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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The window opens Friday for Virgin Galactic's first rocket-powered test flight from Spaceport America in southern New Mexico as the company prepares for commercial flights next year. The exact timing of the launch depends on the weather, and the forecast wasn't looking too hot. The test flight will give Virgin Galactic an opportunity to evaluate the interior space of the cabin where customers will be seated and to check fight controls during boost. While no passengers will be aboard, the flight will carry payload belonging to NASA. The test flight was initially planned for November. But was pushed back because of COVID-19 restrictions.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday the first doses of coronavirus vaccine from drug maker Pfizer are expected to arrive in New Mexico within 24 hours of pending federal approval. There are 17,500 doses of the vaccine reserved for New Mexico, which plans to distribute the initial allotment to health workers at high risk of exposure. New Mexico health officials have issued new emergency orders that could limit nonessential surgeries and prepare for rationing of other medical services as the coronavirus pandemic strains resources and personnel at hospitals and intensive care centers.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A newly founded watchdog organization on prison conditions says it is colliding with a culture of secrecy at the New Mexico Corrections Department that interferes with monitoring complaints of civil rights violations by inmates. The New Mexico Prison & Jail Project on Thursday announced a lawsuit against officials at the Department of Corrections alleging that the agency has failed to respond on time to a request for public records. The Albuquerque-based nonprofit group says at least 10 lawsuits have been filed against the Corrections Department so far in 2020 concerning compliance with the state's inspection of public records act.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico officials have received more than 30,000 applications for virus relief payments meant for residents regardless of immigration status. State lawmakers recently approved $5 million in emergency financial assistance for low income state residents who did not receive a federal relief payment earlier this year. That includes immigrants in the country illegally, as well as spouses and children. The deadline to apply for the aid is Friday. The state Human Services Department has discretion in how the payments will be distributed. It could send smaller amounts to more residents or use available tax information to prioritize the most needy.

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Navajo health officials are working to boost the number of isolation and alternate care sites for those infected with the coronavirus. The Farmington Daily Times reported Tuesday the tribe had awarded a $50 million contract to Pacific Architects and Engineers Inc. and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare in October to operate alternate care sites and to provide clinical and logistical support. The Office of the President and Vice President said in a statement the locations will be designated specifically for those who have tested positive for the coronavirus to prevent household spread. There have been 18,575 new confirmed cases and 693 confirmed deaths from the coronavirus in the Navajo Nation.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The University of New Mexico has filed a complaint against one of its biggest donors in a naming rights dispute. The university confirmed Thursday that it's seeking arbitration in a dispute with Dreamstyle Remodeling. The company entered into what was expected to be a 10-year, $9 million agreement in 2017. The agreement included naming rights to University Stadium and University Arena. Dreamstyle owner Larry Chavez paid the university $1.5 million, but there's conflict over what is still owed and if there is a contract in place at all. Chavez says he proposed a new deal, but the university wouldn't consider it until previous obligations were fulfilled.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico has begun monitoring sewage from prisons and youth rehabilitation facilities to more efficiently detect COVID-19 outbreaks in the southwest of the state. The state Environment Department announced the initiative Wednesday. The goal is to sample human feces in group-living situations to quickly identify coronavirus outbreaks. The results may be used to more effectively deploy individual testing to pinpoint infections and halt the spread. Initial sampling will take place at federal, state and local jails, along with facilities overseen by the state Children, Youth and Families Department. New Mexico has reported nearly 113,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An advisory board is recommending that New Mexico clear the way for licensed medical marijuana producers to grow more plants. The board during a meeting Wednesday voted in favor of a petition that sought to significantly increase the current plant count limit. The medical marijuana industry has pushed for eliminating the limit amid patient complaints about high costs and a lack of variety. Officials with New Mexico's medical cannabis program noted that previous increases in the plant count failed to bring down prices and that another increase already is in the works for next year. The state health secretary will have the final say on the recommendation.