The Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder in Pojoaque will serve as a temporary quarantine facility for New Mexico tribal members who are awaiting test results for COVID-19.
Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. Joseph Talachy said in a text message Wednesday the hotel is only accepting “low-risk” members of New Mexico pueblos and tribes who have been referred by the state Department of Health.
“Our goal is to prevent virus spread and reduce risk to tribal families by providing tribal members with potential illness, who are referred by DOH, a comfortable, safe place to stay,” Talachy said in a statement. “Buffalo Thunder Resort is an ideal housing solution for this emergency situation.”
The announcement came as state health officials reported three more deaths and 72 new cases of the novel coronavirus Wednesday.
The new deaths were in Bernalillo County: a man in his 90s and two women in their 80s. All had underlying medical conditions, according to a news release from the state Department of Health.
Sixteen people have died in New Mexico of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. State health officials said 865 people have tested positive.
Two new cases were reported in Santa Fe County, bringing its total to 68. McKinley County added 15 cases for a total of 70.
The state said Tuesday it had identified clusters of COVID-19 cases at San Felipe and Zia pueblos. Officials said 52 people had tested positive for the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus at San Felipe Pueblo while 31 cases had been detected at Zia Pueblo.
Talachy wrote that only two people — both from San Felipe — were under temporary quarantine at the sprawling hotel in Pojoaque.
“Upon final approval for use of the facilities, the New Mexico Department of Health and the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will evaluate and direct low-risk tribal members who are awaiting test results or in need of quarantine services to Buffalo Thunder,” according to a news release provided by Talachy. “The hotel is closed to the general public and is not accepting anyone else at this time.”
Pueblos and tribes across the state are taking a number of steps to try to prevent the spread of the potentially lethal disease. For example, in Pojoaque, which hasn’t had any reported cases of COVID-19, the pueblo is prohibiting nontribal members from going onto tribal lands.
A Pojoaque Pueblo member who requested anonymity said the tribe set up a roadblock for the first time Tuesday.
“There’s a police officer who lets people out but not in unless they’re tribal members,” the pueblo resident said.
On the Navajo Nation, where 15 people have died and hundreds have been infected, the tribe will implement a 57-hour curfew this weekend.
“One death is way too many,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said Tuesday. “This is a public health emergency.”