March 18, 2020

The daily recap of New Mexico COVID-19 news (3/18/20 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 state Supreme Court outlined new restrictions on courts around the state, including a 20-day suspension of all trials that have not already started. Read our story here.
  • While public schools are closed, childcare centers remain open. And some are wondering why. Read our story here.
  • The number of test positive cases of COVID-19 has risen to 23, according to the state Health Department. This makes the first time the virus has been detected in Taos County.
  • Drive-up COVID-19 testing for those showing symptoms in Santa Fe and Roswell. See the links for details on times and locations.
  • A member of the Navajo Nation, in Arizona, tested positive.
  • A neighborhood in Taos is rallying to help out those most at risk from COVID-19. Read our story here.
  • The ACLU says the city of Albuquerque’s proposed emergency powers ordinance may be ‘an overreach,’ reports the Albuquerque Journal
  • The City of Santa Fe banned evictions of tenants impacted by COVID-19 during the city’s emergency.
  • The state of New Mexico extended unemployment benefit eligibility to those impacted by COVID-19. The state will waive the work search requirement for affected workers by up to four weeks. Claimants also may also be eligible if their hours have been reduced significantly during the COVID-19 public health emergency. More information is available online.
  • U.S. Sen. Tom Udall criticized the Senate for lack of action on a COVID-19 recovery bill according to the Albuquerque Journal. The Senate recessed Tuesday without a vote on the legislation that passed the House last week.
  • New Mexico’s entire congressional delegation, both Senators and all three Representatives, called on banks in New Mexico to temporarily suspend foreclosures and evictions.
    “During this unprecedented public health crisis, it is critical for each of us to do the right thing for our neighbors and our fellow New Mexicans. We commend all of the utilities and co-ops in New Mexico who have done the right thing during this time of great economic uncertainty by suspending non-payment disconnections and the enforcement of late fees. We urge banks and credit unions in our state to show the same compassion and understanding by temporarily halting the enforcement of foreclosures and evictions and work with impacted parties to suspend any fees or late-payment penalties. When so many New Mexico families are already frightened about how they will be able to stay healthy and make ends meet, the last thing they should have to worry about is whether they can keep a roof over their heads.”
  • The delegation also asked for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to release New Mexico’s allotment of personal protective equipment from the strategic national stockpile.This includes medical supplies, such as protective gloves and masks.
  • A lot of people are wondering what they can do to help with COVID-19. The governor’s office gave some suggestions on what you can do
  • The state could face a lawsuit over alleged “deliberate indifference” in addressing COVID-19 for those who are incarcerated, reports New Mexico In Depth and the Santa Fe Reporter.
  • U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich provided a statement after phone calls with Vice President Mike Pence and Commissioner of Food and Drugs Dr. Stephen Hahn yesterday.
    “Vice President Pence and Commissioner Hahn both agreed to work with us to increase testing capacity in New Mexico to identify cases and help slow the spread of COVID-19. We have the equipment to more than meet our testing needs right here in New Mexico,” Heinrich said. “TriCore in New Mexico is a world class lab. They just need the supplies to conduct tests. I will continue to push to ensure our state’s health care capabilities are harnessed to address the urgent need to expand testing now and prepare for the days ahead.”
  • The state Economic Development Department is encouraging residents to use takeout or delivery options at restaurants as a way to minimize contact and support local businesses.
    “Communities must step up for our local New Mexico businesses,” Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary Alicia Keyes said. “New Mexicans can both help mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 and support these local businesses by choosing take-out over dining in.”
    The department also recommended that restaurants that have takeout options should consider doing so.
  • The Las Cruces Sun-News wrote about how restaurants in the area are dealing with the new restrictions.
  • The Santa Fe Reporter wrote about how Santa Fe schools are going digital as schools are closed for at least three weeks.
  • The water utilities in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe will temporarily suspend water shut-offs.
  • New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas issued guidance for public entities on complying with open government laws during the public health emergency. It included how entities can have virtual meetings.
    “The health and safety of New Mexican families is the number one priority across our State, but government must remain transparent and accountable, especially during a state of emergency,” Balderas said. “All public entities should follow the guidance of public health officials and make any necessary adjustments to ensure compliance with our transparency laws during this time.”
  • The New Mexico Department of Transportation closed its offices statewide, “for the next few weeks.”
    “That does not mean our commitment to the public will stop. NMDOT will continue to provide essential services including maintenance and construction activities on our roadways,” said Cabinet Secretary Michael Sandoval. “Our rest areas will remain open to the public and we are amplifying clean-up methods at increased frequency rates in order to minimize public health risks. Many of our workers have been asked to telework from home in order to limit person-to-person contact and emphasize social distancing but again, essential services will continue.”
  • The New Mexico Tourism Department closed all state-operated visitor centers.
    “The health and well-being of travelers and New Mexico residents is incredibly important to the Tourism Department, and we are committed to supporting all public health efforts of the state,” Cabinet Secretary Jen Paul Schroer said. “Temporarily closing all state-operated visitor information centers is a necessary step we needed to take to help prevent community spread of COVID-19.”
  • U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, along with 26 other Senators, sent a letter asking President Trump to issue an executive order directing agencies to require telework as much as possible from federal employees, as a way to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
    From the letter:
    “Your order should direct federal agencies to allow all telework-eligible federal workers to telework full-time, unless there is a clear and compelling reason not to do so for the effective operation of government. You should also order federal agencies to evaluate whether non-telework-eligible employees can be telework-eligible, and to do so for all employees where there is not a clear and compelling reason that telework is not compatible with the performance of their job functions.”
  • Tribal casinos around the state continue to announce closures. The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise, which runs the Nation’s casinos in New Mexico and Arizona, is shutting its operations through April 6. Sandia Resort and Casino announced it is closing until further notice. Isleta Resort & Casino says it will close for at least 14 days. 
  • Isotopes Park is closed. That includes the box office and pro shop. Already, the beginning of the minor league season has been delayed until at least May.
  • Antiques Roadshow announced it will postpone all 2020 Production Tour events, including one scheduled for June 16th in Santa Fe.