WED: Artesia Man Is First New Mexico COVID-19 Death, + More

Mar 25, 2020

New Mexico Marks 1st Virus Death, Tries To Stretch Supplies - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico has its first coronavirus death. Health officials said Wednesday the man in his late 70s was hospitalized in Artesia on Sunday and died the same day.

The state Health Department said he had multiple underlying health issues and his condition deteriorated rapidly.

Infections have climbed to 112 in the state, with schools shut down and a stay-at-home order in effect.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says the death marks a tragic day and urged residents to take precautions to limit the spread of the virus.

She also issued two new orders designed to address the shortage of protection equipment for health care workers. 

One order prohibits non-essential health services that can be put off for three months without risk to a patient's health.

The other prohibits health care providers and wholesale medical suppliers from selling or otherwise distributing personal protective equipment without prior approval from state health officials.

Santa Fe New Mexican Announces Layoffs Amid COVID-19Associated Press

The Santa Fe New Mexican has announced nearly a dozen layoffs, salary reductions and a shortened workweek amid an economic downturn caused by the spread of COVID-19.

Publisher Tom Cross said Tuesday the moves are intended to keep the family-owned newspaper, its website and other operations as healthy as possible while the media outlet deals with a decline in advertisement.

Under the plan, New Mexican managers will see reduced salaries and staff will have reductions in hours worked. It's unclear if the layoffs affect the newsroom.

In addition, staffers at the alternative newsweekly Santa Fe Reporter announced the publication also had layoffs and salary cuts. The weekly has set up a "Friends of the Reporter" website to seek donations.

The Gallup Independent also said it would move its entire newspaper staff to part-time but still print regularly.

The New Mexican will continue to publish seven days a week and also will continue its commercial printing operations. The New Mexican's printing plant produces a variety of other newspapers, including The New York Times.

The New Mexican has been in business since 1849.

As the economy improves, Cross said the newspaper hopes to restore hours, positions and wages back to pre-COVID-19 levels.

The New Mexican, like other newspaper and media outlets, is defined as an essential service under Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's recent stay-at-home order.

University Of New Mexico Postpones Commencement Due To VirusAssociated Press

The University of New Mexico is postponing its spring commencement due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

The university said President Garnett Stokes will seek student input as she considers when to reschedule the commencement that had been scheduled for May 16 and how it will be conducted.

Stokes said the decision to postpone is regrettable and that she knows it’s a memorable part of graduates' university experience.  

The university is holding classes remotely and Stokes said the faculty is working on how grading will be conducted for the current term.

Judge Clears Way For New Mexico Suit Over Kid Privacy Claims - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A U.S. district judge has rejected an effort to derail New Mexico's lawsuit against Twitter, Google and other companies that develop and market mobile gaming apps for children.

The judge concluded in a ruling Tuesday that the court has jurisdiction over the case, clearing the way for it to proceed. New Mexico's top prosecutor filed the lawsuit in 2018, alleging that the mobile apps violated state and federal laws by collecting personal information that could compromise privacy.

The case was initiated as public concerns escalated about whether information on online interests, browsing and buying habits were slipping into the hands of data brokers without their consent.

City of Albuquerque Closes Offices And Limits Public TransportationAlbuquerque Journal, KUNM News

The City of Albuquerque has closed its buildings to the public and will limit public transit routes.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the expanded city closures went into effect at the end of the day Tuesday. City offices will be closed, though permitting and inspections will be able to continue in some capacity.

The Albuquerque Rapid Transit Route on Central Ave. will discontinue service completely on Saturday. Other ABQ Ride routes will continue to run, but on a limited Saturday schedule.

City-run golf courses and playgrounds are also closed. However, Mayor Tim Keller says parks remain open. He encouraged residents who plan to exercise at the park to do so but to then “get home”.

Bernalillo County has also closed most of its facilities to the public.

New Mexico Creates Coronavirus Business Recovery Fund - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico's State Investment Council has approved the creation of a $100 million business recovery fund to help companies with 50 or more employees meet payroll obligations and avoid layoffs amid economic turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic as the number of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico reached 100.

The council overseen by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham controls a $23 billion portfolio of investments that support public education. On Tuesday, it voted unanimously to channel assets from the state's Severance Tax Permanent Fund to provide emergency recovery loans.

Some council members object to offering emergency loans to employers who are headquartered outside the state and worry that $100 million line of credit is inadequate.

Larger diversions from the Severance Tax Permanent Fund or Land Grant Permanent Fund would require a state constitutional amendment that involves approval by the Legislature and a statewide vote.

The new program is designed to complement other state and federal economic rescue efforts.

New Mexico Top Court Halts Evictions During CoronavirusAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has put a temporary hold on eviction proceedings during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the court issued the order Tuesday. It covers anyone who is facing eviction due to their inability to pay rent. 

Supreme Court Chief Justice Judith Nakamura said in a statement that temporary relief is needed to prevent evictions due to economic hardship as workplaces close down. Tenants hoping to avoid eviction must present evidence of their inability to pay rent to a judge.

The court had previously implemented other measures in response to the pandemic, including giving people additional time to pay fines and fees and requiring the use of audio and video teleconferencing for court proceedings that need to continue.

However, a court spokesperson told the Journal it is possible a tenant will have to show up for a court proceeding if a landlord initiates it.

The order will be in place until the court withdraws it.

New Mexico Rep Faces Heat For Plugging Texas Cafe Amid Virus - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

New Mexico Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, who has been dogged by allegations that she doesn't live in the state, is facing criticism for promoting a Texas cafe during coronavirus restrictions. 

The Albuquerque Democrat recently plugged on her personal Facebook page the El Paso-based Desert Moon Cafe and its menu. 

She also has publicized the cafe's move to curbside delivery in the Texas city. 

The cafe, Roybal Caballero told The Associated Press, is owned by her godson, whose small business is struggling with virus-imposed restrictions.

But her Democratic primary challenger and her potential GOP opponent said the social media posts on an El Paso business only pose more questions about how committed Roybal Caballero is to her Albuquerque district and if she lives in New Mexico full time.

Kayla Renee Marshall, a Republican who is seeking to run against the Democrat for the seat, said it was "unfathomable" an elected official in Albuquerque was promoting an El Paso business when Albuquerque ones could use some help.


Another Route 66 Motel In Albuquerque To Be Remodeled - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Another historic Route 66 motel in New Mexico is set to undergo a major renovation. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports the Monterey Motel in Albuquerque is being demolished and developer Chad Rennaker says the new motel will have more rooms and an additional building with hostel-like rooms. 

Rennaker says the Monterey Motel will be restored to resemble what it looked like when it was built in the 1930s. 

Rennaker expects the project to be completed by June, and guests will be able to start renting rooms in July. 

Many of the motels located on Route 66 in cities and towns across the country fell into disrepair after it was decommissioned as a U.S. highway in 1985.

New Veterans Memorial Park Planned For Taos - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Volunteers and veterans are helping lead an effort to build a Veterans Memorial Park in Taos. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports the nonprofit group Not Forgotten Outreach Inc. is taking the lead in a coalition that plans to begin work this spring. 

Earlier this year, the nonprofit received a $23,000 grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeves Foundation. The grant will underwrite the construction of an Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible walking trail crossing over a spring-fed drainage waterway. 

Taos County, which includes the Taos Pueblo and Picuris Pueblo, has a population of more than 3,000 veterans.

Lawsuit: Police Bullet At New Mexico School Harmed Student - Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

The family of a boy is suing a police officer who mistakenly fired his weapon inside a southern New Mexico middle school and nearly hit the student. 

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the family recently filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against officer Francisco Estrada and the Las Cruces Police Department. 

According to court documents, the bullet came within inches of striking a 13-year-old student. 

The lawsuit says the bullet came so close that the boy's hearing was damaged.

Las Cruces police spokesman Dan Trujillo says Estrada is still with the department. He says police couldn't comment on pending litigation.

Dead Snowmobile Rider Was Seeking Treasure In Utah Park Denver Post, Associated Press

Two snowmobile riders from Colorado were searching for an elusive treasure when they became stranded and one died in a Utah park.

The Denver Post said the pair set out from the Denver area March 17 to search for Forrest Fenn's treasure. The eccentric New Mexico antiquities dealer had said he hid the bounty rumored to be worth around $2 million somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

Authorities say the snowmobilers carried candy bars and a couple of bottles of water, but at some point there was not enough snow on the ground and they pressed forward on foot.

Police Say Man Arrested After Inconsistent Suicide Death Report Associated Press

New Mexico authorities have arrested a man on murder charges after police say they found inconsistencies in a suicide report.

KRQE-TV reported that Lea County deputies responded to an alleged suicide Sunday at an Albuquerque home where they found 36-year-old Christopher Matthews with a gunshot wound.

Authorities say Matthews was pronounced dead after being taken to the hospital. Investigators say the scene was processed and four residents who lived at the home were later interviewed.

Deputies say they arrested 27-year-old Jimmy Griffin Jr. after he gave inconsistent and conflicting information. Online court records don't list a defense attorney for Griffin who could comment on his behalf.

Trump Agencies Steadily Push Rollbacks As Pandemic Rages - By Ellen Knickmeyer, Associated Press

The Trump administration is steadily pushing major public health and environmental rollbacks toward enactment. It's rejecting appeals that it slow its deregulatory drive during the coronavirus crisis.

One Environmental Protection Agency rule would require disclosure of the raw data behind any scientific study used in rulemaking. That includes confidential medical records opponents say could be used to identify people. State and local officials have asked the EPA to delay action on that rule while Americans struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EPA has refused, saying it's open for business as usual. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says federal agencies should suspend steps toward enactment for any nonessential rule changes during the pandemic.

The Interior Departmentis moving ahead with a measure that would greatly ease protections under the more than century-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Interior closed the 30-day comment period for the change as scheduled last week. Critics say the changes could devastate threatened and endangered species and speed an already documented decline in U.S. bird populations overall.

Interior also ticked off required procedural steps in March on a development plan for land surrounding New Mexico's Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a World Heritage site at the center of a long debate over oil and gas development, among other projects.