Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 5:20 p.m. MDT

May 21, 2020

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health officials are reporting 163 new coronavirus cases and 11 additional deaths. The Health Department on Thursday said the statewide total of infections is nearing 6,500 while the death toll stands at 294. The latest cases include 19 infections among state inmates who are being held at a lockup in Otero County, bringing the total there to 40. Dozens of federal inmates and immigration detainees also are infected. State officials say progress has been made due to public health orders that have been in effect since March, but some business owners have filed a legal challenge over fines that have stemmed from the restrictions.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — It is unclear who is sponsoring incendiary new political attack ads against a former CIA operative who is a candidate for a northern New Mexico congressional seat. The Washington, D.C.-based group behind the ads doesn't disclose donors and its only known activity is to denounce Valerie Plame as a "disgraced racist millionaire" in paid video spots on Facebook and Instagram in English and Spanish. Plame has called the ads disgusting and says she has apologized and tried to atone for sharing on Twitter in 2017 an article with anti-Semitic expressions. Plame's secret identity was exposed shorty after her diplomat husband disputed U.S. intelligence used to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion.


ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say a New Mexico sheriff suspected of showing up under the influence of alcohol to a SWAT standoff and trying to order officers away was arrested Thursday. The Albuquerque Journal says Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan initially refused to comply with the arrest and was taken from his office in handcuffs by Española police officers and Taos County deputies. Court records show Lujan has been charged with resisting, evading or obstructing an officer, a felony. A criminal complaint says he smelled like alcohol and appeared to have trouble keeping his balance at the scene of the SWAT incident. His attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment. 


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Some New Mexico dairies have reported average monthly losses of more than a quarter-million dollars as fallout from the coronavirus mounts. Ranchers have seen cattle prices plummet amid supply chain problems. And farmers are starting to worry about potential labor shortages when harvest time comes. Congresswoman Xochitl Torres-Small is among a group of lawmakers from rural areas pushing legislation that calls for funneling as much as $1 billion in aid to states based on their contributions to regional and national food systems. The Democrat says the southern half of the state alone accounts for $1.6 billion in agricultural revenue.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health officials say the state has its first human case of West Nile virus infection this year. The Health Department reported Thursday that the patient is a San Juan County man in his 50s. He's recovering after being hospitalized. West Nile virus is a disease transmitted by mosquitoes that can sometimes be fatal. The state has had West Nile cases every year since the virus was introduced to New Mexico in 2003. Last year, there were 40 cases, including four fatal cases. In 2018, there were seven confirmed West Nile cases in the state, with one reported death.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The chief of staff for the state's senior U.S. senator has been tapped to lead the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Gov. Michell Lujan Grisham announced the appointment of Bianca Ortiz Wertheim on Thursday to run an agency that oversees the state's response to emergencies and hazards. Before working for Sen. Tom Udall, Ortiz Wertheim served in various government positions within other Democrat administrations. She was director of cabinet affairs for former Gov. Bill Richardson and chief of staff for former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez. Her husband, John Wertheim, was a previous chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt says he'll extend the public comment period on a contested plan that will guide oil and gas drilling and other development in an area of New Mexico that includes a national park and locations important to Native American tribes. A coalition of tribal leaders along with the state's congressional delegation, environmentalists and archaeologists had formally requested an extension weeks ago. They've pointed to the disproportionate effect the coronavirus outbreak has had on the Navajo Nation and other Native American communities. Bernhardt posted on social media Thursday that he'll extend the comment period 120 days. The deadline had been May 28.


ESTANCIA, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say a New Mexico woman who tested positive for COVID-19 is facing charges after she refused to quarantine herself and visited a restaurant. KOAT-TV in Albuquerque reports prosecutors recently charged Gina Peterson with public nuisance and violating the state's health order. According to a criminal complaint, the 67-year-old Peterson walked in the Mama Bear's restaurant in Estancia on April 10, announced she had the coronavirus and refused to leave. Documents say she later came back and stayed in the women's restroom until the town's police chief removed her. Peterson is believed to be the first known COVID-19 patient charged in New Mexico for not quarantining herself.