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Virtual vigil commemorates death anniversary of Victoria Martens
Source:  KOB.com - New Mexico News
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:12

A virtual vigil was held to commemorate the anniversary of Victoria Marten’s death Sunday. Martens, who was only 10 years old when she died, was brutally murdered four years ago on her birthday.

Trump announces plasma treatment authorized for COVID-19
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:10

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced emergency authorization to treat COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma — a move he called “a breakthrough,� one of his top health officials called “promising� and other health experts said needs more study before it’s celebrated.

The announcement Sunday came after White House officials complained there were politically motivated delays by the Food and Drug Administration in approving a vaccine and therapeutics for the disease that has upended Trump’s reelection chances.

On the eve of the Republican National Convention, Trump put himself at the center of the FDA’s announcement of the authorization at a news conference Sunday evening. The authorization makes it easier for some patients to obtain the treatment but is not the same as full FDA approval.

The blood plasma, taken from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus and rich in antibodies, may provide benefits to those battling the disease. But the evidence so far has not been conclusive about whether it works, when to administer it and what dose is needed.

In a letter describing the emergency authorization, the chief scientist for the FDA, Denise Hinton, said: “COVID-19 convalescent plasma should not be considered a new standard of care for the treatment of patients with COVID-19. Additional data will be forthcoming from other analyses and ongoing, well-controlled clinical trials in the coming months.�

But Trump had made clear to aides that he was eager to showcase good news in the battle against the virus, and the timing allowed him to head into his convention with momentum. He and aides billed it as a “major� development and used the White House briefing room to make the announcement.

Trump also displayed some rare discipline in the evening news conference, sticking to his talking points, deferring to the head of the FDA, Stephen Hahn, and only taking three questions from reporters.

The White House had grown agitated with the pace of the plasma approval. The accusations of an FDA slowdown, which were presented without evidence, were just the latest assault from Trump’s team on what he refers to as the “deep state� bureaucracy. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows did not deal in specifics, but said that “we’ve looked at a number of people that are not being as diligent as they should be in terms of getting to the bottom of it.�

“This president is about cutting red tape,� Meadows said in an interview Sunday on “This Week� on ABC. “He had to make sure that they felt the heat. If they don’t see the light, they need to feel the heat because the American people are suffering.�

During Sunday’s 18-minute press conference, Trump said he thought there had been a “logjam� at the FDA over granting the emergency authorization. He alleged there are people at the FDA “that can see things being held up … and that’s for political reasons.�

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein said the statement, and Hahn’s silence while Trump said it, “was disgraceful.�

“The FDA commissioner basically allowed the president to mischaracterize the decision and attack the integrity of FDA employees. I was horrified,� said Sharfstein, a vice dean at John Hopkins University’s school of public health who was a top FDA official during the Obama administration.

“This is a promising therapy that has not been fully established,� he said

The push on Sunday came a day after Trump tweeted sharp criticism on the process to treat the virus, which has killed more than 175,000 Americans and imperiled his reelection chances. The White House has sunk vast resources into an expedited process to develop a vaccine, and Trump aides have been banking on it being an “October surprise� that could help the president make up ground in the polls.

“The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics,� Trump tweeted. “Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives!�

Earlier this month, Mayo Clinic researchers reported a strong hint that blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors helps other infected patients recover. But it wasn’t considered proof.

More than 70,000 patients in the U.S. have been given convalescent plasma, a century-old approach to fend off flu and measles before vaccines. It’s a go-to tactic when new diseases come along, and history suggests it works against some, but not all, infections.

The Mayo Clinic reported preliminary data from 35,000 coronavirus patients treated with plasma, and said there were fewer deaths among people given plasma within three days of diagnosis, and also among those given plasma containing the highest levels of virus-fighting antibodies.

But it wasn’t a formal study. The patients were treated in different ways in hospitals around the country as part of an FDA program designed to speed access to the experimental therapy. That “expanded access� program tracks what happens to the recipients, but it cannot prove the plasma — and not other care they received — was the real reason for improvement.

Administration officials, in a call with reporters Sunday, discussed a benefit for patients who were within three days of admission to a hospital and were not on a respirator, and were given ‘high-titer’ convalescent plasma containing higher concentrations of antibodies. They were then compared to similar patients who were given lower-titer plasma. The findings suggest deaths were 35% lower in the high-titer group.

There’s been little data on how effective it is or whether it must be administered fairly early in an illness to make a significant difference, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University.

Aiming to ward off a possible a run on convalescent plasma after the announcement, government officials have been working to obtain plasma and to team with corporate partners and nonprofit organizations to generate interest among previously infected patients to donate.

Hahn, who called the development “promising,� said Trump did not speak to him about the timing of the announcement. He said “this has been in the works for several weeks.�

But some health experts were skeptical. Benjamin Corb, of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, called it “conspicuous timing.�

“President Trump is once again putting his political goals ahead of the health and well-being of the American public,� Corb said.

Rigorous studies are under way around the country, comparing similar patients randomly assigned to get plasma or a dummy infusion in addition to regular care. But those studies have been difficult to finish as the virus waxes and wanes in different cities. Also, some patients have requested plasma rather than agreeing to a study that might give them a placebo instead.

Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb dismissed the suggestion of a slowdown.

“I firmly reject the idea they would slow-walk anything or accelerate anything based on any political consideration or any consideration other than what is best for the public health and a real sense of mission to patients,� Gottlieb told CBS’s “Face the Nation.�

Trump, in news conferences, “has made all kinds of therapeutic suggestions� that have not proven to be supported by science — and are even dangerous, Schaffner said. That includes statements about the possible value of treating COVID-19 patients with ultraviolet light and disinfectant. Trump reportedly also recently became enthusiastic about oleandrin, a plant extract derived from a toxic shrub that scientists immediately warned against.

But the president is perhaps best known for his early and ardent embrace of the malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.

Earlier this month, Hahn emphasized that routine evaluation procedures will remain in place to evaluate COVID vaccine candidates.

“I think this administration has put more pressure on the Food and Drug Administration than I can remember� ever happening in the past, Schaffner said.

“Everybody is just a little bit nervous,� he said.

___

Stobbe reported from New York.

___

Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Stobbe at http://twitter.com/@mikestobbe


New Mexico native wins mentorship award
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:08

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Marie Mora says it’s important to her to mentor students of color, and her calling to help underrepresented students get their Ph.D.s has garnered her some national recognition.

Mora is one of 12 recipients of the 2020 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. The award recognizes “those who have made significant contributions to mentoring and thereby support the future productivity of the U.S. science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce,� according to the award’s website.

She is one of two people with New Mexico ties to win the award this year. University of New Mexico professor Angela Wandinger-Ness is the other.

Mora, an Albuquerque native, is now provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and an economics professor. She said she has taken it upon herself to mentor Ph.D. students who are women or minorities because a lot of times an African American or Hispanic student might be the only one in their program.

“I am in a position where I can make a difference, and that’s part of what has motivated me,� Mora said in a recent phone interview.

She it’s important to increase diversity in STEM fields.

“Diversity leads to policy,� Mora said. “We’re getting an incomplete perspective or view, and it affects minority communities.�

After graduating from Manzano High School, Mora got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of New Mexico in five years. She then received a Ph.D. in economics at Texas A&M University and started her first faculty job at New Mexico State University.

Mora’s father, Gerald Mora, said his daughter has always encouraged her students to “stick with it,� and he believes that’s why she got this award.

“We both encouraged her, but she’s always been a go-getter,� he told the Journal. “As a couple of old people, we really appreciate this. We are so proud of her.�

Mora said the 12 recipients were honored in a virtual ceremony earlier this month.

“It’s certainly a huge honor,� she said.


Webinar gives advice on how to avoid eviction
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:08

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Rent and mortgage payments are still due, even with a record number of New Mexicans out of work, and as many as 110,000 New Mexico renters could be at risk of eviction.

With that in mind, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions hosted an online webinar last week aimed at helping renters understand their rights.

Lt. Gov. Howie Morales, Mesilla Valley Community of Hope Executive Director Nicole Martinez and University of New Mexico School of Law professor Serge Martinez each spoke and answered questions from the online audience.

“What we do see across the country is that we’re in a crisis,� Morales said.

Bill McCamley

During the webinar, state Workforce Solutions Secretary Bill McCamley cited data from The Aspen Institute, an international think tank based in Washington, D.C., to show the scope of the problem. The data showed that, without a cushioning supplemental unemployment benefit that ended in July, 110,941 renters in New Mexico may be at risk of eviction before the year ends.

The now-lapsed benefit was part of a federal program that provided a $600 weekly supplement to state unemployment benefits.

McCamley also referred to a survey of unemployed New Mexicans commissioned by the department showing that 88% of respondents were concerned about meeting rent or mortgage requirements.

“As soon as you know you’re going to miss a (rent) check, the time to start having a conversation about rental assistance … is right away,� McCamley said.

Although the New Mexico Supreme Court issued a pair of temporary rulings in March prohibiting renters from being evicted if they can’t pay, Serge Martinez said renters aren’t automatically out of the woods. He said the order applies only to renters being evicted for not paying rent who can show the courts that they are unable to pay.

While additional federal assistance may be on its way, many New Mexicans may need to have tough conversations with their landlords in the meantime.

Serge Martinez encouraged renters facing eviction to talk to their landlords about their situation, and to consider proposing a payment plan if they don’t feel they can meet the terms of the lease.

“As soon as there’s a situation where it’s clear that you’ll have trouble, the first thing you do … is just be open and transparent,� he said.

He said landlords may issue a notice to tenants who haven’t paid, informing them they have three days to pay rent before an eviction process begins in earnest. If tenants can pay within that period, he said, landlords must legally accept that payment.

Serge Martinez emphasized that the only legal way for tenants to be evicted is by a court order, and he encouraged tenants to attend the hearings to defend their rights.

“Don’t just ignore it and hope it will go away,� he said. “It will not.�

Meanwhile, Nicole Martinez highlighted regional, state and federal programs aimed at providing housing assistance. Long-running federal programs such as Community Development Block Grants and the Emergency Food and Shelter Program help address housing assistance in communities.

State funding through services such as the Rental Assistance Program is awarded to local organizations across New Mexico, which help with housing in their communities. The Governor’s Office said Thursday that it is dedicating $13.3 million in federal grant funding to emergency housing assistance for low- and moderate-income families. And the Albuquerque City Council set aside $300,000 of the city’s federal relief money for eviction prevention assistance last week.

Nicole Martinez said different programs and agencies will have different eligibility requirements but encouraged tenants to have documents like their lease agreement, eviction notice and proof of income handy.

The full hourlong webinar is available online on NMDWS’ YouTube channel, at www.youtube.com/user/NMDWS/videos.


AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s baseless claim of ‘deep state’ at FDA
Source:  Artesia News
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:08

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is leveling unfounded attacks on his Food and Drug Administration and distorting the science on effective treatments for COVID-19.

From MVD senior hours to I-25 pipeline mystery
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:08

MVD SENIOR HOURS ARE TUES-WED: Last week, an intrepid Motor Vehicle Division employee called to say some seniors were showing up on Thursday, thinking they could take advantage of the senior hours set up for those drivers during the pandemic.

As last week’s column said, if you are 79 or older, you can show up unannounced for “senior hours.� The MVD’s website says “any customers age 79 and over can utilize senior-only hours from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

And to be clear, those senior hours are only at a few state-run offices. Those are the MVDs in Clovis, Farmington, Roswell, Santa Fe on Camino Entrada, and in Albuquerque at the Eagle Vista, Montgomery, Rio Bravo and Sandia Vista offices.

AND YOU GOTTA BE 79:

Gene Lisotto shares via email that “after your article in the paper the other day about people over 79 getting their driver’s licenses, my wife went to the Montgomery MVD to try it out (Aug. 11) at 8:30 a.m. Everything went well; however, when she went to pay, they told her that she owed $10.50 since her birthday isn’t until Aug. 25 and she’s not officially 79 yet. (Renewals are annual at age 79 but at no charge at state-run offices.)

“I’m surprised that they even let her in,� Gene says. “You may want to clarify next time that you can’t do this process until after your birthday.�

PASEO ON-RAMP NEEDS TLC: Marjorie Kirkel emails that “four times in the last two weeks I have used the off- and on-ramps from/to Paseo del Norte while driving to a place of business. I noticed how chopped up and in bad shape particularly the on-ramp to Paseo del Norte from Second Street is. Can someone check it out and get it on a schedule for resurfacing?�

Kimberly Gallegos, who handles information for the District 3 office of the New Mexico Department of Transportation, says “the concrete portion of this ramp will be redone. It is in the preliminary stages and not currently funded. For now our maintenance crews are keeping up with necessary patching.�

NEED A ONE-WAY WARNING ON COAL: Linda Lopez McAlister writes that “Coal SW is a two-way street until it reaches 14th Street. At that point there (was) a sign saying (westbound) drivers must turn either left or right. Beyond 14th it becomes Alcalde Place SW, which is just one block long and is one-way heading east.

“Recently, water department workers were working on a water main at that intersection,� her email continues. “They knocked down the sign that says you have to go either left or right when you get to 14th. It needs to be put back up. I’ve seen several people going straight ahead instead of turning, thus going the wrong way on a one-way street.�

David Morris, who handles information for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, says “we’ve confirmed that the sign was knocked over, although it looks like a motorist may have hit it. In any case, we’ve contacted the city and they tell us they will get it replaced.�

PIPELINE MYSTERY SOLVED: Several drivers have asked what that large pipe going in next to Interstate 25 is. The latest is Edie Cherry, who emails seeking “any information on the extensive pipeline project to the east of I-25 south of Santa Fe, including La Bajada. If it is a water line, where is it getting and delivering water? If not water, what will it deliver and to whom?�

Gallegos says “the pipeline is N.M. Gas headed to Santa Fe and should tie in to N.M. 599.�

KUDOS TO TRAMWAY CREW: Karen Way emails, “I don’t know who the contractor was on the recent Tramway repaving project, but someone needs to give them a medal! From the beginning to the end, the crews were professional, patient, accurate – a definite asset to their company.

“We never knew what company they worked for because there was never a sign on any of the equipment. I hope they get to read this!�

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858; dwestphal@abqjournal.com; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, N.M., 87109.

 


Advocates seeking higher response rate as deadline for census approaches
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:07

A census taker shows a resident a badge. Albuquerque officials estimate that over a 10-year period, $30,000 is lost in federal money for every person not counted in the census. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The deadline to take part in the 2020 census is less than 40 days away, and New Mexico’s self-response rate is about 54% – 10% lower than the national average, according to data from the Census Bureau.

Bernalillo County’s response rate is 67%, and Albuquerque’s is 68%, but Albuquerque officials said Thursday that they will be striving for a complete count in the county and throughout the state.

“We’ve got 40 days left, and we’re here today to ask each of you to take action,� Cathryn McGill, chairwoman of the city of Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Complete Count Committee, said on Thursday. “We’ve been working hard to persuade you that you matter, that each and every one of you matter.�

However, roughly half of all counties across the Land of Enchantment are finding a response rate less than 41%, according to data from the Census Bureau.

In February, 15 nonprofits in New Mexico were awarded a total of $100,000 to facilitate counting historically undercounted populations. Some of that grant money has gone to church groups in rural parts of the state to encourage census response within their communities.

“That’s because of Bernalillo County’s efforts in supporting those grants. They’ve extended the grants to work all over the state,� said Mercy Alarid, adjunct professor with Central New Mexico Community College’s Early Childhood Multicultural Education Program.

City officials estimate that over a 10-year period, $30,000 is lost in federal money for every person not counted.

“This is about key programs that we desperately need like kids having access to childhood programs, grandparents having access to meals and housing,� Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said.

Originally, the nationwide deadline for census data collection was Oct. 31, but the Trump administration announced a new deadline of Sept. 30.

Despite the counting period being cut short, McGill said she is confident the state will achieve a full count.

“The census is important. We have 40 days left, and there is enough time,� McGill said. “We ask that you take 10 minutes to respond to the 2020 census. There’s something in it for you and it’s about you.�


Northern California firefighters dig in ahead of high winds
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:07

SCOTTS VALLEY, Calif. — Three massive wildfires chewed through parched Northern California landscape Sunday as firefighters raced to dig breaks and make other preparations ahead of a frightening weather system. That system was packing high winds and more of the lightning that sparked the huge blazes and scores of other fires around the state, putting nearly a quarter-million people under evacuation orders and warnings.

At the CZU Lightning Complex fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains, south of San Francisco, authorities said their effort was hindered by people who refused to heed evacuation orders and those who were using the chaos to steal. Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said 100 officers were patrolling and anyone not authorized to be in an evacuation zone would be arrested.

“What we’re hearing from the community is that there’s a lot of looting going on,� Hart said. He said eight people have been arrested or cited and “there’s going to be more.�

He and county District Attorney Jeff Rosell expressed anger at what Rosell called the “absolutely soulless� people who seek to victimize those already victimized by the fire. Among the victims was a fire commander who was robbed while helping coordinate efforts on Saturday.

Someone entered the commander’s fire vehicle and stole personal items, including a wallet and “drained his bank account,� said Chief Mark Brunton, a battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

“I can’t imagine a bigger low-life,� Hart said, promising to catch him and vowing “the DA is going to hammer him.�

The Santa Cruz fire is one of the “complexes,� or groups of fires, burning on all sides of the San Francisco Bay Area. They were started by lightning strikes that were among 12,000 registered in the state in the past week.

The National Weather Service issued a “red flag� warning through Monday afternoon for the drought-stricken area, meaning extreme fire conditions including high temperatures, low humidity and wind gusts up to 65 mph (105 kph) that “may result in dangerous and unpredictable fire behavior.�

In nearly a week, firefighters have gotten no more than the 17% containment for the LNU Lightning Complex fire in wine country north of San Francisco. It’s been the most destructive blaze, accounting for five deaths and 845 destroyed homes and other buildings. It and a fire burning southeast of the Bay Area are among the five largest fires in state history, with both burning more than 500 square miles (1,295 square kilometers).

In Southern California, an 11-day-old blaze held steady at just under 50 square miles (106 square kilometers) near Lake Hughes in northern Los Angeles County mountains. Rough terrain, hot weather and the potential for thunderstorms with lightning strikes challenged firefighters.

Holly Hansen, an evacuee from the LNU fire, was among evacuees from the community of Angwin being allowed to back their homes for one hour to retrieve belongings. She and her three dogs waited five hours in her SUV for their turn.

“It’s horrible, I lived in Sonoma during the (2017) Tubbs Fire, so this is time No. 2 for me. It’s horrible when you have to think about what to take,� she said. “I think it’s a very raw human base emotion to have fear of fire and losing everything. It’s frightening.�

Meantime, firefighters were frantically preparing for thunderstorms that will bring high winds and “dry� lightning, a term used when such storms have little or no rain. Brunton said while he’s confident firefighters did the most with the time they had to prepare, he’s not sure what to expect.

“There’s a lot of potential for things to really go crazy out there,� he said.

Since Aug. 15, more than 500 fires of varying sizes have burned throughout California, scorching 1.2 million acres, or 1,875 square miles (4,856 square kilometers). Of those, about two dozen major fires were attracting much of the state’s resources.

Most of the damage was caused by the three complex fires. They have burned 1,175 square miles (3.043 square kilometers), destroyed almost 1,000 homes and other structures and killed five people, three of whom who were found in a home in an area under an evacuation order.

Other casualties included ancient redwood trees at California’s oldest state park, Big Basin Redwoods, plus the park’s headquarters and campgrounds. Smoke from the fires made the region’s air quality dangerous, forcing millions to stay inside.

Officials surveying maps at command centers are astonished by the sheer size of the fires, Cal Fire spokesman Brice Bennett said.

“You could overlay half of one of these fires and it covers the entire city of San Francisco,� Bennett said Sunday.

Responding to the emergency, President Donald Trump on Saturday issued a major disaster declaration to provide federal assistance. Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement that the declaration will also help people in counties affected by the fires with crisis counseling, housing and other social services.

Fire officials, meanwhile, have struggled to get enough resources to fight the biggest fires because so many blazes are burning around the state.

The wine country fire has only 1,700 firefighters on scene. By comparison, the state had 5,000 firefighters assigned to the Mendocino Complex Fire in 2018, the largest fire in state history.

“All of our resources remain stretched to capacity that we have not seen in recent history,� said Shana Jones, the chief for Cal Fire’s Sonoma-Lake-Napa unit.

___

Baker reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press journalists Christopher Weber and Aron Ranen contributed, respectively, from Los Angeles and Angwin, California.


AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT
Source:  Artesia News
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:04

Trump announces plasma treatment authorized for COVID-19

Pandemic slashes child care enrollment
Source:  Albuquerque Journal
Sunday, 23 August 2020 21:03

About 50% of all stat- licensed child care programs in New Mexico have closed, some of them permanently, due to plummeting enrollment during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to officials with the New Mexico Child Care and Education Association.

Angela Garcia

“Despite the key role child care providers are playing in support of other essential industries during the COVID 19 crisis, the child care system as a whole is at risk of collapse due to the economic impact,� said Angela Garcia, president of the NMCCEA. The association is the lobbying, training and advocacy organization representing the state’s child care providers. “Child care is based on tuition, so when enrollment is down, the revenue is down.�

And with half as many child care spaces available, when businesses do eventually reopen, parents will have fewer programs available for their children, and that will likely affect the economic recovery, she said.

About 13,900 people work in the child care industry in New Mexico.

Crystal Tapia

Child care programs that remain open during the pandemic face additional expenses, such as the cost of labor and products for regular disinfecting and sanitizing, the cost of personal protective equipment, and the cost of adhering to safety regulations that limit class size, and the expense of keeping children assigned to the same teachers and not allowing smaller classes to be combined, Garcia said.

Factors contributing to shrinking enrollments include parents sheltering their children at home out of fear they may be exposed to the coronavirus in a child care setting, parents working out of their homes and having no need for child care and parents who have lost jobs and can no longer afford child care.

Before the pandemic, there were 740 child care centers, 232 child care homes and 106 school-age programs licensed in the state. They collectively provided 65,692 child care spaces, said NMCCEA Treasurer Crystal Tapia.

“At least half of those spaces are in the Albuquerque area, where the majority of providers are located,� she said.

The pandemic has reduced the number of spaces to fewer than 32,850 statewide.

Among those enrolled in child care programs prior to the pandemic, 21,000 received child care assistance monthly through the state.

The count of closures and available spaces was based on a survey conducted by the state Early Childhood and Education Department of licensed child care providers, Garcia said.

Members of the NMCCEA also point to Albuquerque’s free full-day youth programs as a contributor to providers’ troubles.

The city is offering the programming to kids in kindergarten through eighth grade at a host of community centers.

With the Albuquerque Public Schools announcement that it will continue remote learning through December, Albuquerque’s programs will include those that support APS distance learning. The Parks and Recreation Department and the Cultural Services Department will also provide a variety of before, during, and after school programming. The programs will be held Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., at 21 community centers and two multigenerational centers. In collaboration with APS, breakfast and lunch will be provided for the participants.

The programs will serve about 1,800 children. Registration is currently open at yc.cabq.gov.

Folks who operate child care programs don’t see the free programs as good news, noting that they could accommodate many of these school-age kids.

Gabrielle Wheeler

“We’re in jeopardy right now, and the city is opening up programs and is undercutting us in a sense. I can’t compete with free,� said Gabrielle Wheeler, an NMCCEA board member and director of the East Gate Kids Learning Center.

She suggests the city redirect some of its funding to existing child care businesses.

“They’re offering a short-term fix that will have long-term consequences with the closure of child care programs and the loss of jobs, and the loss of infant, toddler and after-school spaces,� Wheeler said.

Carol Pierce

City officials defended the free programs, saying they simply expand what the city already offers. The city has provided regular youth programming at community centers for more than 30 years, “so we already had the infrastructure and the expertise to expand the hours with our staff,� said Carol Pierce, director of the Albuquerque Family and Community Services Department.

The money to provide the programs in the community centers is coming from the city’s general fund, she said. Many of the people who will staff the programs are already on the city’s payroll to run playground recreation programs in APS schools. Others are current staff in the community centers. Pierce put staffing costs at about $2.6 million and said she did not anticipate the need to hire additional personnel.

“Each child care facility, private or not, is capped by the State Health Order for occupancy and student ratios, so space is limited all across our city. … We have encouraged parents to visit newmexicokids.org to find resources that work best for their families,� Pierce said.


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