Updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of NM.
SF allowing reusable bags in grocery stores
Santa Fe city government is allowing people to bring their own reusable bags to grocery stores after banning them on Monday.
A news release sent out Friday morning said store employees should require customers to pack their own groceries in their reusable bags and disinfect any surfaces the from-home bags touch.
“This exception is consistent with the City’s goal of waste reduction while providing protections for store staff,” the release says.
On Monday the city also temporarily lifted its plastic bag ban, which has been in effect since 2014.
— Edmundo Carrillo
Navajo COVID-19 cases reach 597
The Navajo Department of Health reported 39 new COVID-19 cases Friday, for a total of 597 on the Navajo Nation. There were no new COVID-19 deaths reported; there are a total of 22 confirmed COVID-19 deaths on the Navajo Nation. There are 2,705 negative test results.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer are in self-quarantine after exposure to a first responder who later tested positive for COVID-19. The leaders said they feel healthy and will conduct business remotely. The Navajo Nation has a 57-hour curfew this weekend. Citations for breaking the curfew may include a fine of up to $1,000 and/or 30 days in jail.
The Navajo Department of Health’s COVID-19 website is www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/COVID-19. The Navajo Health Command Operations Center number is (928) 871-7014.
The 597 confirmed COVID-19 cases are in the following counties:
Navajo County, Ariz.: 234
Apache County, Ariz.: 61
Coconino County, Ariz.: 134
McKinley County, N.M.: 63
San Juan County, N.M.: 82
Cibola County, N.M.: 11
San Juan County, Utah: 10
Socorro County, N.M.: 2
— Theresa Davis
Tribal Response Plan addresses lockdowns, funerals
New Mexico’s Indian Affairs Department released a Tribal Response Plan this week to help the state’s tribes, nations and pueblos address COVID-19.
In a letter sent to leaders this week, Indian Affairs Secretary Lynn Trujillo, a member of Sandia Pueblo, said the plan was created to offer resources and guidance to indigenous communities while respecting tribal sovereignty. It was developed with input from tribal leaders and public health experts.
“In the Pueblos there is a saying: ‘Respect is never severed.’ Like respect, the values of commitment, love and compassion must also never be severed,” Trujillo wrote. “By holding true to these values and not allowing the crisis to divide us, our communities will endure and thrive.”
Among the mitigation strategies in the plan are stay-at-home orders, limiting entry and exit points on tribal land, a curfew and suspension of gatherings of more than five people.
— Theresa Davis
106 new cases bring NM total to 1,091; 2 additional deaths reported
Top state health officials announced two additional deaths due to the coronavirus on Friday, bringing the state’s death tally to 19.
The two deaths — one in Bernalillo County and one in Sandoval County — were both elderly men with underlying health issues.
Meanwhile, New Mexico’s total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surged past 1,000, as 106 new positive cases were announced. That brings the state’s total number of coronavirus cases to 1,091.
Health officials also said that confirmed coronavirus cases have now been identified in nine different group homes statewide, including an Albuquerque retirement community that has seen a cluster of cases — among both residents and staffers — and at least two deaths.
There are currently 75 individuals hospitalized due to coronavirus symptoms statewide, health officials said, while the Department of Health has designated 235 people as having recovered.
— Dan Boyd
City offering childcare for essential workers with young kids
Starting Monday, essential workers with children who are three years old to five years old will have a new childcare option.
The city of Albuquerque will open Herman Sanchez Child Development Center to offer free daycare for this age group. Parents who are eligible to take advantage of the services include first responders, healthcare providers and government workers.
Call 505-767-6504 to register.
Each classroom will be limited to five children and four teachers to allow for social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city has already been offering programs for older children.
City: Smoke shops ‘biggest issue’
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said smoke shops have been the “biggest issue by far” when it comes to noncompliance with coronavirus-related business regulations.
All nonessential businesses have been ordered to close by the governor to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Keller said the city will work with New Mexico State Police over the weekend to enforce that order on smoke shops that shouldn’t be operating, adding that there have been 23 smoke-shop complaints.
Keller said there have been complaints about massage parlors, car washes and furniture stores, too.
The mayor also reported that 171 businesses have been issued their first noncompliance notice for failing to adhere to rules. A few businesses have gotten a second noncompliance notice and one business has been cited, according to Keller.
– Shelby Perea
Delegation demands answers after COVID-19 cases reported at ICE facility
The New Mexico congressional delegation is raising questions about concerns that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities in the state are not fully prepared to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland, and Xochitl Torres Small sent a letter to Acting ICE Director Matthew T. Albence about their concerns.
The letter comes after reports that both an employee and migrant have confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the Otero County Processing Center.
“We are deeply troubled that an employee and migrant have both contracted COVID-19 at the Otero County Processing Center, and we believe this demands a thorough review,” the delegation wrote. “… In order to evaluate ICE’s ability to protect staff and detainees from coronavirus infection, we request that you immediately provide a clear description of the monitoring of detainee medical conditions as well as their access to essential personal hygiene products.”
The lawmakers provided Albence a list of 11 questions they want answered by April 17.
— Scott Turner
New Mexico health centers to receive $15 million in emergency grants
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released over $15 million in emergency grants to 16 community health centers, Pueblo health centers and Urban Indian Organizations in New Mexico in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the congressional delegation announced Friday
The funding, will provide money for emergency preparedness in order to respond to COVID-19 while continuing to support essential primary care services to underserved populations. The funding was included in the $2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress on March 29.
“I am glad to see funding go directly to health centers and health care workers on the front lines of this pandemic – we must support them fully during this challenging time,” U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said.
The full breakdown of the $15,473,075 in grant funding is below:
Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, Inc., Albuquerque, $613,700
Ben Archer Health Center, Inc., Hatch, $1,752,905
La Clínica De Familia Inc, Las Cruces, $1,152,290
Debaca Family Practice Clinic, Fort Sumner, $547,970
El Centro Family Health, Espanola, $872,435
First Choice Community Healthcare, Inc., Albuquerque, $1,644,425
First Nations Community Health Source Inc., Albuquerque, $1,297,805
Hidalgo Medical Services, Lordsburg, $780,935
Pueblo Of Jemez, Jemez Pueblo, $562,085
La Casa De Buena Salúd Inc., Portales, $935,225
La Clínica Del Pueblo, Tierra Amarilla, $550,610
La Familia Medical Center, Santa Fe, $971,675
Las Clinicas Del Norte, Incorporated, El Rito,$670,985
Mora Valley Community Health Services, Incorporated, Mora, $545,750
Presbyterian Medical Services, Inc., Santa Fe, $2,045,135
Luke’s Health Care Clinic, Inc., Las Cruces, $529,145
— Scott Turner
Pictures: Good Friday in NM – 2018 and 2020
— Eddie Moore
Agencies, attorneys preparing isolation orders if necessary
The Judicial branch of government, the Department of Health and attorneys across New Mexico are working collaboratively to prepare for the possibility that state authorities may request court orders to isolate or quarantine individuals posing a public health threat during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The state Supreme Court organized online training for judges and attorneys this week on provisions of state law allowing the DOH to petition a district court for orders to isolate or quarantine people during a public health emergency.
A training session will be held Friday for nearly 90 volunteer attorneys to represent people who become the subject of a public health isolation or quarantine order. Additionally, two judges in each judicial district have been designated by the Supreme Court to hear public health emergency cases and they received training earlier this week.
“This is a good example of partners in our justice system coming together in this public health emergency and preparing for rarely used legal actions that state health officials could take to protect New Mexicans from exposure to people infected with COVID-19,” said Justice C. Shannon Bacon.
Justice David Thomson said, “By having a trained group of judges and lawyers on call to handle public health cases, New Mexico’s court system can respond quickly if state authorities seek a quarantine or isolation order to help control the spread of coronavirus.”
— Rick Nathanson
State begins to craft economic recovery plan
With coronavirus infection rates still on the rise across New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday it’s “too soon” to start talking about when the state’s increasingly beleaguered economy might be reopened.
But the governor said during a news briefing that her administration would start crafting a recovery plan within the next week that would, at an unknown date, allow some shuttered businesses to resume operations.
“It’s not as easy as it sounds,” Lujan Grisham said during the briefing, which was streamed live on Facebook from the state Capitol.
“When you open up again, you expose yourself to a virus that is waiting for us,” the governor added.
— Dan Boyd, Dan McKay
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
Here’s how to help.
— Theresa Davis
Haaland to host telephone town hall
Congresswoman Deb Haaland will host a telephone town hall with economic experts on Monday to update New Mexicans on the resources to help New Mexico families and small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
Haaland will provide information on congressional legislation to keep families, workers, and small businesses afloat.
Residents will have the opportunity to ask questions about unemployment, small business loans, and other resources. N.M. Department of Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley and Regional Small Business Administration Director John Garcia will be on hand to answer questions.
People may dial in at 877-229-8493 with a dial-in code of 118783. Live audio can be found on Haaland’s website at https://haaland.house.gov/live
— Scott Turner