ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Mayor Tim Keller and city officials provided an update on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mayor went over the city’s COVID-19 data and progress of reaching the state’s less-restrictive ‘yellow’ tier.
“We are making progress on this. Again, I think the good news is we continue to go in the right direction. Unfortunately it still looks like a long way to go,” Mayor Keller said. The city is seeing a test positivity rate of about 12% this week, which is down from 14% last week but still far from the needed 5% or less in Bernalillo County.
“Once you get in single digits there we’re getting close. So I think, you know, hopefully on that number we’re looking at a couple of months, not six months, but we’ll see. It’s going to depend a lot on what we’re going to do over the holidays,” The Mayor said. “Just like Thanksgiving, we want to encourage people to keep those gatherings small, try and keep them sort of in your family unit.”
The city is trying to ramp up testing and is working on opening a new testing site in Nob Hill but did not give details on when it would open. The city also said Albuquerque Fire Rescue is set to receive vaccinations in the coming weeks.
The city also highlighted its efforts to help underserved parts of the community through the pandemic. “Black and hispanic and indigenous people are more heavily impacted than white people largely because of the increased exposure by being frontline workers often in low income jobs, in low paying jobs,” Michelle Melendez said. Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion, said.
The city steered about $2.5 million to families in need who were left out of the federal stimulus money in April or do not qualify for unemployment or paid sick leave benefits. Each family received $2,000 and the city said it had about 3,000 applications which is more than could be awarded.
“In the past two weeks my entire family tested positive for COVID and have not been able to work. When I heard that I received the $2,000 from the Community Impact Fund, it was amazing news knowing that we can pay December and January’s rent. I am at ease knowing how I will feed my children and avoid eviction. I am appreciative of the steps the city has taken to take the economic contributions of immigrants into consideration and that they implemented the program without discriminating against mixed-status families,” One recipient of the Community Impact Fund grant said in a press release.
Also, On the city’s Domestic Violence Task force gave about $250,000 of CARES Act funding to 13 local non-profit organizations that combat domestic violence. “We’ve known that many of these organizations have seen an increase in need as people are staying home and under a whole lot of stress under this pandemic and many of these organizations saw a real decrease in their revenue sources,” Melendez said. Lastly, the city said it is also rearranging its mobile wifi units for the next six months to better serve the neighborhoods that need them.
In his last news conference, the Mayor offered a prediction that he “doesn’t expect things to change for the foreseeable future, for several months,” in regards to the limitations placed on Bernalillo County reopening per the state’s latest Public Health Order.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham introduced the new tiered county-by-county reopening criteria last Friday. The red, yellow, green color-coded system sets different reopening criteria based on a county’s COVID-19 test positivity rate and the rolling average number of new COVID cases per capita across a two week period.
Tuesday, Mayor Keller said New Mexico still has a long way to go when it comes to COVID-19. He says the city will continue to enforce the public health order. Mayor Keller said COVID-19 testing and quarantine are key to slowing the spread of the virus. The city will continue to have enforcement efforts. The mayor also announced the City of Albuquerque is making a bid to purchase the old Gibson Medical Center for the city’s Gateway Center homeless shelter.
Meanwhile, Albuquerque Fire Rescue Marshal Deputy Chief Gene Gallegos said they have been actively enforcing the public health order. Gallegos said there have been 678 compliance interactions with businesses and individuals across the city. Gallegos said most businesses are following the public health order. Gallegos says there have been a lot of complaints about malls and their capacity limits.
“They don’t have to have the 75 customers or 25%, the actual mall as a whole has a twenty five percent occupancy load,” said Gallegos.
Mayor Keller also announced a new hire with the city of Albuquerque who is going to help with the connection between law enforcement and the community. Pastor David Walker is the new liaison for a range of issues including reform.
Mayor Keller also had some updates on the city’s holiday events. Cultural Services Deputy Director Brandon Gibson said there are COVID-safe events happening around the city that also support local, small businesses. Gibson said the Botanic Gardens is reopening this weekend and virtual dance parties will be offered later in the month. For more information, visit abqtodo.com.
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