State will allow outdoor dining at restaurants in most of state starting Wednesday, with some restrictions

Restaurants in much of the state can serve patrons for outdoor dining—with some restrictions—starting Wednesday. Restaurants in Cibola, San Juan and McKinley counties are not included in the new lifting of patio dining restrictions. The state cited the fact that the northwest region has been hit hard by the virus. The New Mexico Restaurant Association asked that restaurants in Doña Ana County wait until June 1 to open for outdoor dining. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office announced late Tuesday that she amended the public health order to allow restaurants in most counties to begin serving patrons in outdoor patio dining areas but the outdoor dining can not be larger than 50 percent of the restaurant’s fire code occupancy.

Roswell in-patient treatment facility that readied to take COVID-19 patients close to reopening

A state-owned drug and alcohol treatment facility in Roswell closed during the pandemic to prepare to help nearby hospitals if COVID-19 patients overloaded the local healthcare system. Fortunately, the facility wasn’t needed, said Jose Gurrola, administrator for NM Rehabilitation Center in Roswell. Gurrola said the state’s Department of Health asked the facility to close so it could be used to quarantine patients who needed monitoring or to handle an overflow if the local hospitals in the southeastern part of the state became overwhelmed. Now, Roswell’s NM Rehabilitation Center is preparing to reopen its in-patient services. Gurrola said the facility will start with its physical rehabilitation unit first for patients who have suffered things such as strokes and traumatic brain injuries, on June 1.

Pregnant worker anti-discrimination law goes into effect

The Pregnant Worker Accommodation Act, signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in March, went into effect Wednesday. Terrelene Massey, executive director of Southwest Women’s Law Center, said the new law could affect anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 workers in New Mexico each year. The law amends the state’s Human Rights Act to make pregnancy, childbirth and conditions related to either a protected class from employment discrimination. Sponsored by two Democrats, Rep. Gail Chasey, of Albuquerque, and Sen. Liz Stefanics, of Cerrillos, the new law allows pregnant people to ask their employer for “reasonable accommodations,” to enable the pregnant worker to keep working. The “reasonable accommodations” could be things like asking for more bathroom breaks, a stool to sit on, the ability to get time off for prenatal care or having water at a workstation, according to the law’s advocates.

Las Cruces Census office to hand deliver census to thousands of households

The Las Cruces-based U.S. Census Bureau reopened its field office and announced census workers will follow social distancing as they hand deliver census packets to households in southern New Mexico. The office, which covers Catron, Chaves, Currey, De Baca, Doña Ana, Eddy, Grant, Hidalgo, Lea, Lincoln, Luna, Otero, Roosevelt, Sierra, Socorro and Valencia counties, opened Wednesday. The state said that about 56,500 households in those counties will receive hand-delivered materials so they can participate in the 2020 census this year. Compared to other states in the U.S., New Mexico has one of the highest rates – nearly 20 percent of households – that need hand-delivered census forms. If households go uncounted, the state could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money. Related: A grassroots organization goes digital to encourage filling out the census

Nearly all of Catron County residents rely on hand-delivery, according to the state.

ACLU spending on education in two state senate districts targeted by progressives

Two progressive Democrats, Siah Correa Hemphill and Pam Cordova, who are challenging  incumbents who lean more to the right within the Democratic party, are getting a boost in their campaign efforts. Correa Hemphill is running against incumbent Democratic state Sen. Gabriel Ramos. With her May filing report, she has outraised Ramos by $53.26. Ramos, who was appointed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to replace Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, is running his first election for the seat. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico is spending $150,000 in the remaining weeks of the primary to educate voters on the fact that Ramos and state Sen. Clemente Sanchez, also a Democrat, both voted against HB 51 in 2019.

Progressive Democratic challengers want new voices in the state legislature

District Senate 38 Democratic candidate Carrie Hamblen got a boost last week in her bid to defeat incumbent state senate candidate and President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen. That’s because the race narrowed to two candidates – Papen and Hamblen – last week when healthcare professional and entrepreneur Tracy Perry dropped out, citing health reasons. Hamblen, who was the morning radio host for National Public Radio local member station KRWG for 20 years, would have likely split the more left leaning Democratic voters in District 38 with Perry. But Hamblen said the race is now, “more of a challenge for Senator Papen.”

Perry’s name will remain on the ballot. Hamblen is one of seven progressive Democrats running for state senate seats in the upcoming June 2 primary against a group of more conservative-leaning Democrats.

97 new test positive cases of COVID-19; total nears 6,000

The state Department of Health announced New Mexico has 97 additional test positive cases of COVID-19 and six additional related deaths. Of the 97 new cases, 61 were in one of three counties: McKinley, Sandoval and San Juan. Those three counties are home to some of New Mexico’s tribal lands, which have been hit hard by the pandemic.The state said the results were partial because of a technical problem with private labs and that full results would be available on Monday. Sunday’s announcement brought the total number of positive tests in New Mexico 5,938 test positive cases and 265 COVID-19-related deaths.The state has processed 133,253 tests, according to the New Mexico DOH website. That is an increase of 4,679 since Saturday.

164 new cases, including seven new cases at federal facilities

The state announced 164 new cases of COVID-19, including seven new individuals held in federal agencies at the Otero County Prison Facility. The new cases, announced through the state Department of Health, bring the total to 5,662 cases of the type of coronavirus that causes respiratory illness. The state also announced 11 new deaths related to the virus, which brings the total of deaths to 253. 

There are 223 individuals hospitalized for the virus in the state, an increase of 14. In a press conference on Friday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said 52 of these patients are on ventilators. This number may include individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 out of state but are currently hospitalized in New Mexico.

Northwest NM continues to outpace the rest of the state for COVID-19 cases

With more than twice as many reported cases of COVID-19 in McKinley County than the more populated Bernalillo County, the state Department of Health announced 107 new test positive cases across the state of COVID-19 Tuesday. There are six new deaths related to the respiratory disease. The numbers released Tuesday brings the state to 4,138 cases of the disease and 162 total deaths related to the virus. There are 964 COVID-19 cases designated as recovered by the state’s DOH. There are 48 patients on ventilators and 178 who have been hospitalized, according to DOH.

State crosses 150 COVID-19 deaths, total cases now at 3,850

The state Department of Health announced 118 additional positive tests for COVID-19 and twelve additional deaths, which brings the state’s total to 3,850 cases and 151 deaths, but the state also said these are partial totals. A technical lapse led to some labs results to be delayed to the state DOH Sunday, according to the daily news update released by the state. The delayed results will be provided Monday. As of Sunday, there are 164 individuals hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19, a decrease of four from Saturday’s announcement. This number could include individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 out of state but are currently hospitalized in New Mexico.