Updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of NM.
Navajo Nation COVID-19 cases reach 1,637
The Navajo Nation reported 97 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, and one additional death. There are now 1,637 COVID-19 cases on the reservation and a total of 59 deaths.
The Navajo Department of Health, Navajo Area Indian Health Service and Navajo Epidemiology Center have reported a total of 7,393 negative tests.
The reservation will remain under a weekend-long curfew until Monday morning. The Navajo Nation’s stay-at-home order will remain in effect after the weekend curfew expires.
Navajo Nation COVID-19 cases by county:
■ Navajo County, Ariz.: 395
■ Apache County, Ariz.: 362
■ Coconino County, Ariz.: 242
■ McKinley County, N.M.: 398
■ San Juan County, N.M.: 168
■ Cibola County, N.M.: 16
■ Socorro County, N.M.: 21
■ Sandoval County, N.M.: 15
■ San Juan County, Utah: 20
The Navajo Health Command Operations Center hotline is (928) 871-7014.
— Theresa Davis
NM promises jobless system improvements
SANTA FE – Top New Mexico officials said Friday that they are improving the state’s unemployment system, after a tsunami of jobless benefit claims related to the COVID-19 outbreak swamped the state and left thousands of state residents fuming.
More than 10% of the state’s labor force filed initial unemployment claims during a recent roughly monthlong period, as state-ordered closures of businesses not deemed to be essential have led to widespread employee layoffs and furloughs.
Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley apologized Friday for the trouble New Mexicans have faced accessing their unemployment benefits.
“We are very, very sorry for all of the frustration people have felt working through the unemployment system,” McCamley said.
He also said the agency is working to “put money in your pockets” and make it easier for people to stay home and safe.
The department has added 145 staffers – many from other state agencies – to help run its unemployment insurance call center, which has expanded its daily hours of operation. More employees are also helping to determine eligibility to get jobless benefits.
In addition, the log-in process for filing for unemployment benefits online is being improved, and text message alerts will soon be sent to jobless benefit seekers, McCamley said.
The number of New Mexicans receiving unemployment benefits has exploded from 9,600 in January to 79,806 since mid-March. There are also 123,816 active applications.
— Dan Boyd, Stephen Hamway, and Dan McKay
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 6 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