Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 4:20 p.m. MDT

Jun 27, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has declined statewide, hospitals in New Mexico have started to loosen restrictions that kept family and friends from visiting patients. San Juan Regional Medical Center says patients who have not tested positive for COVID-19 will be allowed one visitor. Visitations are still prohibited for patients who have tested positive. Lovelace Medical Center, Presbyterian and the University of New Mexico Hospital have also announced similar visitation policies with only one visit each day with facial covering requirements. Visitors will be screened for fever and other health conditions and must stay in the patient's room.


RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — A decades-long fight between some Hispanics and Native Americans over the removal of statues honoring Spanish colonial figures in New Mexico and California is boiling over again. Hispanics who venerated Spain's historical ties to the U.S. say the monuments celebrate their cultural heritage. Native Americans say that history ignores the pain of colonialism. The historical markers highlight a complicated past that has spanned centuries. Spain's enduring hold over the territory that is now New Mexico made it unlike other areas in the Southwest and opened the door for memorializing the Spanish influence.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Bernalillo County will continue to allow for the use of single-use plastic bags amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. County manager Julie Morgas Baca first suspended the ban on plastic bags during a March 10 emergency meeting. She said the use of single-use bags should cut down on the possible spread of the coronavirus. The ban on plastic bags and Styrofoam containers took effect in unincorporated areas of the county on Jan 1. The city of Albuquerque, which has its own ban on plastic bags, is also temporarily allowing for their use. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham raised concerns Thursday about a recent uptick in COVID-19 infections.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The top judge on the New Mexico Supreme Court is postponing her scheduled retirement from the state high court until later in the year because of a late-emerging snag. Chief Justice Judith Nakamura said in early June she would retire July 31, but on Friday she said in a statement she had received unspecified "new information" from Public Employees Retirement Association that requires her to postpone her retirement. Nakamura's statement said she now plans to remain a Supreme Court justice "until later this year" and that the justices will elect a new chief justice on July 15.


FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that Alaska Native corporations are eligible for a share of coronavirus relief funding set aside for tribes. Congress included $8 million for tribes in a relief package approved earlier this year. Tribal nations sued to keep it out of the hands of Alaska Native corporations, arguing they didn't qualify. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, D.C., disagreed in a ruling late Friday. He said the corporations can be treated as tribal governments for limited purposes. Various tribes said they are reviewing the decision and deciding on the next steps. The Treasury Department didn't respond to a request for comment.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The head of the New Mexico State Land Office has declined to renew a cooperative agreement with U.S. border authorities. Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard said Friday that she instead is siding with community members who urged her not to work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection over concerns about discrimination against people of color along the U.S.-Mexico border. Garcia Richard and fellow Democrats in New Mexico have been critical of the Trump administration's border policies. The agreement, first executed in 2015 under the Obama administration, also covers Arizona, California and Texas and involves other federal land management agencies, along with state and tribal governments.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The creation of a state commission on civil rights and changes aimed at ensuring access to Election Day polls on Native American lands are among the measures signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The governor on Friday also signed a bill authorizing the issuance of short-term bonds to help stabilize state finances amid the economic upheaval prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. The three bills were among eight that lawmakers passed during the recent special session. Lujan Grisham still has to act on the budget solvency bill and one that would mandate police body cameras for nearly all state and local law enforcement officers. 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health officials say three people have died, three others are in critical condition and one person is permanently blind after apparently drinking hand sanitizer that contained methanol. The Department of Health said Friday that the cases were reported to the state poison control center. The first case came in early May. The others have occurred since May 29. The health department confirmed that the cases were related to alcoholism. Authorities have noted that people with substance abuse issues, particularly within the homeless community, have been known to use sanitizer and other products as a substitute for alcohol.