ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller and other city leaders updated COVID-19 related efforts Thursday morning as the Delta variant causes an increase in new cases. The update marks the first time the city has held a news conference to broadly address pandemic-related matters since New Mexico lifted the state’s color-coded county reopening criteria and capacity restrictions on July 1.
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In response to an increase in cases, the city is now requiring face masks to be worn by all employees and visitors inside of city buildings, including City Hall, community centers, gyms, pools and other locations. The new mandate only applies to indoor activity at city-owned facilities.
The city also discussed Thursday a new round of grant funds for small businesses. Seven-and-a-half-million dollars is now available for what the city calls “small business and entrepreneurial recovery grants.” Each grant is worth $10,000 for certain businesses within the Albuquerque city limit that have 50 or fewer employees.
The latest grant program is funded with money from the federal “American Rescue Plan Act” that passed in the spring. Applications for the grant program opened Wednesday at 10 a.m. and remain open in four categories: “mainstreet businesses,” “hotel and public safety” grants, “arts and entertainment businesses” grants, and “youth and education” grants. The city has closed the application portal for “family-owned business grants” and “entrepreneurial and startup grants” after numerous applications were submitted Thursday. For more information about how to apply, click here to visit the city’s website at cabq.gov/recoverygrants.
Albuquerque and Bernalillo County have seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases along with the rest of the state over the last month. Data from the New Mexico Department of Health indicates the state is averaging roughly 69 new COVID-19 cases per day as of July 29, 2021. On June 29, 2021, the 7-day average was as low as 15 new COVID-19 cases per day.
State health officials say the more transmissible Delta variant of the COVID-19 has helped contribute to a rise in cases. The state estimates the Delta variant now represents more than 80% of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico.
The CDC recently updated recommendations as to when masks should be worn indoors, even for those who are fully vaccinated. The CDC says counties, where COVID transmission is ‘substantial’ or ‘high’, should follow the latest mask recommendations. As of Thursday, Bernalillo County was still listed as having “high” COVID-19 transmission rates.
Aside from the reinstituted mask policy, the City of Albuquerque hasn’t made any shifts in changes to city services amid concerns over the Delta variant. However, Albuquerque City Council canceled plans to return to in-person meetings this week, instead of continuing with virtual meetings.
“The rapid emergence of the delta variant in New Mexico, going from 25% to 80% in four weeks, means that many more New Mexicans may be infected in the coming weeks,” acting NMDOH and Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase wrote in a recent news release. “Testing is that important first step that allows us to identify and isolate cases before the virus can spread to friends, family and others. PLEASE be tested if you meet any of the testing guidelines.”