Editor’s note: This post includes updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of the state.
Dozens of COVID-19 tests underway at MDC
The Department of Health is testing close to 80 inmates at the Metropolitan Detention Center for COVID-19 after it was announced earlier this week that one person there tested positive for the virus.
That inmate, a 39-year-old man, is quarantined alone. Four others are in quarantine either because they were in close contact with him or because they are exhibiting symptoms.
An additional 73 inmates are isolated in two separate housing units as they await testing and 17 MDC staff members are being tested.
The facility is on lock down, as recommended by the health department. That means inmates are released from their cells one at a time to shower and make phone calls.
— Katy Barnitz
Virus cases shoot up to 403 as one more death reported
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Mexico climbed above 400 on Thursday — an 11% increase over the last 24 hours — and a seventh person died amid the outbreak, according to the state Department of Health.
The department announced 40 additional positive tests, bring the state’s total to 403 people who have been infected since March 11.
The state also reported its seventh death related to COVID-19 — a Bernalillo County woman in her 70s, with underlying medical conditions.
Thirty-four people are now hospitalized in New Mexico with the virus, and 31 people are classified as having recovered.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham continues to urge New Mexicans to stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary to leave.
— Dan McKay
NM to receive $16.7 million in housing assistance from coronavirus aid package
New Mexico communities across the state will receive over $16.7 million in emergency housing assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Mexico’s congressional delegation said Thursday.
The funds are part of a first wave of grants from the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump last week.
New Mexico received the funding in three HUD programs, which include the Community Development Block Grant program, Emergency Solutions Grants and the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) Program, the lawmakers said in a release.
COVID-19 Recovery- Community Development Block Grant can be used for the expansion of community health facilities, child care centers, food banks, and senior services. The breakdown is below:
– Albuquerque, $2,678,828
– Farmington, $229,696
– Las Cruces, $560,525
– Rio Rancho, 346,887
– Santa Fe, $361,227
– New Mexico Nonentitlement, $6,802,356
COVID-19 Recovery- Emergency Solutions Grants address the impact of COVID-19 among individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The breakdown is below:
– Albuquerque, $1,364,214
– New Mexico Nonentitlement, $4,140,483
COVID-19 Recovery- Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS Program provides funding for rental assistance and other supporting services. The breakdown is below:
– Albuquerque, $76,795
– New Mexico Nonentitlement, $69,375
– Santa Fe Community Housing Trust, Competitive Grant Award, $146,556
— Scott Turner
NM officials ‘strongly encourage’ mask wearing in public
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham isn’t mandating the use of masks when New Mexicans go out in public.
But the Governor’s Office said Thursday that top state health officials are now strongly encouraging state residents to cover up — by wearing face coverings when they leave their houses as a way to mitigate the spread of germs amid a coronavirus outbreak.
Specially designed masks for doctors and nurses should not be used by members of the public, however, to ensure there’s as many as possible for frontline health care workers.
“Our guidance to the public will be that face coverings may provide some additional benefit and are encouraged — but of course they do not replace the important actions of staying home, washing your hands, and aggressive social distancing as far as reducing the spread,” Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki told the Journal.
— Dan Boyd
Pueblo of Isleta imposes curfew
The Pueblo of Isleta has imposed a curfew for residents living within its reservation boundaries due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The curfew is in effect between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., according to the notice from Isleta Gov. Max Zuni posted Thursday on the pueblo’s Facebook page.
The curfew doesn’t apply to anyone who must travel for work or emergency situations, the notice reads.
A curfew on the Navajo Nation between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. went into effect March 30.
— Journal Staff
Teacher evals halted for 2019-20 school year
The state Public Education Department will not require teacher evaluations for the 2019-2020 school year.
The education system in New Mexico has been drastically affected by the novel coronavirus that has gripped the world and nation. Schools across the state have been ordered to close for the rest of the school year and districts and teachers will be tasked with creating continuous learning plans without in-person classes.
The PED recently announced that statutorily mandated teacher evals will be waived, in part, because it may not be fair or accurate to evaluate educators while they shift to new instructional methods, said deputy secretary Gwen Perea Warniment.
Districts have been encouraged by the state agency to use data that was collected before closures to offer feedback to teachers.
Classroom environment surveys, which are filled out by families and students, aren’t required for this school year, either.
Instructional hour quotas and spring standardized testing have also both been waived for schools in the state.
— Shelby Perea
A record 6.6 million seek US jobless aid as layoffs mount
More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — doubling a record high set just one week earlier — a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus.
The stunning report Thursday from the Labor Department showed that job cuts are mounting against the backdrop of economies in the United States and abroad that have almost certainly sunk into a severe recession as businesses close across the world.
Applications for unemployment benefits generally reflect the pace of layoffs. Combined with last week’s report that 3.3 million people sought unemployment aid two weeks ago, the U.S. economy has now suffered nearly 10 million layoffs in just the past several weeks — far exceeding the figure for any corresponding period on record.
NM hospitals prepare for ‘tsunami’
New Mexico’s hospitals are modifying medical equipment to make more ventilators, confronting price-gouging and searching for bed space as they prepare for a surge in new coronavirus cases, according to an online panel discussion moderated by the Journal on Wednesday.
The top executives at Presbyterian, Lovelace and the University of New Mexico health systems also said they are collaborating well together and ready to work as a team amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We can see the tsunami that is fast approaching the state of New Mexico,” said Paul Roth, a doctor, chancellor for UNM Health Sciences and CEO of the UNM Health System.
The comments came in a 90-minute discussion sponsored by the Journal and moderated by Senior Editor Kent Walz.
— Dan McKay
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