Updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of NM.
Navajo Nation to get rapid tests and ventilators, two police officers test positive for COVID-19
There are now 838 COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation, according to numbers released Tuesday evening by the Navajo Epidemiology Center, the Navajo Department of Health and the Navajo Health Command Operations Center. The cases increased by 25 since Monday’s reports. The Navajo Nation reported 5 more confirmed COVID-19 deaths, bringing the disease’s death toll to 33.
During a virtual town hall on Tuesday, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said that in addition to rapid test kits, the Navajo Area Indian Health Service would soon receive 50 ventilators from the federal government.
He said the rapid tests, which can confirm the presence of coronavirus in less than an hour, will likely contribute to a spike in COVID-19 cases reported on the Navajo Nation.
Nez and Navajo Chief of Police Phillip Francisco also announced two Navajo police officers have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Our first responders — our warriors — on the frontline are beginning to contract this virus, and we need to stay home,” Nez said. “It is no joke.”
A new data portal from the New Mexico Department of Health shows that Native Americans make up 36.7% of the state’s COVID-19 cases.
Nez said the epidemiology team is working on a dashboard to provide more detailed information about locations of COVID-19 cases on the reservation. The Navajo Health Command Operations Center currently reports cases by county.
“Right now we’re looking at maybe reporting these cases on the map by zipcodes or going back to locating by the Navajo Area IHS service unit areas,” Nez said.
A daily curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. remains in effect throughout the reservation. The Navajo Health Command Operations Center hotline is (928) 871-7014.
Here’s how to help.
— Theresa Davis
NM reports 5 additional deaths, 62 new cases
Five additional deaths due to COVID-19 were announced Tuesday by New Mexico state health officials, bringing the state’s total death tally to 36.
Three of the five deaths reported were in San Juan County, where the Navajo Nation has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak. The other two deaths were in Bernalillo County and Sandoval County, and both involved individuals with underlying health issues.
Meanwhile, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New Mexico increased by 62 and now stands at 1,407 cases, state health officials said.
More than half of those new confirmed cases were in the northwest New Mexico counties of McKinley and San Juan, which both have high Native American populations.
Statewide, there are currently 82 individuals hospitalized due to the coronavirus around the state. A total of 340 individuals have been designated by the state Department of Health as having recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
— Dan Boyd
Routine restaurant inspections temporarily halted in ABQ
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the city of Albuquerque to close libraries, reduce bus service and limit shelter pet adoptions to appointments only.
It has also prompted the city to temporarily stop routine restaurant inspections.
Many restaurants around Albuquerque and throughout New Mexico continue to operate amid the COVID-19 outbreak, albeit in a limited fashion. A state order effective March 19 restricted restaurants to only takeout and delivery business.
A spokeswoman for the city’s Environmental Health Department said the city began coronavirus-related outreach to restaurants in early March and is still providing them updated information “on public health orders, cleaning and sanitizing practices and federal guidance.”
— Jessica Dyer
Hospitals placing employees on temporary leave
Several New Mexico hospitals are furloughing employees, reducing hours and slashing pay, including Lovelace Health System, which employs 4,239 people in New Mexico.
Lovelace Health System confirmed Tuesday it is making “difficult workforce decisions” that will affect 15% of its staff — or about 630 people.
“To minimize position eliminations, we have made a variety of adjustments including reduction of hours, furlough (unpaid time off), and pay reduction for exempt employees,” Lovelace spokeswoman Whitney Marquez wrote in an email.
Marquez wrote the changes are expected to last 90 days, but employees “may be called back sooner based on need.”
— T.S. Last
Advocates urge expanded release of prison inmates
In the week since the governor issued an executive order directing prisons to begin releasing some inmates ahead of schedule in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 there, only 10 have actually been released, according to a spokesman for the Corrections Department.
That leaves roughly 6,600 inmates still in facilities around the state.
The governor’s executive order last week directed the Corrections Department to identify inmates who are scheduled to be released on parole in the next 30 days and who are not being held on certain charges – including driving while intoxicated, domestic abuse or assault on a peace officer – and who are not sex offenders or serving an enhanced sentence for use of a firearm. Those who meet that criteria will be released on parole ahead of schedule.
— Elise Kaplan
New NM data portal shows Native Americans make up 36.7% of COVID-19 cases
New Mexico’s Native American population makes up 36.7% of the state’s coronavirus cases, according to a new state COVID-19 data portal released today by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration.
About 10.9% of New Mexico’s total population is Native American, according to 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, meaning tribal communities have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
However, a Lujan Grisham spokesman pointed out the state Department of Health has conducted extensive testing in Native American communities where clusters of the disease have been identified — including the Navajo Nation, Zia Pueblo and San Felipe Pueblo.
That could at least in part explain the disproportionate share of the Native American population in New Mexico’s total positive tests.
— Dan Boyd
Church sues state over coronavirus rules
Leaders of a local church and state officials spent part of the Easter weekend wrangling over how public health orders would affect places of worship.
Legacy Church, which has about 20,000 members, filed a complaint late Saturday against the state and Kathyleen Kunkel, the secretary of the Department of Health, after state officials said houses of worship were no longer exempt from a public health order banning large gatherings.
The federal court filing seeks a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction against state orders prohibiting people from gathering at churches and other places of worship in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
— Ryan Boetel
Navajo COVID-19 cases at 813
There are now 813 COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation, according to a release from the Navajo Nation Health Command Operations Center and the Navajo Epidemiology Center. Those case numbers are up 115 from Saturday. The Navajo Nation did not release case numbers on Sunday, so Monday’s reports reflect two days of collected data. There are now 28 COVID-19 Navajo deaths. The agencies announced that 3,028 people have tested negative for the virus.
The Navajo Health Command Center hotline is (928) 871-7014. A daily reservation-wide curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. remains in effect.
Navajo COVID-19 cases by county:
• Navajo County (AZ): 251
• Apache County (AZ): 100
• Coconino County (AZ): 159
• McKinley County (NM): 109
• San Juan County (NM): 80
• Cibola County (NM): 9
• Socorro County (NM): 6
• Sandoval County (NM): 3
• San Juan County (UT): 11
Here’s how to help.
— Theresa Davis