Albuquerque city officials prepare for virus resurgence

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Mayor Tim Keller and Albuquerque officials held a news conference on Friday, July 10 to discuss the rate of COVID-19 spread in the city in addition to the new mask mandates discussed in the governor’s press conference. Officials are now preparing the city for a resurgence of the virus and outlined the city’s response.

On Thursday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials highlighted data that showed the virus was spreading in New Mexico at an increased rate. This prompted the governor to tighten restrictions across the state, now requiring masks to be worn at all times while out in public.

Additionally, indoor seating at restaurants and breweries is now prohibited once again and out-of-state visitors may no longer visit state parks. There will also be no contact sports allowed in the fall while other non-contact sports are under review.

General updates

To accommodate the increased number of people getting tested for COVID-19, the Balloon Fiesta Park testing site will now be open seven days a week starting on Saturday, July 11. It will be open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on weekends, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The testing site at EXPO New Mexico is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The Lovelace testing site is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.

UNMH is providing asymptomatic testing in the tent outside the Barbara and Bill Richardson Pavillion at the north entrance. It’s open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. All symptomatic patients will be seen on a 24/7 basis in the BBRP conference room #1500.

The New Mexico Tax & Revenue Department is extending some modifications to its collections and enforcement efforts. Collection activities including liens, seizures, and junctions are on hold through July 31, 2020. The department’s district offices are open by appointment only.

COVID-19

Mayor Keller highlighted data that the governor and state health officials discussed during the statewide press conference, citing an increase in COVID-19 cases following state reopenings. The City of Albuquerque reports that as of July 8, Bernalillo County is averaging just under 80 new cases a day and around one new death a day. On a relative basis compared to Denver, Austin, Phoenix, Tucson, and El Paso, Albuquerque has fewer cases per 100,000 residents.

“On a relative basis, especially compared to big cities in the region, we actually did a tremendous job propping up our small businesses, propping up our economy and having lower spread rates, lower case rates more bed availability than all our peers in the region,” said Keller. The mayor also pointed to the city’s residents who have continued to step up during the pandemic.

The city reports that there have been over 150 sets of donations made including 7,000 fabric face coverings, 3,000 bottles of bleach and sanitizer, in addition to food and clothing. The City of Albuquerque estimates the total value of donations is over $179,000.

Highlighting a spike in recent cases of the virus, Mayor Keller stated the increase in cases is not all too surprising as it is a trend seen in many large cities across America. However, it does indicate the virus remains and the risk is getting worse and the city must step up to deal with the problem.

Despite outperforming other large cities, Albuquerque does face challenges in combating the virus. “There’s some numbers that we’re not proud of at all which is the first curve of the fact that our cases are going way up,” said Keller.

The city is working to determine if there are specific virus hotspots and will also look at areas where travelers are coming to such as the airport. The city will also analyze the death rate as more virus cases are showing to be within the 20-29 age range, officials hope the number of virus deaths will be reduced as that range statistically tends to be healthier.

Mayor Keller acknowledged residents have “corona fatigue” and that everyone is tired of having to deal with the results of the virus but it isn’t a choice. “But we do have to remember we have a common enemy to defeat and that is the disease that’s claiming the lives of New Mexicans,” said Keller.

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the city acknowledged that it became clear that many individuals were vulnerable and required assistance. The city responded by providing rental assistance, meals for senior citizens, childcare at community centers, and medical care for the homeless.

If coronavirus patterns continue to increase, Mayor Keller stated that the city is prepared to ramp up these services. “As a city, we must do what we can, but also prepare for the long haul. Unfortunately, all across the nation, we are seeing that there is no silver bullet without a vaccine, and even with the best compliance it’s likely cases will increase and we need to begin to prepare for dealing with this for the next 12 months,” said Keller.

Enforcement

Mayor Keller stated that the city will continue to enforce all of the state’s public health orders however, the goal is to bring people into compliance and not to punish them. The city will enforce orders through a multi-department effort including police, fire department, and Environmental Health Department.

The mayor explained that businesses are struggling to enforce the order and that the city’s code enforcement team will work alongside them to enforce the mask mandate. The City has made a placard available for businesses to download that reads “No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service”.

Businesses can refuse to serve an individual who is not complying with the mask mandate. The city will focus enforcement efforts on big box and chain stores over the weekend.

The public is encouraged to avoid the “three C’s” which include closed spaces with poor ventilation, close contact such as close-range conversations, and crowded places with many nearby people. In the last week, the city has:

  • given over 60 warnings in regards to face masks and other health order violations
  • given 270 educational efforts
  • received 119 complaints
  • educated 401 businesses such as food establishments, salons, smoke shops, and grocery stores
  • received 117 calls to 311
  • received over 50 calls to APD

The slideshow presented during the mayor’s press conference can be viewed at CABQ.gov.

(courtesy City of Albuquerque)
(courtesy City of Albuquerque)
(courtesy City of Albuquerque)
(courtesy City of Albuquerque)

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