Coronavirus updates, March 23 - Albuquerque Journal

Coronavirus updates, March 23

Editor’s note: This post includes updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of the state.



8:21 p.m.
County Comission cancels Tuesday night meeting

The Bernalillo County Commission has canceled its scheduled administrative meeting set for Tuesday night.

“We just think it’s in the best interest of safety and social distancing and public health that we postpone it,” said commission chairman Lonnie Talbert, noting that the board’s meetings bring together more than five people, thus running counter to new state directives that restrict the size of gatherings across the state.

The elected, five-member county commission last week called an emergency meeting at which it approved new emergency powers that Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca could use if necessary to address the current coronavirus pandemic. With that authority now established, Talbert said he felt comfortable calling off Tuesday’s meeting.

The commission’s next meeting is April 14, but Talbert said he could call another emergency session before then if something requires immediate commission action.

— Jessica Dyer

5:56 p.m.
What businesses are essential?

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses in New Mexico as the state works to limit the spread of COVID-19.

So, what business are essential? Here’s a list.

— Robert Browman

4:00 p.m.
Number of cases in NM rises to 83; 9 hospitalized

The number of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico jumped to 83 Monday, up from 65 on Sunday, according to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The governor, who announced the numbers during an afternoon press conference, said nine people have been hospitalized due to the virus so far in the state. Out of those nine, three required intubation.

Five of the nine are still in the hospital.

(This post will be updated)

— Robert Browman

3:40 p.m.
Gov issues closure of all ‘non-essential’ businesses

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses Monday as New Mexico confronts a coronavirus outbreak that has infected at least 83 people.

Hospitals and health clinics, grocery stores, pharmacies, childcare centers and farms are among the operations that are deemed essential and can remain open.

Retail stores and similar services are closed.


— Dan McKay and Dan Boyd

2:31 p.m.
Three new COVID-19 cases bring Navajo Nation total to 29

The Navajo Nation checkpoint near Chilchinbeto, Ariz., on March 21, 2020. (Navajo Nation)

Three more people have tested positive for COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 29, according to a release by tribal leadership.

Residents on the reservation, which has a population of about 350,000 and extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, remain under a stay-at-home order.

“To prevent a massive public health crisis, every person must remain home. The fact is that the number of positive tests is growing,” President Jonathan Nez wrote in the release. “We know some may need food, medicine, or other essential items, but beyond that we shouldn’t have anyone traveling or going out into the public. This includes public gatherings and meetings.”

The 29 cases include people from Navajo County and Apache County in Arizona, and McKinley County in New Mexico, according to the release.

First responders have been delivering care packages to residents of Chilchinbeto, and area of about 1,000 that has been hit hard by the virus.

The release asked Chilchinbeto residents with questions to call (928) 871-6271.

The Navajo Health Command Operations Center can be reached at (928) 871-7014.

— Robert Browman

1:51 p.m.
Three confirmed COVID-19 cases at Kirltand Air Force Base

There are three confirmed COVID-19 cases at Kirtland Air Force Base.

Two of the three are military personnel, according to Kirtland spokesperson Eva Blaylock. The third is a spouse of one of the service members.

They are travel-related cases. They are in self-isolation, Blaylock said.

Kirtland officials are monitoring the situation with the Department of Health and will update families with information, the base said in a release. The base is ordering non-essential personnel to work from home where possible. No additional base access restrictions are in place, but that could change, Kirtland officials said.

— Scott Turner

1:08 p.m.
Sandoval County DA’s Office opposes plan to release some offenders from jail

Saying it would jeopardize the safety of Sandoval County citizens, the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office on Monday raised objections to a proposal to release misdemeanor and nonviolent offenders from the county jail.

The objections come a day before 13th Judicial District Judge George Eichwald will consider Sandoval County attorney Robin Hammer’s request to release some offenders from the facility and to stop booking new ones on certain charges in the wake of the public health emergency.

To do so would violate the county’s statutory obligations and victims’ constitutional rights, wrote Assistant District Attorney Jeres Rael wrote in the filing Monday. He argues that there is no legal basis for the request. Rael suggests that defense attorneys instead file individual pleadings seeking to have some defendants released from custody .

“The District Attorney understands the impact the current health crisis places on the community and on all aspects of the criminal justice system,” Rael wrote. “If anything, the public health crisis illustrates that it is more important now than ever to efficiently and effectively utilize our criminal justice resources.”

— Katy Barnitz

12:59 p.m.
Lujan Grisham to announce ‘stay-at-home instruction’

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham plans to announce a stay-at-home instruction this afternoon as New Mexico confronts a coronavirus outbreak that has infected at least 65 people.

She is expected to explain the details of the instruction during an address to New Mexicans about 3 p.m. The announcement will be streamed live here and on her Facebook page.


— Dan McKay

12:38 p.m.
Mayor: City preparing for stay-at-home order if it’s needed

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Monday morning that the city is preparing for a stay-at-home order “If we need to use that tool.”

In his daily COVID-19 briefing, Keller said the city is awaiting a planned update from New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to see how the state is moving forward but that the city is readying itself in case such action is necessary.

He said such an order is distinct from a quarantine or curfew in that it has many exemptions, allowing people to grocery shop, attend medical appointments, exercise and go to work in “critical services.”

He said he’s talked to mayors of other communities with such orders and they have described every day as comparable to a “Sunday morning” but with even the churches closed.

Activity is “very, very slow,” he said. “You see people come to parks, do their thing and then head out.”

Keller also said that the city is planning some additional adjustments to its own services, including the likely reduction in the amount of ABQ Ride bus service.

— Jessica Dyer

12:06 p.m.
Trinity Site open house cancelled

The Trinity Site open house scheduled for April 4 has been cancelled to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to White Sands Missile Range spokesperson John Hamilton.

The site, the location of the first atomic bomb blast on July, 16, 1945, is only open twice a year and normally draws between 5,000 and 6,000 visitors from around the world. The site is on the northern part of the base in Socorro County.

Missile range commander Col. David Trybula made the decision to call off the open house to protect visitors, as well as military and civilian employees on the base, according to a press release.

The Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium – which seeks compensation for victims affected by the bomb blast – has also cancelled protests it annually holds during the open house.

The next open house is scheduled for Oct. 3.

— Scott Turner

11:31 a.m.
NM national forests to close facilities; trails, dispersed camping to stay open

Campgrounds, day-use sites, restrooms and other facilities within New Mexico’s five national forests are closing indefinitely today in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, according to a release by the forest service.

While facilities will be closed in the Carson, Cibola, Gila, Lincoln and Santa Fe national forests, trails and dispersed camping areas will remain open.

“We know how much our communities and our visitors value all the recreation opportunities the national forests have to offer,” Santa Fe National Forest Supervisor James Melonas wrote in the release. “This decision was not made lightly, but we believe people understand the serious risks posed by facilities that draw large numbers of people into close proximity to each other. We appreciate your patience and understanding of our efforts to mitigate those risks to protect public health and safety.”

Santa Fe National Forest offices are providing services virtually. Contact information is available on the forest website:

— Robert Browman

8:03 a.m.
More than 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus

The hunt for masks, ventilators and other medical supplies consumed the U.S. and Europe, as more than 1.5 billion people — one-fifth of the world’s population — were asked or ordered to stay home on Monday to try to blunt the spread of the coronavirus.

Political paralysis stalled efforts for a quick aid package from Congress, and U.S. stocks fell at the opening bell even after the Federal Reserve said it will buy as much government debt as necessary and lend to small and large businesses and local governments to help them cope with the economic damage from the outbreak.


— AP

7:42 a.m.
Laguna Pueblo declares public health emergency

As the number of coronavirus cases in New Mexico continues to climb, the governor of Laguna Pueblo has declared a public health emergency.

Gov. Wilfred Herrera signed the declaration Friday, which lets the pueblo more easily access funds for materials needed to help contain and respond to COVID. Among other possible measures, the declaration also encourages departments to take steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and suspends most out-of-state travel for pueblo employees.

— Katy Barnitz

7:37 a.m.
CYFD takes precautions with home visits

Children who are in the custody of the state Children, Youth and Families Department will have less direct contact during visits with caseworkers and foster parents as a precautionary measure to avoid the spread of COVID-19, CYFD spokeswoman Melody Wells said Friday.

CYFD caseworker visits with kids in foster care will take place by video conferencing wherever possible, she said.

In-person visits with children and youth with their biological families are court mandated and will continue. “But all will be screened in advance by phone for any type of risk of exposure to COVID,” Wells said. “Where there is a risk, then we’ll be working with the courts to figure out what to do.”


— Rick Nathanson

6:05 a.m.
City hosts phone-in town hall

City leaders are holding a town hall over the phone at 12:30 p.m. today to help answer coronavirus-related questions from community members.

In a news release Sunday evening, the city announced that participants can register at

Mayor Tim Keller and other leaders will take questions from people in Albuquerque who want to learn more about the city’s response to the outbreak.

— Katy Barnitz

6:05 a.m.
Driving directions for Balloon Fiesta Park COVID-19 testing site

The city is asking drivers to enter the new Presbyterian drive-up testing site at Balloon Fiesta Park by taking the southbound Interstate 25 Frontage Road to Balloon Fiesta Parkway.

Balloon Museum Drive will be closed to northbound traffic from Alameda, the city announced in a news release Sunday, and drivers should not use San Mateo north of Alameda.

The new site will offer drive-up coronavirus testing beginning today.

— Katy Barnitz

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