The daily recap of New Mexico COVID-19 news (4/4/20 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.

  • The state Department of Health announced that 92 more people tested positive for COVID-19 and another three people have died. Read our story, with more details, here.
  • The City of Albuquerque announced that 18 residents at a retirement community tested positive for COVID-19, the Albuquerque Journal reported. Two residents have died. Older people are at a higher risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
  • In a press conference, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and officials urged people to stay socially distanced to reduce the demand on hospitals. The state says that we don’t have enough medical equipment or supplies, including ventilators—or even hospital beds—for the “surge” in patients. See the story here.
  • Or watch the whole press conference here.
  • The Navajo Nation reported another 29 cases on Friday, bringing the total to 270. The Navajo Department of Health and Navajo Area Indian Health Service also announced four more deaths, bringing the total to 12. Of the confirmed positive tests, 45 are in New Mexico. The total was 45 in the previous day’s update.
  • Former congressional candidate Carol Miller, who ran as an independent and a Green Party candidate, told NM Political Report that she tested positive for COVID-19. Read our interview with her.
  • KUNM looks at what hospitals are doing to prepare for the COVID-19 surge. And if they’ll be ready. Listen here.
  • An Associated Press survey of New Mexico counties found that New Mexico has a limited supply of protective gear.
  • Distilleries in New Mexico are making hand sanitizer to help out in the middle of the pandemic. We spoke to two of them, read our story here.
  • IHS announced Friday afternoon it received more than $1 billion to use towards responding to the coronavirus pandemic. IHS said it will allocate $570 million to IHS and tribal health programs and $30 million to urban Indian health programs.
  • Rural hospitals are looking for help from their communities, including from local crafters making masks for patients.
  • Get ready for more masks. The CDC and the state of New Mexico say people should wear cloth masks in public. The Santa Fe Reporter looked at local DIY mask makers.
  • The Roswell Daily Record reported on how the New Mexico Rehabilitation Center is preparing for COVID-19. It is one of two hospitals in the city.
  • The federal Indian Health Services is distributing $600 million from the latest federal COVID-19 relief package.
    U.S. Sen. Tom Udall praised the move, saying:
    “Following my call for swift action, I am relieved that the Indian Health Service is moving quickly to distribute the critical funding we secured in the CARES Act. We must ensure these life-saving resources quickly get to the field for Tribes, Indian Health Service facilities, and urban Indian health organizations. Tribes have been very clear that COVID-19 will be devastating for their communities if they do not get the necessary public health resources. That is why I fought hard to significantly increase funding for IHS in the CARES Act negotiations, nearly doubling what the administration initially proposed.”
  • The Santa Fe New Mexican wrote about how private schools in the state capital are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The Archdiocese of Santa Fe and state officials are asking people to not take part in pilgrimages to Santuario de Chimayo and Tome Hill this year on Good Friday.
  • An Alamogordo church held an in-person service last Sunday, the Alamogordo Daily News reported. Places of worship are exempted from New Mexico’s public health emergency order that bans gatherings of more than five people, though the governor has said many faith leaders have worked to move to online services.
  • The Silver City Daily Press wrote about how the Cassie Health Center for Women is dealing with those who are pregnant and delivering children during the pandemic.
  • School buses in Las Cruces will deliver some meals.
  • Those who disobey the Navajo Department of Health’s 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will face citations beginning Saturday, reported the Navajo Times.
  • The COVID-19 relief package from Congress will include over $133 in emergency transit grants for the state of New Mexico, the congressional delegation announced. The bulk of that will come in the form of nearly $80 million in Section 5307 Urbanized Area Apportionments for the City of Albuquerque.
  • Las Cruces Utilities says the tap water is safe and cannot carry COVID-19.
  • The Daily Lobo said some college students will be excluded from receiving stimulus checks.
  • A doctor who had COVID-19, along with his family members, says that while most people will be OK after contracting the disease, it is still something serious to avoid, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
  • The City of Albuquerque is asking people who want to go outside for activities as the weather warms up to use less-used public lands. “As we head into the weekend, we want to keep our Open Spaces just that: open. But the overwhelming number of visitors go to just a handful of the most popular trails, creating crowds and increasing the risk of spreading coronavirus,” said Mayor Tim Keller.
  • The State Land Office is initiating an emergency rulemaking processes to allow oil lessees to temporarily stop producing without penalty for at least thirty days, with a possible extension up to 120 days, in response to the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices.
    “The COVID-19 pandemic brought home, almost overnight, the risks of our dependence on oil and gas. This was compounded by Russia and Saudi Arabia’s relentless price war intended to bankrupt American producers. Here in New Mexico, the ripples of this situation hits hard, not only when thinking about the state budget, but within communities where people rely on the boom for jobs to support their families,” said Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard in a statement. “Due to these factors, I’ve determined that it is in the best interest of the beneficiaries of state trust land – our public schools, hospitals, and universities – as well as the employees dependent on this industry, that we allow companies to apply for these temporary shut-ins until we can better predict the future of the Permian Basin.”
    The State Land Office is encouraging the public to submit comments on the rule, which will be accepted through April 17. 
  • The state Economic Development Department said four employees have answered about 150 calls per day related to assistance for the COVID-19 public health emergency, which includes answering questions from business owners on receiving aid.
    “We are committed to helping our businesses navigate the federal and state support available to them in this extraordinary and difficult time, even as we continue to launch new initiatives to respond aggressively to the economic fallout from this public health crisis,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said.
  • The City of Albuquerque is cracking down on late-night park access.
  • The Albuquerque housing market isn’t being hit hard. Yet.
  • Taos County currently has the highest rate of infection of COVID-19 per capita, according to the Taos News. The county has 13 confirmed cases as of Friday, which equals a rate of 40 infections for 100,000. The county commission canceled its April 7 meeting.
  • Santa Fe Brewing is giving taproom sales proceeds to hourly employees during the shutdown.
  • Hotels in downtown Santa Fe, usually buoyed by tourists, continue to close. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that downtown hotel room occupancy the past two weeks is at around 5 percent.