State issues public health order in response to a surge of pediatric respiratory cases

The state issued an emergency public health order Thursday in response to a surge of pediatric cases and hospitalizations of respiratory viruses. The New Mexico Department of Health issued the public health emergency order Thursday, urging parents to visit hospital emergency rooms with sick children only if the child shows signs of severe illness, such as significant trouble breathing. New Mexico and a few other states are experiencing some of the highest rates of influenza in the U.S., according to the NMDOH. The DOH said in a news release that the order is necessary as hospitals and emergency rooms are operating above their licensed capacity due to the surge in respiratory viruses. The surge is causing an unsustainable strain on health care providers, according to the release.

Report outlines hospital pricing issues for uninsured

A new report found that some New Mexico hospitals charge uninsured patients more than insurance companies and government health plans for the same services. Prepared by the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty, the Hospital Pricing for Uninsured Patients in New Mexico follows one produced earlier this year. This updated report includes newer data. The New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty provided the report to the Interim Legislative Health and Human Services Committee this week. The study examined hospital prices for 17 services across 43 New Mexico hospitals.

U.S. Senate passes bill to protect same sex and interracial marriage

With a vote of 61 to 36, the U.S. Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act five months after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Since the court overturned the 1973 landmark decision, LGBTQ advocates have expressed concern that the court would use similar logic to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges. The court’s majority made the argument when overturning Roe in its Dobbs decision that the 14th amendment does not explicitly include a right to bodily autonomy. But since 1965, the court has ruled in various decisions that the amendment can be interpreted that it does. Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion to the Dobbs decision, said the court should revisit prior court opinions that rest on the 14th amendment, including Obergefell v. Hodges.

Animal shelters continue to be in a crisis in 2022

Albuquerque Animal shelter anticipates 21,500 pets will have come through their two city-run shelters in 2022 by the end of the year. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Albuquerque shelters saw 17,000 to 18,000 pets arrive annually. Animal shelters across the country continue to be in a state of crisis. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people than usual visited their local shelters in both New Mexico and nationwide. People adopted pets in response to stay-in-place orders, remote working and schooling and, some have said, out of a sense of compassion for the animals when the world seemed upside down.

State launches early childcare education tool for families

The state launched a new tool to help families find childcare last week. The New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department launched the online tool to assist parents looking for child care options, according to a news release. The Child Care Finder website takes recent data from the state and populates the information into profiles for each child care program. ECECD’s Child Care Finder is available at: https://childcare.ececd.nm.gov/search 

Early child care providers can customize their profiles and families can search for programs using various parameters, including zip code, age range, availability, quality rating, tuition and language. “This is such a good resource and communication tool, both for families and child care providers,” said JoEllen Bellington, Director of Fuzzy Slipper Family Child Care through the release.

Legislature expected to consider Paid Family & Medical Leave bill in 2023

A bill likely to come before the New Mexico Legislature next session will be another run at passing a state-run Paid Family and Medical Leave program into law but in 2023, the program will have some concessions to businesses as well as new expansions. Tracy McDaniel, policy advocate for Southwest Women’s Law Center, said a bill is expected to be introduced in  the 2023 legislative session. A Paid Family and Medical Leave bill failed in the 2020 and 2021 Legislatures. The 2022 Legislature passed a Senate Memorial to create a task force that would deliver a report on the issue and arrive at some compromises with the business community. A Paid Family and Medical Leave bill would provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off for employees who request it for a serious medical condition, caring for a family member with a serious medical condition or welcoming a new child.

Migrants held at Cibola County Correctional Center announce hunger strike

Immigrants housed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at Cibola County Correctional Center have entered into a hunger strike and penned an open letter to protest dangerous conditions and mistreatment, according to a news release. According to the open letter, translated into English, a migrant housed at Cibola attempted suicide in October in response to another migrant who received injury when fainting and not receiving medical attention for four hours after the incident. ICE did not comment, except to send a link to the agency website which provides multiple guidelines to various forms of care of migrants in detention. CoreCivic, which holds a contract with the Department of Homeland Security to operate Cibola County Correctional Center, said it “takes seriously its role and responsibility” and “cares deeply about every person in its care.”

“The situations described in the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center’s recent press release regarding our Cibola County Correctional Center (CCCC) are neither accurate nor reflective of our policies, procedures or values. As of November 16, 2022, there has been no hunger strike at CCCC.

Legislator: Democrats have ‘crucial’ time to pass reproductive legislation

With Democrats maintaining a large lead in the state House of Representatives and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham reelected for another four years, the Legislature is in a position to pass reproductive rights legislation, according to a Democratic legislator. State Rep. Linda Serrato, D-Santa Fe, called the next two years “crucial” to passing reproductive rights legislation. She said her focus is on expanding access to reproductive healthcare. “This election spoke volumes. We have a majority female House and a governor who supports bodily autonomy.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver wins second term

New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, the incumbent who has been in office since 2016, won her seat easily according to unofficial results as of 10:45 p.m.. Her primary opponent, Republican Audrey Trujillo, trailed by 15 points. Libertarian candidate Mayna Erika Myers received less than five percent of the vote. Toulouse Oliver carried the majority of votes in the state’s most populous counties – Santa Fe, Bernalillo and Doña Ana counties but Trujillo carried many rural counties, including Eddy, Chaves, Curry, Lea, Quay and Union counties. But Toulouse Oliver carried some traditionally Democratic rural counties, including Grant and McKinley.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez wins Attorney General race

Democrat Raúl Torrez won the New Mexico Attorney General’s race, leading easily over Republican Jeremy Michael Gay according to unofficial election results as of 10:45 p.m.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas termed out so the Attorney General race was open in 2022. Torrez defeated Brian Colón, who is the current state auditor, in the Democratic primary. 

Torrez is currently serving as Bernalillo County District Attorney. He won Bernalillo County by 61 percent of the vote as of 10:45 p.m.

Torrez was not available for comment Tuesday night but through a news release, that he is “honored and humbled” by the win. “Nasha and I want to thank every single person who helped this campaign and supported my vision for New Mexico. I want to thank Jeremy Gay for stepping up to run for elected office and serve the people of New Mexico. 

“This election is just the beginning as we embark on the work to make our state a safer and more prosperous community for the future.