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Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MST

  • LEGISLATIVE PREVIEW-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — High-stakes decisions on spending, voting access, public education and criminal justice await New Mexico legislators during their upcoming 30-day legislative session. Legislators will convene Tuesday. New Mexico state government has a multibillion dollar general fund surplus thanks to federal pandemic relief and a surge in oil production and natural gas prices. The state is simultaneously contending with shortages of teachers, police and nurses, a spike in urban violence and concerns about the fragile status of American democracy and the environment. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Democrat-led legislature are promising to increase spending, cut tax rates and improve public health and safety.

  • VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The University of New Mexico is stiffening its masking mandate to require that the face coverings worn by students and employees be of more protective medical or health grade. The university said Thursday that the stiffened mandate taking effect next Tuesday requires three-ply or better medical and health procedure masks . The university said means that cloth masks may be worn on top of the more protective masks but not alone. President Garnett S. Stokes said in a campus-wide message that the stiffened requirement for more protective masks follows the latest advice from scientific experts "given the significant rise in cases and the apparent increased contagiousness of the omicron variant."

  • EDUCATION CYBER ATTACK

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Around 75,000 New Mexico schoolchildren on Friday will miss school for the second day after a cyber attack hit the state's largest school district on Wednesday. At least five other school districts have suffered costly cyber attacks in the past two years, according insurance officials who cover school losses. Schools in Las Cruces were digitally crippled for months after an attack in 2019. One target of the attack was the school's student information database, the same target of the attack against Albuquerque Public Schools, which was discovered on Wednesday as teachers prepared for class. But Las Cruces didn't cancel class, it moved duties like attendance to paper records.

  • VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO-NATIONAL GUARD

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's governor said Thursday she's considering seeking help from the National Guard to address COVID-19 staffing shortages at public schools, a move that could mark a first in the nation. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday the state has been in discussions with the Santa Fe school district, which was forced to plan for remote learning next week. President Joe Biden announced Thursday that starting next week, 1,000 military medical personnel will begin deploying across the country to help overwhelmed medical facilities ease staff shortages due to the highly transmissible omicron variant. Lujan Grisham confirmed that one of the teams will be stationed at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

  • NEW MEXICO LEGISLATURE-CRIME

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says she's aiming to put a wedge in the revolving door that many have blamed for persistent violent crime and record homicides in the state's largest city. The Democratic governor joined other elected leaders in Albuquerque on Thursday to highlight a few of the public safety proposals that will be pushed during the legislative session that begins Tuesday. The measures include enhanced penalties for some crimes and a shift in New Mexico's pretrial detention system that supporters claim would ensure the most dangerous defendants charged with violent crimes remain behind bars pending trial.

  • ALBUQUERQUE HOMICIDES

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Amid growing concern about violent crime in New Mexico's most populous city, Albuquerque police say detectives responded to three different homicide scenes in a 10-hour span overnight. Police said the first homicide victim was a man whose daughter called 911 to report he'd been shot at a home early Wednesday evening . According to police, the shooter left the scene before officers arrived. Police said the second homicide involved a man found dead at a motel after officers responded to a report of gunfire shortly before midnight. The third killing involved a person found dead in an alley behind a business early Thursday morning.

  • BC-US-VIRUS-OUTBREAK-BIDEN

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden says the government plans to double to 1 billion the rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests to be distributed free to Americans. Speaking at the White House on Thursday, Biden says his administration will also make "high-quality masks" available for no charge. He spoke at an event aimed at highlighting the federal government's efforts to "surge" COVID-19 testing and send personnel to help overwhelmed medical facilities. The effort comes amid the upswing in coronavirus cases and staff shortages due to the omicron variant. Starting next week, 1,000 military medical personnel will begin arriving to help mitigate staffing crunches at hospitals. 

  • AP-US-PROP-FIREARM-SHOOTING

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A new lawsuit accuses an ammunition supplier of creating dangerous conditions on a movie set where a gun held by actor Alec Baldwin killed a cinematographer, by including live ammunition in a box that was supposed to include only dummy rounds. The lawsuit was filed in New Mexico state district court by Hannah Gutierrez Reed, the armorer who oversaw firearms, ammunition and related training on the set of "Rust" alongside two assistants. Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died on Oct. 21 from a gunshot wound during a "Rust" rehearsal at a ranch on the outskirts of Santa Fe in northern New Mexico.