Updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of NM.
Navajo COVID-19 cases jump by 180, with 6 more deaths
The Navajo Health Command Operations Center reported 180 new COVID-19 cases Friday and six additional deaths. There are now a total of 1,540 COVID-19 cases on the reservation, and 58 deaths from the disease. The Navajo Department of Health and Navajo Epidemiology Center have reported a total of 6,473 negative tests.
In a news release Friday, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez encouraged reservation residents to continue following public health guidelines. The reservation will have another 57-hour weekend curfew starting tonight at 8 p.m. Navajo residents are also required to wear masks in public.
“With today’s large increase in positive cases, it’s important to remember that it is partly due to more testing that’s available, including rapid testing,” Nez said in the release. “On the upside, with more testing we now identifying those individuals who need to isolate themselves. We are working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct Alternative Care Sites to house positive patients to help prevent the spread.”
A high school gym in Gallup has been converted into an isolation site, and sites are being constructed in Shiprock and in Chinle, Arizona.
New Mexico Department of Health data shows Native Americans make up 47.27% of the state’s COVID-19 cases. Native Americans represent about 11% of the state’s population. In Arizona, Native Americans represent 5% of the population and make up 13% of the state’s COVID-19 cases.
— Theresa Davis
Pandemic taxing tribal law enforcement
The top federal prosecutor in New Mexico said the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched thin the already limited law enforcement resources on the Navajo Nation, which partially falls under his jurisdiction.
“Everyone here at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the (Department of Justice) remains hard at work to protect public safety and advance the criminal justice system,” John Anderson, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, said in an interview on Friday.
Federal law enforcement agencies in New Mexico are tasked with investigating and prosecuting serious felony crimes on Native American lands, including the Navajo Nation, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus and has put in place weekend curfews to stem the spread of the virus.
Law enforcement officers for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other tribal agencies are enforcing that curfew, Anderson said.
The FBI hasn’t taken on additional responsibilities on the Nation, such as responding to calls for service or enforcing that curfew, he said.
“Obviously, the public health situation has stretched the Navajo Nation Department of Public Safety very thin,” he said. “Violent crime is unacceptably high in our tribal communities. … COVID-19 is an added level of challenge, but we remain committed to doing our part to advancing criminal justice in Indian Country.”
— Ryan Boetel
Dozens of protesters urge state to reopen businesses
Monica Sanchez’s husband is unemployed. Her biggest fear is having to wait in line for food boxes and not being able to pay her bills.
That’s why she joined more than 100 other protesters near Albuquerque Civic Plaza Friday morning to call for government officials to reopen New Mexico’s nonessential businesses.
“Bills are not getting paid. People can’t work,” Sanchez said. “People can’t just wait around for a check from the government … I’m not going to watch my grandkids starve.” Click here for full story.
Nurse at Santa Rosa prison has COVID-19
A graveyard shift nurse at the privately run prison in Santa Rosa tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, but inmates and other employees who came in contact with her have tested negative.
The positive coronavirus test came to light as the state is fighting a petition to the state Supreme Court filed by criminal defense attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico to reduce the state prison population because of the threat posed by COVID-19.
Department of Corrections spokesman Eric Harrison confirmed that the nurse tested positive on Tuesday but had not been at the prison since finishing a shift last Friday. Click here for full story.
BCSO receives grant for community outreach program
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office has received a federal grant of more than $200,000 to offset the costs of its community outreach program in which uniformed deputies deliver boxes of food and supplies to people during the public health emergency.
“Several weeks ago, at the direction of Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III, the department applied for grants related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Deputy Connor Otero, a BCSO spokesman, in a news release.
“Within the past 48 hours the Sheriff’s Department was awarded $208,000 to alleviate some of the costs associated with the community outreach program. This grant was made available to those departments who deployed an active community assistance program to mitigate the impact on the families of our community.”
Otero said so far deputies have delivered boxes to more than 620 addresses, including nursing homes and group homes.
He said the county has incurred “significant up-front costs” for emergency response during the public health crisis that had not been included in the budget and the grant will help the sheriff’s office operations.
“These funds are critical to BCSO’s law enforcement operations given the record number of unemployment claims filed, tens of thousands of New Mexicans out of work, children out of school, the Governor’s directive to close all non-essential businesses and for citizens to stay at home, the sharp decline in economic activity, and corresponding decline in Bernalillo County’s revenue,” Otero wrote.
The Albuquerque Police Department released data last week showing in the city commercial burglaries have increased during the state-at-home orders while residential and auto burglaries have decreased. Otero was not able to immediately provide crime statistics for BCSO.
Navajo COVID-19 cases reach 1,360
The Navajo Nation announced 78 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the total on the reservation to 1,360. The Navajo Epidemiology Center reported three additional COVID-19 deaths. Fifty-two Navajo on the reservation have died from the disease. The average age of COVID-19 cases on the reservation is 48 years old, and the average age of those who have died is 65.
Navajo COVID-19 cases by county:
– Navajo County, AZ: 350
– Apache County, AZ: 287
– Coconino County, AZ: 229
– McKinley County, NM: 296
– San Juan County, NM: 135
– Socorro County, NM: 17
– Sandoval County, NM: 13
– Cibola County, NM: 14
– San Juan County, UT: 19
— Theresa Davis