Updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of the state.
Navajo Nation COVID-19 cases increase by 42, with 2 more deaths
The Navajo Nation Health Command Operations Center reported 42 new cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, bringing the total cases on the Navajo Nation to 426. The Navajo Nation also confirmed two more COVID-19 deaths. There are now 17 confirmed COVID-19 deaths on the Navajo Nation.
“The Navajo Nation can implement and enforce curfews and restrictions, but ultimately it’s up to you,” President Jonathan Nez said. “We must practice T’áá hwó’ ajít’éego, self-determination, our Diné people must know that they also have the power to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We have the power to save lives, especially those that have compromised immune systems. We must work together to protect our people, our way of life and who we are as Diné.”
A reservation-wide stay-at-home order and an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew remain in effect. The Navajo Nation will also have a weekend-long curfew from 8 p.m. on Friday, April 10, to 5 a.m. on Monday, April 13. President Nez has encouraged people who must leave home for essential trips to wear masks and gloves.
The Navajo Health Command Operations Center hotline is (928) 871-7014.
— Theresa Davis
SIC ratifies $100M New Mexico recovery fund
A New Mexico Recovery Fund aimed at helping businesses stay afloat during the coronavirus outbreak will make loans of between $500,000 to $10 million available to businesses that employ at least 40 workers and meet other qualifying criteria, under a plan approved by the State Investment Council.
The SIC, which had voted last month to approve the idea of the new fund, voted 10-0 on Tuesday to ratify its final framework.
“As we battle the pandemic, we’ve got to explore every avenue for both protecting public health and assuring economic relief for affected businesses and individuals,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who chairs the investment council.
— Dan Boyd
NM confirms 109 new virus cases, 1 additional death, clusters on pueblos
New Mexico’s coronavirus outbreak reached 794 confirmed cases Tuesday as health officials announced 109 more positive tests and said clusters of the disease had emerged at two pueblos in Sandoval County.
The death toll, meanwhile, climbed to 13, following the death of a Bernalillo County man in his 30s with underlying health conditions.
State health officials also said clusters of COVID-19 case have emerged in San Felipe and Zia pueblos, where the disease is spreading among the community. Fifty-two people have tested positive for the virus at San Felipe Pueblo and 31 tested positive at Zia Pueblo.
— Dan McKay
Oil producers begin shutting down wells
New Mexico’s oil and gas industry is teetering on the edge of a near shutdown, slammed by plunging demand for oil and an unprecedented global market glut that’s slashed prices to 20-year lows.
New drilling in the Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico is screeching to a halt, and many producers are starting to shut in existing wells to await better times. That, in turn, foreshadows a double whammy on the state budget, as government revenue tumbles from plummeting oil prices plus forthcoming production declines.
“It’s not pretty down here,” said Raye Miller, president of oil company Regeneration Energy Corp. in Artesia. “Probably the most activity we’re seeing now is from folks moving rigs out of the oil fields and into storage yards.”
— Kevin Robinson-Avila
Santa Fe International Folk Art Market postponed until 2021
he COVID-19 pandemic has shuttered Santa Fe’s International Folk Art Market, the largest of its kind in the world.
The market’s board of directors cancelled the market on Tuesday, as it joins the Santa Fe Indian Market, the Traditional Spanish Market and the Native Treasures Market in closing due to the worldwide pandemic.
“It became quite evident in the last 10 days it would be impossible,” said Stuart Ashman, IFAM CEO. “Borders were closing; quarantines were required.
— Kathleen Roberts
Zia Pueblo grappling with COVID-19 outbreak
At least 11 and as many as 20 members of the Zia Pueblo have tested positive for COVID-19, the acting governor announced in a memo Sunday.
“If this statement does not make you realize how real and close to home this truly is, then we don’t know what will,” Acting Governor Floyd Toribio wrote in a memo to all tribal members which was posted on Facebook. “We are a small, close-knit community with strong family connections.”
The pueblo, northwest of Rio Rancho in Sandoval County, has about 1,000 members, according to census data from 2017.
— Elise Kapan
Picture: Chatting, at a distance
— Eddie Moore
Ruidoso Easter egg hunt canceled
The Village of Ruidoso has canceled its annual Easter egg hunt that was to be held Saturday, April 11 at the Cedar Creek Picnic Area. The decision was made after a public health order limiting mass gatherings to five individuals was issued in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Lincoln National Forest remains open. The public may use trails and disperse camp in areas outside designated campgrounds. Restrooms, picnic areas, designated campgrounds and day-use areas may be closed to protect public health.
Visit fs.usda.gov/lincoln for the latest updates.
— Beth Trujillo
City’s coronavirus costs average $100k per day
The city of Albuquerque is spending about $100,000 per day on its response to COVID-19, according to its chief financial officer.
Sanjay Bhakta told the city council Monday night that expenses are averaging about $100,000 per day and include employee overtime, cleaning supplies and information technology programs. He said the number could increase as the coronavirus crisis ascends toward its peak in New Mexico.
The federal government’s CARES Act relief package allows local governments of at least 500,000 people to seek direct reimbursement for costs specifically associated with the coronavirus pandemic. Albuquerque officials estimate the city could qualify for up to $150 million under the package.
But Bhakta told the council that the pandemic’s toll on the city budget will more likely take the form of lost tax revenue. With many businesses forced into temporary closures under the state’s stay-at-home order, the city will inevitably see less gross receipts tax.
GRT powers city government. It accounts for 67% of the general fund, which covers police, street maintenance and other basic city services.
Bhakta said local governments across the U.S. are currently pushing the federal leaders to also provide reimbursement for lost revenue instead of only direct coronavirus costs.
“I think all of us are lobbying for lost revenue — that may be a bigger issue for us than expenditures related to COVID-19,” he said.
— Jessica Dyer
‘It’s lonely — it’s truly lonely’
Coronavirus takes mother, infects brother
Maxine Roybal Lopez died at the University of New Mexico Hospital fighting COVID-19 with no family by her side.
The 71-year-old had been hooked up to a ventilator for days when she took a turn for the worse. Because hospitals have limited visitors, her daughter couldn’t be there.
“One of the nurses did hold my mom’s hand to the very end,” Maria-elena Lopez said. “I asked her to please do that for me.”
The hospital had previously called to warn her about her mother’s deteriorating condition and to ask how to proceed if her mother’s heart stopped.
“It was the hardest thing I’d ever heard. … I couldn’t understand the rapid decline,” she said.
Now she is alone as she grieves her mom’s death.
And she is hoping that her brother, who she said has tested positive for the same virus that killed their mother, will not suffer a similar fate.
Lopez’s family has been in the news a lot this past week. Her mom was the seventh person to die in New Mexico of coronavirus. And she believes her brother, Daniel Lopez, was the first person to test positive in the Metropolitan Detention Center.
Virus forces postponement of Traditional Spanish Market
Days after the 2020 Indian Market postponed until 2021, the Traditional Spanish Market has followed suit.
The Spanish Colonial Arts Society, which puts on the event, informed hundreds of artists about the decision in a letter sent Monday.
The 2020 event was scheduled to take place July 25-26 at the Santa Fe Plaza.
In the letter, Rob Coffland, president of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society, wrote that the board of directors decided to postpone the event until July 24-25, 2021, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The decision was very difficult, but it was made in the interest to protect the health of the artists, your families, your collectors, and our community,” Coffland said in the letter.
Congress, White House reach high for next virus bill
Congressional leaders are jolting ahead with another coronavirus rescue package as President Donald Trump indicated Monday that Americans will need more aid during the stark pandemic and economic shutdown.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said another $1 trillion is needed, beyond the just-passed $2.2 trillion effort. She wants another round of direct payments to Americans and more money for companies to keep making payroll. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said in recent days that health care should top the list, signaling his intent to get to work on a new bill.
“We’re going to take good care of our people,” Trump said Monday at his daily White House briefing. “It was not their fault.”
It’s a rare sign of emerging consensus as Washington responds to the public health emergency and severe economic fallout that is ransacking communities nationwide, a crisis on par with a war effort or the Great Depression.
Mayor suggests less crowded open spaces
Packed parking lots and narrow trails can be a recipe for distancing disaster during a pandemic.
That’s why Mayor Tim Keller , during a recent news conference, urged people to consider open spaces that have less traffic.
“Our popular open spaces are getting heavily used and we want to let you know that there are a lot of other open space areas that are just as awesome,” Keller said. “You can have a very enjoyable time with less parking hassle by trying to hit some of these lesser used, open space areas.”
The City of Albuquerque suggests visitors visit these other locations: the Tijeras Arroyo, Juan Tomas, San Antonito, Calabacillas Arroyo, Manzano, and Quail Rancho Open Spaces.
The City also manages Open Space in Sandoval County and the East Mountains, including Golden Open Space and the John A. Milne & Gutierrez Canyon.
For a full list, maps and other resources, visit www.cabq.gov/openspace.
A 2007 study done by the Trust for Public Land found that Albuquerque has the most land area devoted to parks and preserves throughout the country.
Since stay-at-home orders were put in place many people in Albuquerque have been flocking to open spaces, something Superintendent of Open Space Colleen McRoberts is happy to see, but not without reminders to be courteous visitors like: stay on the trail; take out your trash; pick up after your dogs; be prepared; let other people know where you’re going and dress accordingly.
“Please remember to stay safe for your sake and other people on the trail and minimize your impact to our natural and cultural resources,” McRoberts said.
The mayor’s office is asking residents to observe social distancing even on the trails.
— Anthony Jackson