Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 p.m. MST
- VIRUS OUTBREAK NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — At least two New Mexico school districts are sending all of their students home early this week. Santa Fe Public Schools will have students learn remotely on Tuesday, representing the largest voluntary closure of K-12 schools since the spring. The smaller Los Lunas school district outside Albuquerque is closed to in-person learning on Monday and Tuesday. Both districts cite concerns over COVID-19 spread. While some schools have needed to close their doors due to virus outbreaks, remote learning for an entire school district has been rare this semester. But all pivots to online school come at a cost, including child care struggles.
- CHACO CANYON-OIL AND GAS
CHACO CULTURE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is meeting with state and tribal leaders in northwestern New Mexico, where a battle has waged for decades over oil and gas development. Haaland's visit Monday comes a week after her agency announced it would seek to withdraw federal land holdings within 10 miles of Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The surrounding land is part of the Navajo reservation. While Navajo leaders support preserving parts of the area, they say individual Navajo allottees stand to lose a source of income if the buffer is created as proposed. The area holds significance for many Indigenous people in the Southwest.
- STATE BUDGET-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Forecasts for state government income have increased slightly as New Mexico legislators prepare to meet in January to craft a general fund budget. State finance officials on Monday told a panel of lawmakers that state income is likely to exceed already robust expectations by at least $28 million for the fiscal year starting July 2022. That adds slightly to a forecasted $1.4 billion surplus in state general fund income over current annual spending obligations. The estimates hold implications amid the coronavirus pandemic for public school finances, health care subsidies, public worker salaries, public safety and more.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Nation officials are urging residents on the vast reservation to limit in-person gatherings to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus around the holidays. The tribe reported 35 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and five more coronavirus-related deaths. The figures bring the total number of cases to 38,898, including 11 cases that belatedly were reported. The death toll is 1,527. Navajo Vice President Myron Lizer says far too many people have contracted COVID-19 because they gather in-person and do not adhere to social distance guidelines or wear a mask. Tribal officials are urging everyone to get vaccinated.
- OIL AND GAS-QUAKES
CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Multiple earthquakes were felt earlier this fall in West Texas, leading regulators in that state to designate a seismic response area and call for less wastewater from oil and gas development to be injected in disposal wells. As more seismic activity was reported closer to the state line, officials in New Mexico have been watching closely and gathering data. While Texas limits the injection of produced water, some officials are concerned that could have affects in New Mexico. The Oil Conservation Division in New Mexico is encouraging operators to recycle and reuse water instead of injecting it.
- ALBUQUERQUE-FATAL CRASH
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say a 19-year-old Roswell man has been arrested in connection with a multi-vehicle crash in northeast Albuquerque that left one person dead and five others injured. Albuquerque police say Casino Salazar is jailed on suspicion of homicide by vehicle and other charges. Police say the crash occurred around 7 p.m. Saturday and involved three cars and a motorcycle. One person was pronounced dead at the scene. The name, age and hometown of the victim hasn't been released yet. Police say Casino Salazar's SUV allegedly was speeding down a street before crashing into a car with five people inside. Police say they believe Salazar was driving impaired and officers reported finding several containers of alcohol in his vehicle along with guns and marijuana.
- BC-DEFENDANT COLLAPSES-SENTENCING DELAYED
A Gallup man convicted of DWI homicide was hospitalized after collapsing in court minutes before he was to be sentenced, prompting a judge to delay the proceeding but also to order that the man be tested for drugs and alcohol. Matthew Vargas faces up to 15 years in prison for his April conviction for homicide by vehicle involving DWI in a 2017 fatal head-on wreck. The Gallup Independent reports that after Vargas collapsed in the courtroom Friday and complained of pain while being taken to an ambulance, District Judge Robert Aragon postponed the sentencing but said it will be rescheduled as soon as possible.