Updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of NM.
Navajo Nation COVID-19 hotspots shifting east
The Navajo Nation reported 53 new COVID-19 cases on the reservation Monday, bringing the total to 1,769 cases. There remains a total of 59 deaths from the disease, according to the Navajo Department of Health, Navajo Epidemiology Center and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez hosted a video update Monday from a community center in Chinle, Arizona, where tribal leadership is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build an alternative care site.
The 50-bed facility will house a potential overflow of COVID-19 patients as they recover, in an effort to prevent community spread of the disease. A similar facility was completed at a high school gym in Gallup, New Mexico. Nez said a middle school in Shiprock will be a third alternative care site.
“We are building these facilities just to be on the safe side, and we’re hoping and praying we don’t need (them),” Nez said. “We have to prepare for the worst.”
Nez expressed concern about the shift of COVID-19 “hotspots” from the western Navajo Nation to eastern and northern portions of the reservation, including in towns that border tribal land.
“When we tell our citizens to stay home, we ask that you stay home please,” Nez said. “I don’t know why the increase in Gallup and Farmington, but you know a lot of us go over there to shop .. home is the safest place to be.”
A majority of New Mexico’s new COVID-19 cases in the last several days have been in McKinley and San Juan counties, which overlap with the Navajo Nation. McKinley County has the most COVID-19 cases of any county in the state.
Native Americans represent 49.8% of the state’s COVID-19 cases, New Mexico Department of Health data shows.
— Theresa Davis
NM announces 5 more deaths, pushing total to 104
New Mexico crossed a grim threshold Monday — more than 100 dead in the coronavirus outbreak, just 35 days after the first fatality in Artesia.
The death toll reached 104 on Monday as the state announced five more deaths, all men, ranging in age from their 60s to their 80s.
For the most part, New Mexico’s 104 victims were older adults with underlying medical conditions — such as diabetes, heart problems or obesity. At least 34 lived in group care facilities, where virus outbreaks have proven deadly and difficult to contain.
But otherwise healthy New Mexicans in their 30s through 60s also have died, some without first having been hospitalized, according to demographic data released by the state.
— Dan McKay
County adds detox beds
After cutting capacity in mid-March for the sake of social distancing, Bernalillo County is stretching its detoxification center to accommodate nearly twice as many clients.
The detox program at the CARE Campus in Southeast Albuquerque can now take up to 38 clients, up from 20, the county has announced.
A spokesman said the expansion should stop the center from having to turn away clients, as it has occasionally had to do after eliminating beds in mid-March.
The expansion includes using two administration wings.
“This expansion will allow us to maintain all safeguards and decrease the incidences of turning clients away who are requesting detox,” Evan Gonzales, a spokesman for the county’s Behavioral Health Services Department, said in an email. “We also know that needs for detox services have increased statewide due to limits on access to alcohol as well as other facility closures and/or decreasing census.”
The detoxification program served 219 clients in March, down from 245 in March of 2020.
— Jessica Dyer
Online space industry career fair will be April 30
With the physical world on lockdown, the New Mexico space industry will host an out-of-this-world career fair next Thursday for young professionals and students in science, technology, engineering and math careers.
The all-virtual conference will feature panel discussions and presentations by space-related companies searching for STEM-trained job seekers in everything from computer science and software development to program management and electrical and mechanical engineering, said retired University of New Mexico biology professor Maggie Werner-Washburne.
Werner-Washburne is the director of STEM Boomerang, which aims to connect STEM professionals and students with businesses, universities, state agencies and other organizations to build workforce opportunities for both employers and potential employees.
Projections for virus starkly different
Just three weeks ago, state officials released projections showing New Mexico hospitals could face severe shortages of beds and ventilators at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak.
Their statistical model showed the state might have just 63% of the hospital beds it needed at the peak of the pandemic and just 38% of the ventilators – shortages of each exceeding 1,000.
But Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her top executives shared a startlingly different picture last week. They no longer projected a shortage of general beds or ventilators.
In fact, they said, it was time to accelerate planning to reopen more of New Mexico’s economy.
The dramatically different projections illustrate the uncertainty policymakers face while trying to combat a newly discovered coronavirus that has proved highly contagious and deadly.
— Dan McKay
Navajo Nation COVID-19 cases reach 1,716
On Sunday, the Navajo Nation reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 on the reservation. The total of cases is now 1,716, according to data from the Navajo Department of Health, Navajo Epidemiology Center and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service. There remains a total of 59 deaths from the disease, and 8,037 total negative tests.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham joined Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer for a video update on Sunday night.
Lujan Grisham said the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for cooperation of tribal, state and federal governments to meet their responsibilities to ensure citizens have food, water and necessary supplies during the current public health crisis and in the future. Native Americans represent about 47% of New Mexico’s COVID-19 cases.
“The federal government is waiting too long to get much-needed resources directly to the Navajo Nation,” Lujan Grisham said, adding that she would join Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in continuing to advocate for federal relief for the Navajo Nation.
Navajo COVID-19 cases by county:
· Navajo County, AZ: 405
· Apache County, AZ: 391
· Coconino County, AZ: 243
· McKinley County, NM: 427
· San Juan County, NM: 177
· Cibola County, NM: 16
· Socorro County, NM: 21
· Sandoval County, NM: 15
· San Juan County, UT: 21
— Theresa Davis