March 26, 2020

The daily recap of New Mexico COVID-19 news (3/26/20 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 announced its first death related to COVID-19, a man in his late-70s. The death in Eddy County took place Sunday. Read more here. The Carlsbad Current-Argus also has on-the-ground reporting, including that the man had previously refused a test for COVID-19 when visiting an area clinic.
  • The state announced 13 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total in the state so far to 112 (a case from Tuesday’s update was a clerical error, the state said). Read our story here.
  • There are now 69 positive tests for COVID-19 among Navajo people, the Navajo Department of Health and Navajo Area IHS announced Wednesday. That is an increase by 20 over Tuesday’s numbers. The Navajo Nation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah; 12 cases were reported in New Mexico counties.
    “Unfortunately, the numbers are going to continue to rise until everyone begins to comply with the Stay at Home Order. We have to isolate ourselves to isolate the virus. Let’s do it for our elders, our children, and our high-risk individuals. We will fight and eventually beat this virus together, but we need everyone to take it seriously. There’s no need to be out in public unless you’re in need of food, medication, or other essential items,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said.
  • The New Mexico Department of Health announced new public health orders to protect the supply of personal protection equipment (you have probably seen “PPE” around the internet lately) for medical personnel dealing with COVID-19. Read our story here.
  • Hospitals are preparing in Albuquerque, including looking to expand their ICU beds, reports KOB-TV.
  • The Santa Fe New Mexican looked at what local hospitals were doing to deal with the new order and increased social distancing, including telemedicine.
  • The state’s COVID-19 testing capacity increased by 500 per day this week thanks to an announcement from TriCore Reference Laboratory.
  • A member of the New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender tested positive for COVID-19. Read our story here.
    The Santa Fe Reporter spoke to the public defender, Jennifer Burrill. Read the whole interview here, but she said she tried to get tested on March 4th—before the state’s first confirmed case.
  • The U.S. Senate passed a $2 trillion relief package on a 96-0 vote.
    • Sen. Martin Heinrich:
      “My focus has been on securing resources for our health care professionals on the front lines of the coronavirus response and on the economic interests of New Mexico workers and communities most impacted by this crisis. I will not allow New Mexicans to be left behind–whether furloughed workers who need unemployment benefits, small business owners unsure if they will be able to reopen, or tribal and local governments that have taken on major unforeseen costs to take care of their communities. In major legislation like this, the details matter. We needed to stay at the bargaining table to make sure those who actually need help receive it. It was also imperative for Congress and the administration to make sure we spend taxpayer dollars effectively and with proper oversight and accountability. I urge the swift passage of this bipartisan bill so that New Mexicans who are hurting can know that help is on the way. I will keep doing everything I can to support our state’s coronavirus response, to bring our economy back to life, and to rebuild thriving communities all across New Mexico after all of this is over.”
    • Sen. Tom Udall:
      “My top priority in Congress is making sure New Mexicans have the resources they need to stay healthy and to stay financially afloat. We have passed a bipartisan agreement that will provide urgent and badly-needed aid to working New Mexicans, small businesses, hospitals and health care workers, along with states and Tribes—while including necessary oversight, transparency, and pro-worker conditions on large corporations that seek taxpayer assistance. I know New Mexicans are worried about protecting the health of their families, and they are worried about paying the bills, keeping their jobs, keeping their businesses open, and putting food on the table during this difficult time. I will keep working tirelessly to direct federal resources to families in our state who need our support now more than ever.”
  • The U.S. Bureau of Land Management scrambled this week to make temporary changes to its lease sale rules in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while some groups have called for the BLM to halt lease auctions all together until oil prices have rebounded. Read our story here
  • Four Health and Social Services Centers in Albuquerque remain open, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
  • The president of the Albuquerque Tea Party filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, saying the spread of COVID-19 was not serious enough for emergency orders and that it violates the constitution.
  • The state doesn’t have any specific plans for supporting the pueblos and tribes, reports the Santa Fe Reporter.
  • There have been no citations yet for businesses failing to comply with the governor’s stay-at-home order, which says only businesses deemed “essential” can remain open in-person.
  • Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima will ask for an emergency declaration ordinance on Friday that would give him additional management powers and $4.3 million for humanitarian aid.
  • The governor’s office announced the state will use the state’s emergency alert system, similar to the Amber Alert system, to disseminate news when needed via text message, TV and radio. The state first used the emergency alert system Wednesday afternoon to reiterate the state’s stay-at-home order.
  • The New Mexico Small Business Investment Corp. will make $25 million available to lenders at zero percent interest, aimed at low-cost loans for struggling small businesses.
  • The state Taxation and Revenue Department says taxpayers who don’t file taxes until July 15, as part of the state’s 90-day delay, will not incur any interest. The state had already said they would not impose any penalties for late payment, as long as the taxes were done by July 15.
    “The due date for filing New Mexico income tax returns and payment is tied to the federal filing deadline, which was postponed by the IRS on March 20. This IRS action enables us to forgo imposing interest charges normally required under New Mexico law for extensions,” said Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke.
  • Attorney General Hector Balderas joined 32 other Attorneys General from around the country in writing a letter to Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Walmart and Craigslist to inform them that state price gouging laws apply to the online giants.
    “Increasing prices on necessities like medical supplies, hand sanitizer, masks, and other items because people are in fear of the coronavirus is simply unconscionable,” Balderas said. “Businesses must exercise more thorough oversight to stop anyone using their platforms from price gouging, and anyone increasing prices in order to illegally profit from this emergency will be prosecuted.”
  • Balderas has sent 90 cease-and-desist letters to businesses in New Mexico for alleged price gouging, KOAT-TV reports.
  • The State Land Office posted a statement asking non-residents to not enter Pueblo reservations and recreational areas, echoing the All Pueblo Council of Governors. 
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will allow some administrative staff to work from home, reversing course, reports New Mexico In Depth and ProPublica.
  • The Tenth Judicial District Attorney was held in contempt of court for not showing up for a court appearance, reported the Albuquerque Journal
  • U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small is part of a group of bipartisan lawmakers asking congressional leadership to give assistance to oil and gas workers, as oil prices hit rock bottom amid the coronavirus pandemic and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. 
    “The dramatic reduction in [oil] production coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic leaves these hard-working men and women with an unprecedented challenge. Unable to search for new employment because of federal, state, and local restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they will face additional challenges in seeking new employment that makes this downturn unlike any we have experienced before,” the letter states
  • The Santa Fe Reporter wrote about how the community is rallying to provide food to those who need it.
  • The three cities in San Juan County, Aztec, Bllomfiend and Farmington, have all declared public health emergencies in an attempt to get state and federal emergency assistance funds.
  • State Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, is getting criticized by her opponents in the primary and general for promoting an El Paso cafe during the COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Torres Small also sent a letter to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, asking the organization to adjust telehealth service definitions to better meet the needs of rural health care providers during the pandemic, KRCR-TV reports. Torres Small said the current definitions, which allow for reimbursement of telehealth video services, leave out rural health clinics that conduct health assessments over the phone, rather than by streaming video, due to lack of resources. 
  • Local farms are still growing food, and offering ways to pick up produce from the farm itself or via delivery.
  • State Representatives Angelica Rubio, D-Las Cruces and Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, and several local immigration rights groups will host a Spanish-language COVID-19 town hall on Facebook on Friday, at https://www.facebook.com/SomosUnPueblo/. Lt. Gov. Howie Morales and representatives from several agencies are also supposed to attend.
  • Albuquerque Journal investigative reporter Mike Gallagher wrote about shopping during senior hours at a Rio Rancho grocery store.
  • KUNM’s weekly call-in show is about, of course, COVID-19. This time, the station says “we’ll speak with folks who are navigating births, deaths, and marriages during the pandemic, and helping others do the same.” It begins at 8 a.m. on Thursday at 89.9 FM in Albuquerque and http://kunm.org worldwide.