Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MST
- Schools adapt for return from break as COVID-19 cases surge
Mask requirements are returning in some school districts that had dropped them. Some are planning to vastly ramp up virus testing among students and staff. And a small number of school system are switching to remote learning. Educators hope that's for just a short while, though. Soaring coronavirus infections mean the return from schools' winter break will be different than planned for some as administrators again tweak protocols and make real-time adjustments in response to the shifting pandemic. Even those promising to bring students back as planned are signaling a need to stay flexible.
- Crews rescue 21 people on stuck tram cars in New Mexico
Authorities in New Mexico say icing on a cable caused two tram cars to get stuck high up in the Sandia Mountains overlooking Albuquerque, stranding 21 people overnight. A Bernalillo County Fire Department spokesman said 20 people in one car were rescued early Saturday afternoon and that the one person in a second car was rescued several hours later. The spokesperson said the people were all employees of the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway or a mountaintop restaurant. Rescuers used ropes to lower the employees from the cars to ground and then they were ferried off the mountain by helicopter. No injuries were reported.Hispanic Republican legislator retires in New Mexico House
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Republican state Rep. Alonzo Baldonado of Los Lunas is retiring from the New Mexico Legislature after a decade of advocacy for a district in central New Mexico and socially conservative causes. A spokesman for House Republicans announced Baldonado's departure Friday in a news release. The statement highlights efforts to fund a regional hospital and highway interchange in Valencia County. As a Hispanic legislator, Baldonado also participated in efforts by the Republican Party to expand racial and ethnic diversity within its ranks. The Valencia County Commission will name a replacement to serve out the remaining year of Baldonado's term.
- Higher health insurance surtax among New Mexico's new laws
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — With the arrival of the new year, new laws are taking effect in New Mexico that aim to bolster access to health insurance and to eliminate many court-imposed fines against juveniles that are viewed as counterproductive. A bill signed by Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham adds a 2.75% surtax on health insurance premiums. Insurance Superintendent Russell Toal says the surtax will provide a crucial subsidy when Medicaid coverage under special federal pandemic provisions expires for an estimated 85,000 residents. New Mexico also is eliminating many financial fees and sanctions in the juvenile justice system, including fines for possession of marijuana by a minor.
- New Mexico sees test shortage as coronavirus cases top 2,000
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is running short of free at-home rapid tests to detect COVID-19 infections as the state struggles with the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The company that runs the state's program said Thursday that the state's supply of tests was overstretched. The announcement came hours after Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wrote that residents could "order a testing kit today." By afternoon "all available tests have been shipped" and Vault Health was offering paid testing instead. The state reported an additional 2,209 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 26 additional deaths.
- Navajo council votes to send big checks to tribal members
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation's tribal council has voted to send $2,000 checks to each qualified adult and $600 for each child using $557 million in federal coronavirus relief funds. The vote to send the checks to about 350,000 tribal members was approved Thursday by Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez to take effect. Wednesday's 18-2 vote during a special session of the tribe's lawmaking body will tap some of the approximately $2.1 billion the tribe is receiving from President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan Act.
- New Mexico governor signs state House redistricting measure
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed legislation to redraw election boundaries for seats in the New Mexico House of Representatives. The Democrat signed the measure Wednesday, calling it a "sound map that is representative and respectful of New Mexico's varied communities of interest." Republicans disagree. They have argued that the maps approved by the Democrat-led Legislature are partisan and far from fair representation. They say the voices of rural residents, conservative Democrats and independents will be marginalized. The House map is expected to give Democrats an edge in about 45 of 70 seats. Democrats currently hold a 45-24 advantage in the chamber.
- Behind the wait for a verdict at Maxwell jury deliberations
NEW YORK (AP) — The Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial was a four-week winding road with sordid testimony by four women accusing the British socialite of grooming their teenage selves for abuse at the hands of financier Jeffrey Epstein. The defense maintained the abuse could have been real, but Maxwell wasn't part of it. It all came to a climax earlier this week with a guilty verdict in federal court in Manhattan, delivered after five days of jury deliberations. The scenes from the courtroom as the trial wound down were sometimes tedious, sometimes tense.