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Mayor Keller Increases Enforcement of Flagrant Non-Essential Businesses Violators and Inspection of Nursing Homes

Environmental Health to conduct proactive nursing home outreach to protect safety of residents, workers. Fire Marshal and APD to target smoke shops and massage parlors

April 2, 2020

Mayor Tim Keller announced that he has directed the Code Enforcement Division of the Planning Department, the Environmental Health Department, the Albuquerque Police Department and the Fire Marshal’s office to enforce the Governor’s public health order closing non-essential businesses that initial checks have found to be in repeat violation, like smoke shops, and massage parlors. The direction comes after more than 70 non-essential businesses were found to be operating in violation of that order, risking public health by potentially contributing to a faster and more deadly spread of the new coronavirus which has infected 363 people and caused 6 deaths in New Mexico since March. Additionally, with the first Albuquerque positive nursing home case announced, the Environmental Health Department will be inspecting area nursing homes and assisting with protocols to protect this extremely vulnerable segment of the population.

Although the state is responsible for enforcement of its orders, the City has several smoke shops and massage parlors found to be staying open and trying to skirt the regulations by offering a few food items. The Albuquerque Police Department will be working closely with Code Enforcement, Environmental Health, the Fire Marshal, and State Police to identify and issue citations to businesses in violation of the order.

Mayor Tim Keller said, “Smoke shops, massage parlors, and other nonessential businesses flagrantly violating the public health order need to close today, or we are going to close you. We’ve reached a point where some businesses are blatantly trying to skirt the law and knowingly putting public health at risk. We do not relish the idea of going out and closing someone down, but putting a candy bar on the counter and calling yourself a grocery store doesn’t make you essential. The danger of this pandemic is very real, and we take our responsibility to public health very seriously.”

Fire Marshal Gene Gallegos said, “There are serious penalties in place for businesses operating in violation of the Governor’s order, and if we hope to slow the spread of this virus we need everyone to be on board with doing their part. We are prepared to enforce those penalties and are stepping up our efforts in the interest of public health.”

In addition to increasing enforcement, the City is reaching out proactively to nursing homes, a category of businesses that are at a high risk of outbreaks of the virus among their employees and residents, many of whom are particularly vulnerable to dying if they become sick due to age. One positive case of COVID-19 was discovered yesterday at La Vida Llena, a local nursing home. Similar businesses have been epicenters of viral spread and death in other cities and states around the country.

The Environmental Health Department and Code Enforcement will lead the outreach, in coordination with the New Mexico Department of Health and local hospital systems, to inspect nursing homes to ensure social distancing best practices and compliance with public health orders. They will also be offering assistance and education around how to keep those living in congregant situations safe and what changes must be made in nursing home routines, policies, and procedures.  

“While guidelines for the general public recommend people stay home to stay safe, there are those in our community whose living situations create higher risk—including seniors in nursing homes. These sites are extremely high risk areas, and within that context we have to keep people as safe as we can, using best practices around the uses of space, preparation of food, community gathering guidelines and other steps to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our community,” said Mayor Keller.

Dr. Mark DiMenna, Environmental Health Department Deputy Director said, “Reports of positive cases in local nursing homes are deeply concerning. We are enforcing compliance with public health orders, but we are also offering assistance—our priority is helping our local nursing homes access the knowledge and experience they need to make sure we get this right at a crucial moment when correct and proactive steps can save lives.”

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Emergencies challenge the delivery and management of emergency public information, warning and emergency protective action notifications. The Albuquerque Joint Information Center (JIC) functions as a coordinated Albuquerque Metro Area public information system that will gather and analyze data related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in New Mexico and serve as a source of accurate and comprehensive information.