Updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of NM.
Navajo Nation announces 101 additional cases, 2 deaths from COVID-19
The Navajo Nation reported 101 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, putting the total at 698, according to a Facebook post by Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.
The post also said two more people had died from the virus, making a total of 24 deaths on the Navajo Nation.
The confirmed positive cases are in:
■ Navajo County, Ariz., 252
■ Apache County, Ariz., 79
■ Coconino County, Ariz., 150
■ McKinley County, N.M., 92
■ San Juan County, N.M., 97
■ Cibola County, N.M., 11
■ San Juan County, Utah, 11
■ Socorro County, N.M., 6
According to the post, President Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer have been told that Abbot ID rapid test kits — which allow for results within minutes — will be available at Navajo Area Indian Health Service facilities and tribal health care centers in the next few days. Tests now take an average of two to four days to process.
“Quicker test results will likely result in even higher numbers of positive cases, but it will help to identify those who have the virus and begin to mitigate the cases much quicker,” said Nez, who urged people celebrating Easter to take part in services offered through the internet, TV, radio and other such means.
The Navajo Department of Health’s COVID-19 website is at www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/COVID-19.
— Matthew Reisen
Governor extends ban on large groups to places of worship
On the day before Easter Sunday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham broadened her public health order banning big gatherings to include houses of worship statewide.
The order — aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 — did not previously include places of worship, though many congregations had already canceled in-person services, the Governor’s Office said Saturday in announcing the expansion of the order.
As Easter approached, however, officials learned that some groups were making other plans.
“We’re incredibly grateful that so many houses of worship already took action of their own,” Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said Saturday. “However, there have been a few outliers, putting New Mexicans at risk. We were hearing additional ones planning on holding services (Sunday) … and we wanted to be crystal clear.”
Of the 39 states that have implemented stay-at-home orders, only 11 now have exceptions for religious gatherings, and most of those require social distancing at services, according to the news release from the Governor’s Office. The majority of New Mexico churches, synagogues and mosques already ended face-to-face gatherings, and many churches are planning virtual Easter services via livestream, broadcast or other technical means.
“We know that you want to practice your faith, as you should. But this year we must remember that home is holy. The best thing you can do for your community is to stay there,” Lujan Grisham said in the release. “While this will be emotionally difficult for so many New Mexicans, public health must be the top priority. The only way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is by staying home and minimizing all person-to-person contact.”
— Matthew Reisen
State records 86 new cases, 1 additional death from COVID-19
Officials reported 86 new cases of COVID-19 statewide on Saturday, bringing the total to 1,174.
Nora Meyers-Sackett, a spokeswoman for the governor, said there was one additional death — a San Juan County man in his 70s.
“The individual was hospitalized,” she said.
The state has now seen a total of 20 deaths from the novel coronavirus.
The new cases reported Saturday include 17 in Bernalillo County, 27 in McKinley County, 22 in Sandoval County, seven in San Juan County, five in Doña Ana County, two in Santa Fe County and one each in Chaves, Cibola, Grant, Quay, Socorro and Valencia counties.
Meyers-Sackett said there are 78 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and 235 deemed having recovered from the virus.
— Matthew Reisen
Another 20,085 New Mexicans file for jobless benefits this week
More than 90,000 New Mexicans have filed initial unemployment claims over the past four weeks.
According to unofficial numbers released Friday by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions, 20,085 more New Mexico residents filed for unemployment April 3-9.
They join more than 70,000 people who have filed such claims in the past three weeks, since the spread of the new coronavirus began to prompt widespread business closures in New Mexico.
On Monday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham extended the in-person business closure order through at least the end of April, and expanded it to include payday lenders, automobile dealers and liquor stores. The order also mandated that businesses allowed to remain open must limit the number of customers inside to 20% of their maximum occupancy.
The new state numbers also showed 62,136 weekly unemployment certifications on Friday, a figure that includes people currently receiving benefits, as well as those currently in the system and awaiting determination.
The state’s unemployment trust fund balance currently stands at $442 million, down slightly from $450 million the week before.
Additionally, the state workforce agency provided a breakdown of unemployment claims by county through April 4. Highly populated Bernalillo County led the way during that period, with 30,269 initial claims filed between March 14 and April 4. Santa Fe, Doña Ana and Sandoval counties were next on the list, with each county exceeding 5,300 claims over the same three-week period.
Since March 7, around 25% of claimants were in the accommodation and food service industry. Other industries that have seen significant jumps include health care and the retail trade.
NM Tribal Response Plan focuses on lockdowns, funerals
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.
“Especially last week, with the San Felipe outbreak, it became clear that this virus is at our doorstep,” said state Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, who helped create the document. “But this has really been an all-hands-on-deck approach. We wanted to get this blueprint out to our tribal communities. Here at Sandia Pueblo, we have restrictions on who comes in and who leaves, for the protection of our people.”
The Navajo Nation, which has had 22 COVID-19 deaths and 597 cases as of Friday, has implemented a stay-at-home order and a weekend-long curfew to curb the spread of the disease. Many pueblos in New Mexico have done the same, prohibiting visitors and screening residents or essential employees entering the pueblos for COVID-19 symptoms.
Long-term care facility converts to COVID-19 treatment center
A long-term care facility in Albuquerque is temporarily converting into one that will house COVID-19 patients.
Some family members of residents currently staying at the Canyon Transitional Rehabilitation Center in the Northeast Heights are unhappy about the decision, which will require the evacuation of their loved ones.
“I’m afraid I will not see my mother again alive,” said Jennifer Brown-Shoman, who was informed in a phone call Thursday. Her 84-year-old mother, Janet Brown, is one of the residents.
“They have not told me when or where my mother would be taken,” she said.
Another woman said that was also the case with her 102-year-old mother.
Canyon Transitional plans to discharge 54 people from the facility next week directly home, if their current health status permits, or will transfer patients to another facility where their care will be continued, according to a statement the company issued Friday.
The conversion is being made in consultation with state officials. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in her Thursday news conference that the long-term care sites being established would provide COVID-19 patients with “the highest quality care.”
Brown-Shoman said staff members at the facility told her there were currently no residents with the coronavirus at Canyon Transitional.
“It doesn’t make sense to take a clean facility and then infect it with COVID-19 patients,” Brown-Shoman said. ” … Take a facility that already has a couple of cases. Get all of the healthy people out, quarantine them for a couple of weeks.”
— Scott Turner
Let’s worship in a new way that doesn’t put anyone at risk
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As the story goes, the Orthodox Jewish couple had lighted candles before sundown on the Sabbath and settled down to dinner when one of the candles fell and started a fire in the couple’s New York apartment.
Even as the flames spread, the couple refused to call the fire department until they received permission from their rabbi to use the phone since making or receiving phone calls on the Sabbath is against religious law.
I’m not sure what happened next – Johanna Smith, who told me the story, was a wide-eyed New Jersey teen at the time. What she did recall was that the outcome was devastating to both the couple’s apartment building and her fledgling devotion to rigid Jewish orthodoxy.
But the point of the story was clear.
“I’m all for prayer, God, finding meaning in spiritual life,” said Smith, a retired Hebrew teacher now living in Rio Rancho and a 2019 Angels Among Us recipient. “But we were given discernment, too. And when we give that up in the guise of some sort of greater devotion, to me, it’s spitting in the face of the very deity we claim to be devoted to.”
Which is to say, God asks us to worship him but he also gives us a host of ways to do that, some more stringent than others, none that need put our lives or others at risk.
— Joline Gutierrez Krueger
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
Here’s how to help.
— Theresa Davis