Editor’s note: This post includes updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of the state.
Juvenile Justice Center closed for cleaning
The Juvenile Justice Center will be closed until Tuesday after a construction worker there was sent home with a fever Thursday, according to a Second Judicial District Court news release.
The facility closed soon after it learned about the worker’s illness in order to allow time for a thorough cleaning of the building, the court announced Friday.
The construction project is on hold until the county is assured that the worker and others that he or she may have been in contact with do not have coronavirus. Five county employees who had contact with the worker have been asked to self-quarantine.
Court operations at the Second Street facility are expected to resume Tuesday. In the meantime, any necessary Children’s Court proceedings will take place in the downtown state District Court building.
— Katy Barnitz
COVID-19 cases in New Mexico climb to 237
State health officials say 29 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing New Mexico’s total to 237.
Today’s additions include nine new cases in Bernalillo County, four each in Santa Fe, McKinley and San Juan counties, three in Sandoval County, 2 in Curry County and one each in Chavez, Eddy and Valencia Counties.
As of Sunday, cases in Bernalillo County have climbed to 101 total, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.
Statewide, 22 people are hospitalized for the virus and the number of deaths remains at two. The Health Department says that 26 coronavirus patients have recovered.
— Katy Barnitz
Navajo Nation COVID-19 cases jump another 25% to 115
The number of cases of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation jumped by 21 Saturday, a 25 percent increase that brings the reported total on the reservation to 115.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, in a release reporting the new cases, said there have been no additional deaths on the reservation since the first two were announced on Friday.
Although residents were ordered to stay at home more than a week ago, Nez plans to announce a nighttime curfew for the entire reservation when he holds a town hall meeting on Sunday afternoon, according to the release.
The nightly curfew will be from 8:00 p.m. to 5 a.m and is scheduled to start Monday.
“We’ve reached a point where our medical facilities and health care workers are in dire need of more Personal Protective Equipment, hospital beds, and other critical resources and it’s only going to increase if people continue to ignore orders to stay home as much as possible,” Nez wrote.
The rate of infection on the reservation remains at least 3 times that of New Mexico’s, and likely more.
That’s because the Navajo Nation, which extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, has a reported population of about 350,000, but not all members live on the reservation. The 115 reported cases bring the rate of infection to about 32 per 100,000 members.
New Mexico has 208 total cases in a reported population of a little more than 2 million — a rate of infection of about 10 per 100,000 residents.
Ninety four of the Navajo cases are on the Arizona side of the reservation, while 19 are in New Mexico and two in Utah.
“The Navajo Nation’s needs for personnel, protective wear, hospital beds, and other crucial resources and supplies at all health care facilities on the Navajo Nation continue to increase daily,” Nez wrote.
He is holding an online town hall to discuss those needs, to announce the curfew and to provide an update on response efforts and number of cases.
The 1 p.m. town hall meeting will be streamed on Facebook and on the radio at KTNN AM 600.
— Robert Browman
NM Workforce office braces for surge in phone inquiries
With the expansion of unemployment benefits included in the federal government’s recently passed $2 trillion economic relief plan combined with a rising number of unemployment claims, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions is preparing for a surge in inquiries.
Under the legislation, workers receiving unemployment will receive an additional $600 per week on top of state benefits for a period of up to 13 weeks. The provision also allows for more people to qualify for unemployment, like those who are self-employed or have had unemployment benefits run out, Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley said during a Saturday news conference.
In New Mexico, unemployment payments are based on a percentage of the last 18 months of a filer’s earnings with a cap of $461 per week.
With the addition of $600 per week, some eligible workers may potentially earn more per week on unemployment than they would otherwise earn while employed.
— Pilar Martinez
Relief payments may begin within three weeks
Coronavirus relief payments may start hitting bank accounts or mailboxes in New Mexico within the next three weeks, according to Congressman Ben Ray Luján.
Luján and U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland’s office said the Internal Revenue Service will work to deliver the rebates quickly. For people who filed a federal income tax return in 2018 or 2019, processing will be based on information already on file with the IRS, according to information sent by Haaland’s office.
There will be no need for those people to contact the IRS. Direct deposits will be sent to accounts people have already authorized since Jan. 1, 2018. If no bank account is on file, checks can be sent to the last known address. The IRS is expected to contact residents in the next 15 days about how the payments will be sent and the amount.
People who have not filed a tax return or people who did not make enough money to file in the past two years may have to take additional steps to receive a rebate payment, Haaland’s office said.
— Scott Turner
‘We’re going to be OK’ – ABQ-area couple tell how virus strikes
A few days after flying home to New Mexico from New York City, “Jill” began experiencing leg and joint pain, nausea and fatigue.
Her husband and travel companion was not feeling well either, suffering from chills and likening his condition at the time to a “mild flu.”
When he called a friend one night to cancel plans, the friend recommended the couple, both in their late 60s, be tested for the novel coronavirus.
On March 12 – about a week after their flight and a day after the state of New Mexico announced its first cases of the disease – the pair were tested at an Albuquerque urgent care.
“I wanted to get tested to rule it out, because I thought ‘This can’t be coronavirus because it’s not that severe.’ I just mildly felt crappy,” he said. “I was really surprised 24 hours later when I got the call that we were positive.”
— Jessica Dyer
513 COVID-19 Deaths predicted for NM
Researchers at the University of Washington project that hundreds of New Mexicans could die in the coronavirus outbreak through late June or early July – with a peak of 16 people dying each day for a stretch in late April.
Even with social-distancing efforts through the end of May, their model forecasts that COVID-19 will kill somewhere between 245 and 803 people in New Mexico through the summer.
The outbreak would hit its peak the week of April 23, when 10 to 19 people would die each day. Deaths would taper off and end in mid- to late-June or early July.
The analysis was conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
— Dan McKay
Virus threatens Navajo areas with limited water access
For weeks, public health professionals have repeated an important message: wash your hands to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
But for the 30% of Navajo who do not have running water in their homes, coronavirus poses a bigger threat.
— Theresa Davis