Medical Masks Supplies Limited, Navajo Nation Death Toll And Cases On The Rise, + More

Apr 2, 2020

New Mexico Has Few Medical Masks To Spare As Virus SpreadsAssociated Press, Albuquerque Journal

State officials say new Mexico's health care system has a limited statewide stock of about 44,000 snug-fitting N95 face masks that can protect medical workers from the coronavirus by filtering out small airborne particles.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases across New Mexico increased Thursday by 11% to 403, with seven deaths and about 34 people hospitalized.

The Albuquerque Journal reported the governor’s office said today that top state health officials are strongly encouraging residents to use face coverings when they leave their houses.

However, they also said specially designed masks for medical workers should not be used by the general public to ensure adequate supplies.

New Mexico has about 2.4 million exam gloves, 70,500 medical gowns and 234,000 surgical masks that offer less protection from virus infections than N95 masks.

State officials provided the figures on protective equipment after The Associated Press requested details about the state's supplies.

New Mexico Sees Another Huge Spike In Unemployment Claims - By Russell Contreras And Morgan Lee, Associated Press

More than 28,000 New Mexico residents have applied for unemployment benefits. That’s over 50% more than the amount filed the previous week.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 28,182 people in the state applied for unemployment benefits last week compared to record setting 18,105 the week before. Filings for unemployment aid generally reflect the pace of layoffs.

The numbers show the widespread economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus appears to be continuing to inflict damage to the nation's economy.

The Labor Department said more than 6.6 million Americans applied for benefits last week, doubling a record set just one week earlier.

New Mexico's Workforce Solutions Department that oversees unemployment in a state of 2 million residents says phone lines were overwhelmed by more than a half-million calls in one day as the federal government prepared to expand unemployment coverage to independent contractors, the self-employed and gig-economy workers. It was too soon this week to process those claims.

Metropolitan Detention Center On Lockdown For Additional COVID-19 Testing KUNM

The state’s largest jail has gone into lockdown while the Department of Health tests nearly 80 inmates for COVID-19.

Officials with the Metropolitan Detention Center said an inmate who tested positive for COVID-19 is quarantined in a cell in a negative pressure room. Four other inmates are in quarantine.

Another 73 inmates have been placed in two separate housing units and are being tested. Lockdown means inmates may only leave their cells for showers and to make phone calls.

The total number of positive test for COVID-19 in New Mexico rose to 403 on Thursday.

With US Border Work On Track, Rural Towns Fear Virus Spread - By Matthew Brown, Stephen Groves and Cedar Attanasio, Associated Press

Major construction projects are moving forward along both U.S. borders and raising fears that the influx of workers could spread the coronavirus.

Along the southern border, workers travel every day from camps in New Mexico to build President Donald Trump's border wall.

Residents, tribal leaders and state officials worry that the work could make problems worse in rural areas with little or no medical infrastructure capable of handling an outbreak.

Cities have borne the brunt of the virus so far in the U.S., but rural areas are expected to be hit, too.

That's a fear in tiny Columbus, New Mexico, where residents worry about border wall workers who often gather outside the town's few restaurants despite an order to stay home and keep away from others.

In the town of less than 1,500 people, about 30 construction workers are living in tightly packed trailers, residents say.

Others are staying at two small hotels while they put up bollard-style fencing along the scrub desert — a small piece of about 200 miles of barrier being built at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Coronavirus Cases Rise To 363 As State Health Officials Announce A 6th Death In New Mexico Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico’s death toll from the coronavirus has risen by one, and overall cases by 48. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports state health officials Wednesday announced the new cases, bringing the statewide total to 363. The sixth state death due to the coronavirus was announced as a Sandoval County resident in her 90s. All those who have died from the virus in New Mexico have had pre-existing health conditions. 

Only 12 of the state’s 33 counties now lack any confirmed cases. Statewide, 31 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and 26 have reportedly recovered from the illness. 

Coronavirus Death Toll Rising On Navajo Nation Albuquerque Journal, ABC News

Two more people have died from COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation, bringing the total number of deaths on the reservation to seven as overall cases rose to 214.

The Albuquerque Journal reports President Jonathan Nez announced the new cases Wednesday, up by 40 from just the day before.

Nez told the Journal he has asked the federal government for help establishing laboratories on the reservation to accelerate its testing capabilities. He also said the Nation expects a shipment of personal protective equipment to arrive today. 

Tribal leaders ordered residents on the sprawling reservation that stretches across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to stay home more than a week ago. Officials began a nightly curfew Monday to enforce those orders.

On Monday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham told ABC News she warned President Donald Trump about spikes of coronavirus cases on the Navajo Nation. She warned the virus could wipe out some tribal nations.

Girl Scouts Of New Mexico Donating Cookies For Truck Drivers - Associated Press 

The Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails have announced a partnership with Love's Travel Stops aimed at donating cookies to truck drivers. 

The state's subsidiary organization of Girl Scouts said this week it wanted to show its appreciation for truck drivers who are delivering critical supplies during the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

The group says Donations for Drivers allows individuals and businesses to say thank you by donating boxes of cookies that will be given to drivers at Love's Travel Stops along Interstate 40 in New Mexico.

Donations from the public are being accepted at NMGirlScouts.org through April 19 or until supplies run out. Each $5 donation buys one box of cookies that will be delivered to a professional driver stopping for fuel, food or rest at a Love's Travel Stop.

New Mexico Panel OKs Abandonment Of Coal-Fired Power Plant - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico regulators have green-lighted an application by the state's largest electric utility to abandon its interest in a major coal-fired power plant.

The Public Regulation Commission on Wednesday voted unanimously in favor of letting Public Service Co. of New Mexico divest from the San Juan Generating Station.

The commission also approved an order allowing the utility to issue $360 million in bonds to fund decommissioning costs, severance packages for displaced workers and job training programs. The bonds will be paid off by utility customers.

The votes came after a delay in the online proceeding that resulted from an outburst by a group of young people that included epithet-laden chat messages and rap music.

The San Juan case has taken many twists and turns in recent months, ending up at one point before the New Mexico Supreme Court, which ordered regulators to apply the state's new energy transition law to their decision making.

Wednesday marked the last day the commission could vote on PNM's application to abandon the power plant. The decisions chart out how liability will be shouldered by PNM customers and utility shareholders.

There is an initiative by the city of Farmington and a private company to install carbon-capture technology and keep operating the plant. Commission staff confirmed the orders approved Wednesday would not affect those efforts.

State Supreme Court Will Mediate Mail-In Ballot Dispute - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico's Supreme Court says it will referee a dispute over how to proceed with the state's June 2 primary election without in-person voting to minimize public exposure to the coronavirus.

The New Mexico Republican Party is objecting to universal mail-in balloting procedures proposed by local election officials as a substitute for in-person voting.

The dispute erupted as a host of states rushed to adopt alternatives to in-person voting amid the pandemic. Among health concerns is the safety of poll workers, who tend to be older and more vulnerable to severe effects of COVID-19.

New Mexico voters can request an absentee ballot for any reason, and about one in four votes in the 2018 general election was cast by absentee ballot.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says every state already allows some form of voting by mail, but only six Western states are set up to allow all-mail voting in every count.

Political parties are choosing nominees to compete in an open congressional race in northern New Mexico and to succeed U.S. Sen. Tom Udall as he retires. The entire Legislature is up for re-election.

Santa Fe County To Close Juvenile Detention CenterSanta Fe New Mexican

Santa Fe County plans to close the juvenile detention center and use the facility to house adult inmates who must be isolated or quarantined for the coronavirus.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the County Commission approved the plan Tuesday. The four juvenile inmates housed in the facility will be placed in the San Juan County facility near Farmington.

The Department of Health announced the number of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico rose Wednesday to 363. A woman in her 90s from Sandoval County died, bringing the total number of deaths from coronavirus to six.

Closing the juvenile detention facility is expected to save Santa Fe County $1.7 million annually. But county officials have said it would take more than $9 million to keep the facility running.

Defying Odds, New Mexico University's Chicano Studies Grows - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

The University of New Mexico's Chicana and Chicano Studies Department is seeing a jump in enrollment, defying overall student enrollment declines at the state's largest university. 

Numbers show one of the nation's first Chicano Studies programs saw a 636% spike in students since 2011 as other areas at the university experienced declines. 

While universities across the U.S. also report enrollment drops, similar Latino studies programs are reporting growth in enrollment.

The department chair says universities are experiencing a rise in Latino students, and they are hungry for Latino studies classes. 

She says studies show those classes help with graduation rates among Latino students.

New Mexico State Representative Removed From Ballot Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico district judge has ruled that Democratic state Rep. Patricio Ruiloba did not follow procedure in collecting petition signatures required to qualify for the ballot.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday that Judge Joshua Allison ordered Bernalillo County and the state election officials not to include Ruiloba on the June 2 ballot.

The state representative was disqualified because he did not include his district number on his paperwork. Allison says the state Supreme Court had previously ruled the district number is required to ensure voters signing the petition know whether they are qualified to sign.

Ruiloba has said he intends to file an appeal.