Editor’s note: This post includes Monday 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.
Tuesday’s updates page has been posted. You can find via our standing link https://abqjournal.com/coronavirus-updates
Markets running low on some food items
— Roberto E. Rosales
Hundreds seek drive-up testing, forcing one site to close
Fearing they may be infected with the coronavirus, hundreds have flocked in recent days to the Albuquerque hospitals offering drive-up COVID-19 testing, forcing one of the sites to temporarily shutter because of dwindling resources and supplies.
Whitney Marquez, a spokeswoman for Lovelace Medical Center, said Monday that the hospital was temporarily putting its drive-up testing site on hold. The hospital was the first to start offering the service in Albuquerque on Friday evening. The site tested hundreds of people before its resources were taxed.
By Monday afternoon, the long lines of people seeking to be tested had spread to the city’s West Side. There, a long line of cars snaked through the neighborhoods and streets that surround Presbyterian’s drive-through COVID-19 testing site.
The line for the test at PresNow, 4515 Coors NW, was so long that portable toilets were set up along the line for drivers needing to relieve themselves.
— Ryan Boetel
Picture: Tingley Beach closed
— Adolphe Pierre-Louis
State has plan to help workers affected by film hiatus
The New Mexico State Department of Workforce Solutions has announced support for workers who have lost their jobs, or suffered a reduction in salary, due to the COVID-19 virus. This support covers eligible entertainment industry workers in New Mexico.
— Adrian Gomez
Haaland to host public health town hall call Tuesday
New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland will host a telephone town hall with public health officials on Tuesday from 6:05 p.m.-7:05 p.m. to update New Mexicans about the coronavirus pandemic.
During the call, Haaland will provide information on congressional action to keep families safe and healthy. Residents will have the opportunity to ask questions that can be answered by public health professionals. All are welcome to join the call. To join call 877-229-8493. The dial-in code is 118783.
— Scott Turner
County Commission to hold emergency meeting Tuesday
The Bernalillo County Commission will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to vote on a resolution declaring the county an emergency area. Commissioners will also vote on a Civil Emergency Management Powers Ordinance.
Under the ordinance, the county manager may be given authority to declare areas of the county under curfew; close streets, alleys and other public ways when necessary and order the closing of places of mass assembly, including theaters, clubs and performance and athletic venues, as well as places of institutional childcare or education such as daycare, preschools and private educational institutions. The county manager would also have the authority to order places of private employment to take measures to minimize the risk of exposure to unusual infectious diseases or health risks to employees and customers.
The meeting is set for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. In response to the governor’s declaration of a public health emergency and ban on large public gatherings, all Bernalillo County public meetings will be limited to in-person attendance by the members of the Bernalillo County Commission, critical staff and credentialed members of the media. This meeting will be livestreamed for public view at www.bernco.gov.
Water authority suspends disconnections for non-payment
The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority has suspended disconnections for non-payment until further notice in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The Water Authority wishes to assure customers that it has contingency staffing plans in place to ensure continuity of water and sewer service,” the utility wrote in a Monday news release.
Customers with a water emergency should call 842-9287 and select Option 1.
The utility is asking customers to avoid paying bills in person if possible. Payments can be made by mail, by calling 852-9287, or at the utility’s online payment site, www.abcwua.org/pay_water_bill.aspx.
The New Mexico Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization continue to advise that washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is an effective way to prevent spread of coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
Water utility representatives have also said that there is no need to hoard bottled water. The water supply itself is protected from any contamination by a thorough disinfection process.
— Theresa Davis
Judge Suspends Grand Juries for First Judicial District Court
The First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe has suspended all grand juries due to the COVID-19 outbreak, following an order issued Monday morning by District Court Chief Judge Marlowe Sommer.
First Judicial District Attorney’s Office Spokesperson Henry Varela wrote that the decision came out of concern for the well-being of those present in the courtroom.
“The court has implemented these measures to reduce the risk of exposure for court staff, attorneys, victims, defendants, witnesses and law enforcement,” he wrote.
The only exemption to the new rule will be 10 cases where defendants were already scheduled to face a grand jury. Afterward, no more grand juries will be held until the court reconvenes, Varela wrote.
He wrote there is no timeline for when grand jury proceedings will reconvene, but that preliminary hearings will still be held to prevent a backlog of cases.
Sommer also issued a list of new rules for the First Judicial District, which states defendants are no longer required to attend certain hearings including arraignments, probation status conferences, docket calls and pretrial conferences, which have been canceled until further notice.
– Kyle Land
All state parks closed until April 9
All of New Mexico’s state parks are closed until at least April 9 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.
A news release from the department said a “law enforcement presence will remain in the parks to ensure the protection of natural resources.” Visitors who made overnight camping reservations online can receive a refund by calling 1-877-664-7787 or visiting ReserveAmerica.com. All special events at the parks will be postponed.
— Theresa Davis
Multiple BernCo departments closing
Bernalillo County is shutting down several departments and facilities in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The county announced that it is only staffing “essential personnel” until April 15, with other employees either teleworking from home or staying home and working on an on-call basis.
No changes are planned for law enforcement or firefighters. The Metropolitan Detention Center will operate as normal except for a temporary halt to in-person inmate visits.
The CARE Campus — which offers detoxification and other substance-abuse related programs — will also remain open.
But the county is closing community centers, probate court, Rio Grande Pool, its Economic Development and Human Resources departments and more.
Many other services are now available only by appointment or during limited hours.
For more information, go to https://www.bernco.gov/coronavirus
— Jessica Dyer
NM prison visits suspended until end of April
The New Mexico Corrections Department announced Monday that it will suspend all visitation to the state’s prisons through the end of April to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
“This includes the suspension of contact, non-contact, and attorney visits in all prison facilities,” NMCD spokesman Eric Harrison wrote in a statement. “NMCD has recently implemented changes that will increase inmate access to phones.”
He said the Corrections Department’s Information Technology Division is working on bringing video visits to the prisons as well.
“This decision is in support of national guidelines and recommendations from the Department of Health and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in a joint effort to minimize the spread of the virus,” Harrison wrote.
— Elise Kaplan
Christus to limit visitors; has one testing site in Santa Fe
Starting Tuesday, visiting hours at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center will allow visitations between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., and only one visitor will be allowed per patient per day.
Visitors will be asked about recent travel and possible exposure to the coronavirus. Anyone with a temperature over 100.4 degrees will not be allowed to enter, as will children under 12.
Christus spokesman Arturo Delago also said the Entrada Contenta Health Center on Herrera Drive is testing for coronavirus, but only with an order from a doctor or the Department of Health.
— Edmundo Carrillo
Santa Fe Animal Shelter limits hours, offers pet food
The Santa Fe Animal Shelter has limited adoption hours to Friday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The shelter is also offering pet food on a first come, first serve basis at the main campus of Caja del Rio Road. Donations call also be dropped off at the shelter.
City suggests ways public can help business, others
The city of Albuquerque is suggesting several ways the public can help those affected by the coronavirus, including buying gift cards from local businesses, donating blood and contributing to existing city foundations.
Examples include giving to the city’s “Donation Drive for Seniors,” which is collecting items such as shelf-stable food, toilet paper and personal hygiene products. Donations are accepted at the Senior Affairs office, 1620 First St NW, or at various police substations. A list is available here.
Other opportunities include the One Albuquerque Fund, which the city says will be “expediting housing vouchers” for those who experiencing homelessness. To donate, visit https://onealbuquerque.org/donate.php
According to Mayor Tim Keller’s office, the city’s Health and Social Service Centers distribute money to people who cannot pay their rent. Donations – made via checks written to FCS Health and Social Services can be mailed to any of the following locations:
-Alamosa Health & Social Service Center, 6900 Gonzales SW, Albuquerque, NM 87121
-Los Griegos Health & Social Service Center, 1231 Candelaria NW, Albuquerque, NM 87107
-John Marshall Health & Social Service Center, 1500 Walter SE, Albuquerque, NM 87102
-East Central Health & Social Service Center, 7525 Zuni SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108
The city is also suggesting:
-Purchasing gift cards now from local businesses that you will use later
-Donating blood at the Vitalent blood collection center at 1515 University NE
-Helping prepare meals for people staying at the city’s West Side shelter. Sign up for a variety of available slots by visiting cabq.gov/mealservice
— Jessica Dyer
Veterans Service offices to remain open
All fully-staffed New Mexico Department of Veterans Services field offices will remain open during the ongoing COVID-19/Novel Coronavirus outbreak until further notice.
DVS Veterans Service Officers will be available to assist veterans in the following field offices Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.: Alamogordo, Albuquerque (downtown and Northeast Heights offices), Carlsbad, Clovis, Farmington, Hobbs, Las Cruces, and Roswell. Veterans are strongly urged to call their nearest field office and make an appointment—to avoid having to wait in the office with others who may also stopped by on a drop-in basis.
“DVS realizes that, despite the outbreak of the COVID-19/Novel Coronavirus, veterans will continue to rely on their VA and state benefits—especially their health care benefits,” DVS Secretary Judy Griego said. “So DVS will do everything possible to continue helping New Mexico’s veterans and with their benefits needs. Please don’t hesitate to call us for help.”
— Scott Turner
Metro Court reschedules traffic arraignments, accepting filings at walk-up stations
The busiest courthouse in the state has rescheduled some traffic arraignments, is accepting civil filings at its outdoor walk-up window and has set up information stations out front to help reduce the number of people inside of the building.
Metropolitan Court spokeswoman Camilla Baca wrote in a news release Monday afternoon that staff posted outside can help look up cases in order to let visitors know if they’re in the right place.
Baca wrote that many upcoming traffic arraignments have been rescheduled, and notices with new court dates are being sent out in the mail. Civil filings are now being accepted at the windows on the southside of the courthouse between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., according to the news release.
Officials have also set up a hotline for people who do not feel well and may need accommodations: 841-9810.
The courthouse sees more than 3,000 visitors each day and Chief Judge Sandra Engel is asking people who have business in the courthouse to leave their friends and family at home in an attempt to maintain a healthy environment.
Jurors are also asked to call 841-8158 between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. each day to see if they need to report in person.
— Katy Barnitz
Santa Fe County inmate ‘symptomatic,’ will be tested for COVID-19
An inmate who was booked into the Santa Fe County jail over the weekend was “symptomatic” and has been quarantined while he waits to be tested by the state Department of Health.
County spokeswoman Carmelina Hart said someone from DOH will come to the jail to test the inmate instead of having him transported to the hospital. Hart said new inmates go through an intense screening process, and ones who don’t show symptoms will be in a separate pod for seven days before being moved to general population.
Inmates who show symptoms will be quarantined for 14 days, Hart said.
— Edmundo Carrillo
Chains close temporarily, adjust hours
Several national retailers with locations in New Mexico have announced temporarily closures or changes to their hours in response to efforts to control the spread of COVID-19.
REI, the national sporting goods store, will close all retail stores from March 16 to March 27.
Customers can still shop online and all shipping fees will be waived while the retail locations are closed, and any questions can be answered through the store’s only chat service REI Conversations.
Employees of the store will continue to be paid during the closure.
Canada-based cosmetic store Lush Cosmetics will close all U.S. and Canada stores from March 16 to March 29.
— Pilar Martinez
Coronavirus outbreak hits 21 cases in NM
Four more adults in Bernalillo County tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, pushing New Mexico’s total number of cases to 21.
The most recent people to test positive are a 20-year-old man, two 30-year-old women and an 80-year-old man — all in Bernalillo County, which covers Albuquerque.
The state Department of Health said it is investigating each case to see who the person came in contact with and to collect swabs for testing from anyone showing symptoms.
Altogether, the state now has 14 positive cases in Bernalillo County, three in Santa Fe and two each in Sandoval and Socorro counties.
— Dan McKay
Archdiocese of Santa Fe postpones Chimayo and Tome Hill pilgrimages
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe said Monday that in accordance with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s state of public health emergency the Chimayo and the Tome Hill group pilgrimages are hereby postponed.
Once the New Mexico Department of Health lifts COVID-19 directives, it is possible they can be rescheduled, according to a news release.
“Individual pilgrims visiting Santuario de Chimayo are strongly discouraged from visiting the sacred shrine because of the increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and passing it on to another who may be gravely harmed,” the Archdiocese said.
If individuals insist on going they are encouraged to observe social distancing and proper safety protocols “to protect fellow pilgrims and their families.”
The Archdiocese called it “a very difficult decision was made with a great sense of sadness.”
Archbishop John C. Wester, in collaboration with Reverend Julio Gonzales, SF, Holy Family Parish — Santuario de Chimayo pastor and civil authorities made the call out of an abundance of caution.
— Mike Murphy
FBI continues investigations
The FBI, like local, state and other federal law enforcement agencies, are not letting the COVID-19 virus slow down their law enforcement activities.
“The Albuquerque FBI Division isn’t missing a beat when it comes to our investigations and other law enforcement activity,” office spokesman Frank Fisher said. “We know the risks of letting up are too high.”
Some meetings and conferences with the public have been canceled or postponed, Fisher said.
— Mike Gallagher
New Mexico Gas Company suspends disconnections
New Mexico Gas Company has suspended disconnections for non-payment through April 6, the company announced Monday.
It is asking customers to limit visits to its walk-in offices and instead pay bills by postal mail, online or by calling the customer contact center.
The walk-in offices remain open, although that may be revisited if circumstances change.
The company will be reducing employees’ non-essential direct contact with customers, to allow appropriate social distance.
Customers can sign up for electronic billing on the New Mexico Gas Company website, www.nmgco.com or call 1-888-664-2726 to speak with a customer service representative about any issue related to their natural gas service.
— Scott Turner
French Funerals and Cremations announces outbreak procedures
French Funerals and Cremations is updating its procedures to help keep families safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The loss of a loved one is always difficult, and it is more so amidst periods of confusion, fear, and uncertainty,” Tom Antram, president of French said. “We’re working to ease that pain as much as we can, by helping protect families’ safety during this time, but also making sure that they can continue to mourn in a healthy manner. We’re continuing our operations in every way possible so that families don’t have to defer or delay their grief process.”
To minimize the spread of illness and protect families, French is taking the following measures:
French is recommending that all funeral arrangements are made by phone or internet, rather than through an in-person meeting. Call 505-843-6333 with questions or visit frenchfunerals.com.
In cooperation with public officials, French recommends that all services, for the duration of the outbreak, be held in French locations and be limited to immediate family members only.
French will be live-streaming all services for other friends and family to attend virtually.
All French community gatherings, including advance planning presentations/lunch-and-learns, workshops, bereavement group meetings, and public events hosted at French facilities, will be cancelled until further notice.
— Scott Turner
Council to vote tonight on revamped emergency powers bill
Amid the global coronavirus pandemic, the Albuquerque City Council is slated to vote tonight on legislation that would broaden the mayor’s “emergency powers,” though the proposal has changed since its introduction.
Council President Pat Davis’ updated bill distinguishes “public health emergency” from other “civil” emergencies like riots and natural disasters and would grant the mayor specific authority under the health category.
Dow dives 2,999 points on fears virus will cause recession
The Dow industrials took a 2,999-point nosedive on Monday as fears deepen that the coronavirus outbreak will throw global economy into recession. Even for a market beset by volaility in recent weeks, the losses were staggering. The 12.9% drop in the Dow was its worst since 1987.
Lujan to self-quarantine
Congressman Ben Ray Luján announced plans Monday to self-quarantine after a brief interaction with an individual who was at the time asymptomatic but later tested positive for COVID-19, his office said.
Luján is exhibiting no symptoms, and health professionals have advised that the congressman is at a low probability for infection. He first learned of the individual’s diagnosis Sunday afternoon. Still, out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of the public, the congressman has chosen to self-quarantine.
Staff in the New Mexico and Washington, D.C. offices will begin previously-scheduled telework on Monday.
— Scott Turner
Actor Idris Elba test positive for COVID-91
Idris Elba is the latest celebrity to test positive for COVID-19.
The British actor took to Twitter on Monday to let fans know about his diagnosis.
“This morning I tested positive for Covid 19,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “I feel OK, I have no symptoms so far but have been isolated since I found out about my possible exposure to the virus.”
Last week, Netflix postponed production for two weeks on all it’s North American productions.
Elba is slated to film “The Harder They Fall” near Santa Fe. The production is still in it’s pre-production phase.
According to reports, he was on set last Tuesday.
Emails to his publicists weren’t immediately returned.
Elba said he was tested for coronavirus last Friday after someone he had been exposed to tested positive.
Although Elba did not specify who he had interacted with, he attended WE Day 2020 in London last week. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has also tested positive, was also in attendance.
“Look, this is serious,” Elba said during the video where ne was next to his wife, Sabrina. “Now is the time to really think about social distancing, washing your hands.”
“We live in a divided world right now — we can all feel it,” he continued in the video. “It’s been bullshit. But now is the time for solidarity, now is the time for thinking about each other.”
Lujan Grisham to Trump: States need more help
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham bluntly urged President Trump during a conference call Monday to provide more help for states struggling to expand their testing capacity as the coronavirus sweeps the globe, according to summaries released by her staff and national media reports.
— Dan McKay
Pictures: Free breakfast at Albuquerque schools
— Roberto E. Rosales
State expands childcare eligibility
The state is taking steps to expand access to child care by implementing a series of temporary changes to early childhood policies.
Those changes include:
-Issuing full-time child care assistance contracts to health care providers and first responders.
-Temporarily registering friends, family members and neighbors to offer paid child care services.
-Helping families transition to full-time child care.
-Allowing families that keep their children home during the emergency to keep their benefits.
-Allowing families to transfer benefits to a new child care center if one closes.
The Early Childhood Education and Care Department has also made several changes affecting child care and Pre-K providers, including expediting background checks to help cover staffing shortages and coordinating food and cleaning supply delivery.
For more information and for help accessing these services, click here.
— Katy Barnitz
PNM suspends electric disconnects for nonpayment
The state’s largest electric utility announced Monday it was suspending disconnects for non-payment until further notice, suggested customers pay bills online rather than visit a payment center, and it warned them to beware of scams and contact the company directly if they suspect one.
In a news release, PNM Chairman, President, and CEO, Pat Vincent-Collawn, said, “We have suspended electric service disconnections and late fees for nonpayment for customers until further notice. Collection and credit reporting for nonpayment have been suspended.
We will provide customers with notice before our billing/disconnection policies resume.”
PNM noted that its payments centers will remain open at this time, but it is asking customers to use other convenient self-service options.
Customers can pay online at PNM.com/pay or by calling KUBRA EZ-PAY® payment services for PNM at 1-844-PNM-PYMT (844-766-7968).
The company asked customers to avoid the payments centers “if they have recently traveled to a high-risk area or are otherwise subject to recommended self-isolation.”
PNM also warned about potential scams, saying to ignore any messages telling individual that you must pay your bill to avoid a disconnect. Contact PNM directly through the contact information below if you suspect a scam.
If you need to contact PNM consider:
– Chat live with a representative at PNM.com/contact-us and look for the chat icon at the top right of the webpage
– 1-888-DIAL-PNM (1-888-342-5766)
– Email PNMCustomerService@pnm.com
Once the COVID-19 situation stabilizes, and payments resume, each community has programs to help provide relief to customers who need to catch up on their bill. For more information, visit PNM.com/billhelp.
— Mike Murphy
Most staff at Heinrich’s NM offices are telecommuting
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich announced that his New Mexico-based offices will be operating with minimized on-site staff, with the remainder of staff working remotely to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
This will go into effect immediately. Heinrich’s D.C. office initiated the same modified operations last week.
The senator will keep New Mexicans informed of any changes to the operations of his offices and encourages residents to contact him for assistance. This includes New Mexico residents facing issues returning to the U.S. from travel abroad. He is also encouraging New Mexico residents to visit his online resource center for COVID-19 at www.Heinrich.Senate.Gov/Coronavirus.
— Scott Turner
DA asks NM Supreme Court to postpone hearings in many criminal cases
Bernalillo County’s district attorney is asking the Supreme Court to cancel all hearings for defendants who are not in custody and to conduct only constitutionally required hearings for those who are behind bars.
In a letter Monday morning to New Mexico’s high court, Raul Torrez asks the justices to take “decisive, blanket action on par with the governor’s declaration of an emergency.”
Torrez’s letter comes a day after the Law Offices of the Public Defender reached out to the Supreme Court making its own set of requests to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur asked the court to vacate all jury trials and to allow most hearings to take place over the phone.
“We agree that more drastic measures are needed to protect the public and we request that the New Mexico Supreme Court exercise its power as the governor’s co-equal to manage the judiciary’s response during these extraordinary times,” Torrez wrote.
Specifically, Torrez asks the court to vacate all settings and to suspend deadlines in all cases where a defendant is not in jail. He also asks the high court to encourage lower courts to hold only hearings that are constitutionally required for those defendants who are in custody. He has asked the court to suspend a local rule that imposed tight deadlines in Bernalillo County cases, saying that making those deadlines will become increasingly difficult as the community – including witnesses – deal with things like self-quarantine and travel restrictions.
Torrez additionally asks the court to waive deadlines for initiating felony cases for both in and out of custody defendants and to support efforts to conduct as many hearings and interviews as possibly via video.
— Katy Barnitz
Lujan Grisham signs orders for emergency funds
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed executive orders Monday that make about $3.25 million available for humanitarian relief and other emergency services to address the coronavirus outbreak.
At least $1.5 million of the money can be tapped to help children and families affected by the three-week closure of K-12 public schools in New Mexico.
Another order provides an extra $250,000 to support the New Mexico National Guard, ensuring it has at least $1 million available for deployment.
Lujan Grisham’s declaration of an emergency last week directed her administration to use the National Guard, if necessary, to support civil authorities and provide humanitarian aid.
— Dan McKay
Wall Street nosedive triggers trading halt at market open
Trading on the New York Stock Exchange was halted just minutes into the day when stocks dropped 8%.
The aggressive selling comes even after the Federal Reserve announced emergency measures to try to bolster the economy Sunday night.
— Robert Browman
15 New Mexicans who were on ill-fated cruise ship return home
Fifteen of the beleaguered New Mexicans whose Hawaiian cruise aboard the Grand Princess turned nightmare after several passengers and crew members tested positive for COVID-19 arrived home Sunday, eight days after they had been scheduled to return.
— Joline Gutierrez Krueger