Editor’s note: This post includes updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of the state.
40 new cases on the Navajo reservation, total now 214
The Navajo Nation now has 214 cases of COVID-19, President Jonathan Nez told the Journal Wednesday evening, an increase in 40 from Tuesday. There are 7 total confirmed COVID-19 deaths on the Navajo Nation.
President Nez said Navajo residents have to wait three to four days for COVID-19 test results that are sent to laboratories in Albuquerque and Phoenix. Nez has petitioned the federal government for laboratory sites on the reservation to speed up the process.
“We did get a National Guard 50-bed mobile clinic in Chinle (Arizona), to use as a quarantine site,” Nez said. “That site will be used for patients that test positive but don’t require hospitalization. Here, many generations live in one household, so this is a way to prevent these patients from potentially spreading the virus in their homes and communities.”
Nez said the Navajo Nation would receive personal protective equipment shipments from the national stockpile on Thursday for use in the Nation’s 12 hospitals.
“It’s not much, maybe a week’s worth of supplies,” Nez said. “We’re getting Indian Health Service data that our peak might be early May or mid-May. We’re just barely starting to go up that curve.”
The Navajo Nation instituted special first-of-the-month precautions on Wednesday to protect elderly Navajo and other vulnerable citizens that usually do their grocery shopping on that day. All Bashas’ Diné Markets on the Navajo Nation extended their elderly shopping hours from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday.
“We’ve heard and seen stories of citizens stepping up to help each other out in this time of uncertainty,” Nez said. “It is bringing us together. We will overcome this virus and be stronger fo it. We should continue to pray for our healthcare workers and our first responders.”
— Theresa Davis
48 more NM coronavirus cases; death toll rises by 1
New Mexico state health officials on Wednesday announced 48 additional confirmed cases of coronavirus — bringing the number of positive test results to 363 — and the state’s sixth death attributed to COVID-19.
The latest fatality was a Sandoval County woman in her 90s who died Tuesday and had underlying health issues, state officials said.
All of the individuals who have died due to coronavirus have had pre-existing health issues, and all but one have been in their 70s or older.
The coronavirus outbreak has spread quickly since New Mexico’s first case was announced March 11, though top state officials have said social distancing strategies — including a ban on large public gatherings — appear to be helping slow the spread.
There are now confirmed COVID-19 cases in 21 of the state’s 33 counties. There are also 31 individuals hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19, though the state Department of Health has not provided a county-by-county breakdown of hospitalizations.
— Dan Boyd
Picutre: No more visitors at MDC
— Adolphe Pierre Louis
NM DOH revises COVID-19 testing criteria
The New Mexico Department of Health has broadened the criteria used to screen patients for COVID-19 tests.
In a release about the changes, which are now in effect, DOH outlined the new criteria.
– Asymptomatic people who are close contacts or household members of New Mexico residents who have already tested positive for the coronavirus;
– Asymptomatic residents in nursing homes;
– Asymptomatic people in congregant settings such as homeless shelters, group homes, detention centers;
– Symptomatic people displaying the COVID-19 symptoms of cough, fever or shortness of breath.
Previously, only patients with symptoms of COVID-19, or those who had traveled to another state or country, were considered candidates for testing.
— Robert Browman
Delegation seeks extension to Chaco comment period
The New Mexico congressional delegation is seeking an extension to the public comment period for the joint Draft Resource Management Plan Amendment and Environmental Impact Statement for the area around Chaco Culture National Historical Park because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The lawmakers sent a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhard for an extension from the Department of the Interior for at least 120 days.
The comment period for the management plan and impact statement would currently end on May 28. They were originally released in February by the Bureau of Land Management Farmington Field Office, in coordination with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“Due to rapidly evolving situation with COVID-19, it is imperative that the public be given sufficient time to submit comments on the (the management plan) RMPA/EIS (environmental impact statement),” the letter said.
— Scott Turner
2 more deaths, 26 new cases on Navajo reservation
The death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise on the Navajo Nation as tribal leaders announced Tuesday that two more people have succumbed to the virus and another 26 have tested positive for it.
There has been no information released about those who have died, but Tuesday’s escalation brings the number of dead to seven and total cases on the reservation to 174.
Although residents were ordered to stay at home more than a week ago, tribal leaders started a nightly curfew Monday to try to contain the outbreak, and they continue to ask the public to follow those orders.
“We are very sorry to hear of the loss of more lives due to the virus – we offer our prayers for the families of those who lost loved ones,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez wrote in a release. “We need everyone to fully grasp the importance of social distancing and the impact it has on fighting the spread of COVID-19. It’s completely up to us as individuals to do our part to beat the virus.”
Tuesday’s new cases represent an 18 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 174 reported cases bring the rate of infection to about 49 per 100,000 members.
New Mexico has 315 total cases in a reported population of a little more than 2 million — a rate of infection of about 15 per 100,000 residents.
There are 142 cases on the Arizona side of the reservation, 26 on the New Mexico side and six in Utah.
Check the Navajo Times for the latest reporting from the reservation.
— Robert Browman
Lost tax revenue to have ‘brutal’ impact on ABQ city budget
The city of Albuquerque could get around $150 million in direct assistance through the federal government’s new coronavirus relief package, according to city estimates.
But the money does not address one of the city’s biggest forthcoming fiscal challenges: the gaping budget hole expected due to flagging tax revenue.
“It’s going to be brutal,” according to Albuquerque Chief Financial Officer Sanjay Bhakta.
The $2 trillion CARES Act includes $150 billion for payments to state, tribal and local governments. Each state is guaranteed at least $1.25 billion, but local governments with more than 500,000 people can seek their own direct share from their state’s pot.
Bhakta said he believes the city could qualify for around $150 million, though the number is not official.
Bernalillo County also plans to seek assistance through the CARES Act, a spokesman said, and is talking with city of Albuquerque and state of New Mexico officials about how any such money should be allocated.
— Jessica Dyer
NM lawmakers: Funds need to be released to rural hospitals
New Mexico Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall and Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small are among lawmakers seeking to have funding released for rural hospitals under the recently passed coronavirus relief legislation.
They are among members of congress who sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar urging him to direct funding included in the CARES Act to sustain small and rural hospitals. . The legislation created a $100 billion grant program for hospitals and other health care providers combatting the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the New Mexico Hospital Association, 33 of their 46 members serve primarily rural areas, the lawmakers said in a release. Ten hospitals in the state were designated as Critical Access Hospitals by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in fiscal 2019.
“We are hearing from rural hospitals from across the country that have only days left of cash on hand – money needed for payroll and supplies,” the letter to Azar said.
The lawmakers also request the administration host a teleconference with members of Congress by April 3 , 2020 to provide an update on how they intend to assist rural providers and hospitals across the country, the release said.
— Scott Turner