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Mayor Highlights Road to Re-Open Economy, Convenes Area Leaders

Preparing city for “a different kind of summer”, tracking key trends including rate of spread, testing capacity to determine timelines

April 23, 2020

Mayor Tim Keller and Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael outlined a detailed plan to re-open the Albuquerque economy today, highlighting key milestones the City is following and outlining what the summer may look like as restrictions are loosened and then lifted in phases over time.

Mayor Tim Keller said, “It’s not just about how we re-open—it’s about how we stay open. We’re preparing the phases of re-opening now so that we are ready when the time comes. But we know this is going to be a different kind of summer for Albuquerque, and we need the public to help us avoid further restrictions. Opening up prematurely could risk additional lives and do even more damage to the already struggling economy.”

The Mayor outlined four core tenets the City will use to guide decisions around re-opening, including:

  • Staggering the opening of businesses and events to make tracking the impact on the virus easier,
  • Preparing for resurgence of viral spread, especially in vulnerable populations like seniors or in specific economic sectors,
  • Adapting to new norms including occupancy limits in businesses; testing and screening protocols for the private sector; widespread adoption of masks, gloves, and other protective wear; and contact tracing and quarantining to reduce community spread, and
  • Acknowledging Albuquerque and Central New Mexico’s unique regional characteristics as the most densely populated place and home to hospitals, commerce, travel and more.

The City’s re-opening plan will follow the State of New Mexico in coordination with the Governor’s office and public health experts at the Department of Health. To guide the planning phase, the Mayor is convening area leaders from the business sector and neighboring mayors to ensure a regional, coordinated approach.

With both the State and City public health orders currently in place through May 15th, it is critical that the public continue to observe the stay-at-home instructions that have helped flatten the curve in many places around New Mexico. If the data continue to show progress, re-opening could begin as soon as mid-May, but a reversal in positive trends could delay opening well into the summer.

Mayor Keller said, “As badly as we want to just pick a date to open up, the virus picks the date, not us. We will continue to use data to inform our decisions, but let’s be clear: the price of opening up too soon is literally lives lost and longer, harsher economic collapse, so we must be very careful about how and when we open the economy back up.”

The City has already taken steps to make recovery faster when the time comes. The administration is aggressively managing City finances to avoid the types of furloughs and layoffs that many other cities are enacting, primarily through cost savings around travel and hiring restrictions and the review of all contracts. City leaders are also investing significantly in helping local businesses stay afloat, accelerating construction projects that get money into the local economy, making grants to help 140 businesses and dozens of local creative enterprises, boosting local farms with Farm to Car programs, and investing $1,000,000 in organizations whose work supports the most vulnerable in our community.

Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael outlined some of the ways Albuquerque will see a different type of summer this year. Summer and recreation programs for kids are expected to proceed mostly on schedule, but will be modified for additional public health considerations. City recreation facilities like golf courses and playgrounds are also under evaluation to determine what can safely open. Facilities that do re-open are likely to do so under some restrictions and policies around wearing face masks, occupancy limits, temperature screening, advance scheduling, and social distancing.

Summerfests throughout May and June are canceled. As July approaches, the City will make decisions about modifications or cancelations of public events. For example, as of today, the Freedom Fourth celebration will tentatively move forward in a modified way that observes social distancing and preserves public health, including the potential for drive-up only events with different locations around Albuquerque.

Bus routes, already significantly cut back to reduce risk for passengers and drivers, will re-open slowly and in phases, reflecting the opening of businesses and facilities across the community. Other City services that have been closed by the pandemic will re-open in a way that is methodical and phased, working with business owners and event organizers to prevent a resurgence of the virus.

Rael said, “What our City looks like in late April and May will set the tone for the programs and events we all look forward to each summer, but we can certainly expect that this summer will be different in many ways. Opening too soon and risking a surge in cases would have a huge negative impact on the core services our City is able to offer to the public, leading to even more concerns for our residents and our local businesses.”

With respect for timing of re-opening, the City emphasized that while the reality is there are no clear specific dates, there are some criteria to help us know when the right time is.  For the City to re-open, it must:

  • Coordinate with state public health orders,
  • Be past the peak in new cases and fatalities,
  • Ensure the medical system is ready, in terms of having enough beds and personnel, and
  • Confirm adequate testing capacity to be able to identify resurgence and conduct needed quarantine and contact tracing.