- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION
Navajo Nation reports 27 new COVID-19 cases, 2 more deathsWINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Nation officials reported 27 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Wednesday with two additional deaths. The latest numbers bring the total number of cases on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to 29,336 since the pandemic began. There have been 1,114 reported deaths that were related to COVID-19. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement that even those who have been fully vaccinated need to continue taking precautions to avoid spreading the virus. The tribe has a nightly curfew in place from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. to limit the spread of the virus.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
New Mexico ramps up vaccine distribution, awaits suppliesSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Top health officials in New Mexico say the state has boosted the number of vaccines given daily by more than 20% over the past two weeks. State Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said Wednesday during a briefing that New Mexico is ranked third in the nation for distribution, having administered nearly all the doses it gets every week. So far, more than 450,000 shots have been given. About 7% of New Mexicans are fully vaccinated with their first and second shots. That's double the figure from two weeks ago. Collins said New Mexico's allocation from the federal government is expected to increase next week to more than 72,500 doses.
- STATE BUDGET-NEW MEXICO
New Mexico foresees more state income from oil in short runSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A rebound in oil and natural gas prices is changing the outlook for state government finances in New Mexico as the Legislature drafts a spending plan for the coming fiscal year. A team of economists from three state agencies and the Legislature said Wednesday that state government income is likely to increase by $339 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1 to a total of $7.55 billion. State government income would exceed current annual spending obligations by 2.3% if the new estimate holds true. Senate Finance Committee Chairman George Muñoz of Gallup said the state could be in a precarious financial situation when federal relief ends.
- NUCLEAR WEAPONS-PRODUCTION
Groups ask Biden for wider environmental review of nuke work ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Watchdog groups want the Biden administration to reconsider a decision by a U.S. agency not to conduct a more extensive environmental review related to production of the plutonium cores used in the nation's nuclear arsenal. The renewed request comes as federal installations in New Mexico and South Carolina face a deadline of making 80 cores per year by 2030. Jobs and billions of dollars in government spending are at stake. The National Nuclear Security Administration said it has no plans to revisit the environmental review. But the agency has confirmed that its approach to plutonium core production is among the programs under review as the new administration takes over.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NATIVE AMERICANS
Native Americans embrace vaccine, virus containment measuresCHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) — Native Americans are bucking a trend of minority populations who harbor doubts about the coronavirus vaccines. Tribes across the nation are embracing inoculations, and also have been among the first in the country to adopt coronavirus containment measures. There are two possible explanations: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Native Americans and Alaskan Natives are four times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19. And community before self has long been a core principle in Native American culture. Tribal leaders and health care providers say it is about preserving a fragile heritage that has been under threat for centuries.
- ALBUQUERQUE-THREE DEAD
3 found dead in Albuquerque home where officers smelled gasALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque police are investigating the deaths of three adults found in a home where responding officers smelled a gas when they arrived. Police say a homeowner Tuesday evening reported finding one person dead in a vehicle parked in the rental home's garage and police officers responding to a 911 call then found two more people dead inside the residence. According to police, causes of death for the three people remained undermined pending autopsies.
- MARIJUANA-NEW MEXICO
Amid pandemic, New Mexico forges path to legal cannabisSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico legislators are sprinting amid the pandemic to come up with a framework for regulating and taxing recreational marijuana after voters ousted key opponents of pot legalization in 2020 elections. Four Democrat-backed proposals with a social justice bent are competing for traction at the Legislature, along with a Republican proposal aimed at stamping out the illicit pot market. The Legislature has until March 20 to send a cannabis bill to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, an enthusiastic backer of marijuana as a tool of economic development and fiscal security for the state. The state's Constitution doesn't allow for ballot initiatives, leaving cannabis legalization to the legislative process.
- ASH WEDNESDAY SERVICES
New Mexico churches alter practices for Ash WednesdaySANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Local churches in New Mexico have said services on Ash Wednesday will be altered in an effort to reduce further spread of the coronavirus. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that instead of priests applying ashes to foreheads in the shape of a cross, ashes will be sprinkled atop parishioners' heads to avoid person-to-person contact or distributed in individual containers to allow people to apply the ashes themselves. The precautions are expected to complement state health guidelines that require masks and limit capacity for places of worship. People who have excess ashes are encouraged to bury or sprinkle them on the ground as a way to return them to the earth.