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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 p.m. MDT


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins says the state has tapped into a network of community health providers, faith leaders and other local organizers to share information as officials look to boost the number of people who are vaccinated. Collins testified Thursday before a congressional subcommittee on the challenges of combating misinformation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and the vaccination campaign. She said New Mexico has been a leader in distribution. She said the early adoption of a registration site, regular news conferences by top state officials and town halls and social media messaging in multiple languages have resulted in the state's high vaccination rates.


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.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A medical marijuana producer in New Mexico has been fined $142,000 for worker safety violations related to a fire at a Santa Fe facility last October that seriously injured two employees. The New Mexico Environment Department fined New MexiCann Natural Medicine on Wednesday citing six violations. Authorities say the fire started after two employees were in the midst of a cannabis extraction process. New MexiCann, which has been licensed since 2009, closed its main facility where the fire occurred. The company has 15 days to pay the penalties or contest them. Company attorney John Day declined to comment.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Film Office has announced that a television series starring Josh Brolin and now in production will employ up to 300 crew members and 2,000 people as extras and background actors. The office said "Outer Range" is produced by Amazon Studios and Plan B Entertainment and is shooting in Albuquerque, and Las Vegas. In the production, Brolin plays a rancher who the film office says "discovers an unfathomable mystery at the edge of Wyoming's wilderness" while fighting for his ranch and family. Office Director Amber Dodson said it's exciting that the series will feature many of New Mexico's diverse landscapes.


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.


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. 


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.


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.