The daily recap of New Mexico COVID-19 news (4/3/20 edition)

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Note: This daily recap of COVID-19 news from New Mexico is available in a free daily email. Sign up here.

  • As the state moves to distance learning for the rest of the academic year, internet video chats will be used—but trolls have ‘zoom bombed’ some of these around the country. See our story about what the state is doing to prevent this.
  • The Albuquerque Journal examined the law that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham invoked in declaring the public health emergency. Those who were in the Legislature when it passed in 2003 said she is using it as it was intended.
  • A seventh person with COVID-19 died, the state announced Thursday. The state also announced 40 new cases, bringing the state’s total amount of positive COVID-19 tests to over 400. Of those, 34 are currently hospitalized and 31 have recovered. Read our story here.
  • The Navajo Nation announced another 27 cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 241. The Navajo Nation also announced an eighth death. Of the new cases, six are in New Mexico, bringing that total to 45.
  • The Farmington Daily Times reported that the San Juan Regional Medical Center is getting ready for a surge in cases as early as late this week. The Four Corners area has seen a large amount of positive COVID-19 cases, including on the Navajo Nation.
  • U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said the federal government needs to do more to help rural and tribal communities with COVID-19 resources.
  • The state of New Mexico isn’t providing local testing numbers, the Las Vegas Optic reported.
  • A Los Alamos National Laboratory subcontractor tested positive for COVID-19, reported the Santa Fe New Mexican.
  • The State of New Mexico is “strongly” encouraging New Mexicans to wear facial masks while out in public, the Albuquerque Journal reported
  • The Town of Taos is going to implement a curfew, requiring everyone to stay inside from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., The Taos News reported
  • The Legislative Council met via phone to discuss response to litigation over administering primaries by mail. The state Supreme Court asked the Legislature and other entities to respond to the case, which will go in front of the court—by video—later this month.
  • Lujan Grisham will order the release of some nonviolent inmates to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the state’s jails and prisons. There’s not exact timeline on the move, but a spokesman told the Santa Fe New Mexican that it will happen “soon.” Until now, efforts to release those most at risk of COVID-19 from detention have been on a case-by-case basis.
  • The City of Las Cruces will discuss $1 million in funding for community relief programs in a meeting Friday, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.
  • The ACLU of New Mexico filed a petition to remove Yesenia Evans from Santa Fe County Jail. Evans is booked on “a non-serious probation violation” according to the ACLU, and suffers from systemic sclerosis, which the organization says is “a rare autoimmune disease that impacts the function of her digestive system, heart, lungs, and kidneys and makes her especially vulnerable to COVID-19.” See the ACLU’s petition here.
  • Some states have banned most abortions as part of heir COVID-19 public health emergency declarations. That’s putting a strain on abortion access in other states as well, including in New Mexico.
  • Lujan Grisham answered some questions in a Twitter Q&A session on Thursday. The Santa Fe New Mexican compiled her answers.
  • New Mexico’s unemployment phone line was completely overwhelmed with phone calls thanks to an unprecedented number of people seeking help to file for unemployment, Searchlight New Mexico reported
  • Because of the flood of unemployment claims, the state is asking that people file online at www.jobs.state.nm.us if possible. If calling in, the state asks that you call in based on the last number of your social security number:
    • 0 – 3 : Monday
      4 – 6 : Tuesday
      7 – 9 : Wednesday
      Missed your day: Thursday and Friday
  • Christus St. Vincent Medical Center in Santa Fe is asking for medical and cleaning supplies.
  • Among those worried about having their education thrown into chaos are nursing students, who are losing hands-on learning, KUNM reported.
  • The Rio Grande Sun reported on how COVID-19 and the restrictions are impacting small businesses in Española.
  • A fund from the New Mexico Restaurant Association is looking to help laid-of workers with grants of $250. The Greater Santa Fe Restaurant Association seeded the fund with $10,000, and the fund is seeking another $100,000, something the organizer admits is optimistic. The Farmington Daily Times has the story.
  • Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced that city inspectors will check in on nursing homes after a retirement community in the city announced earlier this week that a resident was in the hospital after testing positive and tested positive for COVID-19. Earlier this week, the state announced residents of nursing homes will be able to get tested for COVID-19 even if they aren’t showing symptoms.
  • The City of Albuquerque is also stepping up its enforcement of the public health emergency that says only essential businesses can remain open to in-person businesses, saying that 70 non-essential businesses have been found in violation of the public health emergency order. According to the city, some smoke shops and massage parlors have been trying to remain open by offering a handful of food items.
  • A former University of New Mexico administrator died from complications related to COVID-19 in Colorado, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
  • A number of public radio and TV stations throughout the state will broadcast lessons for K-5 students, as part of the state’s continuous learning program that goes into effect next week after the state announced in-person instruction would not happen for the rest of the academic year.
  • Alamogordo Public Schools are hosting computer distribution days through April 3, the Alamogordo Daily News reported.
  • Not all county officials in Rio Arriba County can do their work remotely, the Rio Grande Sun reported.
  • U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, released parts of the “phase four” of the coronavirus relief package, this time an infrastructure plan in a press release. Luján’s office said that the Broadband Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (BIFIA), which he sponsored is included in the plan. The act would make low-interest financing available to communities. 
  • Luján led a letter of more than 100 Democrats, including Reps. Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small, calling on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to include funding for municipalities with fewer than 500,000 people in the next coronavirus relief package. Politico reported on the letter, which is available in full here.
  • In a press release, the state congressional delegation highlights that the emergency COVID-19 response package included $16.7 million in emergency housing assistance for New Mexico. According to the delegation, the funding is from three U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development programs: the Community Development Block Grant program, Emergency Solutions Grants and the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) Program.
  • Elected officials have warned residents to avoid scams related to stimulus checks from COVID-19. Attorney General Hector Balderas issued a safety advisory.
    “Unfortunately our current state of emergency creates a ripe environment for scams and people trying to take advantage of vulnerable New Mexicans,” said Attorney General Balderas. “We must continue to protect and educate families, and my office will prosecute any person who tries to harm them.”
  • A letter with signatures from U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall and other Democrats calls on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be more open on its actions related to COVID-19 response.
  • New Mexico is lagging other states in census counts, and state efforts to aid the count are being hampered by the COVID-19 response.
  • Holloman Air Force Base will begin curb-side prescription pickup according to the Alamogordo Daily News.
  • New Mexico ranchers are working to keep up with the demand for meat after people rushed to the grocery stores in light of restrictions for COVID-19, KRQE-TV reported.
  • A medical cannabis provider partially owned by former Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White donated unneeded masks to the Albuquerque Police Department. The provider is also making hand sanitizer.
  • Unemployment claims due to the coronavirus pandemic have skyrocketed 3,200 percent over unemployment claims this time last year, according to data from WalletHub. The state currently ranks tenth in unemployment claims due to the pandemic. 
  • The Taos Fiesta Council has canceled the annual Fiestas de Taos, which usually takes place in July. It’s only the second time the celebrations have been canceled in the past 100 years, according to Taos News. The Town of Taos has also canceled all summer events and the Farmer’s Market. Town manager Rick Bellis said he doesn’t anticipate any public events until Labor Day in September. 
  • It appears people are taking the time at home to do projects around the house, as home improvement stores and dumps have longer lines than normal, KRQE-TV reported.