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New Mexico legislators weigh response to pandemic

Morgan Lee
Associated Press

SANTA FE – Leading legislators in New Mexico weighed how to safely convene to approve economic aid and post-election initiatives that might boost spending on prekindergarten and regulate recreational cannabis sales, during a public hearing with legal counsel on Monday.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wants the state to forge its own relief package for the unemployed and hard-hit businesses in the midst of a renewed statewide coronavirus lockdown that began Monday and lasts through at least Nov. 30.

Preparations for New Mexico’s regular legislative session, from mid-January through March, have been upended by an unprecedented surge in coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks and days.

The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in New Mexico has risen over the past two weeks from 7.6 deaths per day on Nov. 1 to 14.9 deaths per day on Nov. 15.

More:Election changes face of New Mexico Legislature; dates remain uncertain

The Legislature is exploring the possibility of moving committee hearings to a convention center in downtown Santa Fe to allow more social distancing, while many lawmakers favor postponing the session entirely.

In addition, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says she will convene a special session soon that could distribute $100 million in federal relief funds to support the unemployed and businesses that have been hard-hit by the pandemic. It was unclear on Monday when that might take place.

New Mexico is among a handful of states that have imposed near-lockdowns since Friday in an aggressive response to the latest wave of coronavirus infections shattering records across the U.S. Oregon, Michigan and Washington state also have announcing renewed efforts to combat the coronavirus as more than 11 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States.

Read more:New Mexico shelter-in-place order issued to mitigate coronavirus spread

Under the latest public health order, people are being asked to stay home, and only essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, big box retailers, hardware stores, auto and bicycle repair shops and other necessary operations will be open. Universities are transitioning back to full online classes, while many municipal and state government offices are closed to walk-in requests.

A maintenance worker power-washes the state seal at an entrance of the capitol building on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The building has been closed to the public since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Legislative meetings and gubernatorial addresses are broadcast online.