WED: Retail Restrictions Will Ease But Everyone Must Wear Masks In Public + More

May 13, 2020

Retail Restrictions Will Ease In NM, But Everyone Must Wear Masks In PublicAlbuquerque Journal and KUNM News

New Mexico’s public health restrictions will relax starting Saturday with more businesses able to open, but with a new mandate that everyone wears a face mask in public places.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said Wednesday that all New Mexico retail stores may open Saturday at 25% of their maximum capacity, with exceptions for big box stores that must maintain a 20% cap and an even lower 10% capacity for churches and other houses of worship.

The Governor said dining in at restaurants, going to the gym or the movies, and getting a haircut will have to wait as those businesses will not open yet.

Lujan Grisham also announced a new mandate that people wear masks over their faces when in public places with very few exceptions, like while exercising. The requirement includes children.

New Mexico’s testing capacity has grown and infection rates are dropping, however 12 more New Mexicans died today from COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 231. There were 155 new positive cases in the state bringing the total to 5,364.

New Mexico Forester Issues Restrictions Due To Fire DangerAssociated Press

New Mexico's state forester is imposing immediate restrictions on fireworks, campfires, smoking and open fires on all non-municipal, non-federal and non-tribal lands statewide because of the escalating fire danger.

The Forestry Division of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department announced Wednesday, saying took effect immediately and is necessary to protect communities.

A statement issued by the division cited warmer temperatures, lower humidity, high winds and an abundance of dry vegetation.

The fire danger is amplified by the strain put on firefighting resources by the coronavirus pandemic, the division said.

Smoking is prohibited on the lands covered by the order unless within an enclosed building, within vehicles with ashtrays and in certain other conditions, the division said.

Campfires are prohibited except with the use of gas and kerosene fuel in a cleared area in an improved camping area, the division said.

Navajo Nation Reports 41 New Coronavirus Cases, 1 More DeathAssociated Press

The Navajo Nation’s health department is reporting 41 new cases of coronavirus and one more death on the vast reservation.

Tribal officials said there have been 3,245 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday night with 103 known deaths.

Most of the positive cases are in New Mexico’s McKinley County (867) and Arizona’s Apache County (846).

Tribal health officials said many of the people who tested positive for coronavirus have recovered or are in the process of recovering.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

The Navajo Nation has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, with the tribe implementing curfews to try to stop the spread of the disease among residents of its far-flung communities.

The reservation extends into parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Panel To Consider Petition Seeking Pecos River ProtectionsAssociated Press

More than 200 miles of the Pecos River, its tributaries and other parts of the upper reaches of the northern New Mexico watershed would be protected from future degradation under a petition being considered by state regulators.

Farmers, environmentalists and local officials are petitioning the state Water Quality Control Commission for an “outstanding national waters” designation. The commission agreed Tuesday to consider the petition and set a hearing for November.

The move comes as residents have come out against a mining company's proposal to conduct exploratory drilling.

Those behind the petition say the Pecos watershed supports agriculture as well as an economy that draws millions of dollars each year from hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

They also point to the cultural significance of the area, saying that since the mid-16th century people there have depended on the Pecos River to feed traditional irrigation systems called acequias to grow crops and raise livestock. Many of the canals are still used today.

Coronavirus Surges With Emergency Order Close To Expiration - Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is weighing whether to extend major provisions of an emergency health order that limits nonessential business activity and bans gatherings of more than five people. 

The governor scheduled a live-stream news conference on Wednesday to discuss statewide efforts to rein in the spread of the coronavirus and protect vulnerable residents. 

New Mexico's current emergency health order expires on Friday, as infections continue to surge in the northwest of the state. 

Across New Mexico, more than 5,200 people have tested positive for COVID-19 amid 219 related deaths.

Navajo Nation extends emergency declaration until June 7 - Associated Press

The Navajo Nation has extended an executive order declaring a state of emergency and government closures to June 7 in an attempt to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. 

A stay-at-home order for residents on the vast reservation also remains in place. 

Tribal President Jonathan Nez announced the third extension of the executive order during an online town hall Tuesday. 

The current emergency declaration that closes government offices and non-essential programs was set to expire May 17. 

The tribe first implemented its order declaring a state of emergency and closing some government operations on March 13.  

It was extended March 31 and then a second time on April 21. 

The Navajo Nation covers part of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

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.

1 Drops Out Of Race Against Powerful New Mexico Senator - Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

One of the two Democrats seeking to unseat New Mexico Senate President Pro Tempore Mary Kay Papen in the upcoming primary has dropped out. 

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports state Senate primary candidate Tracy Perry announced Monday she would suspend her campaign citing health reasons. 

Perry says surgery and recovery after suffering a broken back in October made it hard to continue. 

The newspaper reported that Perry was endorsing Papen's other Democratic challenger, Carrie Hamblen. 

The 88-year-old Papen of Las Cruces is one of many conservative Democrats more liberal Democrats are seeking to unseat in the upcoming June 2 primary.

In 2019, Papen voted to defeat a repeal of New Mexico's currently unenforceable abortion ban. Liberal Democrats have blamed Papen for blocking other progressive proposals around early childhood education.

New Mexico Judicial Experts Weigh Pretrial Recommendations - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

A committee appointed by the New Mexico Supreme Court has hashed out recommendations for amending some of the rules related to keeping defendants locked up pending trial. 

The committee gathered Tuesday for a virtual meeting that lasted several hours. 

Members voted on numerous proposals that deal with the procedural aspects of New Mexico's pretrial detention system, from the timing of certain motions to how evidence is presented and which courts should retain jurisdiction. 

Prosecutors, judges and public defenders have all voiced concerns with different aspects of the system. 

The committee plans to submit its report to the Supreme Court on Friday.

Construction Starts In New Mexico On 35K Acres For Wind Farm - Associated Press

Construction has started on 35,000 acres of state trust land for the La Joya Wind Farm in New Mexico's Torrance County. 

The project about 10 miles west of the Village of Encino includes a mix of private and state trust land. 

Avangrid Renewables was awarded the state land by New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard through an open bid process last September. 

When completed, the project will consist of 111 turbines and have a total generating capacity of 306 megawatts. 

The portion sited on state trust land will include 74 new wind turbines capable of generating a total of 207 megawatts. 

The project is expected to be in operation by the end of this year.


Judge: US Not Unreasonably Delaying Virus Relief For Tribes - By Felicia Fonseca The Associated Press

A federal judge says the U.S. Treasury Department is not unreasonably delaying the release of coronavirus relief funding to Native American tribes. 

The department is tasked with disbursing $8 billion to tribes that was included in a relief package approved in late March. 

Payments didn't start going out until more than a week after the April 26 deadline set by Congress. 

Despite that, the federal judge rejected an assertion that the Treasury secretary was "twiddling his thumbs." 

The judge's ruling comes in a case tribal nations filed against the federal government to force the release of the entire $8 billion.

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.

Reward Offered In Shooting Death Of Las Cruces Businessman - KVIA-TV, Associated Press

Police are offering a $2,000 reward as investigators search for suspects in connection with the fatal shooting of a businessman in Las Cruces. 

KVIA-TV reports the reward offer comes days after police found 79-year-old Oscar Amezquita on Saturday following reports of gunshots. 

Amezquita, a longtime resident of the community and owner of the Landis Boot and Shoe Service, suffered at least one bullet wound and died shortly after officers found him. 

No arrests have been made.

Body Of Missing Woman Found In SUV In New Mexico Reservoir Associated 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.