No Taos Plaza Live. No summer concerts. No July 4th pancake breakfast or Taos Farmers Market.
The town of Taos has cancelled all music events and gatherings on town property for the summer, another casualty of a deadly coronavirus that has swept across New Mexico and around the world.
“All events including summer concert series, craft fairs, parades and other events by the town or those using town property such as the parks are cancelled until further notice,” Bellis said during a recent Facebook live event hosted by Holy Cross Medical Center.
Bellis further explained in an email that “no events by the Town or held on Town property” includes "parks, the Plaza, alleys and streets." The policy will be reviewed every 30 days.
Bellis said though the situation could change, he anticipates “no events until at least Labor Day.”
The town has played host recently to such big acts a Sting, Dwight Yoakam and Los Lobos. It had hinted at another big lineup for this summer.
Plans changed as the COVID-19 disease that started in China last year reached the United States in late February at a nursing home near Seattle, Washington. By early March, New Mexico had its first case. As of Tuesday (March 31) 315 people in the state, including 11 in Taos County, have been diagnosed with the illness. Five people have died from it in New Mexico.
Bellis said cancelling the events is part of the extensive efforts the town and others are making to reign in the spread of the virus. “We have projected that if everything went well here, statewide, nationally and internationally, we might be open again by Labor Day, but have shifted all of our marketing and air plans ahead to next winter,” Bellis wrote in an email. “We are making what we believe to be realistic business decisions for the Town.”
More restrictions, including a curfew, could be coming next if necessary, Bellis said.
He urged people to keep children, including teens, at home. “Increasingly we are seeing they are just as vulnerable to this disease as everyone else,” Bellis said during the Facebook live event.
“There will be no corona parties,” said Bellis. “There will be no group celebrations in the park.”
If needed, the town has authority to invoke an emergency curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. every day.
And if you wondered whether your movements are tracked – apparently, yes. According to Bellis, private companies that collect data and can track Taos County residents through their cell phones reported a 74 percent decrease in their movements, distance traveled and frequency of movement since a stay at home order was issued. “That earned the county an A+,” Bellis said.
Social distancing and staying at home are two of the main ways – along with frequent handwashing – to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, according to Centers for Disease Control.
Reduced town hours
The town of Taos and Taos County are limiting their hours of operation and limiting face-to-face interactions between staff and the public during the COVID-19 emergency.
All town office and services will be closed Fridays and new business hours of town hall will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays only. “All business should be done by email, or online through the town website or by phone or fax,” said Bellis. “Again, both to minimize risk to our staff and to the public.”
Residents who need to meet with town staff must first make an appointment. The public is only allowed to use the lobby at town hall for the time being and is no longer allowed access to the public restrooms at the location.
In addition, the town has altered the hours of operation for the landfill and recycling center. The the recycling center will only be open from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The Taos Regional Landfill will be open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The Taos Youth and Family Center, Guadalupe Gym, Coronado Hall and the town council chambers and the public library will remain closed until further notice.
But town employees will get paid even as they work from home. “The town is committed to keeping all employees on payroll and with full benefits through this crisis,” Bellis said
Bellis said the town is establishing a business assistance center to help companies impacted by the statewide shutdown to help “navigate red tape get help through this crisis and be ready to jump start when it is time to reopen.”
The town has put a temporary moratorium on utility and water shutoff for nonpayment until the COVID-19 crisis is over. The State Supreme Court also ruled recently that landlords could not pursue evictions for the time being.
Taos County restrictions
According to a press release issued by the county Saturday (March 28), county office hours also will be restricted. Beginning Monday (March 30), the county complex will be open only from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Monday thru Friday. A limited number of staff will be available to help customers and most will begin working from home to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“We strongly discourage operations in the county building if it is not of crucial priority,” said a statement from the county. “If you absolutely need to handle business at the County Complex, you will be directed to the front desk. Please mind the 6-foot distant barriers.”
People will be questioned regarding any possible symptoms of the virus before being allowed to enter.
The public is asked to conduct business with the county by email or over the phone by calling (575) 737-6300.
Solid Waste and property tax bills should be paid via the website: www.taoscounty.org
Taos County Sheriff’s Office, Fire and EMS personnel, Office of Emergency Management, Taos County Detention Center and Taos Central Dispatch will continue to operate during regular business hours as will Public Works, Fleet Department and Solid Waste Operations with minor exceptions, according to the statement from the county.
Taos Air suspended
Taos Air summer service also has been suspended for the time being.
In addition, on Friday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered that anyone who flies into New Mexico on any airline is asked to voluntarily shelter in place for 14 days after arriving. They “may be placed into mandated quarantine if required,” according to a press release from the governor's office.
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