Former congressional candidate Carol Miller tested positive for COVID-19

Former Independent and Green Party congressional candidate Carol Miller tested positive for COVID-19 more than 21 days ago. Miller ran for Congress as an Independent in 2008 and for the Green Party in a special election in 1997. Miller is 73, which puts her in a high-risk category. But she is asymptomatic. She hasn’t had any of the symptoms – no fever, cough or shortness of breath – of this type of coronavirus.

Local distilleries forge ahead with hand sanitizer production, despite confusing regulations

Matt Simonds is doing his part to help stem the COVID-19 outbreak in New Mexico, but the federal government isn’t making it easy for him. Simonds, who owns Broken Trail Distillery and Brewery in Albuquerque, told NM Political Report he put his distillery to work making hand sanitizer weeks ago, as national shortages left first responders, law enforcement agencies, essential workers and medical professionals unable to access the virus-killing product. “Everything started with about a thousand 2-ounce containers that we were giving away for free. Shortly thereafter, we were able to get the Fire Department and the Police Department here in Albuquerque almost 200 gallons,” Simonds said. “We created a partnership with Troubled Minds Distilling here in Albuquerque, which is part of Tractor Brewing Company.

‘Zoom bombs’ create a concern for distance learning in NM

For the past several weeks, people all over the country have flocked to online meeting platforms in an attempt to stay connected with both friends and coworkers amid the global COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in a number of mandatory shelter in place orders. 

But as more people use virtual meeting platforms like Google or Zoom, there are reports of increased malicious activity, which is now known to some as “Zoom-bombing.” Meetings around the country have reportedly been interrupted with unknown users who use racist language or share pornographic material. 

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission experienced its first “Zoom bomb” on Wednesday when, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, an unknown individual used offensive language before a loud mix of talking and noises led to an abrupt end to the meeting. 

As pandemic continues, abortion groups feel greater strain

With the coronavirus pandemic worsening — the state announced 40 new positive tests of COVID-19 Thursday and an additional death — access to abortion care gets increasingly complicated.

Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who supports reproductive health care, has allowed abortion clinics to remain open in New Mexico during the public health emergency. But abortion access has become more challenging in many areas of the country and that affects New Mexico, according to advocates.

Governor, administration prepare for coronavirus ‘surge’

In a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and cabinet officials outlined the state’s preparations for the expected “surge” in cases of COVID-19 in the upcoming weeks and the resulting hospitalizations, which will strain and even overwhelm the state’s health care systems, as it has in other areas of the country and world. And the state provided a stark update on how many New Mexicans could die, well above previous estimates. She said the state will make preparations to expand its hospital bed capacity, medical equipment and COVID-19 testing, while urging the public to practice socially distancing to keep the peak of cases as low as possible. Related: Guv’s public health order extended another month

What exactly that peak amount of cases looks like is something officials and experts have been considering as a way to prepare. 

A widely shared model from the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts that the state will hit its peak amount of COVID-19 cases on May 2, which would require 1,594 hospital beds and 239 beds in intensive care units. The model predicts a total amount of 529 deaths from COVID-19 in New Mexico, with a peak of 16 daily COVID-19 deaths on April 29.

Guv’s public health order extended another month

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Tuesday that she is extending the state’s public health order to stay at home until the end of April to continue social distancing. New Mexico has not peaked yet for COVID-19, a disease caused by a coronavirus. Lujan Grisham and other state officials spoke Tuesday on a  press conference streamed on Facebook about the state’s need to continue social distancing to flatten the curve so COVID-19 positive patients will not overwhelm hospitals in the state. That would cause more deaths, she said. So far, residents in New Mexico are not staying at home.

NM COVID-19 cases crosses 300; five have now died

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Tuesday that a fifth person with COVID-19 died in New Mexico. 

She said in a press conference that he was a man in his 40s. The Department of Health said he was from Bernalillo County and died on Sunday, March 29 and had an underlying health condition. In addition, she announced 35 new total cases, bringing the state total to 315. DOH announced that 24 people are hospitalized in New Mexico. This includes those who tested positive in other states but are now in New Mexico, but not those who tested positive in New Mexico but are in hospitals in other states.

Udall: NM set to get financial relief, another bill likely on its way

Thanks to a $2 trillion congressional relief package, New Mexico will start seeing financial support from the federal government for businesses impacted by COVID-19. And U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a member of the state’s delegation, said he will make sure the money goes where it’s needed. 

Udall, who flew from Washington D.C. to New Mexico last week, spoke with NM Political Report during his self-quarantine at his home in Santa Fe. The quarantine, Udall said, was in accordance with an order from the New Mexico Department of Health that all travelers coming into the state self-quarantine for two weeks. 

Udall said the latest support bill, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump, will help New Mexico businesses, hospitals and tribal groups. But, he said, the state and the country will probably need more. 

“This bill shouldn’t be the end of our work,” Udall said. “We will know soon what other holes we need to fill, but I think we will need more help for state and local governments whose budgets are being hit and with the price of oil today at $20, New Mexico’s state budget is going to be hit badly by that.

How one woman copes with giving birth in the midst of a pandemic

Albuquerque resident Elena Rubinfeld is getting ready to give birth in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, Rubinfeld’s partner is a healthcare provider working on the front lines of COVID-19, a type of coronavirus, in an Albuquerque hospital. “I’m very proud of what he’s doing. I want him to be doing it. It’s extremely important.

County clerks ask NM Supreme Court to allow primarily mail-in election

County clerks petitioned the state Supreme Court for an emergency order that would allow the state to move to a primarily mail-in election for the June 2 primary. The clerks, and Secretary of State, say that conditions under the COVID-19 restrictions make it “impossible to lawfully administer” this year’s primary elections. The petition, signed by 27 of the state’s 33 clerks, including five Republicans, said running a regular election would force clerks to decide between following the Election Code or protecting “the health and safety of their community, their voters, their staffs, and themselves.”

To do so, the petition asks for each county clerk to be able to send voters ballots by mail, along with a pre-paid envelope to respond. Voters would still be eligible for replacement of provisional ballots. It would also provide for alternative locations for those who require in-person assistance, such as those with disabilities or those who require language interpretation assistance.