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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 5:20 p.m. MDT

  • VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed legislation to offer more than $400 million in low-interest loans to small businesses that have taken a financial hit during the coronavirus pandemic. Tuesday's approval allows New Mexico businesses to borrow up to $75,000 each from the state's severance tax permanent fund. Interest from the $5 billion trust fund is traditionally used to retire debt on public construction projects. Lujan Grisham says the loan program will use the state's wealth to revive crucial small businesses. Health officials on Tuesday reported an additional 221 positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 13,727 since the pandemic began.

  • LOS ALAMOS LAB-PLUTONIUM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Officials at one of the nation's premier nuclear labs are investigating the potential exposure of employees to plutonium. Los Alamos National Laboratory has confirmed that 15 workers are being evaluated after a breach involving a gloved box that was being used to handle the material. The incident happened in June. The lab says the area inside the plutonium facility was secured and there's no risk to public health or safety. The lab is preparing to resume and ramp up production of the plutonium cores used to trigger nuclear weapons. It's facing of a 2026 deadline to begin producing at least 30 cores a year.

  • EXTREME HEAT-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Health officials are warning people across New Mexico to be mindful of heat-related illness as the state prepares for a few days of triple digit temperatures. The Health Department on Tuesday issued an alert, saying the extreme heat is expected to last through the weekend in most of the state. Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel also used the forecast to remind parents not to leave children or pets in hots cars. The symptoms of heat stress can include dizziness, nausea, cramping and weakness and can progress to heat stroke and death if left unchecked.

  • WATER RIGHTS-MAPS

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico State University is working to digitize the state's water rights database and develop maps that will help with management of limited groundwater and surface water resources. The work is being funded with a grant from the Office of the State Engineer. The completion date is set for later this year. Some of the maps being used by state agency are 100 years old and all are in paper format. Associate geography professor Christopher Brown says proper management of New Mexico's water resources is not only important to the economy, but also the quality of life of residents.

  • HIGHLANDS-ENROLLMENT

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Highlands University says its summer enrollment has increased 3% despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Strategic enrollment management director Benito Pacheco said Monday the total summer 2020 enrollment at Highlands is at 1,095 compared to 1,066 in last summer. Officials credit a collaborative and targeted effort by many of the school's offices. Pacheco says officials used Zoom videoconferencing so a prospective student could click on a link to meet online with a success coach face to face, much as if they were walking into an office.

  • VIRUS AD-NEIGHBOR STATES

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico State Tourism Department has published advertisements informing residents of neighboring states that visitors should comply with its rules regarding masks and travel. The advertisements in six newspapers in Texas and Arizona include letters explaining New Mexico has different rules than the other two states. The tourism department spent $67,000 on the full-page advertisements in major newspapers in Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona and in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas in Texas. Tourism department spokesman Cody Johnson says the two states were targeted because they recently have experienced surges in COVID-19 infection rates.

  • AP-US-VIRUS-OUTBREAK-SCHOOL-FUNDS-LAWSUIT-

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California, Michigan and three other states are suing the U.S. Department of Education over pandemic relief funds. In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, the attorneys general of California and Michigan say the department run by Secretary Betsy DeVos is attempting to take pandemic relief funds away from K-12 public schools and divert them to private schools. Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia have joined the lawsuit. They say the department's interim final rule would allow public schools that charge tuition similar to private colleges to get funds based on the total population they serve. DeVos previously said the funding is meant to support all students.

  • PECOS SCHOOLS-SUPERINTENDENT

PECOS, N.M. (AP) — Pecos Independent School has offered interim superintendent Debra Sena Holton a two-year contract to name her permanent school chief. The Las Vegas Optic reports the Pecos School Board recently voted to give Sena Holton the contract beginning July 1. Sena Holton had been the interim superintendent since March 17, the day after campuses closed across the state. Board President Darlene Ortiz says Sena Holton was one of three top applicants considered by the board. Sena Holton's appointment to the position comes after former Pecos Superintendent Fred Trujillo left to take the superintendent position in the Espanola Public Schools District.