Today, New Mexico health officials announced 106 additional positive tests for COVID-19, bringing the total number to 1,091.
In addition, the state reported two new deaths: a male in his 90s from Bernalillo County with underlying medical conditions, as well as a Sandoval County male in his 80s who was hospitalized and had underlying medical conditions.
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- 38 new cases in Bernalillo County
- 3 new cases in Cibola County
- 3 new cases in Grant County
- 1 new case in Hidalgo County
- 2 new cases in Luna County
- 29 new cases in McKinley County
- 17 new cases in San Juan County
- 6 new cases in Sandoval County
- 2 new cases in Santa Fe County
- 1 new case in Socorro County
- 1 new case in Torrance County
- 3 new cases in Valencia County
Between spring weather and mass closures, many are heading outside as often as possible. Today, the governor's office and the Outdoor Recreation Division of the Economic Development Department issued guidelines for folks when in the outdoors. These include not recreating in groups, staying close to home and practicing social distancing at all times.
"We must practice physical distancing everywhere—even when outdoors," Gov. Lujan Grisham said. "You can go outside but you must do it cautiously and there are best practices. Avoid crowded trailheads and parking lots, and don't carpool with people outside your family unit."
Outdoor Recreation Division Director Axie Navas, an avid mountain biker and skier, tells SFR she's been staying in her backyard, gardening with her husband, playing with her dog and looking at the trees.
"I love to ski, I love to bike, but I'm putting those more high risk activities on hold, and thinking about if I had to go to a hospital that puts an enormous strain on our already overstressed medical workers," she said.
Ultimately, the outdoor guidelines are intended to put "community first" while still ensuring people can enjoy the "cascading" benefits of being outdoors.
"I think these new guidelines from the governor are really going to help New Mexicans throughout the state," Navas says. "I think it's going to help clarify how we can recreate responsibly. The number one message is, we have to think about the health of others…and once we address that, yes, we can go outside, but cautiously. If we stay hyper-local, if we think about staying in our backyard, our neighborhood…staying away from other people, maintaining social distancing, I think we can go outside responsibly."
The guidelines stress not driving to recreational areas, and Navas says this is a key element.
"If we're driving at all to get to some of these rec spots, it's probably too far. That's where we start to stray into the tricky zone where it isn't responsible recreation."
In part, it's because the landscape of outdoor recreation has been unpredictably impacted by the pandemic.
"What we're seeing, what seen throughout this epidemic as places have closed, is other places that might not have not been high use in the past become high use," she says. "It's this sliding scale of testing the capacity of some of these areas. It's hard to to get ahead of it and know the trailhead is going to be crowded because typically it's not crowded, but now in the time of COVID-19, we are seeing those hot spots come up."
Those hot spots helped spur the new guidelines, as has trying to protect communities where some trails are located.
"We really want to make sure we're protecting any of the people who live in that area," Naxas says. "The Forest Service staff who potentially have to be law enforcement there. Sometimes you're driving through a community that's really trying to protect itself." That has been the case, she says, for some of the pueblos in Northern New Mexico. "Some of the pueblos are located in these incredibly beautiful places and have a number of visitors still going through them as to try to get to these trailheads. This is an effort to make sure we're thinking broadly about community well being and public health."
Money for hospitals
New Mexico hospitals received word of both state and federal funding today. The New Mexico Human Services Department announced that it is providing $35 million in immediate financial help to hospitals in the state as they prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a news release, HSD will immediately distribute $35 million in relief funding to hospitals through the Medicaid program. It includes the release of $14 million in Disproportionate Share Hospital payments and $21 million in Uncompensated Care payments for safety-net hospitals. HSD is also seeking federal approval to make advance payments to hospitals now for expected increases in hospital care provided to Medicaid patients as a result of COVID-19.
In a public briefing yesterday, Human Services Secretary David Scrase gave an overview of how New Mexico's hospitals will fare in different situations when COVID-19 caseloads peak. The state modeling currently shows hospitals peaking in late May, at which point hospitals and ICUs would be beyond full capacity. They are expected to be at full capacity the last two weeks of April, although some—such as ones in Gallup and Farmington—may surge earlier, and some may surge later.
Meanwhile, New Mexico's congressional delegation announced the state is slated to receive more than $169 million in efforts to fight the coronavirus, which will be given to an estimated 1,793 New Mexico health care providers.
That funding is part of a first wave from the $150 billion grant program included in the CARES Act for direct aid to health care institutions. The act also includes funding to replenish the national stockpile of personal protective equipment, drugs, and medical equipment.
Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber today revised the city order banning the use of reusable bags in grocery stores, provided:
- store staff don’t handle or pack groceries into reusable bags
- stores require customers with reusable bags to pack their own groceries
- stores clean and disinfect surfaces that come into contact with the bags between customers
- stores clean and disinfect shopping carts between customers
- stores notify customers that reusable bags cannot be placed on surfaces other than cart and checkout area
- stores remind customers to wash bags between uses
The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions today released unofficial numbers for new Unemployment Insurance claims filed between Friday, April 3 and Thursday, April 9.
- 20,085: total number of new claims processed for the week. Not all claimants will qualify for UI benefits.
- 62,136: number of weekly certifications for the same timeframe mentioned above. These include people receiving benefits and others who are in the system and awaiting determination.
- $442 million: current trust fund balance.
Individuals are required to certify every week after they apply for benefits, including the weeks before they receive their first benefit payment. The department encourages those who are able to complete their weekly certification online at www.jobs.state.nm.us or they may call 1-877-664-6984, Monday-Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm.
The department has a video that explains how file those weekly certifications.