THURS: NM Units Precedence For Preliminary Vaccine Doses, + Extra

New Mexico Sets Priority For Initial Vaccine Doses – Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico’s lieutenant governor lobbied on Thursday for educators to be among the first people to get access to coronavirus vaccines, along with health care workers, as the first doses become available in coming months.

New Mexico’s initial batch of 17,500 vaccine doses from Pfizer is slated to go to hospitals for use with personnel who have had high or medium risk exposure to the virus.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office said a priority also is being placed on staff and residents at long-term care facilities.

Lieutenant Gov. Howie Morales, a former public school teacher from Silver City, said that it is imperative for schools to reopen for classroom teaching after almost nine months of mostly online instruction and that the vaccine is needed to pave the way.

States across the country are drafting plans for who will go to the front of the line when the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine become available later this month, as U.S. deaths from the outbreak eclipsed 3,100 in a single day.

New Mexico officials announced a record 40 virus-related daily deaths on Wednesday.

Medical Officials Serving Navajo Make Urgent Plea: Stay Home – Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press
Medical professionals serving the Navajo Nation made an urgent plea to residents Thursday to stay home as coronavirus cases rise.

The numbers are testing the limits of health care on the vast reservation that already is scrambling to find places to transport critically ill patients.

The tribe is seeing more cases daily now than it did in the spring when it was a national hotspot.

Navajo officials are responding by closing outpatient facilities and redeploying staff to hospitals. They’re expanding the number of beds but still face challenges in finding enough people to care for patients. Dentists, physical therapists and nursing assistants are being called on to fill in for nursing duties.

The difference now is that cases are rising in all the states that border the reservation, and the tribe no longer can draw on the resources it once did. Indian Health Service officials say the agency is at serious risk of running out of hospital beds, nurses and supplies.

New Mexico Governor To Lead Democratic Governors Group – Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has been selected as the new chair of the Democratic Governors Association for 2021.

The first-term governor had previously served as a vice chair and was among those seen as possible U.S. Cabinet candidates for the post of health and human services secretary in the Biden administration. During the course of the pandemic, her administration has imposed some of the toughest public health restrictions in the nation.

Lujan Grisham, a former congresswoman, said in a statement that she was honored to lead the group and planned to focus on more gubernatorial victories for the party.

The vote by the nation’s Democratic governors came Thursday during the group’s annual meeting.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper will serve as vice chair. Outgoing chair New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was picked to serve as the group’s finance chair.

Murphy said he was proud of the association’s work over the past year in helping to get Democrat incumbent governors reelected.

He also mentioned record fundraising levels that will benefit the association in coming years.

Ruling: Threat To Get Warrant Can Make Searches Involuntary – Associated Press

A New Mexico Supreme Court decision says a person’s consent allowing a search wasn’t voluntary if a law enforcement officer threatened to obtain a search warrant but lacked probable cause to get a judge to issue a warrant.

The decision Thursday in a man’s appeal in a drug case says that the trial judge should not have allowed marijuana and methamphetamine handed over during the search to be used as evidence because the search was coerced and involuntary.

The unanimous decision said consent is involuntary when a person believes refusal to consent would be futile.

Also, the decision states, “without probable cause, “a defendant’s “mere acquiescence to an assertion of lawful authority renders a subsequent search unlawful. “

The ruling sends the case back to state District Court for further proceedings.

New Mexico To Delay Winter High School Sports Until February – Associated Press

The New Mexico Activities Association’s board of directors has delayed the start of high school sports by four weeks until February as coronavirus cases continue to increase across the state.

Association Executive Director Sally Marquez said the board voted Wednesday that Feb. 1 is the latest the association would be able to get all sports played this academic year, condensing some sports from 10-week regular seasons to six or seven weeks.

The new schedule allows fall sports — including football, cross-country, volleyball and soccer — to begin preseason workouts on Feb. 1, with live events a few days later.

Winter sports — including basketball, swimming and wrestling — are now allowed to begin in late March and traditional spring sports will maintain their current start date of April 5.

The decision is dependent on Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who could approve or deny the start date for any activity.

New Mexico Lawmakers Consider Child Welfare Budgets – Cedar Attanasio, Associated Press

New Mexico’s child welfare agencies on Thursday will jockey with other state departments for slim funding as they present their spending requests to state lawmakers.

From emergency internet access and welfare checks to a strained child care system, children and parents have more needs because of the pandemic, while state revenues are down and agencies are being asked to trim their spending by around 5% for the next fiscal year that starts in July 2021.

Pandemic restrictions and low pay for workers continue to hamper the opening of child care centers in New Mexico, though most have remained open in some capacity. Meanwhile, employees of grocery stores, banks and other businesses continue working in person while trying to figure out how to care for their school-aged children.

The Early Childhood Education and Care Department oversees childcare and prekindergarten programs. It’s requesting $401 million, a slight decrease from last year.

Around a third of the budget is expected to come from federal funding.

New Mexico Surpasses 100K Infections, Reports 40 Deaths – By Susan Montoya Bryan And Morgan Lee Associated Press

New Mexico has marked another grim milestone with confirmed COVID-19 infections surpassing the 100,000 mark.

State health officials on Wednesday also reported a new record for the number of related deaths in a single day with 40.

The latest numbers come as some public health restrictions are eased following a two-week lockdown.

Like elsewhere, New Mexico has been dealing with a surge.

Data show about half of the state’s total cases have been reported in just the past month, and laboratories have been busy with increased demand for testing.

Health officials expect an uptick in the coming weeks as a result of gatherings over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham acknowledged the latest figures in a statement issued Wednesday. She said she was praying for the families that have been affected and for health care providers and first responders who have been on the front lines.

Lujan Grisham reiterated her pleas for New Mexicans to abide by the health restrictions, which include staying home as much as possible, wearing a mask and keeping distance from other people.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said during a telephone town hall Wednesday that it’s likely to take several months for Bernalillo County, which encompasses the city, to qualify for reopening under the state’s new color-coded criteria. He urged patience as preparations are made for emergency vaccination approval and distribution.

The city is reopening the municipal zoo and museums under an online reservation system and allowing brief library visits of up to 15 minutes.

Navajo Nation Reports 310 New COVID-19 Cases, 2 More Deaths – Associated Press

Navajo Nation health officials on Wednesday night reported 310 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths.

Tribal officials say the Navajo Nation now has had 17,035 total cases since the pandemic began with 658 known deaths.

Tribal health officials say 166,517 people have been tested and 9,517 have recovered.

Residents remain under a stay-at-home order, with an exception for essential workers and essential needs like food, medication and emergencies.

Essential businesses also have been ordered to limit their hours to between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily. A mask requirement has been in place for much of the year.

Affordable Senior Housing Planned For New Mexico Trust Land – Associated Press

State officials say a blighted parcel along historic Route 66 in Albuquerque will be the new home of an affordable housing project for seniors.

State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard has signed a lease for the state trust land that will allow a subsidiary of the Greater Albuquerque Housing Partnership to move forward with the project.

The four-story senior living space will consist of more than 90 low-rent units.

The housing partnership won an auction for the trust land earlier this year.

To help with the project, the partnership received low-income housing tax credits through the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority.

Officials say the Luminaria Senior Community will be a catalyst for redeveloping the area along Central Avenue. It will be the only senior living space within a half-mile of Albuquerque’s Manzano Mesa Multigenerational Center, one of two multigenerational centers in the city.

Officials said the lease could serve as a template for future affordable housing developments on state trust land throughout New Mexico.

Luminaria will provide on-site social services, walking paths and flexible fitness spaces.

Construction is expected to start next month.

Online System For Rent Disputes To Expand – Associated Press

New Mexico’s courts are expanding an online system for resolving financial disputes between landlords and tenants, starting Dec. 14.

District Court Judge Jane Levy helped develop the upgrade and said it allows people to receive text or email updates on dispute negotiations by smart phone, tablet or computer.

The state Supreme Court has suspended evictions for residents who prove that they are unable to pay rent during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Two Longtime Democratic New Mexico Senators Vacate Seats Early – Associated Press

A longtime New Mexico state senator has announced he is retiring from his position and will step down a month before his four-year term was scheduled to expire after losing his bid this year for reelection.

Democratic state Sen. John Arthur Smith, who had served eight terms and was chairman of the influential Senate Finance Committee, announced Tuesday he wanted to spend more time with his family and leave the legislative life behind.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said Smith’s colleague Democratic state Sen. Richard Martinez also submitted his resignation early this week.

Smith and Martinez were two of the five incumbent Senate Democrats who were defeated in the June primary election. Both participated in two special sessions and various legislative interim committee meetings after being defeated.

It’s unclear whether anyone will step into the two positions before the start of the next legislative session, scheduled to begin in mid-January. County commissioners in the district usually recommend replacements to the governor but Wirth was unsure if the same process would be used because of the limited remaining time frame.

Albuquerque Eyes Spike In Drag Racing During Pandemic – Associated Press

Officials in New Mexico’s largest city are planning to crack down on a surge in illegal street racing and other disruptive driving that has accompanied the coronavirus pandemic. They say they’ll seek regulations to help them.

Interim Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said Wednesday during a telephone town hall that the city is expanding late-night patrols in response to reckless driving including racing.

He said the city will also lobby state lawmakers for stiffer penalties.

He described illegal drag racing, loud mufflers and other tire-squealing maneuvers.

In the early months of the pandemic, several states reported an increase in citations from driving far over the speed limit. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller believes the speedway phenomenon extends to many communities nationwide.

2 Engines, 12 Cars On Freight Train Derail In New Mexico – Associated Press

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway says two engines and 12 empty cars that were part of a BNSF freight train derailed in the southern New Mexico community of Vado early Wednesday morning.

The railroad said in a statement that the cause of the derailment was under investigation and that the train’s engineer was taken to a hospital to be treated for minor injuries.

The derailment left one engine on its side and the other off the rails but upright.

The state Department of Transportation said parts of several highways were closed.

Additional information was not immediately available.

Officials Say Snow-Loving Bird Resilient To Climate Change – Associated Press

Government biologists say a bird that roosts in the snow high in the U.S. Rocky Mountains is expected to survive warming temperatures over the next several decades and therefore won’t be getting special protections.

The white-tailed ptarmigan is the smallest grouse in North America. It’s found only in alpine regions of Colorado and a sliver of Northern New Mexico.

The birds occurred historically in Wyoming but are believed to be gone from the state.

While their habitat is expected to deteriorate as climate change brings hotter conditions, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists determined enough suitable habitat will be left through 2050 for the species to survive.

After being petitioned by wildlife groups, the government in 2012 had determined climate change was a potential threat to the ptarmigan, because it could depress the bird’s population growth and increase its susceptibility to heat stress.

Wildlife advocates have criticized the wildlife service for limiting the time frame of some of its climate change projections under the Trump administration.

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