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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. MDT

  • New Mexico prepares to fight vaccine hesitancy in some areas

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.

  • Hopi tribal councilman Wallace Youvella Sr. dies after crash

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.  

  • Jill Biden to visit Navajo Nation, once floored by COVID-19

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.

  • Navajo Nation reports its first COVID-19 death in 11 days

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.

  • Jill Biden visits US Southwest amid vaccine push

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — First lady Jill Biden is kicking off a three-day, two-state visit to the U.S. Southwest with a tour of a vaccination clinic in Albuquerque. Wednesday's tour comes as the nation is set to meet President Joe Biden's goal of administering 200 million coronavirus doses in his first 100 days in office. New Mexico has been among the leading states when it comes to vaccination distribution. Nearly 40% of New Mexico residents 16 and older have been fully vaccinated. While eligibility was expanded earlier this month, the focus is now shifting to younger people ahead of the summer break.

  • 2 energy firms offer concessions for proposed merger

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Two large energy corporations in New Mexico that hope to merge have offered concessions to try to make the merger more palatable to those who questioned whether it was in the state's public interest. The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that Public Service Co. of New Mexico and energy giant Avangrid will more than double the amount of rate relief they plan to offer utility customers in addition to other benefits. The companies filed an "initial stipulation" agreement on Wednesday that outlined the concessions for the merger, which is scheduled for public hearings in May.

  • US ends oil, gas lease sales from public land through June

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. Interior Department is cancelling oil and natural gas lease sales from public lands through June amid an ongoing review of how burning that fuel contributes to climate change. President Joe Biden has also ordered Interior officials to review if the sales of public energy reserves unfairly benefit companies at the expense of taxpayers. Wednesday's action does not affect existing leases, and Interior officials have continued to issue new drilling permits. Lease sales were tentatively scheduled in six states and the multistate eastern region.  Industry representatives and Republican lawmakers argue that cancelling the sales will harm the economies of Western states.

  • Medical marijuana legal in Utah, but not always affordable

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah group that led the push to legalize medical marijuana in the state has launched a financial relief program for patients who can't afford their medication. The Utah Patients Coalition on Tuesday joined a small but growing list of programs around the U.S. aimed at helping low-income patients access the drug. The project is among the first to offer ongoing subsidies statewide. Medical cannabis typically isn't covered by insurance or Medicaid because it remains federally illegal. The coalition has partnered with cannabis pharmacies across the state who will offer  discounted medications to patients approved for subsidies.