April 16, 2020

The daily recap of New Mexico COVID-19 news (4/16/20 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.

See all of our COVID-19 coverage here.

  • Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham held a press conference on Wednesday to give an update on COVID-19; see what she had to say in our story.
    • Part of the press conference was announcing 89 new positive cases of COVID-19, though no new deaths. Nearly 1,500 New Mexicans have tested positive for the disease so far. Read our story here.
  • The number of total positive tests for COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation is 921 as of Wednesday evening, the Navajo Times reported, an increase of 83 over Tuesday’s numbers. The Nation also reported an additional five COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the total to 38. Of the total cases, 312 are in New Mexico, an increase of 28 over the previous day’s number.
    • The state of New Mexico is in talks with Arizona and Utah on forming an agreement with the Indian Health Service to help address the spread of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
    • Two Navajo Police Department employees tested positive for COVID-19. The employees are in self-quarantine and monitoring their symptoms, the Farmington Daily Times reported
  • Midwives and birthing centers in New Mexico have seen an increase in interest since the public health emergency began. Many pregnant people are now afraid to go to the hospital for a birth. Read our story here.
  • The State Supreme Court’s ruling that they could not order a mail-in election means the state is grappling with how to effectively deal with two elections: Increase absentee ballots, but also keeping all Election Day polling locations open—with the added complications of keeping those at in-person polling locations safe. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported on the efforts.
  • New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas was one of 18 attorney generals who signed an amicus brief on behalf of abortion rights groups suing Texas for its abortion ban. Read our story here.
  • UNM Hospital employees protested a lack of personal protective equipment, or PPE, on Wednesday. The Daily Lobo covered the protest.
  • The City of Santa Fe is working to keep Pete’s Place open to everyone throughout the summer; the homeless shelter is typically only open to women during the summer, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
  • The Silver City Town Manager told town councilors it could lose up to 25 percent of its revenue as a result of tourism declines and event closures due to the pandemic, the Silver City Daily Press reported. Alex Brown warned that ‘major cuts’ were on the horizon as the town attempts to adjust its budget.  
  • The Las Cruces diocese became the first in the country to lift its ban on celebration of Mass, though the Bishop said to abide by the state’s orders to limit congregations to five or fewer people. The Las Cruces Sun-News has more.
  • The Santa Fe Reporter wrote about Santa Fe’s workforce on the frontline. Read the story here.
  • U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich led on a letter from dozens of Democratic Senators asking for the Trump administration to halt construction on the border wall during the COVID-19 crisis.
    “The construction of a wall puts workers, law enforcement personnel, and border residents in immediate danger. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has outlined social distancing and quarantine policies, which further wall construction defies. Those who are tasked with building this wall are susceptible to not only contracting COVID-19, but also risk spreading the virus to others. Continuation of construction only exacerbates the public health risks for those living at the southern border, detracting from our national efforts against fighting this virus.”
    Read the full letter here.
    • NM Political Report wrote about a “man camp” set up in a New Mexico border town last week. Read that story here.
  • Heinrich also held a teleconference with small business owners on Tuesday, to tell them about the portions of the CARES Act, the most recent coronavirus relief bill, that are designed to help them. Heinrich was joined by state officials.
    • On Wednesday, the entire New Mexico delegation wrote a letter to the U.S. Treasury Department voicing concerns about how the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan are being administered.
      “The first-come, first-served distribution of the $349 billion in the PPP has strongly disadvantaged community banks and mission-based nonprofit lenders in New Mexico that serve the majority of our small businesses. We recommend that a portion of available PPP funding be reserved for those borrowers who do not have relationships with the traditional lenders that will dominate delivery of PPP Loans. Without proactive and sustained outreach, we can expect that underserved communities will be disproportionately harmed – just as they were during the Great Recession when minority business enterprises suffered a steep decline in the proportion of SBA-backed loan approvals. These lenders are struggling to follow the frequently changing guidance from the SBA and cannot process loans with the speed of large, nationwide banks.” 
  • A union of medical and healthcare workers are calling for the state and federal governments to provide aid for hospital workers on temporary leave or furlough, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. Around 300 employees at Christus St. Vincent and its clinics were put on temporary leave Wednesday, and dozens of employees at two hospitals in Las Cruces were furloughed earlier this week.  
  • Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett declared a “local economic emergency” Wednesday and asked Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to allow nonessential businesses to reopen with 20 percent occupancy, according to the Farmington Daily Times.
  • The U.S. Forest Service prohibited campfires on all five national forests in New Mexico until further notice. The new rule is aimed at preventing human-caused wildfires and reducing the strain on first responder resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Albuquerque Journal
  • The Albuquerque Police Department is developing a plan to replace officers who need to self-quarantine after either testing positive for COVID-19 or coming into contact with someone who tested positive, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
  • During Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s daily update on COVID-19-related concerns, city staff reported that West Side Shelter is now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which makes showers, food and medical care more available for homeless residents. Homeless showing signs of illness are screened for COVID-19 and, so far, out of 33 tests, no one has tested positive but Keller said that the city expects that to change. The city has also erected a few handwashing stations around the city as a test to see if homeless will use them and is conducting outreach to homeless who sleep outside. The shelter, which can house up to 450, has decreased to about 350 people. The city put $9 million aside for housing vouchers for fiscal year 2020, city staff said. First Nations Outreach, a group that works with homeless, has started a mobile COVID-19 testing site for people lacking shelter.
  • The City of Farmington’s mayor declared a local economic emergency and asked the governor to open businesses back up, according to the Farmington Daily Times.
  • Republicans say the state’s restrictions on elective procedures is too harsh and asked the governor to ease up, KOB-TV reported.