Council Chair Sara Scott: Info On COVID, Voting, Halloween, CARES Act Funds And Vaccine Preparations

BY SARA SCOTT
Los Alamos County Council Chair

I hope this note finds you and your families well. In this note I’ll provide some information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, voting, Halloween, and the status of the local CARES Act funds distribution. In addition, I’ll note the preparations underway to ready the County for the availability of a vaccine.

In the face of the pandemic, we have continued to come together and show how much we care for each other, our businesses, and doing what we can to make it possible for our kids to get back to school, as appropriate. But the most recent news in New Mexico and the nation isn’t good; the state is not meeting its gating criteria regarding the number of cases, rate of spread, and test positivity. These trends subsequently put pressure on other criteria including contact tracing and isolation and healthcare system capacities. As a result, the forthcoming Oct 16 public health order changes include a 10 PM closing time for establishments that serve alcohol and a return to prohibition of gatherings of more than 5 individuals.

Let’s keep vigilant and continue to limit the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our community – staying home and restricting gatherings and travel, as well as always wearing our masks and keeping our distance when we must be out. These are the tools we have and our commitment and hard work in using them is, and will continue to pay off. Please recall that anyone who wants a COVID-19 test can get one at the Los Alamos Public Health Office (call 662-4038 for an appointment). If you need support, the County help line (662-8333) is one option for helping you find needed resources.

Regarding voting, I’d like to give a big “hats off” to the County staff and poll workers – they are seeing a record-breaking turnout at this point and have worked hard to make voting safe in the context of the pandemic. The community is really appreciating and utilizing the new drive through ballot drop off option, which is available during voting hours. (Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM until Oct 16. Monday – Saturday, 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM Oct 17 through Oct 31. 7AM-7PM on Election Day, Nov 3.) As a result of staff from the Clerk’s office working together with staff from across many County offices, the first time ever implementation of a drive through option went off without a hitch. For more information, including a map, please see losalamosnm.us/clerk. In addition to being convenient and safe, the drive through is helping reduce lines for ballot drop off inside the community building. In person voting is also going well and the Clerk’s office will be sharing numbers of voters (both in person and ballot drop offs) in graphical format at the end of each week via their social media platforms.

For Halloween, check-out fun COVID-safe versions of some of our favorite local Halloweekend traditions including the Scarecrow Contest on Central (https://www.losalamosmainstreet.com); information and ideas regarding safe and family-friendly activities is also available at togethernm.org. As a reminder, the state’s emergency health order and requirements – including wearing a face mask at all times in public and the restriction on gatherings – are applicable. Trick-or-treating, parties, indoor haunted houses and other gatherings are considered high-risk activities to avoid. Decorating, family pumpkin carving, and virtual costume contests are examples of COVID-safe Halloween activities. 

As a result of the County staff and community partners’ proactive and effective efforts, the Los Alamos proposal for federal CARES Act funds being disbursed to counties and municipalities around New Mexico by the state, resulted in $656,250 in COVID-19 Emergency Grants to Local Governments and $1,065,000 Small Business Grants in Partnership with Local Governments for a total of more than $1.7M in funding to help address local needs. With a goal of getting funds out as quickly as possible, while meeting all state and federal requirements, the applications for CARES ACT grants closed Sep 25 at 5:00 PM. The review of applications is close to completion and staff is following up with applicants regarding any additional needed information. The goal is to start making awards the week of Oct 19. Applicants will receive notification regarding the status of their grant application by email.

In preparation for future vaccine distribution the County Emergency Manager has developed a draft Point of Distribution Plan; this will be briefed to Council when approved by the New Mexico Department of Health. It is anticipated that vaccines will be distributed through the Department of Health. In addition, the County Emergency Manager anticipates additional resources will be needed for these efforts and the volunteer registry at New Mexico Medical Reserve Core Serves will be utilized to identify those who are willing to help (https://volunteer.nmmrcserves.org). If you are in the medical field and interested in supporting vaccination efforts, or any other medical event, please register at this site.

As many of you are aware, Los Alamos was recently ranked as the healthiest community according to the annual U.S. News Healthiest Communities rankings report. Our healthy environment and the interest in getting out certainly contribute to this ranking. But as important is the generosity, patience, and kindness we show each other – every day and through the challenges we’ve faced together. Let’s keep after it.