Updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of NM.
Navajo COVID-19 cases increase by 70, death toll rises to 22
The Navajo Nation Health Command Operations Center reported 558 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, an increase in 70 cases from the day before. The Navajo Nation reported two more COVID-19 deaths, for a total of 22 Navajo deaths from the disease. There have been 2,381 negative COVID-19 test results.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Myron Lizer are both in self-quarantine after being in close proximity earlier this week with a first responder who later tested positive for COVID-19.
The Navajo Nation will have a curfew from 8 p.m. Friday, April 10, to 5 a.m. on Monday, April 13. Essential employees must have documentation from their employer. Navajo Police will be enforcing the curfew and the stay-at-home order.
Navajo COVID-19 cases by county:
• Navajo County (AZ): 222
• Apache County (AZ): 59
• Coconino County (AZ): 124
• McKinley County (NM): 53
• San Juan County (NM): 79
• Cibola County (NM): 9
• San Juan County (UT): 10
• Socorro County (NM): 2
Heinrich seeks relief funding for communities under 500,000 in population
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is calling for COVID-19 relief legislation that would provide stabilization funding for communities with populations under 500,000.
The most recent coronavirus relief package included up to $1.25 billion in reimbursement funding for state and local governments to cover the cost of COVID-19 related expenses. But under the legislation, only the city of Albuquerque could apply directly for funding.
“Small and rural communities in New Mexico either will face, or have already faced, enormous economic burdens and costs in an effort to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Heinrich said. “It is crucial that we provide the same direct emergency assurances to smaller towns, counties, and cities and grant them the same stability that we are providing our larger metropolitan areas.”
New Mexico Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small told the Journal in an earlier interview that should was disappointed the largest city in the district she represents – Las Cruces – could not apply for aid currently under the CARES Act.
And Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker told the Journal his city of under 9,000 could face a $1.5 million deficit if the pandemic shuts down businesses as long as projected. He said the city is requesting help from the state.
— Scott Turner
NM cases jump to 989, hospitalizations surge amid outbreak
The number of New Mexico patients hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms surged to 73 on Thursday — a 23% jump in a single day.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also announced that another person died in the virus outbreak, pushing the state’s death toll to 17.
The daily deaths, she said, are heartbreaking, especially given the social distancing that keeps relatives from being present in the hospital.
— Dan Boyd, Dan McKay
Courthouse closes after employee tests positive for COVID-19
The 2nd Judicial District Courthouse downtown closed early Thursday after an employee tested positive for coronavirus. The building will reopen on Monday.
The employee who tested positive was last in the building March 27, and began showing symptoms days after that, according to a news release. Centers for Disease Control guidelines say there is a 14-day window for potential exposure from contact with a person who has the virus, which would end on Friday, April 10.
“We have no reason at this time to believe any other court employees have contracted the virus. However, we believe the prudent thing to do is close the courthouse for a thorough cleaning before reopening it for our employees and the public,” 2nd Judicial District Chief Judge Stan Whitaker said in the release.
— Katy Barnitz
Navajo Nation president, vice president self-quarantine
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer are self-quarantined after being in close proximity earlier this week with a first responder who later tested positive for COVID-19, the leaders said Thursday.
President Nez and Vice President Lizer had been wearing masks and gloves during their visits to checkpoints and mobile clinics. The leaders said they feel fine, but are following guidance to isolate themselves because of their exposure to the disease. They will continue to conduct business by phone, email and teleconferencing. Some individuals with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Arizona National Guard are also in self-quarantine after exposure to the first responder.
“We’re continuing to hold everyone in prayer, and let’s not forget to continuously pray for our warriors … those individuals that are on the frontline of fighting this monster, this virus that is taking a lot of our people here,” President Nez said during a virtual townhall update on Thursday.
Numbers released Wednesday night show 488 COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation, with 20 deaths from the disease. President Nez said the result time for most COVID-19 tests on the Navajo Nation is now about 48 hours. He said the Navajo Area Indian Health Service would soon receive rapid test kits from the federal government.
The Navajo Nation is preparing for a weekend-long curfew to curb the spread of COVID-19. Navajo leaders issued a proclamation declaring April 10-13 as “Navajo Nation Family Prayer Weekend.”
To contact the main Navajo Health Command Operations Center, call (928) 871-7014.
— Theresa Davis
Applications for new state benefit crash system
At 2 p.m. Wednesday, the state of New Mexico announced it would make one-time, $750 stimulus payments to help support self-employed citizens during the coronavirus pandemic.
Funding was limited and only the first 2,000 qualified applicants would receive the grants, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions announced as it immediately opened the application process.
The ensuing frenzy overwhelmed the agency’s website, and less than five hours later, the department had temporarily suspended the application process. The department intends to post the link again at some point Thursday, though a department spokeswoman said the exact time is unknown.
— Jessica Dyer
NM residents cut travel amid outbreak
New Mexicans have substantially reduced their travel to restaurants, grocery stores and parks amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to mobility data analyzed by Google.
In fact, they’ve generally cut their travel more substantially than people in Arizona, Utah and Oklahoma.
But New Mexico still trails the nation as a whole in limiting trips outside the home – well behind Colorado and just a touch worse than Texas, Google data shows.
— Dan McKay
Fewer coronavirus deaths in NM, US predicted
A leading statistical model from the University of Washington is now projecting substantially fewer coronavirus deaths in New Mexico as social distancing and other strategies take hold.
The changes are part of a broader, more optimistic trend for the United States as a whole, incorporating new information on deaths throughout the world and other factors. The projection fluctuates daily.
But it took a turn for the positive this week.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington reduced its estimated U.S. death toll to about 60,000 people through Aug. 4 – down from more than 90,000 last week.
— Dan McKay
COVID-19 cases increase by 62 on Navajo Nation
There are 488 COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation as of Wednesday night, according to numbers released by the Navajo Department of Health, Navajo Area Indian Health Service and the Navajo Epidemiology Center. There are now 20 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, up three from Tuesday’s reports. The Navajo Nation is reporting 2,221 negative test results.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the numbers are alarming, but he and other leaders are hopeful that the upcoming weekend-long curfew will curb the spread of COVID-19 on the reservation.
“Now is the time to get prepared for the 57-hour curfew,” said Vice President Myron Lizer. “If you need groceries, medication, or other necessary items we urge you to take every precaution and please only send one family member to purchase items – do not take children into stores or public places. Let’s also continue to pray for everyone who is fighting along with us.”
President Nez and Vice President Lizer will host an online town hall COVID-19 update on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. The update will be streamed on the president’s Facebook page and will be aired on KTNN 660AM and 101.5FM at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday.
The Navajo Health Command Operations Center number is (928) 871-7014, and the Navajo mental health helpline is (928) 810-7357.
— Theresa Davis