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CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

Coronavirus and you

Posted

Following is a collection of recent information affecting Las Crucens regarding the Coronavirus. For state updates from the New Mexico Department of Health, check http://cv.nmhealth.org/, and for federal updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, check www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The below information is current as of 2:30 p.m. Mountain Time. As we know, the news regarding Coronavirus and responses is changing by the minute. We will work to update as needed.)

While Las Cruces grapples with how to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic, government agencies and businesses are adopting their own strategies and contingencies. The landscape is shifting quickly, and the public is advised to make plans accordingly by checking websites and calling ahead before planning activities or outings.

New Mexicans who report symptoms of COVID-19 infection, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath, should call their health care provider or the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) COVID-19 hotline: 1-855-600-3453.

People without those symptoms do not need to be tested for COVID-19. This is allergy season and allergy symptoms such as sneezing or itchy eyes, nose or throat do not indicate a need for testing. Visit NMDOH’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage at cv.nmhealth.org for updated information. For general health questions about COVID-19, or if you have concerns that you may have been exposed to the coronavirus, call the NMDOH hotline at 1-855-600-3453. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For non-health-related questions or concerns, call 833-551-0518 or visit newmexico.gov.

The New Mexico Crisis Line is available for anyone experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis. For resources, visit www.nmcrisisline.com or call 1-855-662-7474. In an emergency, call 911.

Emergency food program

Casa de Peregrinos emergency food program remains open in the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope campus, 999 W. Amador Ave. Food assistance hours are 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact Casa de Peregrinos at 575-523-5542 and cdplascruces@gmail.com. Visit www.casadeperegrinos.org. You can also donate online to support the program.

Restaurants and stores

Some local restaurants have temporarily closed during the crisis, but many remain open, including some with limited service capacity. Some are offering takeout and delivery options. Call your favorite restaurant and/or food-delivery service for more information.

The same applies to local grocery stores and other food and supply sources – call to make sure they are open and when.

School-based health centers continuing services

  • Contracted school-based health centers that care for Las Cruces Public Schools students will continue services during the state-mandated shutdown. Students who receive behavioral health counseling at school-based centers managed by Ben Archer will be contacted privately by their therapists and appointments will be done either over the phone, via video conference or in person at select clinics. Those locations include the East Las Cruces Clinic, 3331 Del Rey Blvd., 575-373-1033 and Las Cruces Clinic, 1990 Bruins Drive, 575-523-2772.
  • La Clinica de Familia’s school-based health clinics will remain open to students but will operate at new locations during the shutdown. The clinic inside Centennial High School will be relocated to the East Mesa Clinic, 8600 Bataan Memorial East. For more information, call 575-373-9202.
  • The Rio Grande Prep school-based center will be relocated to Central Medical, 575 S. Alameda Blvd. For more information, call 575-528-6400. When students call or visit the clinic, they are advised to notify a staff member that they are a school-based patient.

State limits public gatherings

Beginning March 16, the state amended an earlier public health emergency order directing all restaurants, bars, breweries, eateries and other food establishments to operate at no greater than 50 percent of maximum occupancy and no greater than 50 percent of seating capacity. In addition, tables and booths may not seat more than six people, and all occupied tables and booths must be separated by at least six feet. Patrons may not be seated at bars and standing patrons will not be served. While these venues may remain open and serve customers, they are precluded from holding concerts, DJ’d events, conferences and other similar happenings until the order is lifted.

The order defines mass gatherings as events that bring together 100 or more people in a single room or connected space like auditoriums, stadiums, arenas, conference centers and theaters. The order prohibits gatherings of 100 or more but includes specific exemptions for shelters, retail or grocery stores, courthouses, correction and detention facilities and hospitals, among others.

The amended order also clarifies that all casinos and horse racing facilities must close until April 10.

School meals will continue to be served

The New Mexico Human Services Department has set up website, www.newmexico.gov/education, to provide New Mexico families information about how to access meal sites for children while classes are canceled starting Monday.

The website’s navigation bar includes a tab “Information About Education,” which is where users will find a list of sites that will provide breakfast and lunch to students between March 16 and April 6.

Schools and the state’s USDA-approved meal sponsors are employing a number of strategies to continue feeding children. Many school cafeterias will remain open and workers will prepare meals that parents or students can grab and go at specified times. Other districts are arranging delivery by school bus or the National Guard to students in remote areas.

Las Cruces Public Schools is working with community resources to continue meal service and mental health resources and employees will be paid as if there were no shutdown. Students and staff were also reassured that the state requirements for instructional hours will be waived, so classroom days missed because of the shutdown will not have to be made up later. 

From March 16-April 6, LCPS will provide grab-and-go breakfast and lunch to all students at the following locations: Picacho Middle School, 1040 N. Motel Blvd.; Meerscheidt Recreation Center,      1600 E. Hadley Ave.; Frank O’Brien Papen Center, 304 Bell Ave.; East Mesa Recreation Center, 5589 Porter Drive;

Metro Verde Splash Pad/Park, 7125 Metro Park Drive; Doña Ana Community Resource Center, 5745 Ledesma Drive; Desert Hills Elementary School, 280 Roadrunner Pkwy.

Breakfast can be picked up 8-9 a.m. and lunch can be picked up noon-1 p.m.

Roadrunner Food Bank will continue its regular services at each of its distribution centers: March 18: Mesa Middle School, 7225 N. Jornada Road; March 27: Alameda Elementary School, 1325 N. Alameda Ave.; March 30: Columbia Elementary School, 1950 Sonoma Ranch Blvd.; April 1:    Lynn Middle School, 950 S. Walnut Drive.

Also, thanks to local donations, the Game 1 and Game 2 restaurants are offering $2 lunches for school-age children. The Game 1 is at 2605 S. Espina St. (524-4263) and Game 2 is at 4131 Northrise Drive (373-4263).

Other school information

Kindergarten registration, originally scheduled for Thursday, April 2, will be rescheduled. The LCPS Teacher Job Fair scheduled for April 3 has been rescheduled to 9 a.m.-4p.m. Tuesday, April 14 at the LCPS administration building, 505 S. Main St.

Additional links that families might find helpful can be found at www.lcps.net.

Temporary changes made in state early childhood policies

The state Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD) and the Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) have made a series of temporary changes to New Mexico’s early childhood policies. 

  • Expanding childcare for first responders and health providers: Call 1-833-551-0518 to connect with the state’s childcare resource and referral line or visit www.cyfd.org to download a childcare assistance application.
  • Enabling family, friends and neighbors (FFN) to deliver paid childcare services: During the emergency health declaration, the state will temporarily register FFN providers who may be eligible to receive childcare assistance funding. Call 1-833-551-0518. Temporary FFN providers will be required to complete a background check, as will all family members over the age of 18 living in their home. Temporary FFN providers will also be required to complete a three-hour online health and safety training and an online CPR training.
  • Expanding childcare access for families: Call the state childcare resource and referral line at 1-800-691-9067 or visit www.NewMexicoKids.org to find childcare. Families can also contact their CYFD eligibility specialist via phone or email to let them know they now need full-time care. All parents receiving childcare assistance will have their copays waived during the public health emergency.
  • Protecting CYFD assistance benefits for families: Families who choose to keep their children home during the emergency will not lose their CYFD benefits. If a childcare center closes and families need services, they may transfer their childcare benefits to an alternative CYFD-approved provider and the state will continue paying subsidies to both providers.
  • Ensuring children have access to meals: The state applied for and received a U.S.D.A. that will allow school and non-school sites to provide meals (breakfast and lunch) to all children under age 18 needing food. Meals are provided “to-go” and must be consumed off-site, following guidelines for social distancing. Call 1-833-551-0518 or email nutrition.program@state.nm.us.
  • Ensuring continuity of payments for providers: While the state is encouraging childcare providers to stay open during this emergency. If a center chooses to close, childcare payments will continue. As a parent or guardian, you may choose to stay home with your child. If you need childcare and yours has closed, call the resource and referral line to see what options are available.
  • Paying licensed providers a premium: If a licensed provider chooses to remain open during the public health emergency to support working parents, the state will pay a differential of $250 per child for all children enrolled in child care assistance. The state will also provide waivers to programs licensed at 3 STAR or above who want to open additional sites during this period. Centers may contact their local licensing office for assistance with obtaining a waiver.
  • Partnering with the state Public Education Department to provide childcare: Childcare providers licensed by CYFD utilizing a public-school building are encouraged to stay open. Programs that need assistance working with local school districts can call 1-833-551-0518.
  • Expediting background checks to help providers cover staffing shortages: The state Department of Public Safety is partnering with CYFD to provide expedited background checks so that childcare centers can hire new, temporary employees at childcare centers during this the emergency health declaration. New temporary staff will have to complete the online health and safety training at www.newmexicokids.org and the state will accept an online CPR certification.
  • Childcare programs can complete a webform at www.newmexicokids.org detailing the food and cleaning supplies they need to serve their children and families. Programs can also email child.care@state.nm.us to inform the ECECD about their supply needs. In addition, centers can call 1-833-551-0518 if they need professional cleaning support.

City Parks and Rec Department modifies hours

Effective Monday, March 16, the City of Las Cruces Parks and Recreation Department has

  • Suspended these programs until further notice: practice, league play and tournaments at all city facilities (athletic fields), all youth and adult programming; all fitness classes;
  • The city Juvenile Citation Program and Keep Las Cruces Beautiful Program will continue to operate business as usual.
  • City administration offices will continue to operate business as usual and staff are available to answer questions and direct patrons in the right direction.
  • Both the East Mesa Recreation Center, 5589 Porter Drive, and Frank O’Brien Papen Center, 304 Bell Ave., are closed.
  • Meerscheidt Recreation Center, 1600 E. Hadley Ave., will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, for ages 13–17, limited to 50 participants, who must have IDs for proof of age.
  • The Regional Aquatic Center, 1401 E. Hadley Ave., will operate normal business hours. It’s adults-only weight room, walking channel and lap swim are limited to 50 participants. There will be no open swim.
  • Frenger Swimming Pool, 800 Parkview Drive, will operate normal business hours. Adults only lap swimming. Limited to 50 participants.

For more information, call the Parks and Recreation Department at 575-541-2550.

State sites closed temporarily

All state museums, state historic sites, state parks and cultural institutions and state visitors centers are temporarily closed.

In government offices that provide direct service to the public, like the state Motor Vehicle Division, there will be limited staff and a possible move to an alternative or remote model of service. All other state government buildings and leased state offices are closed to the public. This directive affects only employees of state government’s executive branch and excludes those deemed essential to public health and safety and to protecting vulnerable populations. This includes state police, corrections officers, the National Guard, and public health workers, for example. It does not include the courts.

Nursing home visits limited

NMDOH has ordered nursing homes to limit visitation to people whose loved ones are receiving end-of-life care. The order also targets facilities providing assisted living, adult day care, hospice and rehabilitation for older adult patients. NMDOH is advising facilities to require those limited visitors to adhere to a number of precautionary measures, including having their temperatures taken and washing their hands.

To help families stay connected to their loved ones, the state Aging and Long-Term Services Department has nine cameras and by March 16 will have 350 tablets that families can use for electronic visits. The agency is exploring other ways to keep residents in touch with loved ones.

For more information, call the state long-term care ombudsman at 1-866-451-2901.

AARP closures

The Las Cruces AARP chapter has cancelled its monthly general meeting, driving safety classes, the free movie on April 8 and the tax aide program at the Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico office. Senior Amigos is closed until further notice.

Assistance to small businesses

The New Mexico Economic Development Department (NMEDD) has asked for assistance in identifying businesses in Doña Ana County that have been adversely affected by COVID-19 so that the U.S. Small Business Administration can provide economic injury disaster loans of up to $2 million. These loans can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills. The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses without credit available elsewhere; businesses with credit available elsewhere are not eligible. The interest rate for nonprofits is 2.75 percent. The SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years.

“There will be a separate process to apply for the funds once the SBA has granted the opportunity to New Mexico, but we need to demonstrate interest for that to happen,” said Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance (MVEDA) Vice President for Business Development Eric Montgomery.

Any interested business should completed the linked form (Economic Injury Worksheet - 051410) at www.mveda.com/docs/Economic-Injury-Worksheet-051410.pdf and email it to Daniel Schlegal, small business and entrepreneurship advisor to the governor’s office, at daniel.schlegal@state.nm.us. Phone: 505-690-8073, and copy it to Montgomery at eric@mveda.com.

 NMEDD also provides resources through a webinar held jointly with the state Department of Workforce Solutions and NMDOH. This hour-long webinar is available at:  https://youtu.be/cDT_1q7gYHA.

 NMEDD has also assembled information on available state and federal programs, available at https://gonm.biz/uploads/documents/StateFederalRes.pdf.

Internet service

Comcast Cable is offering any new Internet Essentials customer two months of complimentary internet service, effective immediately. After the second month, customers can cancel their service or remain in the program at $9.95 a month.

The Internet Essentials program is available to all qualified low-income households in Comcast's service area. In addition to the monthly service, it offers a subsidized computer for under $150 and access to digital skills training materials online, in print and in-person.

To sign up, go to www.internetessentials.com. Call 1-855-846-8376 for English and 1-855-765-6995 for Spanish.

Emergency food program

Casa de Peregrinos emergency food program remains open in the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope campus, 999 W. Amador Ave. Food assistance hours are 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact Casa de Peregrinos at 575-523-5542 and cdplascruces@gmail.com. Visit www.casadeperegrinos.org. You can also donate online to support the program.

Restaurants and stores

Some local restaurants have temporarily closed during the crisis, but many remain open, including some with limited service capacity. Some are offering takeout and delivery options. Call your favorite restaurant and/or food-delivery service for more information.

The same applies to local grocery stores and other food and supply sources – call to make sure they are open and when.

Local joint information center established

Public information officers representing several organizations within Doña Ana County has been assembled within a Joint Information Center (JIC) to address ongoing community concerns about COVID-19. Organizations represented within the JIC include: NMDOH; Doña Ana County; the cities of Las Cruces, Anthony, Sunland Park, the Town of Mesilla and the Village of Hatch; U.S. Border Patrol; White Sands Missile Range; New Mexico State University; Las Cruces, Gadsden and Hatch school districts; Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility; and MountainView Regional Medical Center and Memorial Medical Center. The group will conference on a regular basis to address the most current information and directives at the state level and to assess how they will affect Doña Ana County residents. Information as it relates to the public will be disseminated through traditional media channels. Visit www.las-cruces.org for current information on the local response to the COVID-19 crisis.