BY SARA SCOTT
Los Alamos County Council Chair
In the past week two important actions have been taken by our state government to limit the spread of COVID-19. These include the Stay at Home instruction issued by Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel on March 23 and the announcement by Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart on March 27 that schools would be closed for the remainder of the year. Our state is also aggressively expanding access and throughput for testing; New Mexico is currently the fourth highest in testing per capita in the nation (New York Times, March 26, 2020). While understanding that as testing is expanded, an increase in the number of citizens infected with the virus is anticipated to grow, these efforts are critical to minimizing the spread of infection. Through these efforts, and the real commitment of Los Alamos County and our citizens to needed measures, I feel we are doing what we can to have a critical impact on the progression of the pandemic.
At the federal level, the New Mexico delegation provided leadership to help pass the corona virus stimulus package that includes measures to help mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. For example, expanding unemployment insurance, supporting small businesses, providing resources for hospitals and health care workers, protecting salaries through payments for New Mexico’s federal, national laboratory, contractor and subcontractor employees, and supporting states and local governments. The legislation also provides ~$100 million for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus,” and “for necessary expenses related to providing support and access to scientific user facilities in the Office of Science and National Nuclear Security Administration, including equipment, enabling technologies, and personnel associated with the operations of those scientific user facilities.”
For Los Alamos County, we are formulating how we’ll continue to conduct the business of Council and the County with openness and transparency in the context of measures that we, the state and the nation have taken to help keep each other safe. Our next County Council meeting is scheduled for March 31 at 6 p.m. As you might anticipate our current planning incorporates a few changes to both the agenda and physical aspects of the meeting.
Regarding the agenda, we’ll put all updates and discussion relating to COVID-19 at the beginning of the meeting and we’ll set the rest of the agenda as appropriate and to assure that needed time is allocated to this topic. The virtual meeting will be held in Council Chambers with limited staff and will utilize our proven audio-visual capabilities. Public in-person attendance will not be available; Council members and other staff will call in to the meetings. Our audio-visual capabilities allow anyone with a computer and internet access to listen to either the live meeting or a recorded version accessible on the County Website (http://losalamos.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx). The meeting will also be broadcast live on cable television on PAC-8, the local community station.
We will use email for public comment (please send to firstname.lastname@example.org and provide your name, address and relevant agenda item); as usual, opportunities for public comment will be provided at the beginning and end of the meeting and for items that will be discussed and voted on during the meeting. Emailed public comment will be read and entered into the record; if you are interested in making public comment, I encourage you to provide your email ahead of time as it will greatly facilitate the meeting efficiency.
As this situation continues to evolve, and our guidance regarding personal interactions is updated, we may need to adjust our approach. We’ll also make needed adjustments as we gain experience in this new way of doing business. My goal in providing this information now is to let the community know how we are currently planning to proceed in the context of state requirements, but most importantly, with our commitment to safety for those in our community and to preserving transparency in government.
Please continue to monitor key websites for the status of testing in our state and pandemic guidance (cdc.gov, cv.nmhealth.org), and the COVID-19 button on the front page of the County’s website (losalamosnm.us). If you feel you may have been infected with the Coronavirus, please call the Coronavirus emergency hotline at 855-600-3453 rather than going into a clinic or doctor’s office. For questions regarding County services, how to get help with critical needs, or areas where volunteers are needed, please call 505-662-8333. Yesterday I reviewed the most current list of organizations and types of help available – what an amazing set of resources are available to the community.
Let’s keep after it Los Alamos! As we do our part to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our families, friends and community, we continue to demonstrate how strong we can be together. We are a caring community and it shows.