March 14, 2020

ABQ Mayor: Don’t hoard supplies and other COVID-19 updates

Courtesy Photo

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller gave an update Saturday morning on the city’s response and preparedness for the possible spread of COVID-19, a type of coronavirus. The press conference can be watched on Facebook here.

Keller emphasized the importance of social distancing to “keep our public as safe as possible and to try to flatten that curve.” He said the city is prioritizing services for the community’s most vulnerable, including children, low-income families and the elderly.

He said residents can help support the city’s efforts by “doing things like not trying to go to the grocery store unless we actually need some food and supplies; and when we go to the grocery store, only getting the things we need and not hoarding and buying lots and lots of things we don’t need.”

Keller said law enforcement officers will be present at big box stores where food is sold, “just to make everyone feel safe.”

“If you see firefighters out there, or police, thank them for being there,” Keller said.

Other updates

-The state Department of Health is setting up an information center at the Sunport that arriving passengers can use “as soon as they land” to receive information about their destinations within the state, and help them determine the best course of action to take. Keller said medical screenings may take place at the Sunport in the future, if needed. 

-A new testing center will open up at Presbyterian Hospital on the westside of Albuquerque. Keller said the city is hoping to open up “as many testing sites as the state can set up.”

-The city’s Parks and Recreation Department is closing indoor facilities at city parks to third party events, including all city pools and aquatic centers, through April 15. Outdoor athletic areas will remain open but will comply with restrictions on mass gatherings. Department Director David Simon advised individuals to practice social distancing even at the parks. Simon said the department has also increased its hygiene and sanitation protocols at all city parks.

“Families should feel confident that playgrounds, benches and tables will be appropriately cleaned and sanitized,” Simon said.

-The Department of Family and Community Services has “paused” adult programming for the next three weeks but the Health and Social Service Centers will remain open, and the Family and Community Services will host programs for children that run from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at all community centers, beginning on Monday March 16. Department Director Carol Pierce said the department is cleaning facilities every two hours.

Pierce also said the city’s homeless shelter is open 24/7 and the city is now developing a process for screening the population to identify symptomatic individuals and direct them to the proper services. 

RELATED: Albuquerque working on strategy to protect homeless from coronavirus

More information on city services during this period can be found here.

Testing updates

Keller addressed concerns about traffic issues that have emerged at the city’s drive-thru testing area, which opened Friday afternoon. Keller said the traffic manager is working on how best to route traffic, and said the city may deploy crossing guards in the future.

“Expect lines, make sure you’re not on empty when you’re sitting in line,” he said.

RELATED: State’s COVID-19 testing capacity gets boost from private lab

Keller applauded the city’s current testing capabilities.

“We have the capabilities to do a lot more testing, a lot faster,” he said. “The limiting factor is the testing getting here. That’s one piece our whole country is waiting on. Once the tests and manpower get here, we can actually do this. The bottleneck is out of state and upstream.”