Nine senior centers in Santa Fe County will close Friday as local officials seek to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus to a particularly vulnerable part of the population.
City spokeswoman Lilia Chacon told The New Mexican the city will close the Luisa, Mary Esther Gonzales, Pasatiempo and Ventana de Vida senior centers.
County spokeswoman Carmelina Hart said closures also will affect the Chimayó, Santa Cruz, Edgewood, El Rancho and Eldorado senior centers. The county’s satellite offices for senior services at Pojoaque, Edgewood and Eldorado will remain open for now.
“We at the county are focused on our vulnerable populations and seniors and doing our best to take precautions,” Hart said.
Hart said seniors who depend on the more than 3,200 lunches served each month at the facilities will be added to the county’s food delivery program. The County’s Meals on Wheels program hands out more than 3,000 meals a month.
Chacon said the city serves about 5,500 meals a month at senior centers. She said the city will identify seniors who require home delivery.
“The majority of the folks who use the centers are fine and capable of taking care of themselves, it’s the high-risk [seniors] that we are focusing on,” Chacon said in an email.
State Secretary for Aging and Long-Term Services Katrina Hotrum-Lopez said her department is able to accommodate the shift.
“We have the provisions to transition congregated meals to home deliveries,” Hotrum-Lopez said in an interview. “We’ve got about 40 percent authority to move funds around to get it done.”
Aging and Long-Term Services has $3.1 million for congregate meals for the entire state, and it can move $1.2 million to home delivery or meal pickup.
Hotrum-Lopez said 70 percent of funding for the majority of meal services for seniors comes from the state General Fund and the remainder comes from federal dollars. Her department provides the funding to three regional Area Agencies on Aging, which then doles it out to providers who can subcontract or deliver meals themselves.
Hotrum-Lopez said Aging and Long-Term Services has an emergency fund provided by the Legislature to cover expenses and prevent program shortages.
City and county officials said transport services for seniors will be limited to those with medical conditions who need a ride for treatments, such as patients in need of cancer treatment, dialysis or wound care.
All planned field trips and outings through the senior centers have been canceled.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday declared a state of emergency, repeatedly urging New Mexicans to wash their hands with soap and hot water and avoid large gatherings to help prevent the potential spread of the virus.
State Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel recommended families not visit senior care facilities in order to maintain social distancing.
Jodi McGinnis Porter, a spokeswoman for the Human Services Department, said plans are in the works to provide virtual communication.
“That might include but not be limited to iPads for consistent interaction between residents and their families,” McGinnis Porter said.