March 18, 2020

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

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Today marks the one-week mark since Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a public health emergency because of COVID-19. A lot has happened in that time. Here are the updates that happened on Wednesday, March 18.

  • Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced new restrictions, including closing restaurants to in-person dining, closing shopping malls, limiting hotel capacity to 50 percent and more in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, a disease caused by a coronavirus. More details in our story here
  • The full press conference is available on the governor’s Facebook page. Note: You are able to turn comments off.
  • The state announced five new cases of COVID-19, including one individual who had no known travel or exposure to someone who previously tested positive for the virus. It’s the first instance of community spread of the virus for the state. See our story here
  • Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller declared a local public health emergency, allowing the city to access state and federal funds. See our story here.
  • We spoke to the Secretary of State this week who said there are no plans to delay the state’s June primaries—and she encouraged voters to vote by mail.
  • As part of the public health emergency, the governor and the New Mexico Department of Health announced testing and travel guidelines. Read the full details, but they ask only those exhibiting symptoms (fever, cough or shortness of breath and/or muscle cramping) seek tests because of the state’s capacity for testing. And they say anyone who has traveled out of state should self-isolate for 14 days and keep an eye on any potential symptoms.
  • New Mexico courts will extend the deadline for court fees by thirty days, starting March 19. “We understand New Mexicans are facing financial difficulties during this public health emergency and providing more time to pay fines and fees will offer temporary relief,” New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Judith K. Nakamura said. 
  • The Associated Press looked at how rural, impoverished areas will deal with COVID-19.
  • The U.S. Senate passed a coronavirus response bill, unchanged from the House version, with both New Mexico’s Senators voting in favor. The Senate is now working on a “phase three” stimulus package.
  • The Albuquerque Journal looked at the impact on local restaurants and bars. It’s not good.
  • Also, gas prices are plummeting.
  • New Mexico State University announced that most courses will go online when the NMSU extended spring break ends March 30. While about a 1,000 students remain on campus, most students, faculty and staff are encouraged to work from home as much as possible.
  • New Mexico In Depth reported that a Veterans Affairs Medical Center employee from Albuquerque tested positive for COVID-19 last week. The state told the non-profit outlet that “the health care worker was isolated appropriately and no patients were at serious risk of contracting the virus themselves.”
  • The non-profit news outlet also wrote that an inmate in Santa Fe County showed possible signs of COVID-19, and officials are now awaiting the test results.
  • The Navajo Nation says it is closed to outside visitors, and asked people to respect the Nation’s sovereignty, reports New Mexico In Depth.
  • The Santa Fe Reporter wrote about U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan’s teletownhall on COVID-19 earlier this week.
  • The state announced a new plan to provide health insurance to early childcare workers and their immediate families if they are uninsured and contract COVID-19. The state is also waiving income eligibility for first responders and other essential workers for early childcare so those workers can get state-funded childcare during the public health emergency.
  • Officials from various health organizations warn of scams related to COVID-19. During the phishing scam, the caller impersonates a representative from the COVID-19 hotline or other medical entity. The scammer asks for personal information like social security and date of birth and tells callers they must provide that information to receive COVID-19 test results. University of New Mexico Health, Presbyterian and Lovelace Health System remind the public that they will never ask for social security numbers. Any confirmation of a positive COVID-19 swab test will be made by the clinic where seen or by the New Mexico Department of Health.
  • The City of Clovis has closed its Hillcrest Park Zoo, Clovis-Carver Public Library and City Hall, through April 6, in response to the governor’s emphasis on social distancing, according to The Eastern New Mexico News. Clovis police and fire departments have also closed, and fingerprinting has been suspended.  
  • U.S. Rep Deb Haaland has called for the Census Bureau to extend the deadline for the 2020 Census, after the Bureau announced it would suspend field operations until April 1. “Though the Census Bureau announced it will be temporarily suspending in-person outreach to keep everyone safe, everyone should know that this does not affect your ability to respond over the phone or online,” Haaland said in a statement. “By responding now, you will ensure that the Census Bureau does not need to send a census worker to your door.”
  • The New Mexico Game and Fish Department is posting activities daily for children, KRQE-TV reports. The Game and Fish website also has links to free online education courses for children that have been reviewed by educators and meet the state’s Public Education Department Science Standards.
  • Christian Marquez of Searchlight New Mexico wrote about his quarantine after he attended a conference where someone tested positive for COVID-19. So far, he hasn’t shown any symptoms.
  • The USL Championship, the league in which New Mexico United plays, extended its suspension to May 10. This postpones three more United games.
  • Darkside Brew Crew compiled the list of every brewery staying open for to-go orders and all of those that are instead closing during the public health emergency.