Updates related to COVID-19 and its effects on Albuquerque and the rest of NM.
Navajo COVID-19 cases rise by 166, reservation enters weekend-long curfew
The Navajo Department of Health reported 166 new COVID-19 cases on the reservation Friday. In total, there are 2,307 cases on the Navajo Nation. There were two additional deaths reported by the NDOH, Navajo Epidemeology Center and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, bringing the total deaths from the disease to 73. The agencies report a total of 9,058 negative test results.
The Navajo Nation is currently under a 57-hour curfew. Gallup, which borders the reservation and has seen a surge in cases, is also on a weekend lockdown.
Navajo Nation COVID-19 cases by county:
■ McKinley County, N.M.: 617
■ Apache County, Ariz.: 538
■ Navajo County, Ariz.: 513
■ Coconino County, Ariz.: 286
■ San Juan County, N.M.: 245
■ San Juan County, Utah: 42
■ Socorro County, N.M.: 23
■ Cibola County, N.M.: 22
■ Sandoval County, N.M.: 21
The Navajo Health Command Operations Center hotline is (928) 871-7014.
— Theresa Davis
NM offers incentive pay to child care workers
New Mexico will use some of its federal coronavirus aid to boost the pay of early childhood workers who are staffing child care centers amid the pandemic.
They will be eligible for $700 a month for full-time work through June and $350 a month for part-time work.
“Throughout this crisis, New Mexico’s early childhood educators have stepped up in extraordinary ways, and this incentive pay plan is one way of thanking them,” the state’s secretary for early childhood education and care, Elizabeth Groginsky, said in a written statement.
The advocacy group OLÉ New Mexico said child care workers are risking their own health to ensure doctors, nurses and others have a safe place to drop off their children. The group worked with early childhood educators to push the state to provide hazard pay to help compensate them for the risk.
— Dan McKay
Officials announce 104 new COVID-19 cases, eight deaths
The state has surpassed 3,500 cases of COVID-19, with an increase of 104 positive cases announced Friday.
State Officials reported the majority of the most recent cases are in McKinley and San Juan Counties, which saw 37 and 16 new cases respectively. Twenty-one new cases were announced in Bernalillo.
Nursing homes around the state have been hit hard and the Department of Health has identified positive cases in 25 facilities around New Mexico.
State officials also reported eight additional deaths on Friday, including three from nursing homes in San Juan County — a woman in her 70s and a woman in her 80s who were residents at Life Care Center in Farmington and a woman in her 90s who was a resident of Cedar Ridge Inn in Farmington.
State insurance office starts COVID-19 call center
The state insurance office has set up a call center for people with health insurance questions related to COVID-19.
The Office of the Superintendent of Insurance announced the launch of the call center Friday. The center will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
“People were calling other state agencies to get answers about health coverage, and those calls had to be directed to us,” state Superintendent of Insurance Russell Toal said in a news release. “We thought it would be an advantage to the consumer community to have a number they can call with complaints or questions — whether about lost health insurance coverage or being illegally charged for COVID-19 testing or care. We had the capacity to help, so we’re doing that.”
The state says consumers can call the center at 1-833-415-0566 “to learn about their right to have COVID-19 testing and treatment without cost” and with questions about how to obtain health insurance; resolve grievances associated with premium payments, termination of coverage, claims, benefits denials and surprise billing related to COVID-19: and appeal an insurance decision.
— Journal Staff
Gov. Lujan Grisham issues lockdown order for Gallup
A day after local leaders asked her to intervene, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has issued a lockdown order for Gallup that will close all roads into the city for outsiders.
The emergency order under the state’s Riot Control Act took effect at noon Friday and will last for three days.
It also mandates that all business in Gallup be closed from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. during the lockdown, with the exception of medical facilities, that no more than two people travel together in a vehicle and that Gallup residents stay at home unless it’s absolutely necessary to outside.
The drastic order aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus in one of northwest New Mexico’s largest cities — and a shopping destination for many members of the Navajo Nation.
— Dan Boyd
Outgoing mayor asks governor to lock down Gallup
The outgoing mayor of Gallup has asked Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to put the city on lockdown to help stem the tide of rising coronavirus infection rates.
In a letter sent Thursday to the governor, Gallup Mayor Jackie McKinney said the spread of COVID-19 has already caused many deaths in the area and stretched the city’s medical facilities and resources to their capacity.
“Our community is unable to adequately address the outbreak without the imposition of certain restrictions necessary to regulate social distancing, public gatherings, sales of goods and the use of public streets,” McKinney wrote.
— Dan Boyd
Navajo Nation COVID-19 cases rise by 164, with 9 new deaths
The Navajo Department of Health reported 164 new COVID-19 cases Thursday. There are now 2,141 cases on the reservation. There were 9 additional COVID-19 deaths reported by the NDOH, Navajo Epidemiology Center and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service. In total, there have been 71 deaths from the disease on the Navajo Nation. The agencies are reporting a total of 8,639 negative test results. The average age of COVID-19 patients on the reservation is 46. The average age of COVID-19 deaths is 65.
The 539 Navajo reservation cases in McKinley County are more than any other county on the reservation.
In a call with reporters Thursday, Dr. Loretta Christensen, chief medical officer for the Navajo Area IHS, confirmed that cases in Gallup and McKinley County have surged primarily because of initial outbreaks at a local detox center and among the city’s unsheltered population.
“As soon as we learned one person was positive, we worked to find shelter for that population,” Christensen said. “We did very intense tracing very quickly, and we were successful with that.”
The IHS predicts the Navajo Nation’s virus peak will be around May 10.
New Mexico’s northwest corner, which overlaps with the Navajo Nation, is experiencing the state’s highest case numbers and infection rates.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the Navajo Nation Rapid Response Team to help bridge the gap between tribal and state resources. The team includes physicians and leaders from the New Mexico National Guard, Navajo Area IHS, Cochiti Pueblo, ABQ Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center, UNM Health Sciences and U.S. Homeland Security.
— Theresa Davis