nation would expand its investment in coal-fired electricity generation as part of a plan to acquire more shares in one of the Southwest's last remaining coal power plants.

The tribe's Navajo Transitional Energy Co. has negotiated an agreement with New Mexico's largest electric utility to take on the utility's share of the Four Corners Power Plant in 2024.

If approved by state regulators, the transaction would preserve jobs at the plant and the adjacent tribally-owned mine for several more years. Many of the workers are Navajo.

The deal would also allow the New Mexico utility a faster exit from coal. PNM already has regulatory approval to exit the neighboring coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in 2022. The workforce there also includes many tribal members.

PNM has predicted its customers could collectively save about $100 million on their bills with the utility's exit from Four Corners seven years earlier than planned. However, customers would still pick up the costs of pending liabilities after 2031, plus the cost of replacing Four Corners electricity with other resources.

Environmentalists have concerns about the Four Corners proposal, saying it would deepen the Navajo Nation's reliance on fossil fuels.