This is what it looked like when our reporter drove over to the Four Winds Travel Center after cruising around near the Target at Paseo to guesstimate current usage levels: absolute normal. He even ran into his old friend Richard in the parking lot at the store with a logo that now looks like, well, a target.
They waved at each other, did the elbow bump thing and while Richard continued loading his van with kids and groceries and dog food and cigarettes, our reporter drove on, convinced of the normative being a thing that cannot be fully disrupted in America, even given next-to-grave circumstances ...
When I returned to the office and checked my email, that appearance suddenly disappeared into the reality of the situation, which ironically now emanated from a digital source. Among the messages, I took the time to investigate several that had come from the office of Mayor Tim Keller.
The Keller administration’s messages have been measured yet hopeful, much like his tenure here in Burque. Here’s a sample example of what we’ve heard so far from the mayor’s office.
In light of the current situation, the Mayor today urged local residents to support local businesses to ease the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the local economy.
“Coronavirus is impacting our community in many ways, and the coming weeks are going to be a tough time in our economy. While we practice the necessary precautions like social distancing, it’s vital to find ways to keep supporting local businesses. We’ve created a business resource guide and are looking into ways the City can help with financial support. We also encourage Burqueños to purchase gift cards today to use later, order takeout or delivery from local restaurants, source many of your groceries from local vendors, and make plans to support local businesses when we get through this.”
Synthia Jaramillo, the director of economic development for the city, also chimed in on the cautious yet ultimately winning approach the city is taking toward the outbreak, stating, “It is important to always remember to support local businesses when we can, but especially in times like these. We know our business community is strong and resilient and the City of Albuquerque Economic Development Department and the Small Business Office is here to assist and support businesses during this time. Our goal is to keep businesses open and employees employed.”
This press release came in response to today’s state health order from New Mexico Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Kathy Kunkel. The directive, available at governor.
Tips and resources for local businesses and organizations can be found as a pdf at cabq.
Just a few days before today’s escalation of the effects of the current viral outbreak, Keller and company sent out a missive about social distancing. It came out on Sunday and made clear the mayor’s position with regard to social distancing. Please listen, Burqueños y Burqueñas, the following is coming from a veritably reasonable source.
“Social distancing is a proven booster shot to reducing the spread of the coronavirus and reducing the risks in our community, including for the local healthcare system. We had already taken steps to ensure that no City employee has to choose between staying home when they have symptoms and getting a paycheck. While we’re keeping critical services running, we need everyone in Albuquerque to do their part by maximizing social distancing in every way possible, including avoiding mass gatherings and protecting vulnerable populations.”
Earlier that day—did we mention it was Sunday?—a city spokesperson from the Department of Family and Community Services named Bobby Sisneros sent out a press release about testing our town’s homeless for the COVID-19 virus, writing that “The City of Albuquerque deputized Dr. Laura Parajon, M.D., M.P.H., the Executive Director of UNM's Office of Community Health, as the WEHC Medical Director. Dr. Parajon will coordinate with the New Mexico Department of Health to access COVID-19 tests, and is leading the team to provide screenings and care to those who are homeless.”
Keller also had input on this program and was quoted as saying, “As our community responds to the challenge of COVID-19, we are stepping up for the most vulnerable in our city. These screenings will help to prevent not only COVID-19 but the spread of any other illness for a population that has little access to the healthcare system.”
Each night, about 400 homeless Albuquerque residents make use of the Westside Emergency Housing Center. Dr. Parajon echoed Keller’s compasionate concern, saying, “We are so grateful for the opportunity to serve here alongside the City of Albuquerque," said Parajon. “People experiencing homelessness are a part of our community and we want to provide the best care possible for them. This is certainly testing every part of our health care and community care system—but it also shows the power of partnership and what we can do together.”
In the next four weeks, life is going to change drastically for most residents of Albuquerque, N.M. Understanding the importance of social distancing to blunt the effects of the outbreak is essential.
Further it’s important not to begin hoarding behavior as a response. Make sure you only buy what you can reasonably use. Otherwise, you may be furthering the fragility of our city’s most vulnerable citizens.
Finally, take it easy. Stop panicking and reflect upon our duties as citizens of this great town. Most of all, listen to and trust our local leaders when it comes to the above descriptions of the human war against COVID-19. It will get better if we all work together yet somehow separately.