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Coronavirus updates, March 14

Editor’s note: This post includes Saturday updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of the state. For the Journal’s extended coverage of this rapidly evolving story: Coronavirus in New Mexico.


9:11 p.m.
Presbyterian drive-up testing site to open Sunday

Presbyterian Healthcare Services is launching their drive-up testing site on Sunday at its PresNow location at 4515 Coors NW. The site will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. everyday.

“If a patient is screened and ordered for a test, there will be a test provided onsite,” Presbyterian said in a news release.

All samples taken are sent to TriCore Reference Laboratories and results should be available 48 to 72 hours later.

— Matthew Reisen


4:49 p.m.
Pojoaque Pueblo temporarily closing its casinos

The Pueblo of Pojoaque has decided to temporarily close its three casinos due to COVID-19 cases popping up in the state.

Cindi Routh, a pueblo spokeswoman, said Buffalo Thunder Resort Casino, Cities of Gold Casino and Jake’s Casino will be shut down for 14 days beginning on Monday “out of an abundance of caution” and to promote “social distancing.”

“Our team is committed to creating a safe and healthy environment for all of our customers and our employees,” Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. Joseph M. Talachy said. “Know that as our forefathers always did, we shall flourish and thrive long after this time has passed.”

Social service programs as well as all other businesses, including three hotels, operated by the Pueblo of Pojoaque will remain open.

— Matthew Reisen


3:30 p.m.
Bars can stay open but told no concerts, DJs

The state’s Regulation and Licensing Department’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division is telling liquor establishments that they can stay open, but they’re not allowed to hold concerts, DJ’d events or similar gatherings under the governor’s public health order limiting mass gatherings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want to ensure that New Mexico liquor establishments are aware of the Order and understand the expectations,” said Superintendent Marguerite Salazar. “The health and safety of everyone is the number one priority.”

The public health order prohibits mass gatherings of 100 or more people in a connected space but excludes bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, and other licensed similarly locations.

While those venues may stay open, they are not allowed to hold concerts, DJ’d events, conferences, and other similar happenings until the order is lifted.

“We recognize that this is a hardship on New Mexico licensees, but the health risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic mandate these temporary restrictions,” said Director Andrew Vallejos.

–Matthew Reisen


3 p.m.
Three new COVID-19 cases in NM

New Mexico announced three additional COVID-19 cases on Saturday afternoon — bringing the total to 13 statewide since Wednesday.Nora Sackett, a spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office, said those infected include a Sandoval County man and woman, both in their 60s and from the same household, and a Bernalillo County woman in her 50s.

“The New Mexico Department of Health has active investigations into each of the presumptive positive patients, which includes contact-tracing and swabs of symptomatic individuals who have had contact with the positive cases,” she said.

So far, Bernalillo County has six cases, Sandoval has two, Santa Fe has three and Socorro has two.

–Matthew Reisen


1:55 p.m.
City waiving animal adoption fees

The city of Albuquerque is waiving adoption fees at its animal shelters for the next 90 days in an effort to combat any potential slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic.

“In times of uncertainty, community members are less likely to make a long-term commitment like adopting a new member of the family,” the city’s Animal Welfare Department said in a release Saturday.

Officials said they have a growing number of animals in their care and would need to foster out 200-300 animals should the city reach critical capacity.

To see the animals available for adoption, go to cabq.gov/pets.

Those interested in fostering can send an email to AWDFoster@cabq.gov.

— Jessica Dyer


1:36 p.m.
Taos Ski Valley closing two weeks earlier than planned and cancelling planned World Pro Ski Tour event

From a release:

Amidst the rapidly developing COVID-19 situation, Taos Ski Valley plans to close the ski resort for the remaining two weeks of the originally scheduled 2019-2020 ski season. Sunday, March 22 is the new scheduled closing date and this will include The Blake at Taos Ski Valley hotel, and Taos Air service from Texas and California. All remaining events, including the World Pro Ski Tour World Championships scheduled for April 1.

Read more

— Robert Browman


1:29 p.m.
SFCC and Santa Fe Higher Education Center Closed through April 5; Events Cancelled through April 10

From a release:

Santa Fe Community College and Santa Fe Higher Education Center are following Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s recommendation to reduce the spread of Coronavirus and are closed. SFCC, Kids Campus, and the Higher Education Center are closed for spring break through Sunday, March 22. Both campuses will be closed Monday, March 23, through Sunday, April 5, to further prevent the virus from impacting our community members. All events are cancelled; there is no access to either campus.

After spring break, beginning March 23:

· All online classes will continue as scheduled.
· Some classes and student services will resume remotely.
· Faculty and staff will be available for students.
· Students should contact their instructors.
· Students should check email and the college’s Coronavirus website sfcc.edu/covid regularly.
· Student employees, faculty and staff will be paid and do not have to take leave.

— Robert Browman


12:48 p.m.
NM restricts visitors to nursing homes

The state Department of Health on Saturday ordered nursing homes to limit visitors as New Mexico tries to slow the surge in coronavirus infections.

The state directed nursing homes to allow visitors only for patients receiving end-of-life care.

Even then, the visitors should have their temperature taken and denied entry if they have a fever of 100 degrees or show signs of a respiratory infection. If allowed in, visitors are also to immediately wash their hands and be escorted to and from the patient’s room.

Read the full story.

— Dan McKay


8:02 a.m.
First full day of drive-up testing begins in Albuquerque

Roughly three dozen cars lined Walter Street in Downtown Albuquerque Saturday morning as those hoping to get tested for COVID-19 waited for the 7 a.m. opening of the drive-up site outside Lovelace Medical Center.

The tests appeared to take only minutes to complete.

As a driver pulls in, a staff member in protective clothing approaches and asks a series of questions. This questionnaire step takes about two minutes.

The driver is then directed to pull forward to a swabbing station where another staff member approaches and helps those inside gather a sample to be tested at a local lab. This takes about a minute.

The entire testing process, from pulling in to pulling out, takes about five minutes.

Dr. Vesta Sandoval, chief medical officer for the Lovelace Health System, said results of tests will take from 48 to 72 hours.

The testing site staff is asking patients for insurance information, but they aren’t turning away those without it.

On Friday, Insurance Superintendent Russell Toal issued an emergency order banning insurance companies from charging copays or similar costs on those seek testing and treatment for COVID-19.

Lovelace’s drive-up center, which is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week, is located across the street from the hospital’s Downtown center, which is at 601 Dr Martin Luther King Jr Ave NE.

Presbyterian plans to open a similar drive-up testing center soon.

Here’s the Journal’s most recent story on COVID-19 testing: Local hospitals launch drive-up COVID-19 testing

— Robert Browman


7:30 a.m.
Cochiti Lake closed due to coronavirus

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has shuttered Cochiti Lake indefinitely due to coronavirus.

The closure, which is effective immediately, includes public access to the lake, visitor center, recreation areas and campgrounds.

“The closure is a precautionary measure to reduce risk of exposure to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19),” Public Affairs Specialist Lisa Lockyear wrote in a release.

— Robert Browman


7:30 a.m.
Vanishing into Thin Mints air

First it was the Clorox wipes, then it was the toilet paper, now even Girl Scout Cookies will be joining a long list of items absent from grocery stores.

The Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails announced that starting Monday, Girl Scouts will no longer be selling their cookies in public places.

“We’re aware that suspending booth sales could have a negative impact on their goals,” Anita Griego said. “But we must do our part to prioritize the health and safety of our members, volunteers and the general public.”

The annual sales of Girl Scout cookie is the largest fundraiser for the organization, accounting for up to 75 percent of the money used by troops to fund activities and community service projects, Griego said.
Some of the booths scheduled for this weekend may continue at the discretion of troop leaders and parents, according to a spokeswoman with the company.

While the Girl Scouts may no longer be stationed outside of grocery stores, it will still be possible to fulfill Thin Mints cravings by ordering through individual Girl Scouts.

The Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails serves around 6,000 girls and women through Central and Northern New Mexico.

— Pilar Martinez

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