Cases in southern, SE NM grow; total tests drop

The New Mexico Department of Health announced 180 additional COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and two additional deaths related to the disease. The 180 confirmed cases represent 4.01 percent of the 4,486 tests reported since Tuesday. The 4,486 tests represent the lowest one-day total for COVID-19 cases since July 5 (not counting August 3, when the state only reported partial totals because of a technical disruption). The state of New Mexico seeks to keep the positivity rate, or the percentage of positive tests out of the total number of tests, below five percent. The state of New Mexico now has found 22,816 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents and reported 695 deaths related to the disease.

Recap of New Mexico COVID-19 news (8/12/20 edition)

This morning recap of COVID-19 news from New Mexico is available in a free email every weekday. Sign up here. See all of our COVID-19 coverage here. The state Department of Health announced 202 new cases of COVID-19 in New Mexico on Tuesday, with three additional deaths. Read more here.The Albuquerque Journal reported on the latest statistical modeling from the state that showed after a spike in July, things are starting to stabilize again in New Mexico.A day after reporting only single digit numbers of COVID-19 cases, Navajo Nation health officials announced just 19 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths on Tuesday. This brought the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to 9,334, with 6,893 of whom have recovered and 473 who have died.The Albuquerque Journal reported on distance learning at Albuquerque Public Schools, the state’s largest school district.The Las Cruces Sun-News provided an update on what to expect for school as virtual learning begins Wednesday.An employee with Santa Fe Public Schools, in the Facilities and Maintenance Department, tested positive for COVID-19, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

202 new COVID-19 cases, growth continues in Doña Ana County, SE NM

On Tuesday, the state Department of Health announced 202 new cases of COVID-19 in the state and three additional deaths related to the disease. The new cases were largely driven by cases in southern and eastern portions of the state, including 50 new cases in Doña Ana County, and 33 new cases in Lea County. Other counties in the area included 14 new cases in Eddy County and 13 in Chaves County. 

The number in Eddy County represented a new one-day high for the county, while the 33 cases in Lea County were the second-highest after the 35 cases reported on July 19. Bernalillo County also had 36 new cases, while the northwestern counties of McKinley (10) and San Juan (17) also contributed double-digit numbers to the state’s total. 

The 202 new cases represent 2.75 percent of the 7,340 newly reported tests. The state seeks to keep the positivity rate below 5 percent on a seven-day rolling average.

Details of APD’s plan for Oñate statue protest still fuzzy

It’s been nearly two months since Albuquerque police arrested Steven Baca and charged him with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon after a protest in Albuquerque. The protest began with a group of activists who called for the removal of a statue of 16th century conquistador Juan de Oñate, who is infamous for his brutal treatment of Indigenous people in what is now New Mexico. Baca, who was seemingly at the event as a counterprotestor, at one point got into a physical altercation with a number of protesters. Accounts of what happened on the evening of June 15 vary. Some videos shared on social media appear to show Baca grabbing and throwing protesters to the ground.

New COVID-19 cases at 155, continuing decline; six additional deaths

The state Department of Health announced 155 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday and six additional deaths related to the disease. The number of cases continued the downward trend of cases in the state. The 155 new cases represented 2.13 percent of the 7,274 tests reported since Friday—another good piece of news in a key metric tracked by the state. The state seeks to keep the positivity rate, or the percentage of those who test positive out of the total tests, under five percent on a seven-day rolling average. Bernalillo County had the highest number of new cases, with 34.

Ethics complaint alleges group failed to disclose donors, and suggests connection to prominent lobbyist

Over the course of May and early June this year, a new group called the “Council for a Competitive New Mexico” (CCNM) spent over $130,000 on a media campaign supporting a group of incumbent state senators, most of whom would go on to lose as part of a progressive wave in June’s Democratic primary. The media campaign included several negative mailers and automated phone-calls against candidates opposing the incumbents while the public was left in the dark about who organized the group and who funded the media campaign. 

This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is republished with permission. Now, an ethics complaint filed this week with the Secretary of State’s office alleges that CCNM broke New Mexico’s election code by not disclosing its donors. 

Neri Holguin, campaign manager for two of the candidates who won during the June primary, Siah Correa Hemphill and Pam Cordova, writes that the group may have violated the New Mexico Elections Code by not reporting who paid for the negative advertising and phone calls against those candidates as well as others. 

“It was a deliberate attempt to make it as difficult as possible for voters to know who’s behind these hits on our candidates,” said Holguin in an interview. “They knew the rules enough to file as an independent expenditure (IE) and to list their expenditures, and so why not list contributors?”

“Voters need to know that, and we have no way of knowing that right now,” said Holguin. At the core of Holquin’s complaint is a new state law that triggers certain groups to disclose publicly and quickly who the donors are that paid for their electioneering activities if the costs are larger than a state-prescribed threshold. 

Holguin said she believes CCNM was created by a group of people, including prominent New Mexico lobbyist Vanessa Alarid–whom she mentioned by name in the complaint–that have used similar tactics in recent years to influence elections at the local and state level without disclosing publicly who is funding the activities in a timely fashion.Chevonne Alarid, the president of the nonprofit group, however, said disclosure isn’t necessary  until it files its annual report to the Internal Revenue Service.

COVID-19 cases continue to dip, but DOH reported six additional deaths

The state of New Mexico announced Friday 197 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, the first time in over a month that the state announced fewer than 200 tests on a day with full results. The state also announced six additional deaths. With the new totals, DOH has now reported 21,965 confirmed cases and 675 deaths related to the disease. The 197 cases represented 2.33 percent of the 8,472 tests reported on Friday. The state has seen a drop in positivity rate in recent weeks, and is below its gating criteria on the measure.

Guv optimistic, but still cautious, as COVID-19 number improve

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state officials had good news for New Mexicans when it came to COVID-19 during her Thursday press conference. 

The number of cases, after reaching a peak in mid-July, have dropped down in the past couple of weeks through much of the state. The positivity rate on tests has also dropped, even as the number of tests remains high in the state. But Lujan Grisham noted that there is a long road ahead, and it’s not an invitation for New Mexicans to abandon COVID-safe practices. She warned the state is not “out of the woods” yet, even as things trend in the right direction. Because of this, and other efforts, Lujan Grisham and Aging and Long-term Services Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez announced that limited nursing home visitation would be allowed.

With 42 new cases of COVID-19 in Bernalillo County, the county’s total grows to over 5,000

The state announced during Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s press conference Thursday 212 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths. The 42 new cases in Bernalillo County pushes the total number of cases in the most populous county in the state to more than 5,000 cases. Doña Ana County continues to report double digit numbers of cases – 36. Five other counties had double-digit numbers of tests: Lea with 23; Chaves with 16; San Juan, Curry and Valencia with 10 each. The additional cases Thursday brings the total number of cases of the disease in the state to 21,773.

Keeping the river and its ecosystems ‘alive enough’ during dry spells

Actor and author Will Rogers once famously described the Rio Grande in the 1930s as “the only river I saw that needed irrigation.”

“That’s kind of what we’re doing,” said Mike Hamman, CEO and chief engineer at the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District (MRGCD), as he described how the district is working to ensure water remains flowing in the Rio Grande in what’s shaping up to be one of the driest years for the river in decades.   

The MRGCD is a member of the 2016 Biological Opinion partners, a group of entities that have agreed to manage the river in a way that doesn’t jeopardize three threatened and endangered species that are dependent on the river for survival. Under that framework, the MRGCD helps manage water coming from different sources as it moves through the MRGCD system. Part of that agreement includes putting water back into the river downstream, essentially “irrigating” it. 

RELATED: A river runs dry: Climate change offers opportunity to rethink water management on the Rio Grande

“We have committed to do various things, and one of them is to operate the river in a way to minimize drying,” Hamman said. “We take certain blocks of water, we move them through our system and we put them in at various points downstream of Isleta Diversion Dam, called outfalls.”

Outfalls are channels that divert water. Hamman said there are six different outfalls attached to the MRGCD irrigation system that feeds water back into the Rio Grande. 

This year has been a challenge for everyone who relies on the river: humans, plants and animals alike.