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Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 p.m. MST


New Mexico asks Guard to sub for sick teachers amid omicronSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is asking National Guard troops and state bureaucrats to volunteer to serve as substitute teachers as preschools and K-12 public schools struggle to keep classrooms open amid surging COVID-19 infections. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday announced an unprecedented effort to reopen classrooms in the capital city of Santa Fe and shore up staffing across the state. Her administration says school districts and preschools are seeking at least 800 substitute teachers and day care workers for shifts ranging from one classroom period to the entire day. School districts will decide whether military personnel appear in uniform or casual dress.


Indigenous woman to lead Smithsonian American Indian museumALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An Indigenous New Mexico woman has been named to lead the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian. Cynthia Chavez Lamar will be the first Native American woman to serve as the museum's director when she takes over Feb. 14. She's currently the acting associate director for collections and operations. Chavez Lamar is an enrolled member at San Felipe Pueblo and an accomplished curator, author and scholar whose research has focused on Southwest Native art. The museum's collection includes more than 1 million objects and photographs and more than 500,000 digitized images, films and other media documenting Native American communities, events and organizations.


Airman gets life in prison for death of Mennonite womanFLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — An Air Force airman convicted of kidnapping and killing a Mennonite woman was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison. Mark Gooch was convicted of kidnapping Sasha Krause from northwestern New Mexico, fatally shooting her and leaving her body in a forest clearing outside Flagstaff, Arizona. He was sentenced almost exactly two years from the day she went missing. The 27-year-old had been shot in the head. The two didn't know each other but both grew up in Mennonite communities — Krause in Texas and Gooch in Wisconsin. Krause joined the church, but the 22-year-old Gooch rejected the faith.


New Mexico rolls out COVID-19 tests, schools running shortALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is sending free COVID-19 home tests to low-income and underserved neighborhoods. The state Health Department announced this week that more than 400,000 tests have been secured so far. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's goal is to procure 1 million rapid tests every two weeks to ensure New Mexicans have access to tests. They have been in short supply nationwide. The shortage has put school districts in a bind as they look to meet state requirements to keep students and staff in the classroom amid high case counts. The Santa Fe school district noted that it cannot meet the testing mandate if the state cannot provide tests.


Albuquerque schools confirm ransomware attack, resume classSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque Public Schools officials have confirmed the nature of a cyber attack that forced the district to cancel classes for two days, affecting 75,000 students. Superintendent Scott Elder says that ransomware extortion was the issue that shut the school out of its student information system. He says that the district has found a workaround that allowed schools to resume classes on Tuesday. He says that student information, while compromised, isn't at risk. Many details of the attack are being withheld citing an ongoing investigation into the hackers. When asked if a ransom has been paid, Elder said that would be a "public process."


Governor wants tax cuts, crackdown on crime in election yearSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico legislators are preparing to tap into an unprecedented windfall of state income to shore up resources for public education, policing, health care and more in a 30-day legislative session. The session started Tuesday amid a resurgent coronavirus that has prompted nearby school closures in Santa Fe. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is calling on the Legislature to support new investments in teacher salaries, tuition-free college, the expansion of police forces and care for aging military veterans — while slashing taxes on sales and Social Security benefits. Republicans who have consistently supported tax cuts and cracking down on crime noted that the Democratic governor is campaigning for reelection to a second term.


Plant count increases ahead of New Mexico marijuana salesSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico regulators have doubled the number of marijuana plants that licensed growers can cultivate as the state prepares for recreational sales to start this spring. Cannabis Control Division Director Kristen Thomson said Tuesday that increasing the plant count makes sense "to ensure that everyone can maximize the benefits of a thriving cannabis industry." But some in the industry are concerned that the change is too little and too late to meet demand because of the time it takes to put in place infrastructure and for plants to grow. The state has issued 30 new producer licenses so far and has renewed licenses for 34 existing medical cannabis producers.


New Mexico sees most number of pedestrian deaths in decadeALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque officials are renewing their pledge to prevent pedestrian deaths as New Mexico sees the highest number of them in a decade. KRQE-TV reports a new director will oversee Albuquerque's Vision Zero initiative Tuesday, working with a $4 million budget to design more secure roads and pedestrian crossings. Mayor Tim Keller announced the Vision Zero program in 2019 with an aim to eliminate pedestrian fatalities by 2040. But for the past two years, there have still been dozens of pedestrian deaths in Albuquerque each year. According to the New Mexico Department of Transportation, 99 pedestrians were killed on New Mexico roadways last year. That is a significant bump from 81 in 2020.