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

Mar 24, 2020

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's State Investment Council has approved the creation of a $100 million business recovery fund to help medium-sized companies meet payroll obligations and avoid layoffs amid economic turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic. The council overseen by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham controls a $23 billion portfolio of investments that support public education. On Tuesday, it voted unanimously to channel assets from the state's Severance Tax Permanent Fund to provide emergency recovery loans. Some council members object to offering emergency loans to employers who are headquartered outside the state. The new program is designed to complement other state and federal economic rescue efforts.


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is steadily pushing major public health and environmental rollbacks toward enactment. It's rejecting appeals that it slow its deregulatory drive during the coronavirus crisis. One Environmental Protection Agency rule would require disclosure of the raw data behind any scientific study used in rulemaking. That includes confidential medical records opponents say could be used to identify people. State and local officials have asked the EPA to delay action on that rule while Americans struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. The EPA has refused, saying it's open for business as usual. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says federal agencies should suspend steps toward enactment for any nonessential rule changes during the pandemic.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico authorities have arrested a man on murder charges after police say they found inconsistencies in a suicide report. KRQE-TV reported that Lea County deputies responded to an alleged suicide Sunday at an Albuquerque home where they found 36-year-old Christopher Matthews with a gunshot wound. Authorities say Matthews was pronounced dead after being taken to the hospital. Investigators say the scene was processed and four residents who lived at the home were later interviewed. Deputies say they arrested 27-year-old Jimmy Griffin Jr. after he gave inconsistent and conflicting information. Online court records don't list a defense attorney for Griffin who could comment on his behalf.


ARTESIA, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico man is facing charges after police say he bit off a piece of his girlfriend's finger following an argument over a cell phone in bed. The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports Isiah Thompson of Artesia was arrested earlier this month for aggravated battery against a household member. Police say the argument began after the girlfriend asked the 26-year-old Thompson to put down his cell phone and go to sleep for the night. A report says an officer found nearly a quarter-inch of Aliah Encinias-Martinez left ring finger missing. Thompson remains in the Eddy County Detention Center in Carlsbad on a $10,000 cash or surety bond. It was not known if he had an attorney.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The caretaker of a mid-century S.H. Kress building in downtown Albuquerque on the historic Route 66 is seeking to renovate the building and transform it into an art gallery. The Albuquerque Journal reports caretaker Victoria Van Dame has started the process of renovating and cleaning out the property owned by Anna Muller, who moved to California for health reasons. The building has been empty for decades, and its trademark curved windows have long since been covered. Van Dame says she wants to restore the building and create a gallery that draws in creatives across all fields — visual, music, performance arts, and the culinary arts.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has announced new restrictions aimed at fighting the spread of the new coronavirus. She said Monday the state will order most "nonessential businesses" to close or work from home. Positive tests for the coronavirus rose to 83, with nine hospitalizations. The new restrictions require residents to limit gatherings to five people or fewer. The action follows a series of emergency public health orders that have closed down the state''s indoor shopping malls, gyms and movie theaters. School closings are likely to continue beyond an initial three-week suspension.


WASHINGTON (AP) — A Trump administration official says illegal border crossings have dropped by half as the strictest U.S.-Mexico border policies yet went into place amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite confusion about how it was all working. Anyone caught crossing the border illegally is to be immediately returned back to Mexico or Canada, according to the new restrictions based on an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Friday. According Mark Morgan, the acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the decision applies to all migrants.  


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has given orders to establish a coronavirus testing site in each of the state's 33 counties. Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said she received the order to expand the reach of testing facilities on Sunday as the COVID-19 virus spread far beyond the Albuquerque-Santa Fe population corridor to the oil-producing southeast corner of the state. The state lists 20 available coronavirus screening sites. Kunkel joined a town call-in forum on state and federal responses to the coronavirus hosted by U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small. Callers denounced shortages in protective equipment for medical workers and probed for economic survival tips.