Updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of NM.
Navajo Nation residents required to wear masks in public
The Navajo Health Command Operations Center reported a total of 1,197 COVID-19 cases Saturday, an increase of 70 cases. No new COVID-19 deaths were reported by the Navajo Health Department, Navajo Area Indian Health Service and Navajo Epidemiology Center. There remains a total of 44 COVID-19 deaths on the Navajo Nation. A news release Saturday said the average age of Navajo individuals who have died from the disease is 66 years old. The HCOC has reported a total of 4,075 negative tests.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez issued an emergency public health order Friday, requiring everyone on the reservation to wear a protective mask in public to help curb the spread of the disease. The Navajo Nation is currently under a 57-hour weekend curfew. Restaurants and food vendors are closed. Grocery stores and gas stations are operating under limited hours and occupancy restrictions.
On Sunday, President Nez will join New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland and other tribal leaders for a televised discussion about COVID-19 in Indian Country. The program will air at 6 p.m. Sunday on New Mexico PBS and will be livestreamed on the New Mexico PBS Facebook page.
The Navajo Department of Health’s coronavirus webpage is www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/COVID-19.
— Theresa Davis
Lovelace to hold drive-thru screening Sunday
Lovelace Medical Center is holding a drive-through screening on April 19 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the parking lot across from the hospital on the south side of Martin Luther King Jr.
“The testing will be open to anyone, including those who are not showing symptoms of COVID-19,” Whitney Marquez, a Lovelace spokeswoman, said in a release.
The screening site is being held in a collaboration between Lovelace and the New Mexico Department of Health in response to cases of the novel coronavirus popping up around the state.
— Matthew Reisen
87 new cases, 2 additional virus deaths announced in NM
Officials recorded 87 cases and two additional deaths from COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the total caseload to 1,798 statewide with 53 people having died from the virus.
Nora Meyers-Sackett, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, said a women in her 60s from Bernalillo County and a woman in her 40s from McKinley County are the most recent casualties of COVID-19. Both women were hospitalized and had underlying medical conditions.
Meyers-Sackett said there are 92 people currently in the hospital with the virus and 465 designated as having recovered by the New Mexico Department of Health.
The new cases include 40 in McKinley County, 17 in San Juan County, 13 in Bernalillo County, 10 in Sandoval County, two in Doña Ana County, two in Santa Fe County and one each in Guadalupe, Cibola and Quay counties.
– Matthew Reisen
Special session will have to wait until it’s safe to meet, governor says
SANTA FE – Despite calls from some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the Roundhouse, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham does not plan to call a special legislative session anytime soon.
With New Mexico’s Legislature lacking any easy way to meet remotely, bringing all 112 legislators back to Santa Fe is not a prudent idea during the COVID-19 outbreak, which has already killed 51 state residents, the governor said this week.
“As soon as it’s safe to hold a special session, we will do so, but it’s clear that time is not right now,” Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said Friday.
However, some legislators say a special session needs to happen as soon as possible to approve a relief package for businesses and employees hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak.
They say that could be done safely by having lawmakers gradually enter the Roundhouse, take necessary safety precautions and cast votes in waves so as not to violate social distancing guidelines.
— Dan Boyd
Hospital threatens to discipline nurses who spoke out about protective gear
University of New Mexico Hospital administrators have threatened their front-line medical workers with disciplinary action for publicly raising concerns about their safety while treating patients during the coronavirus pandemic.
The warnings were made as the number of cases and deaths in the state attributed to COVID-19 continues to rise, and state officials have said hospitals could see a surge of patients in the coming weeks. Seven more adults – four in Bernalillo County – died amid New Mexico’s coronavirus outbreak, pushing the total to 51 deaths, state health officials said Friday.
Several UNMH nurses and other hospital employees this week raised concerns – primarily about the hospital’s stockpile of personal protective equipment, or PPE – during a protest outside the hospital and in interviews with the media. The employees said rules governing the use of the equipment have been changing regularly, raising concerns among the workers.
— Ryan Boetel
Navajo COVID-19 cases reach 1,127
The Navajo Nation Health Command Center announced 85 new COVID-19 cases Friday, which brings the total COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation to 1,127. The Navajo Department of Health, Navajo Area Indian Health Service and Navajo Epidemiology Center also confirmed three additional COVID-19 deaths, and 3,673 total negative tests. There are now 44 COVID-19 deaths on the Navajo Nation.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, in a video roundtable discussion Friday with U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and tribal leaders, expressed frustration with the “slow pace” of federal dollars getting to Indian Country to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is upsetting to see how the voice of tribal governments has been ignored through this process,” Nez said.
Nez also said that 57% of all COVID-19 cases in the Indian Health Service network are on the Navajo Nation, but that has not been factored into the percentage of emergency funds allocated to tribal communities.
On Friday, the New Mexico Community Foundation announced the Native American Relief Fund, which will collect donations to purchase protective equipment, food and water for Navajo, Apache and Pueblo communities of New Mexico. The fund was created in coordination with the Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund and the Santa Fe Community Foundation.
The Navajo Nation will be under a weekend curfew from 8 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday. Restaurants and food vendors are closed. Grocery stores and gas stations may operate, but with limited hours and occupancy. According to a release, the Navajo Police Department issued more than 100 citations last weekend for residents who violated the curfew.
Here’s how to help.
— Theresa Davis