WED: Restrictions Will Remain And Masks To Be Enforced As Deaths Reach 500, + More

Jul 1, 2020

Governor Keeps Restrictions In Place As COVID Deaths Reach 500 KUNM, Albuquerque Journal

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said coronavirus restrictions will remain in place and warned that if cases and the rate of spread continue to rise she may roll back openings as other states like Texas and Arizona have.

New Mexico passed 500 deaths Wednesday and there are now 12,276 cases. The Albuquerque Journal reported infections are surging. Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase said the rate of spread is up everywhere except the southwest.

The rate of spread is now 1.20, which means each person who’s infected will on average spread it to 1.2 people. It was 0.87 two weeks ago and 1.12 last week.

Officials also expressed concern about the rising number of cases among people in their 20s over the last week. They represent the largest group of new cases, followed by people in their 30s.

Lujan Grisham issued a new public health order stating the previous rule mandating masks in public will be aggressively enforced with a $100 fine. Businesses must also require customers to wear masks.

There is also a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all visitors from out of state.

Albuquerque School District Gets Interim SuperintendentAssociated Press

A longtime educator has been named the interim superintendent of the Albuquerque public school district.

Scott Elder took the reins Wednesday, replacing Raquel Reedy, who retired June 30. The school board suspended its national search for a new superintendent when schools closed in March due to the spread of the coronavirus.

In anticipation of related budget cuts, Elder said the district is looking at ways to save money.

Elder started his career with the Albuquerque district teaching students whose native language wasn't English. He also worked as a principal and later chief operations officer.

New Mexico County Moves To Spend Money On Police CamerasAssociated Press

Commissioners in New Mexico's most populous county have taken another step toward outfitting the sheriff's department with body cameras.

The Bernalillo County Commission voted Tuesday to appropriate $1 million that had been approved last year through an administrative resolution. The money can be used to purchase cameras, support services, subscriptions and infrastructure for the camera systems.

The move comes as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham considers signing a bill that would mandate cameras for nearly all state and local law enforcement officers.

Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales says if the legislation is signed, he'll ensure the technology is used to secure the constitutional rights and safety of all citizens.

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

The bill also includes 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.

The police accountability reforms would provide exceptions for tribal authorities.

Critics have said the mandates would be financially burdensome for police agencies.

Navajo Nation Reports 17 Additional COVID-19 Cases, 1 DeathAssociated Press

Navajo Nation health officials have reported 17 additional cases of coronavirus with one additional death.

That put the number of positive COVID-19 cases on the reservation at 7,549 as of Tuesday night with the known death toll at 364.

Reports from a dozen health care facilities on and near the Navajo Nation indicate some 5,218 have recovered and at least 55,626 people have been tested so far.

Navajo Nation officials have extended the closure of tribal government offices and ordered residents to stay home for another three weeks as the number of coronavirus cases rises outside the reservation.

The restrictions had been set to expire July 5. They are now in place until July 26 and include three more weekend lockdowns.

Governor Signs Budget Solvency Plan, Vetoes Some CutsAssociated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed a budget solvency plan seeking to mend a multibillion-dollar deficit by scaling back spending increases.

But the Democrat vetoed Tuesday some cuts to public education and other areas. State government finances are reeling from the coronavirus epidemic's economic fallout and aggressive state emergency health restrictions designed to hold the virus at bay.

New Mexico economists are forecasting a $2.4 billion decline in state government income through June 2021 amid the economic upheaval.

The governor vetoed more than $30 million in budget cuts, restoring funding slated for reduction for public schools and other measures.

This month, Senate Democrats joined with a handful of Republicans during a special session to approve a roughly $7 billion spending plan for the budget year beginning July 1, which scaled back state spending by about $600 million.

Salary increases for state agency and public school workers were scaled back from 4% to 1% or less under the proposal, with pay bumps focused on lower-income public employees to offset rising health insurance premiums.

But the pullback on spending increases went farther than recommendations from Lujan Grisham.

Rudolfo Anaya, 'Godfather' Of Chicano Literature, Dies At 82 - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press, KUNM

Rudolfo Anaya, who helped launch the 1970s Chicano Literature Movement with his novel "Bless Me, Ultima," has died.

Anaya's niece, Belinda Henry, says the celebrated author died Sunday at his Albuquerque, New Mexico, home after a long illness. He was 82.

Anaya came onto the scene with his breakthrough work, "Bless Me, Ultima," in 1972. The World War II-era novel about a young Mexican American boy's relationship with an older curandera, or healer, influenced a generation of Latino writers.

It was made into a feature film in 2013. The book's release coincided with the growing and militant Chicano movement that stressed cultural pride over assimilation. It also came as Mexican-American college students were demanding more literature by Latino authors.

In 2016, Anaya was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama.

At a 2002 writers forum in Jemez Springs, Anaya evoked writer John Gardner and said creative people often go through a traumatic experience that causes them to question what their purpose is in life.

"It's during that search that then we draw upon the tradition, say the oral tradition, the reading tradition, education we draw from the people we draw from the place and try to answer those questions," Anaya said.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called Anaya one of the state's greatest artists and a seminal figure in literature.

"Through his indelible stories, Rudolfo Anaya, perhaps better than any other author, truly captured what it means to be a New Mexican, what it means to be born here, grow up here and live here," she said in a statement.

Independent Producer Paul Ingles contributed to this story.

New Mexico's Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Passes The 12,000 Mark Associated Press

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Mexico has passed the 12,000 mark.

State health officials on Tuesday reported an additional 168 cases, raising the total since the outbreak began to 12,147. They also reported four additional deaths, bringing the total of people in New Mexico who are known to have died from the coronavirus to 497.

Department of Health officials say 36 of the 168 additional COVID-19 cases were reported in Bernalillo County, the state's most populous that includes the Albuquerque metro area.

They also say 5,393 people in New Mexico who had COVID-19 have recovered.


'Conquistador' Image On New Mexico Water Tank Targeted - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

A Jemez Pueblo activist wants a New Mexico town to confront a conquistador image on a water tank. 

Roger Fragua, executive director of the nonprofit group Flower Hill Institute, recently sent a letter to the town of Bernalillo asking the mayor to talk about the large depiction on a state highway that runs through many Pueblo lands. 

The logo, which is the town's seal, shows a conquistador helmet resting on top of an ax used by invading Spanish soldiers in the 1500s. Fragua says the axe is offensive to some Native Americans.

Bernalillo Mayor Jack Torres says he's open to beginning talks. 

The move comes after officials in Albuquerque and Alcalde removed statues of Spanish conquistador Don Juan de Oñate amid demands from protesters to have them toppled.

Water Diversions Paused To Ensure Rio Grande Keeps Flowing - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

One of New Mexico's largest drinking water providers has decided to stop diverting water from the Rio Grande to help prevent the stretch that runs through Albuquerque from going dry this summer.

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority said Tuesday that the curtailment is expected to last until the fall. The river is dwindling due to poor runoff and officials expect large sections of the river to run dry.

Utility officials say they will shift to using groundwater exclusively over the summer to provide drinking water to customers in the metro area. They're also urging people to conserve water.

The latest federal drought map shows about three-quarters of the state are dealing with some form of drought, with the area along the New Mexico-Colorado border seeing the most extreme conditions. Swaths of moderate to severe drought also are covering parts of northwestern and eastern New Mexico.

While the region is on the verge of the summer rainy season, forecasters have cautioned that this year could see close to or below average rainfall while temperatures will range from slightly above to above average.


Navajos Concerned With COVID-19 Spikes In Surrounding Areas Associated Press

The Navajo Nation has extended the closure of tribal government offices and ordered residents to stay home for another three weeks.

Tribal officials say they are concerned with spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases off the reservation that extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Arizona again shut down bars, nightclubs and gyms amid a surge of coronavirus cases. New Mexico has paused plans for reopening more of the state's economy.

Navajo Nation health officials reported 63 additional cases of coronavirus, with no new deaths. That puts the total of positive COVID-19 cases on the reservation at 7,532 as of Monday. The death toll remains at 363. 

New Mexico School Districts Make Plans Amid Virus Pandemic Associated Press

School districts in New Mexico are preparing their plans for resuming classes in the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In Las Cruces, district officials are reminding parents that all school-age children must be up to date on immunizations or have the proper exemption from the state Health Department.

The Carlsbad school district is hopeful the overall lower number of COVID-19 positive cases in the community could mean a normal school year for students.

The state Public Education Department has proposed a hybrid schedule with students in class for part of the week and learning from home for the rest. Carlsbad officials have said implementing a hybrid instruction model would create challenges for the district’s two high schools, sixth-grade academy and intermediary schools, and 10 elementary schools.

There have been fewer than 80 cases in Eddy County. Overall, New Mexico has reported over 12,000 cases since the outbreak began. On Tuesday it reported four additional deaths as well bringing the total to 497.

New Mexico Tribe Transforms Old Casino Into Movie Studio - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A northern New Mexico Native American tribe is opening a movie studio it hopes will attract big productions.

Tesuque Pueblo recently converted its former casino near Santa Fe into a movie studio campus with more than 25,000 square feet of film shooting space. The tribe also dedicated more than 27 square miles on its land for outdoor movie scenes.

Cheyenne and Arapaho filmmaker Chris Eyre is advising the studio and says the campus has many existing sets. The tribe's land features stunning desert in the red-brown foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Netflix and NBCUniversal have invested in New Mexico studios in recent years.

The tribe with about 800 members decided to open the studio after scenes from the Universal Pictures western movie "News of the World" starring Tom Hanks were filmed last year in the Camel Rock Casino, which closed in 2018.

Tribal officials plan to create internships and movie training programs for Tesuque Pueblo members and hope that the studio will foster a new storytelling movement, Eyer said.