Editor’s note: This post includes updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of the state.
Emergency order places restrictions on Santa Fe grocery stores
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber has introduced new restrictions for grocery stores as part of the city’s ongoing emergency order.
The new guidelines, which went into effect at 10 a.m. Monday, bans the use of reusable bags brought from home and prohibits stores from charging customers a fee for bags, requires stores to keep the number of the people in the store to 30% of the building’s listed fire capacity and prohibits them from having self service food stations and providing food samples.
“What we’re trying to do is create consistency and a protocol that everybody can follow, so that shoppers, employees, managers will all be operating with the same requirements,” Webber told reporters during a virtual meeting Monday morning.
— Edmundo Carrillo
Gov orders early release of some inmates from prison
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has issued an executive order releasing some prison inmates Monday as a way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Those who are released will be on parole for the remainder of their sentence.
“The early release of incarcerated individuals who are near their release date and meet certain criteria will help to protect public health without a concomitant risk to public safety,” the order states. “This measure will serve to protect the health of those individuals, of staff and inmates at all state correctional facilities, and of all New Mexicans.
The inmates who are eligible to be released include those whose were scheduled to be let out of prison within the next 30 days and who have a parole plan in place.
— Elise Kaplan
Navajo Nation COVID-19 cases reach 384, weekend-long curfew ordered
The Navajo Department of Health reported a total of 384 COVID-19 cases on Monday, an increase in 30 cases from Sunday’s report. The Department said there have been 2,134 negative tests so far. The Navajo Nation reported one new death from COVID-19, bringing the total deaths to 15.
The Navajo Nation will institute a 57-hour weekend curfew from 8 p.m. on Friday, April 10, to 5:00 a.m. on Monday, April 13, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The curfew mandates that individuals remain home except for emergencies. Essential employees like medical providers and first responders must have official identification.
“We are seeing way too many people contract the virus and we need to step up measures to begin to reduce the numbers,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. “Our health care system cannot manage the growing numbers of patients and those who need to be admitted. We continue to receive reports of people on the road and traveling with families to nearby border towns.”
A public health emergency order for the weekend curfew says failure to comply will result in a citation and a fine. The Navajo Police Department will increase roadway checkpoints on to enforce the stay-at-home order and the curfew.
President Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday to discuss the possible use of the Miyamura High School gym in Gallup as a medical station to house COVID-19 patients from neighboring Navajo communities. The leaders are also assessing sites in Shiprock and Crownpoint in New Mexico and Tuba City, Kayenta and Chinle in Arizona.
A daily curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. remains in effect on the Navajo Nation, as does a stay-at-home order. The number for the Navajo Health Command Operations Center is (928) 871-7014.
— Theresa Davis
Governor extends emergency order until April 30
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday extended a public health emergency order through the end of this month, with a coronavirus outbreak rippling through nearly all parts of New Mexico and hitting some regions particularly hard.
The extension, which Lujan Grisham had previously telegraphed, means a ban on public gatherings of five people or more will remain in place and all businesses not deemed essential will stay closed at least until May 1.
“We must carry on undaunted in our fight against COVID-19,” the governor said in a statement. “These measures will help us prevent a sudden spike in infections that would overwhelm our health care system. This virus is still spreading, and we must remain vigilant about physical distancing from one another.”
She also said state agencies would ramp up their enforcement efforts in an attempt to ensure residents and businesses comply with the orders.
— Dan Boyd
62 new cases bring NM’s total to 686
Top New Mexico health officials announced 62 additional confirmed cases on Monday, bringing the statewide total to 686 cases. Of the new cases, 25 were in northwest New Mexico’s San Juan County, where state officials have been warning of a spike in positive test results.
Twelve people have died so far in New Mexico due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, with most of them being elderly individuals with underlying health issues.
However, no new deaths were reported Monday, and the Department of Health said 133 individuals are now designated as having recovered.
A total of 48 individuals were reportedly hospitalized, though state officials did not provide a county-by-county breakdown of hospitalizations.
— Dan Boyd
Heinrich announces “Hometown Heroes” initiative
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., announced the launch of the “Hometown Heroes” initiative Monday to spotlight on some of the local heroes who are serving their communities during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The coronavirus pandemic has brought upon some of the most challenging times many of us will ever face.,” Heinrich said. “But it has also shown us how dependent we are on one another for support. So many New Mexicans are showing up in moving ways to demonstrate our state’s trademark creative tenacity and incredible ingenuity in the service of others.”
Individuals can nominate a New Mexico Hometown Hero by going to the senator’s website. Heinrich is also encouraging people to post on social media about heroes in their communities using the hashtag #HometownHeroesNM.
— Scott Turner
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved to intensive care
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved to the intensive care unit of a London hospital after his coronavirus symptoms dramatically worsened Monday, just a day after he was admitted for what were said to be routine tests.
Johnson was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday, 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19, the first major world leader to be confirmed to have the virus.
Downing Street said Johnson was conscious and did not require ventilation, but he was moved into intensive care in case he needs it later, his office said in a statement.
Kirtland closes Eubank Gate
Eubank Gate at Kirtland Air Force Base closed Monday because of light essential mission-only traffic caused by the raised health protection level in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Gibson Gate will then assume 24/7 operations in its place, allowing the Eubank Gate area construction project to accelerate its completion, according to a base release. Wyoming Gate is moving to a 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven-day schedule. Eubank Gate is expected to reopen in early June.
The Eubank construction began last fall and is expected to be completed in September. The project includes access for the new National Nuclear Security Administration Albuquerque Complex in addition to addressing security concerns at the gate, the base said.
Changes in the commute pattern will be posted on the Kirtland website.
For more information, go to the Kirtland App or the KAFB website at https://www.kirtland.af.mil/.
— Scott Turner
UNM launches programs to help students with remote learning
The University of New Mexico has awarded more than 200 “mini-scholarships” so students can pay for internet service, loaned out more than 100 laptops and distributed iPhones in an attempt to help lower-income students take classes remotely.
UNM, like colleges around the country, is holding classes remotely for the rest of the semester to try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. But while increasing safety, the tactic could create a struggle for lower-income students who may not have the equipment and resources to finish their coursework, said Pamela Cheek, the associate provost for student success.
So the school put in place several measures to help students. They gathered about 200 laptops from various sources around campus and bought about 100 iphones to loan to students. The school by last Friday had given 210, $200 scholarships to students so they could buy internet access, said Duane Arruti, the chief information officer at UNM.
The school has directed these resources at students who receive Pell Grants — federal grants to students who have a financial need — and students who were referred by faculty and advisers, Cheek said.
Currently, it look like the services match student demand. About half the laptops have been sent to students, Arruti said.
“The goal is to make it possible for students to have the connectivity necessary and the equipment necessary to continue with their studies this semester and gradaute from UNM. And we want to do what we can to make that happen,” Cheek said. “The students who are most eligible are students with the greatest degree of financial challenges.”
— Ryan Boetel
Americans brace for ‘hardest, saddest’ week of their lives
Americans braced for what the nation’s top doctor warned Sunday would be “the hardest and saddest week” of their lives while Britain assumed the unwelcome mantle of deadliest coronavirus hot spot in Europe after a record 24-hour jump in deaths that surpassed even hard-hit Italy’s.
Britain’s own prime minister, Boris Johnson, was hospitalized, 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19 in what his office described as a “precautionary step.”
Amid the dire news, there were also glimmers of hope some hard-hit areas — the number of people dying appeared to be slowing in New York City, Spain and Italy. The news was cautiously welcomed by leaders, who also noted that any gains could easily be reversed if people did not continue to adhere to strict lockdowns.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams offered a stark warning about the expected wave of virus deaths.
“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”
U.S. ‘wasted’ months before preparing for virus pandemic
As the first alarms sounded in early January that an outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China might ignite a global pandemic, the Trump administration squandered nearly two months that could have been used to bolster the federal stockpile of critically needed medical supplies and equipment.
A review of federal purchasing contracts by The Associated Press shows federal agencies largely waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line health care workers.
By that time, hospitals in several states were treating thousands of infected patients without adequate equipment and were pleading for shipments from the Strategic National Stockpile. That federal cache of supplies was created more than 20 years ago to help bridge gaps in the medical and pharmaceutical supply chains during a national emergency.
Now, three months into the crisis, that stockpile is nearly drained just as the numbers of patients needing critical care is surging. Some state and local officials report receiving broken ventilators and decade-old dry-rotted masks.