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Socorro & T or C 11/19 Echo

Today we heard from the Director of the Department of Transportation in Socorro. The Department of Transportation offers low-cost transportation within the city limits on appointment - if you need a ride within the city limits, you can schedule a pickup by calling (575) 835-1501. Rides cost $0.25 for seniors and students, and $0.50 for the general public.

    Those in the department of transportation have reported a dramatic decrease in ridership since COVID. Many of the passengers use DOT services to connect to the shuttle that goes between Belen and Socorro, but since the pandemic hit, the Railrunner shuttle has been cancelled. While most people who take the shuttle between Belen and Socorro do so for classes which have since been moved online, there is still a worry that there are some who need the shuttle for other purposes who may now have to find alternative transportation.

Despite these challenges, we’ve received assurances that the DOT is in talks with the mayor to receive approval to get more drivers during peak hours, expand hours of operation to begin at 7 am so that essential workers can get rides to work, and to extend transportation services between Socorro and Albuquerque.

    Another bright spot is the resiliency that we’ve seen from this community. Hearing about programs to distribute food boxes to those in need, and including socially distant holiday activities is a great way to check in on neighbors and make sure that we’re all working together to get through this pandemic!

    We also had a discussion about how to meet the healthcare needs of those in the city; while the Lord Baltimore Hotel has been established as a Triage, Respite, and Isolation (TRI) Center for COVID patients, there is still a worry that a spike in cases could overwhelm healthcare capacity. For future meetings, we’re interested in thinking about solutions to make sure that rural communities like Socorro are not left behind for the new COVID vaccines, or for mental, behavioral, oral, and holistic health services. 

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

Las Cruces 11/18 Echo

At today’s meeting, we heard from Melissa Ontiveros about the issues facing Las Cruces. Ontiveros wears many hats in Las Cruces and around the state, but you may know her best as the co-president of the New Mexico Public Health Association. Many of the issues in this community aren’t as closely related to the virus, but rather the economic impacts that it has caused. Internet, Insurance, and heating/cooling have all become challenges with the loss of jobs brought on by COVID.

    The Community Action Agency has been helping out families with children by providing $750/month to help with general household expenses, and referring community members to other agencies that provide food support. The Department of Workforce Solutions could be another option in providing relief to families that have lost their jobs, but we’ve seen such a big backlog on unemployment that the system has been tough to use; some people have been waiting so long that the extra $600/week assistance at the beginning of the pandemic had expired by the time that they were formally unemployed.

    We’re also concerned about the lack of social support during the pandemic. Right now, we’re facing a crisis brought on by the virus, but the next crisis will be related to mental health. The biggest concern is with youth and young adults - what are we doing to provide services to them? We need to make sure that we’re providing them the attention and resources they need to succeed in school and social lives.

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

Las Colonias 11/17 Echo

At today’s meeting we learned about COVID testing. Right now, community members are being directed to get tested through Quest Labs; results from Quest labs are coming back in 2-3 days, instead of 14 days for the New Mexico Department of Health. The only limitation to Quest Labs is that they require people to be registered as a patient. Some people aren’t registered and are being turned away, but they’re working on removing the registration requirement.

    Another option for COVID testing is a rapid antibody test - those cost around $80, but they return results in around 15 minutes. A Doctor’s order could get the test covered under insurance, but it should be noted that antibody tests are less accurate than a standard test.

    We’ve heard from some community members that infections have been spreading even among those wearing masks. Since this disease is airborne, there is a chance that spread can occur through those with exposed eyes. If you are worried about contracting the disease, eyewear, along with other hygienic practices, is a good way to lessen your risk of exposure.

    We also heard from an employee of Foamex. The virus has not slowed down work at the factory, which has implemented immediate temperature checks and a personal protective equipment requirement. Foamex has employed temporary workers and is in the process of getting a federal grant to make face shields, which should create overtime work.

    At our next meeting, we’ll be discussing specific solutions for stopping the spread of the virus!

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

Socorro & T or C 10/22 Echo

Socorro has faced unique challenges in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a college town, many of the concerns revolve around student life, but also to the young and aging populations in town.

Graduate students from New Mexico Tech raised the issue of sustainable employment and healthcare access. While the initial impacts of the COVID shutdown have hurt local businesses, it has also created a strain on students and younger working-age populations. Many students and young adults rely on businesses like restaurants and movie theaters, which have had to shut down to comply with restrictions. Underscoring the severity of these shutdowns is the Capital Bar, which has been around since the Civil War, but has now entered the longest shutdown in its history.

    Beyond the jobs in town, student employees have experienced increased struggles with COVID. While students may be employed, the university payment structure makes it difficult for them to find insurance; tuition waivers for student employees are counted as income, which moves them out of the bracket to qualify for high-quality, lower-cost health insurance. Many students struggle to balance the costs of college with living expenses, and the increased cost of insurance adds to that struggle. COVID has shined a spotlight on the need for all of us to look after our health, and a lack of accessible insurance makes that more difficult.

    Another challenge for residents of these communities is healthcare accessibility; many elderly community members rely on check-ins over the internet to lower their risk of infection, but since they may be unfamiliar with the technology, there’s a learning curve that has gone unaddressed. Older communities also face issues with mental health - socialization has become a risk factor, so programs where seniors read to children and grandkids have gone away.

    In future meetings, we will be discussing and thinking about how we can build support networks for the community. If you’re interested in attending, keep an eye on this feed for meeting announcements, and send an email to Jay Wilson at

, or Joe Martinez at

!

Rural Voices for COVID Recovery

Las Colonias 10/20 Echo

You all provided some great perspective on the unique challenges that your communities face in light of the pandemic, as well as the work being done to meet those challenges. The main concerns that we discussed were the lack of accessible testing and education, as well as the possible spread between multigenerational households and those of differing citizenship status.

    Bertha Silva was able to provide some great information on testing sites, which are essential information to pass along to your families and neighbors! We’ll keep you updated and pass along that information as it becomes available.

    The Children, Youth and Families Department has a great resource page for those with children in school! Those resources are available in English and Spanish at https://cyfd.org/news/covid-19 and they cover topics from how to talk to your children about COVID-19, how to create meaningful family time, and how to learn at home successfully! In particular, there is a video available here for how to visit with family. Beyond that video, the official guidance from NM DOH is 

… New Mexico residents who have left the state for less than twenty-four hours for matters attendant to parenting responsibilities; minor children who visit or live part-time with a parent residing in a neighboring state... Notwithstanding the foregoing, any person who leaves or enters the State for... out-of-state parental visitation, education, or court order shall self-quarantine upon arriving or returning to this state.

We at Health Action New Mexico passed along your concerns about differing citizenship status and were able to get some information from the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. A formal “Know Your Rights” flyer is on it’s way, but in the meantime, here are some things to know:

  1. COVID testing does not violate public charge restrictions

  2. If you are not a permanent resident, don’t apply for testing coverage: EMSA only covers testing and hospital/ICU related COVID-19 treatment.

  3. Nobody should get a bill for testing and people don’t have to apply for coverage - payments are taken from the provider, not the patient

  4. You do not need to provide a SSN to get testing results back - it is unlikely that DHS will use this information for immigration enforcement, but providing a SSN is optional for the purpose of testing and treatment.

If you or someone you know has been required to give a SSN or immigration information for testing or treatment for COVID, please report that immediately to the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center

 

New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty: +1(505) 255-2840,

, 924 Park Avenue, SW | Suite C | Albuquerque, NM 87102

 

New Mexico Immigrant Law Center: +1(505) 247-1023, 625 Silver Ave. SW | Suite. 410 | Albuquerque, NM 87102

Las Colonias

Happy Thanksgiving from Health Action New Mexico!

With the historic pandemic ravaging communities across the state and our country, 2020 has proven to be a year that has tested us like no other with much heartache, uncertainty, loss and suffering.  Yet it is a year that has made clear  the challenges we face and for which we must find solutions, especially health injustice, racial inequity and poverty. 

 

From our team at Health Action NM,  we wish you and yours a safe and connected Thanksgiving. It is you our supporters, Board members, fellow advocates and resilient community members that continue to define the vision that makes our work possible.

Giving Opportunities

As you make decisions this holiday season about where to direct your resources, please remember Health Action NM. Our work would not be possible without supporters like you. Here are two simple ways to give to Health Action this coming week:

By selecting Health Action as your preferred non-profit on Amazon Smile, and by making a contribution through MobileCause, you help continue our mission to ensure equal access to quality health care for all New Mexicans.

Health Action

A Personal Story of COVID-19

While it may be easy to get burnt out from all of the coverage around COVID, it's still important to remember that this is a disease that affects real people. Some of those affected are close to home, please take a moment to read the experiences of our very own Gabriella Rivera;

240,000 dead Americans. 1.28 million dead worldwide.

2 of those were my wonderful grandmothers.

I get it. This is awful. It seems never-ending. The restrictions seem oppressive. So many things we all love are banned right now. I get it.
I love going out to eat with friends and family. I love gathering and celebrating. I love interacting with coworkers. I can’t stand being cooped up in my house all day staring at a computer screen.
I loved my grandmothers more.
I love traveling. I’ve had to cancel several major trips and missed out on some great opportunities because of travel restrictions.
I loved my grandmothers more.
I LOVE sports. They sustained me as a kid and they’ve retained a central role in my adult life. Rugby and its community have been one of the most important discoveries in my life.
I loved my grandmothers more.
I love concerts. I love the balloon fiesta and the state fair. I love in-person classes and face-to-face collaboration. I miss a million things about “normal” life.
I love my grandmothers more, and they are both gone now because of Covid. They didn’t have the choice to stay home-they caught it from nurses and caregivers who had no choice but to take public transit and get essentials from the store. The waitstaff at restaurants who serve you when you choose to eat inside don’t have a choice. The clerks at the grocery store don’t have a choice. Healthcare works are drowning, and they don’t have a choice. This isn’t about fear or control, it’s about compassion.
I am exhausted with all of the restrictions. I am deeply concerned for our small businesses and kids growing up in this world. I am furious that billionaires have become trillionaires because of generous bailouts while our ineffectual federal government plays checkers.
This should have been under control. Our government failed to do so. Every other country enjoyed a few months of almost-normalcy before getting hit by this second wave. We never recovered from the first.

We can have genuine policy discussions about this. How to keep kids from taking their own lives, how to keep our small businesses from going under. But I am so, so tired of all the posts acting like people aren’t dying from this. They are, and it’s not your right to cause more death.

Health Action

New Mexicans Need Protection from Methane Gases

Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in New Mexico, media attention has rightly focused on two things: the health statistics of COVID-19 and the economic impact to our state.

Because our economy is intricately tied to the oil and gas industry, the industry’s plight is not far behind in terms of sympathetic media coverage. But lost in the coverage is a far more dangerous crisis that has been brewing even before the pandemic: the devastating impacts of the oil and gas industry on New Mexicans’ health.

More than 130,000 New Mexicans live within a half-mile of oil and gas development, and for decades we have known those living close to constant pollution suffer from higher rates of cancer, birth defects, asthma and other serious health issues. The double impact of these pollution health issues and the severe impacts from COVID-19 means strong regulations on the oil and gas industry are more important than ever.

This year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration released a set of draft rules to limit harmful methane and ozone pollution from oil and gas production in New Mexico.

The rules are a good first step for methane regulation, but the exemptions they contain mean they might not be effective at lowering emissions and protecting the air we breathe. Exemptions for stripper wells and the 15-ton-per-year pollution threshold for volatile organic compounds, for example, would exempt 95 percent of all the wells in New Mexico — huge loopholes.

As a result, these regulations fail communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic, and once again public health impacts are being pushed to the back burner.

Last year, a group of concerned Carlsbad residents began meeting to discuss the impact of oil and gas in their town. The latest methane emissions data from the Permian Basin are the highest ever recorded. New Mexico already had a methane waste problem that costs the state millions of dollars in revenue, but it is getting worse.

Even though our state is a large oil and gas producer, we have had limited regulations on how to handle methane waste. We have needed these rules and regulations, but the industry has fought against them tooth and nail, arguing that they can regulate themselves.

In the meantime, local communities are left to fend for themselves. For example, the organization Citizens Caring for the Future filed 67 complaints to the New Mexico Environment Department between March 2018 and 2020. Most were met with silence, it said. The group’s plight is further documented in a video released recently by the nonprofit Climate Advocates Voces Unidas; we do well to listen to New Mexicans’ stories and do more to protect their health.

With the recent plunge in oil and gas tax revenue, we know the governor and Legislature face tough challenges. As they work to support our public health system, they should remember that New Mexicans are in desperate need of protection from methane and ozone — during and beyond the pandemic.

We call on the governor and state regulators to disregard the pushback from the oil and gas industry and be vigilant in enforcing strong regulations to protect the health of all New Mexicans — and call on the Legislature to back them up. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, and well after it is over, we must pay closer attention to the needs of citizens living near oil and gas development, especially those in rural communities and tribal lands where health systems already are stretched thin. If we do not, this will only claim more lives and rob the health of our citizens.

Health Action

Make Your Voice on Climate Change Heard!

Climate change poses a serious and present risk to public health. We recently held a webinar (available here) about the risks that New Mexico faces if pollution and climate change are allowed to go unchecked. New Mexico's state and local government has committed to make changes to how we handle oil and gas pollution, but  new proposed rules would exempt the majority of polluters from any new regulation. Five counties in New Mexico are within 95% of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards and without effective action at the state level, New Mexico may face strict regulation from the federal government. We encourage you to submit a public comment on these draft rules before the end of the comment period tomorrow, September 16th, 2020.

NMED Air Quality Bureau: nm.methanestrategy@state.nm.us

EMNRD Oil Conservation Division: EMNRD.WasteRule@state.nm.us

 

If you would like guidance on a comment, we at Health Action New Mexico have the following recommendations:

 

For the New Mexico Environmental Department: Please remove loopholes that would exempt the vast majority of wells from leak detection and repair. This is unacceptable. Please remove the exemption for stripper wells and the 15 tons per pear pollution threshold for volatile organic compounds.

 

For the Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department: Please set the requirement for gas capture  by locality either by county or basin.  If not, companies operating in multiple localities could just elect one locality and disproportionately affect one or the other basins in NM and will not reach the 98% capture goal set by the NM Oil Conservation Division.

Health Action

The Climate Crisis and our Health -- Why Action Matters Now in New Mexico

Full slides for the webinar are available at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/16ZsqDJdQscO8ig7LIDH1kQ7sJeUXld3Q/view?u...

Full video of the webinar is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtPcEXSyVc0

Included below is a text transcript of the slides from the webinar presenters:

Impacts of Climate Change across New Mexico

Dave DuBois

New Mexico State Climatologist

 

There’s no doubt that we’re warming

Temperature trend per decade in summer (JJA) since 1970 by climate division

Data source: https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/

 

Recent Observations of Change

Temperatures of last decade were warmest of this century

Morning lows getting warmer on top of urban heat island (not all locations)

Longer growing season, more allergens

Freezing level higher in elevation

Dust storms not only affecting human health but slowly changing snowmelt timing

 

Climate Change in the West

Warmer – sure bet (happening)

Hotter/longer heatwaves – sure bet (happening)

Less snow – excellent odds (happening)

Drier soils – excellent odds (happening)

Less late winter snow/rain – good odds (happening)

Less water in rivers – good odds (happening)

More frequent/severe drought – good odds

Hotter drought – excellent odds (happening)

 

Water Resources

Declines in snowpack

Less water available for agricultural users

More rain than snow during winter

Earlier snowmelt

Lower soil moisture in the summer

 

Impacts to Agriculture

Higher evapotranspiration, stress on plants, higher water needs

Lack of forage during hotter and drier droughts

Forage quality could change negatively

Costs of hauling water and supplemental feed

Higher water requirements for animals during heat waves

Reliability of existing water sources threatened

 

Health Concerns with Changing Climate

Heat waves – increased probabilities, higher overnight temperatures

Allergens – earlier & longer frost-free season, longer allergy season

Wildfires – frequency and size to increase; fine particulates or smoke to increase, impacts large areas & can be transported long distances

Drought – increases concentrations of pathogens, impedes hygiene

Drinking water – impacting surface water storage

 

Health Effects of Air Pollutants in Las Cruces

Using data from Memorial Medical Center 2007-2010 linking air pollutants in Las Cruces with emergency room visits (Rodopoulou et al. 2014)

12.4% increase in cardiovascular ER visits for PM10 for all adults in the warm season (April-September)

5.2% increase in respiratory ER visits for PM2.5 excluding high wind days

 

Heat-related Illnesses

Mild symptoms to life-threatening conditions

Heat cramps

Heat exhaustion

Heat stroke

Death

Most frequent weather-related cause of injury and death in the United States

Expected to increase, as extreme heat events are expected to become more common and more severe

 

US Electricity Generation

 

Electrical Generation in US

 

Our direction forward

Opportunities for new solar plants both PV and concentrating solar

Expand wind energy sector

Expand residential, commercial and governmental rooftop solar

Also need to utilize geothermal resources

Electrify transportation powered by renewable energy

Develop comprehensive state-wide resilience and adaptation plans

 

Dr. Dave DuBois

State Climatologist
New Mexico State University

 

Environmental Justice & Public Health: 
The View from the Navajo Nation

Adella Begaye – Diné CARE

 

Education and nursing

Heath Educator, BSN and Public Health, Public Health Administrator

Tribal health educator, pediatric nursing, OPD supervisor-infection control, specialty nursing – ICN and safety, PHN supervisor/director, 30 years in Commission Corps

 

COVID-19 shines light on air quality

Air pollution exacerbates lung and heart disease.

CDC warns underlying health conditions increase risk of COVID-19 complications, adverse outcomes.

We must protect our health and climate in this time of crisis.

 

Native Americans disproportionately impacted by oil and gas pollution


Navajo leaders and community members call on state and federal govt to limit oil and gas pollution, clean up our air.

Ozone pollution from methane emissions threatens all New Mexicans, but disproportionately impacts children, Native Americans and those living in poor, rural communities.

More than half of all Native Americans in San Juan County – about 24,600 people – live within a mile of a wellsite.

 

Health impact assessment

Health impact assessment conducted in Counselor, Torreon and Ojo Chapters of Navajo Nation.

Possible childhood and birth impacts due to exposure to well emissions.

80% of Counselor residents reported exposure to VOCs.

Long-term VOC impacts include liver, kidney and nervous system damage.

 

Climate change threatens Navajo communities, demands action

Climate change means less water and more heat waves, is a potential public health crisis.

30% of Navajo residents lack municipal water, 40% lack electricity.

Must stop emissions at the source to cut pollution, protect health.

Strong methane rule in NM is critical for climate and environmental justice.

 

Public Action for Climate and Our Health in New Mexico

Barbara Webber Executive Director

 

NM’s air quality is deteriorating!

The America Lung Association (ALA)’s recent report gave Eddy, Lea and San Juan counties failing grades for ozone pollution and high ozone days.

Nearby counties did not fare much better.

The 5 NM counties home to  97% of the state’s oil and gas are all at risk for violating the federal clean air standards.

Source: http://www.stateoftheair.org/city-rankings/states/new-mexico/  https://www.env.nm.gov/air-quality/ozone/

 

 

Ozone pollution poses a serious health threat, especially for children, elders, and rural communities of color.

Oil and gas is responsible for 300,000 metrics tons of the compounds that turn into ozone smog every year.

An extensive body of scientific research, including by the US Environmental Protection Agency demonstrates a causal or likely causal relationship between ozone exposure and respiratory distress, heart problems, premature death, strokes and neurological effects. 

Especially troubling given our current public health crisis and the CDC findings of the CDC that those with underlying respiratory and heart conditions are at great risk for worse outcomes of COVID-19

Data sources: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-...

 

In NM, 138,399 people live within ½ mile of 55,227 oil & gas facilities as do 99 schools and child care centers.

 

Protecting our children’s health.

Asthma is now the most common non communicable disease in children in the US.  In NM our asthma rate is higher than the national rate

The highest ER visits and admissions due to asthma are in the Southeastern part of NM. 

 

Studies have found that living close to oil & gas facilities:


Increases risk of congenital birth defects by 40 – 70%

Increases low weight and pre-term babies 40% & 20%

Increases life time risk of cancer by 8 times.

Source: https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/10.1289/EHP5842

https://www.aspph.org/colorado-study-living-near-oil-and-gas-facilities-may-have-higher-health-risks/

 

Oil and Gas Operations Leak, Vent and Flare methane into the air.

Methane is the principal component of natural gas.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas responsible for more than a 25% of climate change.

 

NM is home to some of worst methane pollution in the US.

Methane escapes from wells in the Permian Basin at a rate 3 times higher than the national average.

Source: https://www.permianmap.org/

 

New Mexico and Methane

NM leaks more than than 1 million metric ton of methane into the air every year – the equivalent of the carbon produced by 22 coal fired power plants

A massive methane hotspot was discovered over the San Juan Basin by satellite, equivalent to the size of the state of Rhode Island

Source: https://naturalresources.house.gov/media/press-releases/after-new-mexico-witnesses-speak-out-against-health-environmental-impacts-of-runaway-oil-and-gas-industry-chair-grijalva-eyes-new-federal-limits

 

Volatile organic compounds are gases released alongside methane as the key ingredient of smog or ozone

Benzene is of these gases which is a known carcinogen as well as others that cause serious neurological disorders.

Exposure of even 1 hour can cause cardiac arrythmias.

Source:  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.pubmed/234066673 

 

Adding insult to injury, the Trump administration has accelerated its campaign against environmental and health regulation.

Just this month, the EPA gutted federal methane regulations.

This follows three years of rolling back to environmental regulations.

 

The Good News: oil and gas developers have solutions at their disposal:

Infrared cameras to find and fix leaks

Companies can install state of the art technologies that emit little or no air emissions

Companies can develop gas capture plans before development so air and methane emissions are not an afterthought

 

Gov. Lujan Grisham: Climate change a core issue of her administration



As Gov. Lujan Grisham outlined in her 2019 Executive Order on Addressing Climate Change and Energy Waste Prevention, climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across New Mexico and presents growing challenges for human health and safety, quality of life and the rate of economic growth.

The state is committed to a coordinated, interagency strategy to support the 2015 Paris Agreement goals and achieve a statewide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of at least 45 percent by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels.

 

NM Air Pollution and Methane Draft Rules

While we appreciate the hard work that NMED and EMNRD have done to date, the agencies must make critical changes to close loopholes and eliminate exemptions in their draft air pollution and methane rules.

Email comments to:

NMED draft rule

NMED Air Quality Bureau:

 

EMNRD draft rule

Oil Conservation Division:

 

Call to Action: what can you do???


LEARN MORE!!!

Let candidates for office and your local, state and federal representatives know that combatting climate change is a critical issue for you and your family.

Follow the state process of regulating methane. Public Comment needed by Sept 16.

Call for comprehensive strategies to set state carbon limits and require significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in ALL SECTORS in NM.

Health Action

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