Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 5:20 pm MST


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexicans have tailored Christmas candlelight traditions during the pandemic, turning luminaria and farolito “walks” into drives. With virus infections and deaths still high, traditional Christmas parties have been canceled. But some streets were packed Thursday night in neighborhoods where small bags of sand filled with candles were put on display. The toll from the pandemic continues to rise, with 36 additional deaths being reported Friday, and 1,465 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 2,307 deaths and over 135,000 cases. Health officials say around 60,000 people have recovered from the disease caused by the virus.

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A part-time Las Vegas resident has won a $15.5 million Megabucks slot machine jackpot. The winner, identified only as Kevin by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, gambled $40 on Christmas Eve and won the state’s largest slot machine jackpot in eight years. Kevin splits his time between Las Vegas and Alaska. He had made a Christmas Eve visit to the Boyd Gaming casino. He said that he plans on using his winnings to support his business and promised to “pay it forward” with the money.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — From lockdowns in tribal communities to the economic and social fallout that has reverberated throughout New Mexico, the coronavirus pandemic dominated headlines in 2020. COVID-19 infections are on track to top 140,000 by the end of the year, while more than 2,200 New Mexicans have succumbed to the virus. The year also was marked by a historic election fueled by mail-in ballots. Questions about election integrity prompted legal challenges. Culture clashes resulted in monuments being toppled in some spots. New Mexico’s push toward renewable energy, its persistently troubled education system and the end of a decade-long treasure hunt inspired by a New Mexico antiquities dealer also made news.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal authorities are incorporating the Navajo language in a bid to find leads in cold cases on or near the country’s largest Native American reservation. KOAT-TV in Albuquerque reported Thursday that the FBI has begun a new initiative to release posters on decades-old homicides and missing persons cases that are translated into Navajo. The posters include details of an incident, physical descriptions of victims and photos. FBI spokesman Frank Fisher says the agency is hopeful that seeing details in their own language may jog people’s memories. This initiative has been in the works for the past year.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is making another plea for people to be safe this holiday season. She said in a tweet Thursday afternoon that her thoughts were with every New Mexican grieving the loss of a loved one. State health officials reported an additional 29 deaths Thursday, bringing the state’s tally to 2,272 since the pandemic began. More than 1,900 confirmed COVID-19 infections also were reported for the day, pushing the overall statewide total to nearly 135,200. New infections had tapered off over the last week, but health officials were concerned that Christmas gatherings would lead to another surge.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico woman charged with felony battery after being accused of coughing on a health care worker in a medical center has denied the allegation and said she only lifted her mask at the time. A criminal complaint filed with the Santa Fe Police Department by the worker claimed defendant Joy Ebel refused to wear a mask, verbally harassed employees at La Familia Medical Center in Truchas and coughed into the worker’s face. Ebel has said she did not cough on anyone intentionally and she does not have COVID-19. She claimed the incident started because workers at the clinic did not like how she was wearing her mask.


ALCALDE, N.M. (AP) — Researchers from the state’s two largest universities and a prominent national laboratory are detailing their findings from a decade-long study of New Mexico acequias. They say the traditional irrigation systems are as much about culture and community as they are about hydrology. Their 90-page publication was presented during the New Mexico Acequia Association’s recent annual meeting. The researchers learned that the acequia system creates a responsive mechanism for the entire community to interact with the landscape and develop a specific water management approach depending on conditions. The researchers hope the publication will serve as a tool for legislators and others when making decisions about acequias.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal regulators have certified that the New Mexico Rail Runner Express has met a year-end deadline to install a federally required safety system on the state-owned passenger service. The Positive Train Control System is designed to prevent train collisions, high-speed derailments and incursions into track work zones. The passenger service’s operator, the Rio Metro Regional Transit District, began installing the $60 million system on the 100-mile route between Santa Fe and Belen south of Albuquerque in April 2019. In addition to Rail Runner commuter trains, the route is also used by Amtrak long-distance passenger trains and Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight trains.

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