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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) — Health officials in New Mexico are considering changes to the familiar color-coded dial system that determines county responses to the coronavirus pandemic, including public health restrictions. The New Mexico Health and Human Services Department is now testing new methods after nine counties on Wednesday regressed to levels that warranted tighter limitations on business and restaurant capacities. Currently, the state assesses risk based on the average test positivity in a county and the per capita daily count of newly confirmed cases. The state is now proposing revisions to the test positivity rate and daily case count, removing the metric for PPE supply and adding county vaccination rates.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — In the aftermath of George Floyd's death and protests that followed, state lawmakers in New Mexico have eliminated police immunity from prosecution in state courts and enacted a flurry of reforms aimed at addressing racial inequities. The conviction Tuesday of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is shifting public attention toward reform efforts in dozens of states to provide greater police accountability. Many states have done little or nothing, or moved in the opposite direction. New Mexico's Democrat-led legislature prohibited discrimination based on traditional hairstyles and head coverings, and approved anti-racism training requirements for public school personnel.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The State Land Office has announced a lawsuit against two oil and natural gas operators, citing unmet obligations to plug at least 29 abandoned wells in western New Mexico, remove trash and debris and pay penalties for trespassing on an expired lease site. The lawsuit against BC&D Operating and Dominion Production Company is the sixteenth in a campaign by the agency to increase accountability for cleanups among natural resources companies that lease state land. New Mexico State Lands Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard indicated that her agency is seeking voluntary compliance with lease provisions before resorting to litigation.


LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — A federal emergency shelter in California is starting to receive immigrant children from border facilities in what advocates hope will be an improvement in their care. The Department of Health and Human Services says as many as 150 children are expected Thursday at the Long Beach Convention Center. It is the latest in a series of sites set up across the country following a rise in the number of immigrant children stopped alone on the Mexico border. The children are expected to be released to relatives in the U.S. in a week to 10 days.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health officials say that they are preparing to respond to pockets of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in some communities at the same time that overall interest in getting vaccinated increases. Health Secretary Tracie Collins said Wednesday that the state is exploring the recruitment of so-called community champions, who are trusted residents of communities with vaccine hesitancy who can address concerns about safety and effectiveness. Town halls also are a possibility to vet concerns and possible misinformation. And video testimonials about coronavirus vaccines already have been recorded. Another state health official says medical providers also have a crucial role in listening and addressing people's fears.


FIRST MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Hopi officials say a tribal councilman has died of injuries suffered in a car crash earlier this month. First Mesa Consolidated Villages leaders announced Wednesday that councilman Wallace Youvella Sr. died Tuesday in a Scottsdale hospital. His age wasn't immediately available. Youvella and his son Wallace Youvella Jr., also a tribal councilman, were headed to an April 8 meeting in Phoenix to join other Hopi Council members and business consultants and discuss potential economic development projects. Tribal officials say the car carrying Youvella and his son was struck by an oncoming vehicle near Payson. The First Mesa leadership has scheduled an April 28 memorial service for the elder Youvella at the old Polacca Day School court area.  


FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Jill Biden is making her third visit to the country's largest Native American reservation. The Navajo Nation in the U.S. Southwest was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, it's outpacing the U.S. in vaccination rates while maintaining a mask mandate and other safety precautions. Biden is expected to meet Navajo officials in the tribal capital of Window Rock on Thursday, and visit a grade school and vaccination site nearby on Friday. Her trip comes as the Navajo Nation marks more than 10 consecutive days with no known COVID deaths and continues a downward trend in daily cases.


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation on Wednesday reported its first COVID-19 related death after 10 consecutive days of no such fatalities. The tribe reported one death and eight new confirmed coronavirus cases on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The latest numbers bring the Navajo Nation's pandemic case total to 30,388 with the known death toll now at 1,263. Tribal health officials say more than 16,500 people have recovered from COVID-19 thus far. The tribe had been easing into reopening but that slowed somewhat after coronavirus variants were confirmed on the reservation. Tribal officials urged residents to stay vigilant.