THURS: Gov. Says Thanksgiving Plans Aren't Worth The Risk, Food Banks To Get Funding Boost, + More

Nov 26, 2020

New Mexico Governor Says Holiday Plans Aren't Worth The Risk - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is making a last push to get people to stay home for the Thanksgiving holiday.

She tweeted a new video from the state health department showing family members eating dinner at their own homes while talking via a livestream.

The governor says seeing family isn't worth the risk and that it's not too late to cancel plans.

The state's latest public health order will expire Monday, but the governor is not expected to announce any changes until then.

New Mexico recently implemented one of the strictest lockdowns in the country, attempting what the governor has described as a "reset" on the outbreak, with closures extending to all restaurants and many other businesses.

Essential businesses such as grocery stores are still open but can have only a certain number of customers inside at a time — a restriction that has led to waiting lines at some stores.

The state this week launched a new option for businesses in an attempt to avoid mandatory shutdowns when COVID-19 cases among workers reach certain levels. The business would be allowed to stay open if owners sign an agreement that calls for regular testing among employees and help with state contact tracing efforts.

The health department on Wednesday confirmed that Albertsons grocery stores are participating at all 34 locations in the state. Company officials said the agreement allows them to welcome back customers and workers to the stores that had been closed just in time for Thanksgiving.

New Mexico Food Banks Prepare To Buy Millions Of Meals - Associated Press

New Mexico food banks say they will be able to provide more meals for thousands of families.

They will be getting an infusion of $5 million in funding as part of an economic relief package approved by state lawmakers Tuesday and signed Wednesday by the governor.

Mag Strittmatter, president and CEO of Roadrunner Foodbank in Albuquerque, called the legislation significant given that 1 in 3 children and 1 in 5 New Mexicans overall are at risk of hunger amid the ongoing pandemic.

Officials at The Food Bank in Santa Fe said that along with unemployment, the need for emergency food assistance has increased during the pandemic. The Food Bank and its nonprofit partners moved about 7.8 million pounds of food in the first nine months of the year.

In Albuquerque, the city has served 500,000 meals to seniors since March, including Thanksgiving lunches that were distributed this week. Home-delivered and drive-through meals are two of the essential services for seniors that the city has maintained during the pandemic.

In all, city officials say they've seen a 114% increase in meals served between March 1 and Oct. 31.

Navajo Nation Reports 221 New COVID-19 Cases, 2 More Deaths - Associated Press

Navajo Nation officials are reporting an additional 221 coronavirus cases and two additional deaths from COVID-19.

Wednesday evening's update from the Navajo Department of Health brings the total deaths on the reservation to 640.

Officials have implemented a three-week stay-at-home lockdown for reservation residents that is in effect 24-hours a day, seven days a week. People can only leave their homes if they are essential workers, have an emergency or to purchase food and medication from essential businesses that are only allowed to be open from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

New Mexico Looks Ahead To More Economic Relief Amid Pandemic - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

The flurry to pass a $330 million relief package aimed at helping out-of-work New Mexicans and certain businesses hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic is done.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the measure Wednesday. But she and Republican lawmakers say the hardest work is yet to come as they look for more permanent ways to rebuild a shattered economy.

Republicans had voiced concerns during Tuesday's one-day special session that the relief bill left behind low-income essential workers.

Democratic legislative leaders say they plan to consider an immediate relief package when they return in January for a 60-day session.

State health officials reported 1,873 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, pushing the total number to more than 88,100 since the pandemic began.

There were also 23 additional deaths, bringing the total to 1,451. Nearly 900 people are hospitalized.

Lujan Grisham and others were hopeful that Congress will provide some clarity on what states can expect in terms of future federal relief funding.

She also said the state will continue to look for places to trim spending while making investments that result in new economic opportunities. She specifically mentioned legalizing marijuana.

Under the measure signed Wednesday, $100 million in grants are being made available for small businesses and unemployed workers will receive one-time $1,200 payments. Smaller stimulus checks will go to immigrants without legal status in the country and dependents.

Money also will be funneled toward emergency housing aid and food banks.

Most of the spending is made possible by federal relief funding previously assigned to New Mexico, including around $319 million in unspent funds that were expected to expire soon.

An additional $10 million in state general funds were allocated for COVID-19 testing and tracing efforts.

New Mexico County Signs Contract For Deputy Body CamerasAssociated Press

Bernalillo County officials have signed a $3.8 million deal with a Georgia company to provide body and vehicle cameras for the sheriff's department.

The New Mexico county made the announcement Wednesday. The agreement calls for Utility Inc. to supply 363 body cameras for deputies while 148 vehicles will be equipped with front- and rear-facing cameras.

The service agreement includes installation, software, training and maintenance for five years.

Sheriff Manuel Gonzales had long dismissed body-worn cameras despite public pressure and the urging of the county commission.

In June, state lawmakers passed a bill mandating that all law enforcement agencies in the state use body-worn cameras.

The cameras will allow deputies to automatically begin recording when important events such as a high-speed pursuit occur. The technology includes in-vehicle communication hubs and video recorders to automatically offload recordings from both the vehicles and body-worn cameras.

County officials say delivery and installation of the cameras will begin Dec. 7.

New Mexico Teams Adjusting To Long-Term Life On The Road - By John Marshall AP Sports Writer

The major college sports programs in New Mexico are trying to make the most of being temporarily relocated this season due to coronavirus restrictions in their home state.

Coronavirus restrictions in New Mexico have made it impossible for the schools there to play their seasons. State regulations prevent gatherings of more than five people, wiping out practices. A 14-day quarantine period for anyone entering New Mexico ends the hope of having any games.

To get around the restrictions, the biggest moneymaking sports at New Mexico's two largest universities took a drastic step. They left.

The University of New Mexico's football team moved to Las Vegas for this season, while the men's and women's basketball teams have set up in two Texas towns.

Meanwhile, New Mexico State's men's basketball team has a temporary home at a resort in Phoenix.

Need something from outside the bubble — fast food, maybe a razor — all they have to do is ask and someone will bring it to them.

Spending extended time away from family and friends has been tough, but it's also been a bonding experience for players and coaches.

Arizona Stops Some Transfers Of Patients From Other States - By Paul Davenport, Associated Press

With Arizona hospitals admitting increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients, state health officials have suspended some transfers of patients from other states.

The Department of Health Services said Wednesday that out-of-state hospitals can still transfer patients to Arizona through direct hospital-to-hospital requests, but the use of the interstate Arizona Surge Line system was suspended until hospital occupancy drops again.

The system was activated April 21 to expedite transfers of virus patients for higher levels of care, to efficiently use hospital beds and to equalize patient numbers among hospitals. Including all types of patients, intensive care beds reached 90% occupancy last weekend and remained at that level Tuesday.

While some Arizona hospitals have been treating patients transferred from other states during the pandemic, some Arizona patients have been transferred to hospitals in neighboring states, including Nevada and New Mexico.