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COVID-19: Testing NM Populations, Native Response & Resources, Primary Voting, Our Land

This week on New Mexico in Focus, senior producer Matt Grubs takes a close look at the state’s COVID-19 testing capability with Sec. Kathyleen Kunkel of the NM Department of Health. New Mexico is able to test more than 5,000 people a day, but routinely falls thousands of tests short of that mark.

Correspondent Laura Paskus continues with her series of interviews with journalists around the state as they cover COVID-19 in their communities. Arlyssa Becenti is a reporter with the Navajo Times, which is based in Window Rock, Arizona, and covers the entire 27,000-square mile Navajo Nation.

Paskus also checks in with Jeff Proctor, criminal justice reporter for New Mexico In Depth and contributing editor for the Santa Fe Reporter. He’s been tracking how some 6,600 inmates in New Mexico are affected by the pandemic, and what the state is doing to protect prisoners and correctional employees from the deadly virus. 

Correspondent Antonia Gonzales looks into tribal cultural responses to the current pandemic. Native Americans across the country are finding ways to share their culture, language and traditions with one another as COVID-19 put a halt to tribal gatherings. Virtual pow-wows, beading classes, pottery making, language and story-sharing are among the many things to move online. A number of Facebook groups, town halls, and Zoom meetings are connecting tribal communities offering encouragement and positivity during these trying times. Gonzales talks with some guests about the resilience of Native people.

Senior producer Matt Grubs tackles the issue of voting during the pandemic with Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver. This week, county clerks began sending out applications for mail-in absentee ballots as they prepare for the June 2 primary. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled last month that ballots had to be requested by voters in the upcoming election, rather than allowing clerks to skip a step and just send the ballots. Sec. Toulouse Oliver talks about her concern for public health and in-person voting.  

On this month’s episode of Our Land, we look back to 2018, when the Rio Grande dried in April after a warm, dry winter. At the time, correspondent Laura Paskus spoke with scientists whose research showed how climate change is already affecting the amount of streamflow in the Rio Grande that comes from snowmelt, especially in the spring. The river’s flow in 2020 is bearing out that grim prediction just two years later.

Host: Gene Grant

In Focus Interviews:
Testing New Mexicans for COVID-19
Correspondent: Matt Grubs
Cabinet Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel, New Mexico Department of Health

COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation
Correspondent: Laura Paskus
Arlyssa Becenti, reporter, Navajo Times – Diné bi Naltsoos

NM Supreme Court Rules on Inmate, Staff Testing at State Prisons
Correspondent: Laura Paskus
Jeff Proctor, reporter, New Mexico in Depth and contributing editor, Santa Fe Reporter

Tribal Cultural Response to COVID-19
Correspondent: Antonia Gonzales
Tiana Cachini, Miss Zuni
Teran Villa, Jemez Pueblo COVID-19 Response Team
Isiah Yazzie, comedian

Our Land: Rio Grande Spring Flow and Climate Change
Correspondent: Laura Paskus