WED: UNM Announces Fall Semester Plan As Virus Cases Tie Previous Daily Record, + More

Jul 15, 2020

University Of New Mexico Announces Fall Semester PlanAssociated Press

The University of New Mexico has announced it's reopening plan for the fall semester with coursework offered both in-person and remotely starting in August.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that university officials announced the plan at a Board of Regents meeting Tuesday. The fall semester is set to begin Aug. 17.

Officials say thermometers will be included in welcome kits for students and any confirmed COVID-19 cases will be addressed with cleaning and contact tracing. Masks and social distancing measures will also be required.

Face-to-face instruction is expected to end before Thanksgiving break, and students will complete the remaining semester and take finals online. UNM also plans to hire contact tracers supervised by the Department of Health.

New Mexico Ties Previous Daily Record For Coronavirus InfectionsKUNM, Albuquerque Journal

State health officials announced 330 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, including 169 cases in the state’s most populous county, Bernalillo.

That number tied the record for the number of daily cases since the pandemic began. The Albuquerque Journal reported the state hit the 330 mark on July 7, but that was largely due to an outbreak at the Otero County prison.

That facility had just one new case Wednesday but has a total of 734 people who are infected.

There were also six additional deaths, including a male in his 30s in Sandoval County who had underlying conditions, bringing that total to 557. Doña Ana County had the second highest number of cases at 35, followed by Santa Fe County with 29.

New Mexico has now had a total of 15,841 COVID-19 cases.

New Mexico Inmates Riot Amid Demands For More Virus TestingAssociated Press

Officials say a riot at a northwestern New Mexico jail sparked by demands for more COVID-19 testing and warm meals left one inmate injured and damage to the jail.  

Authorities say the disturbance at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center in Farmington began Monday after 35 inmates barricaded themselves and started a fire. Officials say the inmates also were armed with shards of porcelain from broken toilets.

According to San Juan County authorities, inmates started demanding Sunday afternoon to speak to an administrator about their concerns for more hot meals and more coronavirus testing.

Investigators said inmates also wrapped books and magazines around their torsos as makeshift body armor and used a bunk as a battering ram before the riot was put down by multiple agencies called to the scene.

One injured inmate was taken to a nearby hospital, authorities said. His injuries are unknown.

Officials said there were 345 people in custody at the San Juan County jail on Monday, and 147 have tested positive for coronavirus. The positive detainees have been quarantined in five pods.

The jail is near the Navajo Nation, where the coronavirus has especially hit residents hard with more than 8,000 cases.

Auditor Seeks Probe Of Albuquerque Police Overtime 'Abuse'Associated Press

New Mexico's state auditor is seeking an investigation into what he calls potential criminal activity around overtime abuse within Albuquerque police.

State Auditor Brian Colón said Wednesday he is asking New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas to join him with a probe of the state's largest police department.

Colón also says he has designated the city of Albuquerque for a special audit to examine the allegations of overtime abuse and policy violations.

A spokesman for Albuquerque police did not immediately return an email.

Records show that some Albuquerque officers who collect overtime pay are among the highest-paid city employees. Critics have charged that these officers abuse the overtime system and take the hours from others.

The Albuquerque Police Department is under U.S. Justice Department ordered reforms to revamp itself after a string of police shootings.

New Mexico High School To Drop Spanish Conquistador Name Associated Press

A New Mexico high school named after a Spanish conquistador will be renamed following nationwide protests against racial injustice.

The Las Cruces School Board voted Tuesday to drop the name of Don Juan de Oñate y Salazar from a high school. Indigenous leaders convinced another New Mexico county to remove its statue of Oñate.

The name change followed school district surveys that showed strong opposition from the area's majority Mexican American community for renaming the school.

New Mexico Pueblo members have long seen Oñate has a brutal leader who forced Native Americans into slavery.

Some Hispanics who trace their lineage to the early Spanish settlers say removing the likenesses of Oñate and others amounts to erasing history — a complicated history both marred by atrocities against Indigenous people and marked by the arduous journeys that many families made for the promise of a new life or to escape persecution in Spain.

Spanish rule over the New Mexico territory lasted for about two centuries until the area briefly became part of the Republic of Mexico before it was taken over by the U.S.

Some scholars say the phenomenon of conquistador commemoration is linked to efforts that originated more than a century ago as Hispanics tried to convince white members of Congress that New Mexico should become a state.

During the 19th Century, white people moved into the territory and held racist views toward the region's Native American and Mexican American population, according to John Nieto-Phillips, author of "The Language of Blood: The Making of Spanish-American Identity in New Mexico, 1880s-1930s."

As a result, Nieto-Phillips said some Hispanics in the region took on a solely Spanish American identity over their mixed heritage to embrace whiteness amid the racist eugenics movement.

Atomic Anniversary Brings Us Nuclear Official To New Mexico - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The head of the National Nuclear Security Administration is visiting New Mexico this week as part of a tour of the nation's nuclear security operations. The visit coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Trinity Test, which marked the world's first atomic explosion in 1945.

Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty is scheduled to lead a commemoration Thursday at the historic V-Site at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where early testing and some assembly of the atomic bomb took place.

Gordon-Hagerty has been spearheading the federal government's recent efforts to ramp up production of the plutonium triggers for the nation's aging nuclear stockpile.

Los Alamos is facing of a 2026 deadline to begin producing at least 30 of the plutonium cores a year — a mission that has the support of the most senior Democratic members of New Mexico's congressional delegation as the work is expected to bring jobs and billions of federal dollars to update buildings or construct new factories.

The effort has drawn much criticism from watchdog groups that long have been concerned about the lab's safety record, missed deadlines, repeated cost overruns and the pace of cleaning up contamination resulting from decades of bomb making and nuclear research.

Disney Parks executive to take CEO role at Virgin GalacticAssociated Press

Disney Parks International President Michael Colglazier has been appointed chief executive officer of Virgin Galactic as the space tourism company prepares for commercial service.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson said Wednesday that Colglazier's career at one of the world's leading customer experience brands is a natural fit.

Current CEO George Whitesides will become chief space officer and focus on future business opportunities, including point-to-point hypersonic travel and orbital space travel.

Virgin Galactic is currently in a flight test program aimed at launching paying customers on suborbital flights into the lower reaches of space over New Mexico.

Torres Small Campaign Hires Former Gun Control Director Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A new campaign manager for Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small is facing attacks from Republicans for once working for a gun control group.

The Las Cruces Democrat recently announced that she hired Emma Caccamo to win reelection in what is expected to be a close race in southern New Mexico’s swing district.

Before working for a different U.S. Representative hopeful in Northern New Mexico, Caccamo served as deputy political director for Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonpartisan advocacy group that pushes for gun control and against gun violence.

Michael Horanburg, campaign manager for Torres Small’s Republican challenger Yvette Herrell, said the hire reeked of hypocrisy from the Democratic congresswoman who shot a rifle in 2018 campaign television ads and often reminded voters in the rural region she was a hunter.

Torres Small defeated Herrell by less than 4,000 votes in 2018 to give the seat to Democrats for the first time in years.

New Mexico And Three Other States Added To NY, NJ, CT Virus Quarantine List Marina Villeneuve, Associated Press

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has added New Mexico and three other states to New York’s quarantine list as he seeks to contain the spread of COVID-19 from regions of the country where infection rates are growing.

The addition of New Mexico, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin to the list on Tuesday means that travelers from 22 states will be required to quarantine for 14 days upon entering New York.

The list of states that meet New York’s travel advisory’s metrics has continued to grow each week as COVID-19 continues to spike nationwide. Cuomo has warned that New York’s dropping number of infections could be reversed.

Cuomo announced Monday that out-of-state travelers arriving in New York airports from the list of states face a $2,000 fine and a mandatory quarantine order for failing to fill out personal information on a tracing form that New York will use to help make sure individuals are quarantine.

Democrat Ben Ray Luján Unveils 1st US Senate TV Campaign Ad Associated Press

Democrat Ben Ray Luján has released his first television campaign ad in his bid for the U.S. Senate.

The “Voices” ad scheduled to begin airing Tuesday highlights Luján’s role as an “11th generation New Mexican” and his desire to represent rural values.

Lujan says he hears the voices of his family and generations of New Mexicans who preceded us as people in the background throw hay onto a truck. He says he has worked to keep healthcare affordable and to protect rural communities and water.

The U.S. congressman doesn’t mention his GOP opponent Mark Ronchetti nor President Donald Trump. Luján says his campaign will try to reach the state’s 33 counties through a virtual road trip.

The Santa Fe Democrat and former television weatherman Ronchetti are seeking to replace U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, who is retiring.

 Navajo Nation Reports 47 More Virus Cases, No New DeathsAssociated Press

The Navajo Nation reported 47 new cases of the coronavirus Tuesday and no additional deaths. The latest positive cases of COVID-19 on the sprawling reservation bring the total number to 8,290. The death toll remains at 401 people.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said that while data is improving, residents need to be mindful that many towns and cities near the reservation have seen significant increases in new COVID-19 cases.

Nez says he's cautiously optimistic the recent July 4th weekend will not result in a spike of cases.

Nez said residents need to continue wearing masks, practicing social distancing and abiding by a state-at-home order. A daily curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. is in effect on weekdays.