Category Archives: News

Lawsuit over business closures heads to New Mexico Supreme Court

The New Mexico Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Aug. 4 on whether the state can fine businesses that violate emergency public health orders spurred by the coronavirus pandemic.
A number of businesses sued Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and two Cabinet secretaries in May, when many stores were still closed because of the state’s public health restrictions. Nonessential businesses that stayed open faced a fine of up to $5,000 a day.
In their lawsuit, filed in the 9th Judicial District in Curry County, business owners claim the state wasn’t justified in threatening to fine them under New Mexico’s Public Health Emergency Response Act.
The state argues “that public health measures are a traditional exercise of the State’s inherent police power” and that the Public Health Emergency Response Act “must be liberally construed to ensure that state agencies have the necessary tools to accomplish the statute’s goal of protecting public health.”
The New Mexico Republican Party helped organize the lawsuit, claiming the state’s actions have devastated the economy and hurt locally owned businesses.
Businesses involved in the lawsuit include K-Bob’s Steakhouse in Clovis; Frontier Auto Inc. and Body & Sol Fitness in Lovington; Monroe’s Restaurants in Albuquerque; Kemp’s Investments and Colfax Tavern & Diner in Colfax County; and J. Jones Massage in Hobbs. Full credits Associated Press

New Mexico restaurant vandalized with racial slurs; police investigating as a hate crime

A hate crime investigation is underway after vandals defaced the walls of a Santa Fe, New Mexico, restaurant with white supremacist messages and racial slurs, local authorities reported.
The vandals also ransacked some of the restaurant’s furniture.
India Palace restaurant owner Baljit Singh found his eatery defaced with phrases like “White Power,” “Trump 2020” and “F— BLM” on Monday afternoon, according to the Santa Fe Police Department.
Greg Gurule, a public information officer for SFPD, confirmed to USA TODAY that the attack is classified as a hate crime and that the agency has been in contact with the local FBI Office.
“The case is still active and under investigation,” Gurule said in a statement.
Singh said he and his employees were last at the restaurant on Saturday. The restaurant had been closed on Sunday.
Singh and his son, Baljot, estimated the cost of the damages – which include broken tables, shattered dishware, a damaged kitchen and more – at $100,000, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
The Singh family has owned the restaurant since 2013. For the past few weeks, they used the eatery to prepare food and care packages for the homeless community amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
“This is our livelihood, you know,” Baljot told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “And seeing it torn down and vandalized, it hurt. It truly broke our heart.”
On Twitter, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said she was “absolutely heartbroken and disgusted by this racist attack.” She added, “We will not stand for such hatred in New Mexico.”

Tribal casinos opened in New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Multiple tribal casinos in New Mexico have reopened despite recommendations from Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to remain closed to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Isleta Casino & Resort in Albuquerque, Ohkay Hotel Casino in Ohkay Owingeh and Taos Mountain Casino in Taos all have reopened with coronavirus-related precautions.
Tribal casinos are controlled by sovereign nations, so the state cannot prohibit them from reopening.
The governor has allowed other businesses to begin reopening in limited capacities, but the number of cases continue to increase.
Positive tests surpassed the 10,000 mark Wednesday, and state health officials reported five additional deaths, bringing the total to 452. Full credits Associated Press

Amazon is coming to New Mexico

Amazon is coming to New Mexico, according to a release sent by Bernalillo County Tuesday citing a public infrastructure improvement project.
On the second to the last paragraph, the release refers to construction of a 465,000 square foot, multi-level Amazon fulfillment center, already under way.
According to the release, the facility is expected to open in late 2021.
The center is being built near Atrisco Vista and I-40, the release says.
Tuesday night, Amazon spokesperson Lisa Guinn confirmed the project. Guinn says the facility will create around 1,000 new, full-time jobs. Those jobs will pay at least $15 per hour, and include benefits starting on the first day of employment.

Governor reminds New Mexicans to wear masks while in public

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.-Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham discussed her new public health order, which takes effect May 16.
The order requires every New Mexican to wear a mask or face covering while out in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
People who do not have a mask can request one from the state.
Gov. Lujan Grisham made changes to what she announced on Wednesday. She initially said places of worship could open up to 10% capacity. But the change says places of worship can open to 25% capacity.
Also, all retailers can reopen with up to 25% capacity. Previously, some retailers were only allowed to have 20% capacity.
The changes do not apply to San Juan County, Cibola County or McKinley County.


Vulnerable Populations
The governor also reminded vulnerable populations to stay home. She said vulnerable populations include:
People 65 years and older
People with underlying medical conditions
People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility

COVID-19 Cases in NM are up to: 2,073

New Mexico health officials today announced 105 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 2,073. The state also reported the deaths of seven people related to the disease. Five lived in congregate living facilities already identified by the state as having positive COVID-19 cases. Four of them were in La Vida Llena facility in Albuquerque. There have now been a total of 65 deaths.
McKinley County again accounted for the highest number of new cases: 45, followed by 21 in San Juan County and 20 in Bernalillo County.
As of today, over 119 people have been hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19; to date, there have been 291 hospitalizations. The health department has designated 529 COVID-19 cases as recovered.
According to the health department’s online data site, it has performed a total of 40,877 tests.

7 new deaths, 115 additional positive COVID-19 cases reported in New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE: The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) reported 7 additional COVID-19-related deaths in the state on Friday.
The latest deaths include:
A male in his 70s from Bernalillo County. The individual had underlying medical conditions and was a resident of the La Vida Llena facility in Albuquerque.
A female in her 80s from Bernalillo County. The individual was hospitalized and had underlying medical conditions.
A second female in her 80s from Bernalillo County. The individual had underlying medical conditions.
A female in her 90s from Bernalillo County. The individual had underlying medical conditions and was a resident of the La Vida Llena facility in Albuquerque.
A female in her 50s from Sandoval County.
A male in his 80s from San Juan County. The individual was hospitalized.
A male in his 40s from Socorro County. The individual was hospitalized and had underlying medical conditions.
The number of deaths of New Mexico residents related to COVID-19 is now 51.
In addition to the deaths, the state reported 115 positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 1,711.
The latest positive cases include:
24 new cases in Bernalillo County
2 new cases in Chaves County
2 new cases in Cibola County
1 new case in Colfax County
7 new cases in Doña Ana County
2 new cases in Eddy County
1 new case in Grant County
51 new cases in McKinley County
8 new cases in Sandoval County
14 new cases in San Juan County
1 new case in Santa Fe County
2 new cases in Valencia County
To see the number of positive cases in each county, click here.
The Health Department said that 96 people are hospitalized, and 382 people have recovered from COVID-19.
New Mexicans who report symptoms of COVID-19 infection, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should call their health care provider or the NMDOH COVID-19 hotline immediately (1-855-600-3453). Full credits KOB 4

Extended stay-at-home order places new restrictions on stores

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s new order extends the stay at home order until the end of April and also restricts how many people can be in grocery and big box stores.
Places like grocery stores and home improvement retailers are now required to limit the number of customers inside to 20% of the building’s maximum capacity. KRQE News 13 went to a couple of grocery stores in the Albuquerque area around 9 a.m. on Tuesday and didn’t see any long lines.
For example, if the store’s maximum capacity is 400 people, that means only 80 people are allowed inside including employees. Customers must keep a distance of at least six feet from each other including when they’re waiting outside.
Shoppers KRQE News 13 spoke with say they agree with the governor’s revised order but are concerned people won’t abide by the social distancing practices that are recommended.
“They’re taking these precautionary measures inside the stores but it’s still like the outside the stores. There’s nothing really being taken because like you said, people are just going to be standing close to each other, they don’t really care,” said Alyssa Acevedo.
Hotels and motels can only operate at 25% capacity which is down from the previous 50%. Other types of businesses have been reclassified as non-essential such as liquor stores.
The governor’s order is now extended through at least April 30. If a business does break the governor’s new order, they could receive a $100 fine and could also have their business license revoked. Full credits KRQE Channel 4

Coronavirus: New Mexico now has 136 cases

NEW MEXICO: The number of positive cases for the novel coronavirus in New Mexico jumped by 24, state health officials said Thursday afternoon, bringing the total number of cases up to 136 statewide.
The state still has only one known death from COVID-19, according to the news release from the New Mexico Department of Health.
An Eddy County man in his late 70s was admitted to Artesia General Hospital on Sunday. The hospital said the man died Monday. His positive COVID-19 test came Tuesday.
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The new case numbers add three positive cases to Doña Ana County, bringing the county’s number of positive cases to 16.
The DOH reported there were 13 people hospitalized in New Mexico on Thursday for coronavirus complications, up from nine a day earlier. It noted the number may include patients who tested positive out of state but were transferred to a New Mexico hospital. The 136 only includes people tested in New Mexico.
NMDOH spokesperson David Morgan said some people who were the earliest to test positive for coronavirus in New Mexico now show no symptoms. He said NMDOH aims to provide more information on recoveries. Full credits Las Cruces Sun News

As coronavirus cases rise, New Mexico’s ICU beds are largely full

by Bryant Furlow, New Mexico In Depth, New Mexico In Depth
March 13, 2020

Two days after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a statewide emergency to marshal public health resources against a global pandemic, and as President Trump announced a national emergency Friday, it was unclear how prepared New Mexico hospitals would be for a surge of seriously-ill patients.

A spike in caseloads would require sufficient intensive care unit (ICU) beds, negative-pressure isolation rooms, mechanical ventilators to help patients breathe, and personal protection equipment like masks, gowns and gloves. Officials at UNM and Presbyterian hospitals report having enough masks, gowns and gloves on hand. But unknown is how many ICU beds and ventilators might be needed for a surge of COVID-19 patients. 

In Italy, both ICU beds and medical ventilators have been in short supply as COVID-19 patients overwhelmed hospitals.  

Currently, the great majority of New Mexico’s ICU beds are occupied. Just 54 of 344 state-licensed ICU beds are vacant.

But that number changes day to day, said David Morgan, a spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH). In the event of a surge, the state could convert some of the additional 3,000 hospital beds in the state to care for infected patients, said Jodi McGinnis Porter, spokesperson for the state’s Human Services Department. And the 344 figure does not include ICU beds at the state’s five federally administered Indian Health Service hospitals or the Veteran Affairs hospital in Albuquerque, which the state does not license or regulate.

Ventilators help patients who are in acute respiratory distress to breathe. But one unknown in New Mexico is how many mechanical ventilators hospitals have. 

“The number of ventilators in the state is a challenging number to capture,” Morgan said. “Acute care hospitals, long-term care and skilled nursing facilities, EMS, and other provider types all have ventilators. If the need in the state exceeds our capabilities, there are additional resources available to us if needed, including the Federal Strategic National Stockpile.”

On Friday morning, state officials reported 10 cases of COVID-19 in New Mexico. Two of those patients were hospitalized. One in an undisclosed ICU, according to DOH Medical Epidemiologist Chad Smelser, MD. 

The DOH activated its emergency operations center to prepare for COVID-19 cases, as had several Albuquerque-area hospitals, including UNM Hospital, the US Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Lovelace Westside Hospital, and Sandoval Regional Medical Center.

“We have sufficient personal protective equipment and N-95 masks for employees and are following CDC and New Mexico Department of Health guidelines,” UNM Hospital spokesman Mark Rudi told New Mexico In Depth. Rudi did not volunteer details of the hospital’s pandemic influenza response plan or answer how many patients have been tested.

Some other hospitals in New Mexico and El Paso, Texas were reporting limited ICU bed and emergency department space on Friday morning, due to seasonal illnesses unrelated to COVID-19.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend that patients arriving at hospitals with respiratory symptoms wear masks and that those with risk factors like recent travel to Italy or China or exposure to people recently returning from those places, be placed in isolation rooms, noted Jeff Salvon-Harman, MD, chief patient safety officer and medical director of infection control for Presbyterian Healthcare Services. 

It is unclear how many New Mexico hospitals could comply if a sudden influx of cases occurs.

Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque is following the CDC guidelines, according to Dr. Salvon-Harman.

Like Presbyterian, the San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, which has 14 licensed ICU beds, plans to place suspected COVID-19 patients in negative-pressure isolation rooms, spokeswoman Laura Werbner said in an email. But she did not immediately respond to a question asking how many of those rooms were available. 

Thanks to seasonal flu and other respiratory infections, ICU beds are frequently in limited supply this time of year, even without a pandemic. Some New Mexico communities, like Santa Rosa, have no hospital ICU beds at all. The DOH and hospitals are coordinating overflow and plans for transferring patients to hospitals with available ICU beds. 

“This virus will not be isolated to only one region of the state,” noted Guadalupe County Hospital administrator Christina Campos, in Santa Rosa. “But if we contain or mitigate it through preventative efforts, perhaps we can slow the progress and ensure that the demand for intensive care doesn’t outweigh the resources at any given time.”

Guadalupe County Hospital has three ventilator machines and three isolation rooms, including one in the ER, Campos said.

By closing schools around the state, banning large public gatherings, and calling on  sick individuals to self-isolate, state officials hope to slow the spread of COVID-19 and “flatten the curve” – to reduce spikes in new cases that could overwhelm local hospitals.

COVID-19 symptoms include fever, dry cough and difficulty breathing. New Mexico residents can call the DOH Coronavirus hotline (855-600-3453) to be assessed by a nurse. A call to that number at 1 p.m. on Friday prompted a message that all nurses were busy with other calls at that time and a call-back option.

Patients should call local healthcare facilities before arriving for COVID-19 testing, Dr. Salvon-Harman added.

This article first appeared on New Mexico In Depth and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.