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WED: New Mexico Planning For COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution, Daily Cases Stay Under 100 Again, +More

New Mexico Planning For COVID-19 Vaccine DistributionAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Top New Mexico health officials say it’s too early to say whether a COVID-19 vaccine — once available — will be mandatory for certain people in the state.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham expects there to be a population for whom the vaccine will be required, noting that health care workers, educators, nursing home residents and emergency responders could be among that population.

The governor’s administration has authority under a 2003 state law to issue vaccine orders during a declared public health emergency. The Journal reported that those who decline a vaccine for reasons of health, religion or conscience can be ordered to isolate or self-quarantine under the same law.

The governor’s office did not say whether the Lujan Grisham administration would invoke that law once a coronavirus vaccine is available.

It also will depend on availability. Pharmaceutical companies are racing to have a vaccine ready by early next year.

New Mexico Daily COVID-19 Cases Stay Below 100KUNM, Associated Press

New Mexico has marked another day of declining COVID-19 case counts. State health officials on Tuesday reported an additional 79 confirmed cases, bringing the state’s total to 23,579 since the pandemic began. 

The latest cases include 20 from Bernalillo County and 12 from Lea County. 

Officials also reported an additional five deaths related to the virus Tuesday, bringing the state death toll to 723. 

State officials have been pressing for residents to stay home and avoid gatherings in order to keep the numbers low.

Navajo Nation Reports 17 New COVID-19 Cases, 4 More Deaths – Associated Press

Navajo Nation health officials have reported 17 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths. 

That brings the total number of people infected to 9,486 and the known death toll to 484 as of Tuesday. 

Navajo Department of Health officials said 89,399 people have been tested for the coronavirus and 6,987 have recovered.  

The Navajo Nation lifted its stay-at-home order last Sunday, but is encouraging residents to leave their homes only for emergencies or essential activities.  

Much of the Navajo Nation has been closed since March as the coronavirus swept through the reservation that extends into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.  

$1B In Revenue Expected From New Mexico’s State Trust Lands By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico land managers say the state is on track to have another banner year as a result of oil and gas drilling and other activities on state trust lands.

The State Land Office announced Tuesday that revenue for the recent fiscal year, which ended June 30, is expected to top $1 billion. Officials say back-to-back billion-dollar years are breaking revenue records despite a decline in oil prices and economic uncertainty resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

While the agency saw a 5% decrease in oil and gas royalty payments, it reported more than $885,000 — or a 118% increase — in revenue from wind energy projects and lease payments.

It also reported a nearly 60% increase in revenue from right-of-way easement payments, totaling $39 million.

Livestock grazing leases, permits and other fees also are part of the mix, with the money benefiting public schools and other institutions.

But officials warned that based on unpredictable prices and a decrease in production, the 2021 fiscal year is expected to have a different outcome and the agency plans to prioritize renewable energy projects, economic development opportunities and outdoor recreation partnerships as a way to diversify revenues from state trust lands.

The State Land Office earlier this year adopted a new rule to allow for oil producers to temporarily shut-in wells until prices stabilize. Companies that seek such permission are asked to pay an annual shut-in royalty payment in lieu of royalties on what is produced.

Previously, there was a penalty for shutting in a well, resulting in the potential to lose leases.

High-Altitude Airships Company Picks New Mexico For Base By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A technology company aiming to send up high-altitude airships to monitor crops and bring broadband has chosen New Mexico for its U.S. production center.

Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes announced Tuesday the Switzerland-based Sceye picked the state as its U.S. base for stratospheric flights for earth observation and communication.

The company founded by global humanitarian Mikkel Vestergaard is expected to create 140 high-paying manufacturing and engineering jobs.

Sceye is negotiating a deal to provide better broadband access to the Navajo Nation and other underserved areas in the state. 

The airships are controlled by pilots on the ground who move them as weather and the Earth’s atmosphere changes.

Sceye was founded in 2014. In recent years, the company has conducted research and development of its technology at Roswell and Moriarty, New Mexico, airports.

Last year, the state gave the company a $2 million loan to help it to rebuild following a windstorm that caused extensive damage to its hangar and airship.

Washington, Pennsylvania Lead Lawsuits Over Postal ChangesBy Gene Johnson, Associated Press

The attorneys general of Washington and Pennsylvania say they are leading states that are suing to block service changes at the U.S. Postal Service.

They made the announcement Tuesday as the U.S. postmaster general announced the reversal of some postal service changes amid a national outcry. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro are both Democrats.

Ferguson filed his lawsuit in U.S. court in the Eastern District of Washington President Donald Trump, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the postal service. A dozen other states signed on, including New Mexico.

In filing the lawsuit, they cited policy changes that included limiting worker overtime and late or extra shifts. They say the postmaster general ignored rules requiring the postal service to follow procedures before making changes that affect national service.

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