Editor’s note: This post includes updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of the state.
UNM Hospital launches two clinical trials
As the toll of cornovarirus continues to climb, the University of New Mexico Hospital announced this week that it will launch two clinical trials in an effort to find a cure.
One of the trials will be for COVID-19 patients with pneumonia symptoms and another trial for patients without those symptoms.
Patients at the hospital who have tested positive for the virus with pneumonia symptoms may be offered remdesivir, an antiviral drug created to fight the Ebola and Marburg viruses, Dr. Richard Larson, the executive vice chancellor and vice chancellor for research at the UNM Health Sciences Center, said in a news release.
The drug is manufactured by Gilead Sciences, Inc.
“We are working actively with Gilead to have this in place by the end of the week, said Dr. Michelle Harkins, who is the lead on the study. “I have one patient on the drug now and am looking to enroll more.”
— Ryan Boetel
2 more coronavirus deaths in NM, 44 new cases
The coronavirus death toll in New Mexico has climbed to four after two women, one in her 70s and one in her 90s, died on Monday, according to state health officials.
New Mexico added 44 new positive cases to its list on Monday, bringing the total to 281. Officials say that 26 people have recovered from the virus, and 24 are currently hospitalized for COVID-19.
According to the Department of Health, the two women died in Bernalillo County on Monday, and both had underlying medical conditions.
The latest positive tests include 16 new cases in Bernalillo County, bringing its total to 117. There are also five new cases each in Sandoval and San Juan Counties, three each in Santa Fe, Torrance, Valencia and McKinley counties, two in Chaves County and one each in Dona Ana, Rio Arriba, Socorro and Taos counties.
— Katy Barnitz
APS lessons coming to TV
Albuquerque Public Schools classes are coming to the small screen.
Daily educational segments, which are targeted for K-5 students, will air on New Mexico PBS-TV starting on April 6.
Called “APS @Home,” the supplemental lessons will be broadcast on channel 5.1 from 8 a.m. to noon on weekdays. It will also simultaneously air on KENW in Portales and KRWG in Las Cruces.
A schedule of classes can be found at aps.edu.
“The daily lesson plans will be broadcast each day, and will then be available later for individual on-demand lessons. These supplemental learning videos feature APS educators in short segments, supporting a variety of subjects and grade levels, including English language arts, math, visual and performing arts, physical education, and more,” the district wrote in a news release.
APS will also be posting lessons to its YouTube channel.
Clerks seek emergency court action for all-mail voting
More than two dozen of New Mexico’s county clerks asked the state Supreme Court on Monday for an emergency order that would allow them to move to a mail-in election for the June 2 primary.
The clerks said they otherwise face an impossible choice — putting voters’ and election workers’ lives at risk or violating their oath of office.
“The state of New Mexico faces a public health emergency unprecedented in modern times,” the clerks said in an their emergency petition, filed Monday.
An attorney for Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, New Mexico’s chief election officer, also signed onto the petition.
The 27 clerks — mostly Democrats but also including five Republicans — argued that poll workers are scared to work and that election sites, such as schools, are already closed with no plans to re-open.
— Dan McKay
President Trump says NM will get requested Army hospital
In a telephone conversation between President Donald Trump and governors today, the president told Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that he will grant her request for a U.S. Army field hospital in Albuquerque.
The governor had asked the federal Department of Defense for the 248-bed hospital last week, citing concern about New Mexico hospitals’ ability to absorb a surge of novel coronavirus cases.
During the phone call today, Lujan Grisham brought up the request and said her office had not yet received word on the hospital from U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
In response, Trump told the governor “we’ll build you that hospital as quick as we can,” according to a transcript of the conversation from CBS News. He also apparently directed aides to look into the issue.
— Dan Boyd
NM CARES Act guide available
U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich have released a guide to help small businesses and non-profits access funding included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act signed into law by President Trump last week.
The new law included $377 billion in small businesses aid.
Udall and Heinrich’s guide offers information about major programs and initiatives that will be available through the U.S. Small Business Administration, a news relesase from the senators’ offices said. The full guide is available at www.tomudall.senate.gov.
— Gabrielle Porter
MDC inmate tests positive for COVID-19
A 39-year-old man in the custody of the Metropolitan Detention Center tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, causing several other inmates and staff members to be quarantined, according to a Bernalillo County spokeswoman.
Spokeswoman Tia Bland wrote in a news release that the man was booked into the jail on Thursday and was not showing any symptoms of the virus at that time.
“Two days after arriving at MDC, the jail was informed that the inmate’s mother was hospitalized and tested positive for COVID-19,” Bland wrote in the release. “The inmate had been caring for his mother prior to being booked in MDC. After learning of this information, the jail moved the inmate into an isolation cell and proceeded with a 14-day quarantine of inmates in two housing pods where the exposed inmate had been housed.”
— Elise Kaplan, Katy Barnitz
Navajo Nation cases jump to 128 as curfew kicks in
The number of cases of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation jumped to 128 Sunday as the tribe’s president announced a nightly curfew on the reservation.
Although residents were ordered to stay at home more than a week ago, President Jonathan Nez held a town hall on Sunday afternoon and said a nightly curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. would begin today.
The order applies to all residents, except those facing an emergency or those heading to or from a job deemed essential.
“We are doing our best to keep people safe, but the government can’t do everything and that’s why everyone needs to stay home as much as possible,” Nez wrote in a release announcing the order. “Every person is responsible for taking precautions to preserve their own health. This curfew is an added measure to protect our Navajo people, especially our elderly and high-risk.”
There have been no deaths reported since the first two were announced on Friday.
The 13 new cases announced Sunday night is an 11 percent increase in the number of Navajo Nation residents who have tested positive for the virus.
This brings the rate of infection on the reservation to more than three times that of New Mexico’s, and likely much 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 tribal members live on the reservation. The 128 reported cases bring the rate of infection to about 36 per 100,000 members.
New Mexico has 237 total cases in a reported population of a little more than 2 million — a rate of infection of about 11 per 100,000 residents.
Ninety-nine of the Navajo cases are on the Arizona side of the reservation, while 24 are in New Mexico and five in Utah.
The Navajo tribal leadership has expressed ongoing concern about supplies and resources on the reservation.
“We don’t have enough doctors, nurses, first responders, hospital beds, ventilators, and other resources to treat everyone,” Vice President Lizer wrote in the release. “We have to do our part by preventing the spread of the virus.”
— Robert Browman
Delegation backs governor’s request for combat support hospital
The New Mexico congressional delegation wrote letters to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor to support New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s request for the deployment of a fully equipped combat support hospital to Albuquerque.
They also voiced support for the mobilization of basic expeditionary airfield resources units to assist communities under strain to meet the demands of a surge in COVID-19 patients.
“Public health experts in New Mexico predict that resources will soon be exhausted and it is imperative that the state acquire additional beds and resources before it reaches a critical mass of infections,” the lawmakers wrote. “… A CSH or medical tent facility would provide much-needed resources to bolster the State of New Mexico’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
— Scott Turner
Kirtland places restrictions on commissary, base exchange and Shoppette
Kirtland Air Force Base Installation Commander Col. David Miller raised the health protection level at the base last week to prevent the spread of COVID-19, adding restrictions to some of the facilities.
Services such as the base exchange, the commissary and the Shoppette are closed to many people, including retirees living off base.
“I understand the restrictions to the commissary, base exchange and Shoppette are frustrating for retirees and others that are accustomed to having access to these services,” Miller said, “but it is a necessary one to reduce person-to-person contact, and virus transmission, in order to preserve our vital Kirtland missions.”
The directive restricts access to those locations to active duty, retired personnel employed at Kirtland, base residents and their respective dependents. The base pharmacies remain open to all eligible.
— Scott Turner
Pictures: Distance learning in New Mexico
Recent stories about NM schools:
– Access to technology varies across school districts
– NM public schools to stay closed for rest of year
— Eddie Moore
Grieving families in limbo as virus limits gatherings
The COVID-19 pandemic is leaving many grieving families with an awful choice: Postpone services indefinitely or scale them down as public health officials urge people to avoid crowds in order to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Tom Antram, president of French Funerals and Cremations, said his biggest concern is lingering grief.
They’re not getting a chance to fully gather together to have that goodbye. It’s important to have an opportunity to grieve,” he said.
Antram said roughly half the families he has been dealing with are choosing to bury or cremate their deceased relatives and to postpone services. In the meantime, he said, the company is offering no-cost grief counseling. “It’s unknown of how long this will last, so even postponements are question marks,” he said.
Some have chosen to hold services amidst the quarantine.
— Matthew Reisen
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
New chart: Reported status of COVID-19 cases in NM
On Saturday, the New Mexico Department of Health reported the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the state. It’s 26.
This number, along with those for hospitalizations and deaths, allowed the Journal to build a chart to show the current breakdown of cases in New Mexico.
The chart is published, along with others used to track the status of the pandemic in the state, in the State Tracking section of the Coronavirus in New Mexico page.
— Robert Browman