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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MDT

  • WHISTLEBLOWER SETTLEMENT-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The state of New Mexico has reached a $260,000 settlement with a whistleblower who alleged retaliation by state insurance regulators after she reported that a major health care insurer was allegedly avoiding tax payments. An attorney for Shawna Maestas confirmed the financial settlement Wednesday after terms were published on a state clearinghouse website. Maestas previously oversaw the state's financial audit bureau. Two of her former colleagues at the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance are still pursuing the state for a 20% share of a roughly $18 million settlement with Presbyterian Health Plan for alleged underpayments on insurance premiums. Presbyterian did not acknowledge wrongdoing and fraud charges were dismissed.

  • MARIJUANA-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, NM. (AP) — Several New Mexico medical marijuana providers are warning of a potential cannabis shortage in late June, when the first provisions of a new law go into effect to legalize recreational marijuana. Recreational cannabis sales don't commence until early 2022. But several medical marijuana businesses led by Ultra Health said Wednesday that there could be a run on medical marijuana supplies in late June of this year. That's when a new legalization law takes effect and increases possession limits, with virtually no restrictions on how much can be stashed away at home for personal use. Ultra Health called for an increase in the current limits on marijuana production — set at 1,750 plants per producer — to ensure there is no extreme scarcity.

  • VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation reports 10 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, but no additional deaths for the fourth consecutive day. The latest numbers released Wednesday brought the pandemic totals on the tribe's reservation to 30,279 cases and 1,262 known deaths. Tribal officials had ordered a lockdown last weekend over fears that a new variant could drive another deadly surge. The Stay-At-Home order required all Navajo Nation residents to refrain from unnecessary travel to help limit the spread of the virus, including a new and more contagious strain.  So far, nearly 16,500 people on the Navajo Nation have recovered from COVID-19. 

  • VIRUS OUTBREAK

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque Public Schools is ramping up its efforts to get vaccines to students. Operations chief Gabriella Duran Blakey says 50 students were included in a vaccine clinic Wednesday as part of a partnership between the school district and city health workers. Next week, the school district says it will aim the power of its mailing lists and social media at students to encourage them to register for the vaccines being offered in New Mexico. As soon as next Wednesday, students could be eligible for vaccine clinics aimed specifically at them. Parents are required to attend in order to sign release forms.

  • OIL AND GAS-CHACO CANYON

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists and Native American activists say the Biden administration's review of the federal oil and gas leasing program should result in more protections for an area of northwestern New Mexico that's considered sacred. The fight over drilling on federal land bordering Chaco Culture National Historical Park has spanned multiple presidencies, and an effort to update the area's management plan remains unfinished after years. The activists held a virtual gathering Wednesday as the comment period is about to close on the administration's leasing review. The coalition said U.S. officials need to do more than just check boxes and instead engage in meaningful consultation with tribes and other groups.

  • VIRUS OUTBREAK-US

SAVANNAH, Georgia (AP) — A look at which U.S. states are leading at vaccinating against the coronavirus and which states are struggling is beginning to resemble America's electoral map. Vaccination numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show states that tend to vote Democratic at the top in terms of the percentage of their adult population that have received at least one shot. At the bottom are five Republican-leaning states, including Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in late March found that Republicans were three times as likely as Democrats to say they will probably or definitely not get vaccinated.

  • CONGRESS-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Republican congressional nominee and New Mexico state Sen. Mark Moores is staking out a campaign platform based on support for the oil and natural gas industry, robust police funding and taxation issues, ahead of a rapid-fire special election. The state Republican Party sees the election as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to recapture an Albuquerque-based congressional seat controlled by Democrats, including Deb Haaland before her confirmation as secretary of the Interior Department. Early voting begins May 4 ahead of the June 1 election. Democratic nominee and state Rep. Melanie Stansbury says she is firmly focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuilding the state economy, including modernizing the energy sector.

  • VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation on Tuesday reported two new confirmed COVID-19 cases, but no additional deaths for the third consecutive day. The latest numbers brought the pandemic totals on the tribe's reservation to 30,269 cases and 1,262 known deaths. Tribal officials had ordered a lockdown last weekend over fears that a new variant could drive another deadly surge. The Stay-At-Home order required all Navajo Nation residents to refrain from unnecessary travel to help limit the spread of the virus, including a new and more contagious strain.  Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez recently announced the first confirmed case of the COVID-19 B.1.429 variant on the reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.