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YNMG: Walking The COVID Beat

Hannah Colton / KUNM
Cypher Johnson, a self-described nomad, sits outside a laundromat on ABQ's Central Ave in late April.

Episode 48 dives back into how the pandemic is affecting people experiencing homelessness. KUNM's Hannah Colton goes further into the story of the city breaking up encampments, despite the CDC advising against it during this time, and she brings us the perspective of Cypher Johnson, who's passing through Albuquerque and spending time on the streets. We talk to people who work with unsheltered folks around the state about what an outbreak at a shelter would mean for the whole community, about what needs to change right now—and what needs to change in the future. We also hear from the Albuquerque Police Department and the Las Cruces Police Department about how coronavirus has changed things for them philosophically and practically. 

So far, no one in the state is reporting any positive COVID tests for people experiencing homelessness, according to the guests we talked to today.

In this episode, we hear from:

No comment note: We appreciate all of our guest’s time, and that a number of very busy people right now have carved out 15 minutes to speak with Your NM Gov these last weeks—hospital leaders, doctors, congresspeople, cabinet secretaries ... We reached out to several police departments around the state this week for interviews. The State Police Department declined, and so did Rio Rancho PD. Santa Fe’s police chief said he couldn’t do it.

And a news update: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced today that she’s going to extend the shutdown order until May 15, according to KOB. She also rolled out a plan to reopen the economy in phases after that. The governor says New Mexico has flattened the curve but has to maintain social distancing to stay on track. There are 2,210 confirmed cases here today, and there have been 71 deaths.

The Navajo Nation will extend closures until May 17. McKinley County, which overlaps with the Navajo Nation, has become a major hot spot for cases, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. Data is showing that as of today, 41.5 percent of the people in the state who are confirmed to be infected are Native American. The Navajo Nation just announced it’s suing the federal government for its share of the billions allotted to tribes in the federal relief package, saying that money shouldn’t go to corporations.


New Mexico’s senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are urging ICE to release 2,400 detained children during the pandemic. 


People in New Mexico who are self-employed, independent contractors and gig workers can start applying for unemployment benefits starting Sunday, April 26, KRQE is reporting. And if you already filed a claim, you don’t need to do it again.

And the Bernalillo County Clerk is issuing marriage licenses again, starting Monday by appointment only.

We're keeping a complete list of the resources and volunteer opportunities that we find for each episode at bit.ly/YNMGhub. And here's what we got from today.


How are things going for you? We want to know. Share your quarantine stories by calling: (505) 218-7084 and leaving us a message. We could roll them into a future episode.


Correction: The first story in this episode has been corrected to reflect that the motel rooms the City of Albuquerque has made available for people with coronavirus symptoms are not empty as of April 23, 2020.

Your New Mexico Government is a collaboration between KUNM, New Mexico PBS, and the Santa Fe Reporter. Funding for our coverage is provided, in part, by the Thornburg Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the New Mexico Local News Fund.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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