In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city of Española will continue to provide public services but has limited public meetings, closed city hall and other city facilities.
The city hall lobby is closed until further notice, and along with all other recreational facilities in the state the Española Public Library, the Lucero Center and the Española Senior Center will closed on Friday.
"Lucero Center employees will be temporarily relocated to various departments within the City, until further notice," the release states. "The City of Española is working to ensure the safety and well-being of our community and staff."
All non-essential public meetings held by the city of Española have been canceled, according to a March 12 press release. That included the Planning Commission meeting scheduled for that evening and the Finance Committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
But the city government’s press release states the City Council meeting scheduled for March 24 was “still pending.”
The city’s water utility will not be disconnecting any water service until at least April 20, according to a Wednesday (3/18) press release. The release states that city officials will work with customers to reach written agreements for payment plans.
Meals made by senior center cooks will be available as carry-out only. Meal orders can be placed by calling 747-6028 or 747-6027.
“For employees who show concerning symptoms will be asked to stay home, supervisors will address staff regarding time and leave (sic),” the press release states. “The City will notify the public if absence of staff may affect services. Currently, we are focusing efforts on the Senior Center and public facilities by increasing sanitation requirements.”
Interim city manager Xavier Martinez wrote in a March 13 email that no city government employees are currently in self-isolation or self-quarantine.
The city government is not changing its procedures around paid sick leave as a result of the pandemic.
In response to emailed questions, Martinez wrote that city officials will follow existing policy, which allows workers to take sick leave to avoid jeopardizing the health of others. According to the policy, when city workers run out of sick leave, they may use annual leave, accumulated comp time, or take leave without pay pending approval from their supervisor.
Asked what would happen if a city worker exhausts all of the above kinds of leave, Martinez pointed to the city policy which allows city employees to donate their own leave to others.
City officials plan to place hand sanitizer in all city buildings and post flyers on all buildings with information about the pandemic.
“Consistent and increased Sanitation measures (are being) taken within high-traffic areas,” the release states.
Mayor Javier Sanchez said he was on a conference call with the New Mexico Municipal League about the pandemic on March 10.
“We probably need to focus on things we can change, which is helping to protect our elderly population, as well as social dynamics that will have to change,” he said in a March 13 phone interview. “Some of those things would be social distancing, and making sure that we continue to wash our hands thoroughly. If that means we don’t shake hands as often or give hugs, I think that would help to prevent the continued spread.”
Many of the programs at the Española Public Library are suspended “until the health threats diminish and orders/recommendations are reversed,” according to a March 13 press released put out by the city library and the New Mexico State Library.
Library employees ask any visitors to either clean or sanitize their hands before browsing books and other library materials.
At least once a day, librarians will be wiping down door handles, keyboards and mice. They will also be using gloves and disinfectant to wipe down returns.
A city press release states people should not go to the library if they have recently had signs of a respiratory infection, have recently been exposed to someone with COVID-19, have traveled to a high-risk country or have recently traveled to another state experiencing widespread community transmission.
“Community transmission” refers to when a virus spreads among a local community and cannot be traced to an original source like a person who traveled outside the state or the country.
Public transport based out of Española through the North Central Regional Transit District will continue.
The District has expanded its cleaning procedures, according to a March 13 press release. They will be more often using their disinfecting fogger on vehicles located in Española and Taos.
“Vehicles in outlying areas are undergoing aggressive disinfectant cleaning on a daily basis,” the release states. “All operators are utilizing disinfectant wipes to nightly disinfect all high-touch areas in all buses to ensure clean surfaces each morning and assist our riders in having a safe journey to their destination.”
SUN Staff Writer Jennifer Carr contributed reporting to this story.