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Keller looking at ‘all the options’ to reduce the virus spread

Mayor Tim Keller

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque’s mayor says he is weighing potential new pandemic-related restrictions for New Mexico’s largest city beyond what is currently mandated by the state.

In a media briefing about the city’s COVID-19 response on Friday, Mayor Tim Keller repeatedly hinted at possible changes for the coming week, but he declined to be specific.

“We’re going to look at all the options,” he said in a livestreamed briefing from City Hall. “We always said, from Day One, just because of the fact we are the largest urban area in a thousand square miles, we might have to take some alternative measures compared to the state … so we’re going to look at a lot of different options next week.”

The COVID-19 case growth rate in Bernalillo County this past week was higher than the state’s as a whole, as is the virus’ spread rate in the metropolitan area, according to numbers Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other state officials presented during a news conference Thursday.

Because the Albuquerque area is home to nearly half of New Mexico’s population and many of its services, Keller said, officials always expected it to be a problem spot, though the virus’ rampage through northwestern New Mexico this spring “hid the fact that the urban areas are usually hit the worst.” He said the Albuquerque area has fared considerably better during the pandemic than other regional cities, such as El Paso and Denver, but that recent data is troubling.

“We know the virus is still here, and the risk is still here and, in fact, it is getting worse,” he said.

Lujan Grisham this week reinstated statewide restrictions meant to stem the spread, prohibiting restaurants and breweries from offering indoor dining starting Monday. She also called off the fall high school football and soccer seasons and temporarily banned out-of-state visitors from New Mexico state parks.

As a city, Albuquerque can institute even more stringent restrictions, and Keller said Friday that could even mean targeted restrictions that affect only certain areas of the city.

“What we’re trying to understand is if there are specific hot spots in the city or areas where spread is an increase issue compared to the rest of the city,” he said.

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