Editor’s note: This post includes updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of the state.
Donation drive for homebound seniors, people with disabilities
Government officials on Saturday announced a plan to get supplies and food to homebound seniors and people who are disabled.
The state Aging and Long-Term Services Department is teaming up with the Bernalillo County Department of Behaviorial Health Services on the effort, according to a news release.
The first site — the South Valley Multi-Purpose Center at 2008 Larrazolo SW — will become operational Monday, March 23, at 8 a.m. It will serve as a hub for people to drop off donations. State employees and volunteers will collect the drive-up donations, sanitize the supplies or packaged, non-perishable food items, then distribute them people across the county who are homebound and have called the hotline.
Donations will be accepted at the center Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
To volunteer, email ALTSD-Volunteers@state.nm.us, Subject Line: Ready to Help, identify your city/town, and your phone number. The department will be in touch if/when volunteers are needed to mobilize a donation drop-off center.
— Journal Staff
Presbyterian moving drive-up COVID-19 testing center to Balloon Fiesta Park
Presbyterian Healthcare Services is moving its drive-up COVID-19 testing site to Northeast Albuquerque after thousands showed up to get tested at the West Side site and clogged residential streets with long lines that stretched for blocks and lasted hours.
“Barring any issues we will open Monday at Balloon Fiesta Park,” said Presbyterian spokeswoman Melanie Moses.
The new site will replace the one at the PresNow location on Coors NW and will operate from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.
Moses said the move will allow Presbyterian staff access to better facilities, not disrupt any neighborhoods, improve traffic flow and will make it easier for police to patrol.
Since opening the West Side location March 15, Moses said they had more than 3,000 people show up and tested more than 1,700, averaging about 300 tests per day. She would not give a total of how many of those tests have come back positive but said it has happened.
Moses could not give an exact number but said they have had at least three positive tests come back so far.
— Matt Reisen
City turns two community centers into homeless shelters for seniors
The City of Albuquerque has temporarily re-purposed two community centers into shelters to house those in the homeless population who are more at risk to COVID-19.
Bobby Sisneros, a city spokesman, said the Jack Candelaria and Thomas Bell community centers will be open for dozens of homeless men and women, age 62 or older, who were initially staying at the Westside Emergency Housing Center. The temporary shelters will be operated by Heading Home and the Department of Family and Community Services, who will also provide transportation.
He said the shelters will not accept walk-up clients and occupants will not be allowed to leave and return on foot.
“In my current position I felt obligated to take these extra measures to provide one more layer of safety for the most at-risk residents of the Westside Emergency Housing Center,” Family and Community Services Director Carol Pierce said in a news release.
The department has made several changes to how it address homelessness in the wake of COVID-19 cases popping up around the city, including extending the hours of operation for West Side shelter to 24-hours each day, seven days a week and implementing health screenings to help prevent “not only COVID-19 but the spread of any other illness.”
— Matt Reisen
Del Norte student has COVID-19; DOH announces 14 new cases
A Del Norte High School freshman has tested positive for COVID-19, prompting state health officials to ask students and staff from that school to self-isolate.
The state Department of Health, meanwhile, announced on Saturday that 14 additional people have tested positive for COVID-19 in New Mexico, including a male infant in Bernalillo County. That brings the state’s total COVID-19 cases to 57.
There are eight other new cases in Bernalillo County: a female in her 70s; a female in her 60s; two males in their 40s; two males in their 30s; a female in her 30s and a female in her 20s.
The other positive cases are:
- A female in her 20s in Doña Ana County
– A male in his 70s in Lea County
- A female in her 40s in Sandoval County
- A male in his 50s in Santa Fe County
– And a female in her 50s in Taos County
“The Department of Health has detected community spread,” the governor’s office said in a news release. “The agency reports that given the infectious nature of the virus it is likely other residents are infected but yet to be tested or confirmed positive.”
— Shelby Perea, Martin Salazar
Bernalillo County property tax deadline remains in effect
Bernalillo County’s treasurer says there are no planned deadline extensions for property tax payments amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The next deadline, May 10, is still in effect, Treasurer Nancy Bearce said in an email to the Journal. She said she does not intend to request a change from the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department. Paying after May 10 will trigger a penalty and interest, she said.
“Extending taxes will impact other public entities such as UNM Hospital, CNM, City, County, etc.,” she wrote. “However, the (treasurer’s) office is staying in contact with all levels of emergency centers and is monitoring the situation frequently.”
For those who pay taxes through their mortgage company, Bearce said this:
“We understand many mortgage companies are working with owners dealing with State’s COVID-19 emergency, to make payment arrangements. For all property owners with mortgages that have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, as Treasurer, I encourage property owners to contact their mortgage/financing company and discuss assistance and options for payments.
Currently banking institutions, mortgage and title companies expect to pay all property taxes on time.”
— Jessica Dyer
Bandelier National Monument announces closures
Most areas of Bandelier National Monument will be closing indefinitely beginning Sunday, according to a release from the National Park Service.
“Frijoles Canyon including the Visitor Center, WNPA Book Store, Sirphey at Bandelier Restaurant, Tsankawi, Juniper and Ponderosa Campgrounds are closed until further notice,” the release read.
Some areas accessible by trail will remain open.
“Where it is possible to adhere to the latest health guidance, the Bandelier backcountry will remain open for day use and can be accessed by the Burnt Mesa Trail, Ponderosa Trail, Apache Springs Trail, Cerro Grande Trail, Ski Trails, and Alamo Boundary Trail,” park service officials wrote.
More information about the park is available at www.nps.gov/band, or by calling the the visitor center at 505-672-3861, ext. 0.
— Robert Browman
Local hospitals in need of blood donations
A surge in the number of patients and canceled blood drives have led to a critical shortage of blood at New Mexico hospitals, according to a release by the City of Albuquerque’s Joint Information Center.
Health officials are asking for the public’s help in replenishing supplies. The release listed ways those who are healthy can donate:
UNM Hospital: UNM physicians want people to know that the need for blood donation for trauma victims and other seriously ill patients remains constant. To become a donor, call 1-877-258-4825 or visit www.vitalant.org”.
“Lovelace Hospital: Following the community’s overwhelming response earlier this week, Lovelace Health System is partnering with Vitalant again to hold a second blood drive on Wednesday, March 25, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the parking lot of Longfellow Elementary School, located at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Avenue and Walter Street. In order to maintain social distancing guidelines, donors will wait in their car and receive a text notification when it is their turn to donate. All blood collected will stay in New Mexico. To become a donor, click here or call 505-246-1457.”
“Vitalant: Interested donors can also visit www.bloodhero.com to locate a blood drive or blood donation center and reserve a time to donate.
— Robert Browman
Navajo Nation issues shelter-in-place order for all residents
The Navajo Nation Health Operations Center on Friday ordered all residents to stay at home and all non-essential businesses to close to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“We are getting many reports of people still being out in public and putting elders and everyone at risk. This is a very serious situation and if need be, we will take steps to enforce the “Stay at Home Order” even more,” President Jonathan Nez wrote in a release.
As of Friday night, officials had reported 14 cases of the virus on the reservation, which has a reported population of more than 350,000 and extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
“The more people go out in public, the greater the risk is for a massive health crisis on the Navajo Nation,” Nez wrote. “We are telling people to stay home to protect themselves and others, which will help our health professionals take care of those who need medical attention.”
Earlier Friday, Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer approved an allocation of $4 million to fight the virus and for supplies such as food and water.
“Our ancestors have been through much worse and we need to remember that,” Lizer wrote in the release. “We are going to get through this with the power of prayer.”
— Robert Browman
APS largely suspends its hiring activity
Hiring is on pause at one of the largest employers in the state, Albuquerque Public Schools.
The district recently closed its Background and Fingerprinting Department, a move to beef up social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That effectively suspends all new hires and halts incoming volunteers, according to Todd Torgerson, chief of Human Resources and Legal Services.
— Shelby Perea
Imports of medical supplies plummet as demand in US soars
The critical shortage of medical supplies across the U.S., including testing swabs, protective masks, surgical gowns and hand sanitizer, can be tied to a sudden drop in imports, mostly from China, The Associated Press has found.
Trade data shows the decline in shipments started in mid-February after the spiraling coronavirus outbreak in China led the country to shutter factories and disrupted ports.
Some emergency rooms, hospitals and clinics in the U.S. have now run out of key medical supplies, while others are rationing personal protective equipment like gloves and masks.
New Mexico considers holding mail elections
With just 45 days until voting starts, New Mexico is exploring how quickly it could move entirely to a vote-by-mail system for this year’s primary and general elections amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Legislative approval in a special session would almost certainly be required to abandon early and Election Day voting sites, election officials said, a potential barrier to launching a mail-in system before the June 2 primary.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has already informed legislative leaders that she expects to call a special session this year to consider budget adjustments, economic relief and other emergency measures. But it isn’t clear yet when it would start.
— Dan McKay
System ‘keeps everybody sanitized’
Former Lavu CEO Andy Lim is helping restaurants navigate the coronavirus crisis with a new QR code system for ultrafast online takeout and delivery services.
QR, or “quick response” codes, are not new. They’re used widely across the globe, although U.S. businesses have been slow to deploy them, said Lim, who co-founded Lavu, an Albuquerque startup that offers an online management platform for restaurants and bars.
The system could help in the current crisis, since the state ordered all food establishments and bars to shut down their table services and limit operations solely to takeout and deliveries.
“Restaurants are really suffering right now and many don’t have the technology to deal with this situation,” Lim said. “We can help them, and when things return to normal, this will continue to make their operations more efficient.”
— Kevin Robinson-Avila