ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Mayor Tim Keller and Albuquerque officials held a press conference on Thursday, June 25, 2020, to discuss the local coronavirus response, local business support efforts and what the community must do to prevent an influx of COVID-19 cases as other states have experienced.
The Department of Health will be holding COVID-19 testing at Expo New Mexico on Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. This site will replace the Uptown testing location. You are strongly encouraged to register ahead of time online at cvtestreg.nmhealth.org.
Lovelace Women’s Health Hospital will be hosting a blood drive in partnership with Vitalant on July 2, 2020, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. To maintain safety and social distancing practices, you can schedule an appointment to give blood at any time at bloodhero.com or by calling 505-246-1457.
The Con Alma Health Foundation is distributing funds to New Mexico non-profit organizations that provide basic needs including health care, food distribution emergency housing, and financial aid to individuals most impacted by COVID-19. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis and will range from $7,500 to $20,000. For additional information visit conalma.org.
The New Mexico Farmers’ Marketing Association is providing funding through the Local Food Supply Chain Response Fund in order to address gaps and disruptions to the local food supply chain within the state. It aims to provide resources to farmers, CSAs, food hubs, food distribution groups, as well as others in the food supply chain in response to COVID-19. For more information visit farmersmarketsnm.org.
The New Mexico Public Education Department announced state school re-entry plans for the 2020-2021 school year using a hybrid model of instruction. Mayor Keller stated that many individuals have contacted the city to address their concerns with this model.
There are many concerns regarding how education will be interrupted, the quality of online education, and how parents will be able to return to work when children will not be in school. Keller said this problem was addressed over the summer with city summer programs and at this time the city will be addressing concerns with Albuquerque Public Schools and that there is a major workforce challenge.
“We’re going to try and at least convene discussions, suggest ideas on how our community can deal with this and we’re hoping that APS is open to some alternative structures for working parents,” said Mayor Keller.
The Albuquerque Police Department announced that recently, one officer tested positive for COVID-19 and is now quarantined. No other officers have tested positive since then.
Albuquerque city park playgrounds are now open. Each playground is posting signs reminding visitors to use COVID-safe practices such as social distancing, using masks as often as possible, washing your hands before and after using playgrounds, and using hand sanitizer frequently.
Balloon Fiesta organizers announced earlier this week that the Fiesta’s 49th event is postponed until 2021. Mayor Keller stated that the city is going to try to work on some alternatives this year that will not be as large. This could mean ABQ Aloft takes place over a couple of days or smaller events at different parks.
Economic Support for Small Businesses
The city announced that last week, its Economic Development Department was awarded nearly $500,000 from the Kellogg Foundation which will help workers get training and connect them to local small businesses in essential sectors. A workforce development liaison will be created to provide opportunities for low-income individuals to get trained and placed in jobs that are hiring during the COVID-19 pandemic. An early childhood education navigator will also be assisting with workforce development.
The city is now waiving fees to assist businesses and restaurants in reopening. The following fees will be waived:
- Restaurant inspection fees
- Swimming pool fees
- Food truck and growers market permits
Those who have already paid for permits will be automatically refunded in July. The fees are waived as a result of federal funding.
The City of Albuquerque has started purchasing masks from Southwest Creations Collaborative which has made around 9,000 masks for various city departments. The business is driven by women and is based in Albuquerque.
Production and sales assistant for the business, Maude Andrade explains that the business usually makes products for the Clariant Corporation and also manufactures pet products, apparel, home interiors, and beading and packaging. However, when COVID-19 hit, they were able to pivot manufacturing to create face masks for essential workers.
Initially, Southwest Creations did not have a system in place to connect them with the community for distribution. The City of Albuquerque was able to do this, providing workers with the masks and allowing the company’s workers to remain employed. Southwest Creations Collaborative will continue to make masks and is asking the community to reach out to them if they are in need of them as children head back to school, return to work, etc.
City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Deputy Director Mark DiMenna explains that we are still in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and New Mexicans have done well in flattening the curve however, the curve is sensitive to the public’s behaviors. DiMenna states that as the community moves forward if people stop using masks, stop social distancing and have large gatherings, there is still a risk of spreading the virus and impacting the state’s progress.
Nearby states such as Texas and Arizona are seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases and DiMenna explains, may have to make additional decisions such as closing down again in order to prevent additional cases as hospitals reach capacity. “We’re still absolutely in that first wave of the pandemic, when people talk about a second wave, that assumes we’ve dropped down and cases are low,” said DiMenna. “That’s probably not going to happen, we’re already almost in July, we’re not seeing that temperature dampening effect. What we’re really concerned about is in the fall when flu season starts that’s going to greatly confound things and greatly increase the risk.”
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