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Mayor Keller Gives Update COVID Status in Metro Area, New PPE Program for Small Businesses

City working with partners to get more help out the door as cases spike

Oct. 13, 2020

Mayor Keller today gave an update on the effort related to the coronavirus, including the City is working with partners to get more help out the door as cases spike across the state. In the metro area, there were 535 new cases last week, up from 335 the prior week. With a spread rate of 1.36, and 8.8 new cases per 100,000 individuals in the metro region, Bernalillo County is outside the gating criteria. The week prior there were only 4.8 new cases per 100,000.

 

“The rise in cases continues to be a concern in Albuquerque as well as nationally,” said Mark DiMenna, Environmental Health Deputy Director. “Going into colder weather, flu season, and upcoming holidays, it is more important than ever that we practice social distancing, wear a mask, and stay home as often as possible to reduce transmission.”

 

City Distributing More Than 1 Million Free Masks, Other PPE to Businesses

 

Anticipating the ongoing hardship on local workers and businesses, Mayor Keller also announced the launch of a program to supply local businesses with PPE. The Keller administration is working with Council to put more than $1 million directly into purchasing PPE and COVID-19 screening equipment to distribute free of charge to local businesses, helping them better bear the costs of staying open in the midst of a pandemic that shows no signs of easing. This program supplements almost $2 million in past grants to restaurants, retail shops, microbusinesses, nonprofits, and artists, as well as the $10 million in additional support in a small business direct grant program to be launched in the weeks to come.

Mayor Keller said, “We have asked a lot from our local businesses with mask and screening mandates, and we are stepping up to help them do it. All of us need to come together to stop the spread and support our local economy, especially considering the building pressure they are facing with closures, capacity restrictions, and other COVID measures.”

While contracts are still being finalized, the City estimates the funding could procure the following equipment, all from 11 local vendors:

  • 70,000+ reusable masks,                                                
  • Over 22,000+ boxes of disposal masks, with 50 masks per box (over 1.1 million individual masks),
  • 6,800 boxes of 100 gloves                                                        
  • 2,000+ cases of hand sanitizer = 20,982 bottles                 
  • 1,000+ cases of cleaner/disinfectant = over 13,000 bottles                                    
  • 3,000+ no-touch thermometers                                               
  • 2,000+ plexiglass dividers           

"I am happy to have sponsored this legislation and appropriated the funds to help our businesses provide PPE to their employees,” said Councilor Sena. “The PPE legislation is an initiative to not only keep our community safe, but our workforce safe while working to keep our city going."

“This legislation will keep the public safe and protect jobs by helping businesses stay open,” said Councilor Peña. “I am also pleased the 11 local vendors were selected to provide equipment. This keeps the money in our city and strengthens local businesses.”

“As a small business owner, I know how important it is to keep employees and customers safe as we fight this pandemic,” said Councilor Borrego. “Providing safety equipment protects employees and customers.”

“The City Council takes the protection of our residents seriously,” said Councilor Benton. “This legislation not only helps business, but it also protects the people who are working during the pandemic to provide essential goods and services to residents of the City of Albuquerque.”

To get all of this equipment out to a wide array of local companies all across Albuquerque, the City is partnering with organizations in the community who know these businesses best, including: the African American Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, Asian Business Collaborative, Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce, Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, New Mexico OUT Business Alliance - LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, South Valley Economic Development Center, WESST Enterprise Center, and West Central Community Development Corporation.

“Thank you for your effort supporting small businesses in Albuquerque, they desperately need the help,” said Ernie C' de Baca, President/CEO Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce. “This is a huge help for small businesses”

City Responding Quickly to COVID-19 Cases at WEHC

As of today, the City is reporting 91 COVID-19 cases at the Westside Emergency Housing Center that have stemmed from the 17 cases announced last Thursday. Every individual who has tested positive is currently in isolation and receiving medical care for their symptoms. The City also put in place a longer term solution for isolating future positive cases in a non-congregate setting.

“We know that people living in all congregate settings like nursing homes and homeless shelters are at a higher risk than others for contracting this virus. While some cases are inevitable in all of these settings, we want to continue to keep COVID cases among our un-housed population far below what other cities are seeing. With our partners, we are working to mitigate the spread and keep the number of these cases as low as possible,” said Mayor Keller.

Early on in the public health emergency, the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimated that approximately 649 sheltered individuals experiencing homelessness would become infected with COVID-19 in Bernalillo County. To date, City leaders have reported fewer than 100 cases since the start of the public health emergency thanks to quick work to establish sufficient protocols to care for this population seeking shelter.

Since March when the first positive COVID-19 case was detected in New Mexico, the City of Albuquerque established a working group with partner agencies to develop and implement plans to care for individuals experiencing homelessness. Under the guidance of Dr. Laura Chanchien Parajón of UNM Health Sciences Center, the City is screening every individual seeking to utilize the WEHC by taking temperatures and answering questions related to any recent symptoms. Anyone experiencing symptoms, exposed to someone with COVID, or traveled from a high risk area is immediately placed in isolation or quarantine and administered a COVID-19 test. Those who end up having a positive test continue their isolation in a non-congregate hotel setting to receive food, medical attention and time to recover.

“This is an amazing community partnership to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 from those experiencing homelessness,” said Dr. Parajón. “This is a testament to the work of the whole system that we didn’t have more cases.”

The City has also established protocols for identifying vulnerable individuals, such as seniors and those with chronic medical conditions that put them at risk for severe COVID such as diabetes, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease, and offering them shelter in locations other than the WEHC. The goal is to help reduce the risk of COVID exposure for vulnerable individuals.

Each night, an average of 400 men, women and families utilize the services of WEHC. Since the Keller administration implemented the decision in March 2019, the WEHC converted from a “winter shelter” to being open 7 nights a week, year-round, and open all weekend. The Center remains open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for families during the public health emergency.

The Westside Emergency Housing Center located at 7440 Jim McDowell NW, is open to men, women and families experiencing homelessness in Albuquerque. While the WEHC is not currently taking new residents and transportation has been suspended through the weekend, individuals and families in need of assistance can call 768-HELP, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

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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.