Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the state will be investigating claims that Lovelace Women’s Hospital in Albuquerque practiced racial profiling against Native mothers to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Earlier this month New Mexico In Depth and ProPublica published a report claiming that Lovelace doctors were separating Native mothers from their babies in an attempt to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. According to the allegations, the hospital conducted special COVID-19 screenings for patients who appeared to be Native, whether or not they had symptoms of the virus or lived in a hotspot. Staff were allegedly instructed to compare the patients’ ZIP codes against a list of reservation ZIP codes. If the patient’s ZIP code matched, they were reportedly designated as a “person under investigation” and were separated from their babies at the time of birth. Some mothers were allegedly kept from their infants for up to three days while doctors waited on test results for the virus.
Lovelace told the Albuquerque Journal that the hospital’s screening practices had been “misconstrued and inaccurately reported.” Earlier this month Gov. Lujan Grisham said the state is investigating the allegations and will “unequivocally hold this hospital accountable.”
Tribal Casinos Reopen
Against the wishes of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a number of New Mexico tribal casinos have reopened.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Isleta Casino & Resort in Albuquerque, Ohkay Hotel Casino in Ohkay Owingeh and Taos Mountain Casino in Taos all have reopened to the public. The casinos said that they are taking precautions against the spread of COVID-19; some are requiring patrons to wear face coverings or have their temperature taken, while others have installed plexiglass dividers between slot machines.
But the governor has explicitly asked them not to reopen. “All casinos are strongly, unequivocally encouraged to remain closed at this time—just like other entertainment facilities—due to the risk of COVID-19 spread,” said the governor’s spokeswoman, Nora Meyers Sackett.
Tribal casinos belong to sovereign nations and do not answer to the governor’s office. Nontribal casinos remain closed for the time being.
Senate Approves Budget Cuts
The New Mexico Senate approved the revised state budget on Saturday before adjourning. Lawmakers were forced to make a number of cuts to the budget because of COVID-19 and related drops in oil revenue.
According to KRQE positive trends in the gas and oil market led legislators to pass an especially large $7.5 billion budget earlier this year. But the pandemic has had devastating effects on the oil and gas industry as consumers have been ordered to stay at home and demand for fossil fuels has dropped.
The drastic upheaval of the industry led lawmakers to meet for a special session and discuss cuts to state projects. According to NM Political Report, the revised budget reduces spending by more than $600 million, bringing the budget to $7 billion. It includes about $787 million from the federal government.