State reports 1,174 new cases of COVID-19, 40 deaths

The New Mexico Department of Health reported 1,174 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and 40 related deaths. The state has identified a total of 133,242 cases and 2,243 related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in March. 

Bernalillo County had the most new cases with 337. Only two other counties reported more than 100 new cases: Doña Ana County (133) and San Juan County (102). 

The state also identified 10 new cases of COVID-19 among inmates held by the New Mexico Corrections Department at various facilities across the state and one death among inmates at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Valencia County. 

DOH provided some information on each of the 40 newly reported deaths:

A female in her 40s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized.A female in her 50s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 60s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized, had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Ladera Center facility in Albuquerque.A male in his 60s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A second male in his 60s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A third male in his 60s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 70s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A second female in her 70s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized, had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Rio at Las Estancias facility in Albuquerque.A male in his 70s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A second male in his 70s from Bernalillo County who had underlying conditions.A female in her 80s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A second female in her 80s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized, had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Woodmark at Uptown facility in Albuquerque.A male in his 80s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 90s from Bernalillo County who was a resident of the Elite Senior Care Kathryn House facility in Albuquerque.A second female in her 90s from Bernalillo County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Care Free Assisted Living facility in Albuquerque.A third female in her 90s from Bernalillo County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Lotus Care Homes facility in Albuquerque.A female in her 70s from Cibola County who was hospitalized, had underlying conditions and was a patient at the Ladera Center facility in Albuquerque.A female in her 80s from Colfax County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 80s from Colfax County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 90s from Colfax County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 70s from Curry County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 50s from Doña Ana County who was hospitalized.A female in her 50s from Grant County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 60s from Guadalupe County who was hospitalized.A male in his 50s from Lea County.A male in his 80s from Lea County who was hospitalized.A second male in his 80s from Lea County who had underlying conditions.A male in his 70s from Rio Arriba County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 80s from Rio Arriba County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 40s from Sandoval County.A male in his 40s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 50s from San Juan County who had underlying conditions.A male in his 30s from Santa Fe County who had underlying conditions.A female in her 90s from Santa Fe County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A second female in her 90s from Santa Fe County who was hospitalized, had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Vista Hermosa facility in Santa Fe.A female in her 50s from Taos County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A second female in her 50s from Taos County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 60s from Valencia County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 80s from Valencia County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 60s. The individual was hospitalized and was a New Mexico Corrections Department inmate at the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Valencia County. DOH does not disclose which underlying condition any of the deceased had, only if one was present before death.

State environmental regulators face thinner budgets amid pandemic and oil slump

New Mexico’s environmental and oil and gas regulators are facing budget cuts for the next fiscal year, as nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic and a significant downturn in the oil market has depleted the state’s budget. 

The budget reductions come after years of attrition in regulatory budgets under the Susana Martinez administration. The New Mexico Environment Department’s budget was cut by 32 percent between fiscal years (FY) 2012 and 2019, which was the last fiscal year budget passed by the legislature in 2018 before Martinez left office, according to a report released by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. The Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) saw its budget drop roughly 24 percent under the Martinez administration between fiscal years 2012 and 2019. 

In Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s first budget proposal for FY2020, NMED’s general fund increased 6 percent compared to FY2019, while EMNRD saw a 9 percent increase in fiscal year 2020 over 2019. The departments saw similar increases in the FY2021 budget. But some of that progress will be reversed as the state grapples with the fiscal ramifications of a nearly year-long public health emergency and an oil boom bust. 

NMED to cut back on some services

NMED submitted a $89.2 million budget request for fiscal year 2022.

State reports single-day record number of deaths, 1,702 new cases of COVID-19

New Mexico Department of Health reported 48 deaths related to COVID-19 Thursday, the highest number of deaths reported in a single day for the state since the pandemic began in March. New Mexico has now lost 2,097 individuals to the virus. 

New Mexico reached the grim milestone of 1,000 deaths related to the disease 246 days into the pandemic, but the state reached 2,000 deaths just 48 days later, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a press conference on Thursday. 

DOH provided some information on each of the 43 newly reported deaths:

A female in her 40s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 50s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 70s from Bernalillo County who was a resident of the Camino Healthcare facility in AlbuquerqueA female in her 80s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A second female in her 40s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 90s from Bernalillo County who was a resident of the Life Spire Assisted Living Albuquerque facility.A second female in her 90s from Bernalillo County who was a resident of the Good Samaritan Society – Manzano del Sol Village in Albuquerque.A male in his 50s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A second male in his 50s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 60s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized.A second male in his 60s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A third male in his 60s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions. He was a resident of Advanced Health Care in Albuquerque.A male in his 70s from Bernalillo County who was a resident of Skies Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Albuquerque.A male in his 80s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 40s from Chaves County who was hospitalized.A female in her 70s from Chaves County who was a resident of Sunset Villa Care Center in Roswell.A female in her 70s from Doña Ana County who was a resident of The Arbors of Del Rey in Las Cruces facility.A female in her 80s from Doña Ana County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Casa de Oro Center in Las Cruces.A female in her 90s from Doña Ana County who was a resident of the Casa de Oro Center in Las Cruces.A male in his 40s from Doña Ana County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 60s from Doña Ana County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 80s from Doña Ana County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 70s from Eddy County who was a resident of the White Sands Healthcare in Hobbs facility.A female in her 70s from Hidalgo County who was hospitalized.A female in her 50s from Lea County who was a resident of the White Sands Healthcare in Hobbs facility.A male in his 60s from Lea County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 50s from Luna County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 50s from McKinley County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 70s from Otero County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A female in her 80s from Rio Arriba County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A second female in her 80s from Rio Arriba County who was hospitalized.A male in his 50s from Sandoval County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 60s from Sandoval County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 80s from San Juan County who was hospitalized.A male in his 90s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and a resident of Aztec Healthcare in Aztec.A female in her 90s from San Miguel County.A female in her 70s from Santa Fe County who was hospitalized.A male in his 50s from Santa Fe County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.A male in his 70s from Santa Fe County who was hospitalized.A male in his 90s from Santa Fe County who had underlying conditions.A female in her 70s from Sierra County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of the New Mexico State Veterans Home in Truth or Consequences.A female in her 70s from Sierra County who was a resident of the New Mexico State Veterans Home in Truth or Consequences.A male in her 70s from Sierra County who was a resident of the New Mexico State Veterans Home in Truth or Consequences.A male in his 80s from Sierra County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of the New Mexico State Veterans Home in Truth or Consequences.A male in his 90s from Sierra County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of the New Mexico State Veterans Home in Truth or Consequences.A male in his 80s from Socorro County who was hospitalized.A female in her 80s from Taos County who was hospitalized.A female in her 90s from Taos County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Taos Living Center. DOH does not disclose which underlying condition any of the deceased had, only if one was present before death. The most common underlying condition for those who died with COVID-19 was hypertension, followed by diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to the most recently available mortality update.

Land owners tout conservation but oppose ‘Wild and Scenic’ designation for Gila

Howard Hutchinson bought his first parcel of land in southwestern New Mexico near the Gila Wilderness in the 1970s. 

“I hitchhiked into here in 1973. And I said, ‘Wow, paradise. This is awesome. This is where I want to live to raise my family,’” Hutchinson told NM Political Report. 

At the time, Hutchinson said he was a “radical environmentalist,” and an early member of the controversial environmental group Earth First. 

But Hutchinson said his views on environmentalism have evolved since then. 

“As I aged, and became closer with a lot of the longtime residents here, I began to realize that there was a land use ethic that they had developed quite naturally,” he said. “You don’t develop that land use ethic, and you don’t survive in the arid Southwest.

Supreme Court rules in favor of NM in water evaporation case

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday morning in favor of New Mexico in a water dispute case with Texas involving the Pecos River Compact. The court denied a motion to review the Pecos River Master’s decision regarding evaporative losses that occurred while New Mexico was storing water upstream for Texas. 

After a tropical storm hit the area in September 2014, the state of Texas asked New Mexico to store water it would normally deliver to Texas under the compact in the Brantley Reservoir while Texas grappled with flooding issues related to the storm. Texas finally asked for the water to be released in August 2015, but by then, roughly 20,000 acre-feet of water had evaporated. Under the compact’s River Master’s Manual, New Mexico is not responsible for making up evaporative water losses when the state is holding water at the request of Texas. In 2017, the river master determined that New Mexico’s delivery obligation would be reduced by 16,000 acre feet as a result of the evaporation. 

But Texas petitioned the Supreme Court to review the decision. 

In a 7-1 ruling, the court determined that New Mexico was entitled to a delivery “credit” for the evaporated water, with Judge Samuel Alito dissenting in part.  

Udall in farewell to the Senate: ‘The Senate is broken. And it’s not working for the American people’

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall gave his farewell speech from the Senate floor Tuesday, as he approaches the end of his 12 years in the U.S. Senate. Udall delivered a series of calls to action in his remarks and criticized the Senate for inaction on a wide range of issues, from COVID relief to police reform and climate action. 

“I’m not the first to say in a farewell address and I won’t be the last — but the Senate is broken. The Senate is broken. And it’s not working for the American people,” Udall said. 

Udall’s emphasis on collaboration and bipartisanship in drafting and passing legislation has come to define his career in the Senate. But Udall lamented the divisiveness he sees today in the Senate during his remarks. 

“The system we’re caught in makes it too hard to work together, to remember that we disagree in politics, but not in life,” he said.  

“We are becoming better and better political warriors.

Nearly 2,000 new cases of COVID-19, 32 deaths

New Mexico Department of Health officials reported Saturday 1,925 new cases of COVID-19 and 32 related deaths. 

Bernalillo County had the most new cases with 506. Seven other counties had more than 100 new cases of COVID-19. Those counties were Doña Ana County (183), San Juan County (166), Chaves County (142), Lea County (135), Santa Fe County (126), McKinley County (123) and Sandoval County (108). 

The state has now recorded 106,856 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness and 1,738 related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. DOH provided a few details about each of the new deaths. Nearly half of the new deaths were residents in Bernalillo County.

EPA announces ‘interim strategy’ for addressing PFAS in wastewater

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released what it’s calling an “interim strategy” for addressing PFAS chemical contamination in wastewater discharges regulated through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting process. While the vast majority of states in the U.S. have taken over NPDES permitting authority from EPA since the Clean Water Act was enacted in 1972, New Mexico is one of only three states that still rely on EPA to handle NPDES permitting. 

RELATED: Group says it will sue EPA over stormwater pollution in Los Alamos

The new PFAS guidance recommends EPA permit writers “consider including PFAS monitoring at facilities where these chemicals are expected to be present in wastewater discharges, including from municipal separate storm sewer systems and industrial stormwater permits.”

PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, refer to a family of at least 600 synthetic compounds that are widely used in commercial products ranging from fire-resistant carpeting to fast-food wrappers. 

Research has linked exposure to the chemicals to a long list of health concerns, including increased risks for certain types of cancers, increased cholesterol, pregnancy complications and other health impacts. A recent study conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health linked exposure to PFAS chemicals in infants to a decreased immune response to vaccinations at five years old. RELATED: Concerned leaders hopeful Biden administration will address PFAS contamination

The synthetic compounds have been dubbed “forever chemicals” because they are not easily broken down. And research over the past 20 years indicates these chemicals are ubiquitous, according to David Andrews, senior scientist at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group.

Political ‘retribution’: The DOI rejected 100% of New Mexico’s proposed LWCF projects

After cheering the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, which secured permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), New Mexico wildlife and conservation advocates were shocked to learn every single project proposed to the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) for LWCF funds was rejected. 

The LWCF, created by Congress in 1965 to support public land management using offshore oil and gas royalties, received $900 million annually under the Great American Outdoors Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in August. It marked just the second time since its creation that the program is fully funded. The Great American Outdoors Act, which environmental groups considered a historic public lands conservation package, passed the Senate with what some dubbed “rare” bipartisan support on a 73-25 vote. The bill was introduced earlier this year by Republican U.S. Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana—both of whom relied heavily on the Act’s passage in their respective reelection campaigns. New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich also supported the bill, as did U.S. Reps.

Governor discusses ‘red to green’ framework

In a press conference on Monday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase went over the new tiered “red to green” COVID-19 framework that the state will enter on Dec. 2, following the end of the two-week lockdown “reset.” 

“This, we believe, is a mechanism that will allow New Mexico to sort of move through the virus, protect New Mexicans [and] provide a little bit of more economic certainty for the entire state as a whole,” Lujan Grisham said during the remote press conference.