March 17, 2020

The daily recap of New Mexico COVID-19 news (3/17/20 edition)

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Note: This daily recap of COVID-19 news from New Mexico from the previous day is available in a daily email. Sign up here. The same post will also appear on our website each morning.

  • The CDC was late to alert the state about a Socorro couple who returned to New Mexico from an Egypt cruise where COVID-19, a disease caused by a coronavirus, was known to be present. The couple later tested positive for the virus. Read our story here
  • A Navajo mom living in Albuquerque is worried about the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on her family. Read our story here.
  • U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced Monday that he will self-quarantine after interacting with someone who was at the time asymptomatic but later tested positive for COVID-19. Luján is not exhibiting any symptoms. Luján is the U.S. House Assistant Speaker.
  • On Monday, the state announced four new people who tested positive for COVID-19, all in Bernalillo County. This brings the total to 21 positive tests in New Mexico.
  • The Albuquerque City Council passed a proposal allowing the mayor to declare a public health emergency and access state and federal funds, as well as limit public gatherings. Read the story here.
  • U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich’s office told NM Political Report about his office’s COVID-19 efforts.Senator Heinrich will continue to keep New Mexicans informed of any changes to the operations of his offices and encourages residents to contact him for assistance. This includes New Mexico residents facing issues returning to the U.S. from travel abroad. Senator Heinrich is also encouraging New Mexico residents to visit his online resource center for COVID-19 at www.Heinrich.Senate.Gov/Coronavirus.
  • “The health of all New Mexico communities continues to be my top priority. We are working around the clock with federal, state, tribal, and local agencies to ensure that our state has the resources it needs to protect public health and keep families safe,” said Heinrich. “This is a worrisome time for our entire nation. I encourage all New Mexicans to utilize the services, resources, and information my office provides, and to contact me if you need assistance with a federal agency, including accessing Veterans benefits, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or federal grant funding.”
  • Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham sparred with President Donald Trump on a conference call with governors about how states need more help from the federal government.
  • Monday morning, the governor issued five executive orders that freed up $3.25 million to aid the COVID-19 response. The money allows disaster-relief funding for the New Mexico National Guard, the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Department of Health, the Public Education Department, and the Children, Youth and Families Department.
  • PNM announced it has “suspended electric service disconnections and late fees for nonpayment for customers until further notice.” The utility also asks for people to use self-serve options or pay online if possible.
  • Kit Carson Electric has placed a “moratorium” on electricity disconnections for both commercial and residential customers. Kit Carson is asking anyone who is having a hard time paying electricity bills to contact the cooperative to make arrangements. 
  • Along with all state offices, the Medical Cannabis Program shut its doors to the public on Monday. Program Director Dr. Dominick Zurlo told NM Political Report that the office will continue to operate as normal, they just won’t be seeing people in person.
    “As per the Governor’s directive this morning to close all Santa Fe campuses and State buildings, the MCP office in Santa Fe is closed for walk-in patients,” Zurlo said in an email. “However, staff are still receiving applications by mail, processing applications, and answering phones and emails to help direct patients as usual.”
  • The public health order from Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel to prohibit all restaurants, bars, breweries, eateries and other food establishments from operating at no greater than 50 percent of maximum seating capacity began at 9 a.m. Monday. Tables and booths may not seat more than six people and all occupied tables and booths must be separated by at least six feet. Patrons may not be seated at bars and standing patrons will not be served. 
    The order also clarifies that all casinos and horse racing facilities must close until April 10. This does not apply to casinos operating on tribal land. 
  • The annual pilgrimage to Chimayó on Easter week will be postponed, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican.
  • An independent grocery store in Taos announced early-morning shopping hours for those most vulnerable to COVID-19, and has instituted a no-hoarding policy. Read our story here.
  • The Albuquerque Journal’s Joline Gutierrez Krueger wrote about the 15 New Mexico residents from an ill-fated cruise who finally were able to return to the state.
  • The state will receive close to $6 billion in emergency funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and will receive an additional $500,000 for epidemiology and laboratory capacity, as part of the $8 billion emergency supplemental appropriations bill passed by Congress last week. “This funding will allow New Mexico’s health care professionals to quickly and more effectively assess, inform, and care for residents across the state and maintain confidence in their resources,”  U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said in a press release Monday. “I urge New Mexicans to follow the advice of trusted federal, state and local public health officials to keep themselves, their families, and our communities safe.”
  • The New Mexico Film Office and the Department of Workforce Solutions announced efforts to help those who lost their jobs or are losing parts of their salary because of a reduction in work because of COVID-19. Netflix and NBCUniversal have halted production of projects. The program will allow those out of work to receive up to $461 a week; those who continue employment, but with a reduction in work, may be able to receive a lesser amount to fill the gap.
  • U.S. Rep Ben Ray Luján is holding a “teletownhall” with New Mexico Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel on COVID-19 and the steps Congress is taking to address the coronavirus emergency and keep communities healthy. Members of the public can tune in to the townhall on Tuesday, March 17th at 7 p.m. by calling 877-229-8493, and using the code 112437. 
  • U.S. Rep Deb Haaland is hosting a telephone call with public health experts for constituents concerned about the coronavirus. The phone conference will be held Tuesday, March 17, at 6:05 pm. Members of the public will be able to ask questions of public health experts during the call. Call 877-229-8493 and use the code 118783. Audio of the call will be livestreamed here
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved on Friday Thermo Fisher Scientific for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of an assay that can detect the virus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. Thermo Fisher Scientific joins a group of private companies that have received FDA EUA authorization over the last week for tests that can detect SARS-CoV-2 in specimens. The company said it has 1.5 million tests available to ship as of Monday, and expects to increase production to 2 million tests produced each week, according to GenomeWeb
  • Pojoaque Valley High School will be providing grab and go breakfasts and lunches for anyone under the age of 18 starting March 17. Meals will be available curbside at the parent pick-up and drop-off area between 8:30 am – 1 pm Monday through Friday at the high school through April 3. Officials ask parents not to leave their cars when picking up meals, and say one free breakfast and lunch meal will be provided for each child ages 1-18 who are present in the car.  
  • The state Aging and Long Term Services Department has set up a hotline for seniors or  disabled adults who cannot access groceries, KRQE-TV reports. Individuals can call 1-800-432-2080 and leave a message.
  • Española Mayor Javier Sanchez said the City of Española’s Water Utility will not turn off water for any customers due to nonpayment until April 20, but stressed that those who can keep paying their bills should continue doing so, according to Northern New Mexico Independent
  • The Candyman Strings & Things musical instrument business will temporarily close because actor Idris Elba was recently at the store and later tested positive for COVID-19. Elba was in Santa Fe filming a movie.
  • The New Mexico Ice Wolves, a minor league hockey team based in Albuquerque, will not finish its season. The league, the NAHL, announced the rest of the season has been canceled.