COVID-19 case updates
New Mexico's total number of COVID-19 cases hit 83 yesterday, with 18 new positive tests. All told, the virus has spread to 11 of the state's 33 counties. In a press conference yesterday afternoon in which Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham discussed both the new cases and new restrictions, she made clear residents should expect more cases: "In New Mexico, we're going to see more cases," Lujan Grisham said. "We have community spread. The goal is to minimize that spread and do as much as we can to just keep you isolated." That community spread, according to Deputy State Epidemiologist Chad Smelser, has emerged in two counties so far: Santa Fe and Bernalillo, which have 12 and 38 people who have tested positive for the virus, respectively.
Seriously: Stay home
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced additional measures to keep New Mexicans at home yesterday, under new "stay-at-home" rules and limits on gatherings. The governor closed all non-essential businesses and non-profits, effective today at 8 am. The new order, issued by Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel, also provides a detailed list of which businesses qualify as essential. Moreover, the order halves the previous 10-person limit on gatherings to five. Lujan Grisham also said the state would amp up enforcement and that non-complying businesses could face civil or criminal penalties. "If we limit person-to-person contact, we will be doing everything in our power to stop the spread or slow it in the state of New Mexico," Lujan Grisham said during an afternoon briefing.
SFCC closes campus for the semester
In the wake of the state's new COVID-19 restrictions, Santa Fe Community College President Becky Rowley announced yesterday that the campus, Santa Fe Higher Education Center, the William C. Witter Fitness Education Center and the Kids Campus will be closed for the rest of the spring semester. Initially, in-person classes were scheduled to resume April 6. In a video address, Rowley said online courses would continue as scheduled, in-person courses were transitioning to online courses and any classes that can't transition to online will be extended into the summer semester. Acknowledging that the shift to online could be stressful for both faculty and students, Rowley said: "We are taking the safety of everyone at Santa Fe Community College into first consideration," adding that closing the campus is "the only thing we can do in this circumstance." Student services remain available online, she said. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in yesterday's press conference also said she anticipated public schools' closures may extend beyond April 6. St. John's College also has closed the campus for the semester. As of today, the Institute of American Indian Arts' website says the school will reopen April 6.
Candyman owner tests negative
Candyman Strings & Things owner Rand Cook has tested negative for COVID-19, following his interactions with Idris Elba just days before the actor tested positive for COVID-19. Elba had been filming in New Mexico prior to announcing his viral status. Cook tells SFR as soon as he heard the news that Elba had contracted the virus, he shuttered his business and sent his staff home. SFR first reported the story on March 16. While relieved his test came back negative, Cook, like all other small business owners in this crisis, has plenty more to worry about. "I'm negative, that's the first problem solved, now what's the next problem? What's the next thing I have to do for myself, my employees, my business, society?" Cook says. "My excitement is there, certainly, but now it's like, what's the next step?"
New Mexico legislators are discussing how they might convene for a special session. Yesterday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during a briefing she expected there would be one at some point to address the economic impact of COVID-19, but that it would be premature to call one before Congress passes a relief package and the state has come through current social distancing restrictions. House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, says he has asked staff to research the possibility of convening online through video conferencing, although House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, says doing so would not be legal. Egolf says another possibility would be convening with the minimum number of House members required to pass bills: 36 in the House.
Your NM Government podcast is back and shifting gears with weekday news updates on coronavirus, plus community stories, resources and an eye on government response. In this episode, host Khalil Ekulona of KUNM Radio calls his folks. Then, he talks with Karen Meyers, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Initiative, about scammers who are using COVID-19 to prey on people. New Mexico Aging & Long-Term Services Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez discusses what the state's seniors need and how people can pitch in.
Starting tomorrow, the North Central Regional Transit District will suspend or modify eight of its 29 routes. Additionally, the 255 Mountain Trail remains on temporary suspension. The suspended routes are: 290 Edgewood, 305 Taos Express and 400 Los Alamos. Modified routes include the 800 Angel Fire route, which will operate Monday through Friday only, no weekend service; the 260 La Cienega, 270 Turquoise Trail, 280 Eldorado and 350 UNM Taos, which will each operate on a demand request ride basis from 7 am to 6 pm. Under yesterday's state order further restricting businesses, transportation remains an essential service. In Santa Fe, Santa Fe Trails buses are free for all riders, as are Santa Fe Ride ADA Complementary Paratransit and Senior Transportation Services.
Yes, New Mexicans are under a stay-at-home order. No, we're not the only ones. The New York Times has put together an interactive feature in which one can compare and contrast orders in other states related to COVID-19 restrictions. If maps are doing it for you right now, Johns Hopkins University has a global map to track the virus' spread. New Mexico In Depth has a county-by-county map and spreadsheet of the state's cases. This map, from CovidActNow.org, models outcomes based on government's actions or lack thereof.
The Santa Fe Community Foundation has set up a COVID-19 Response Fund to support local nonprofits. To apply, nonprofits must hold 501c3 nonprofit status from the IRS or have a fiscal sponsor; and operate in Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, San Miguel and/or Mora Counties. Grants will range from $500 to $5,000. According to the foundation's website, the grants will initially prioritize "support for nonprofits focusing on health/wellbeing and food insecurity." As more funding becomes available, it "will consider making support available to nonprofits providing other kinds of services." To apply, go here.
A breath of fresh air
Well, at least the weather will be nice today and, yes, you can still go outside, but not in groups. Forecasts call for a sunny day with a high near 62 and northwest winds 10 to 15 mph (that part is less nice). Even warmer tomorrow with highs near 66. Still looking at a slight chance of rain on Thursday and Friday.
Thanks for reading! The Word's first altweekly gig was a college internship at Philadelphia City Paper, and she first began working for SFR back in 1992! So current stories about COVID-19 both shuttering and crippling altweeklies around the country hit particularly hard. If you haven't read yet about our "total annihilation," here's an article. And here's another. And one more for good measure. If you'd like to help us weather this viral storm, no contribution, as they say, is too small. Become a Friend of the Reporter. And thank you!