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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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Albuquerque is making progress toward hitting the goal of getting 60 percent of the city’s eligible population fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. In a press conference on Tuesday, Mayor Tim Keller addressed the city’s progress with vaccinations. Outside of a mobile vaccination unit, Keller announced that, according to the latest statistics, 51 percent of Albuquerque residents are now fully vaccinated. “We’re right where we want to be. We want to get to 60 percent. We need more, but also we’re in good shape,” Mayor Keller said about the city’s progress. He also noted that, out of major cities, “We’re number two in the Southwest on vaccination percentage.” He also noted that Albuquerque has consistently been a leader among regional cities in vaccinations and COVID-19 precautions.

To combat a slowdown of vaccine registration and “vaccine hesitancy,” the city wants to make the process of receiving a vaccine as easy and simple as possible. “What we want to emphasize is, number one, that it’s getting easier and easier to get it,” he said. The mayor used the mobile vaccination clinic as an example of the city’s investment in vaccine. “Our turquoise designation has allowed for larger public events and fuller restaurants, which should encourage folks to go and get their shots.” The mayor referred to the success of last week’s Downtown Art Walk as an incentive for more Albuquerque residents to receive their vaccine. He said, “There were thousands of people literally dancing in the street. Even my kids.”

As the city begins its return to normalcy, more and more large scale events are opening up. Last Friday the Isotopes were able to play on the field for the first time in over a year, and New Mexico United will play their first home game since the pandemic started this weekend. “I think it is a real time of resurgence and recovery, but also one of retrospection,” Keller said. He said the city is expecting to roll out a new tourism campaign encouraging travel, with $1.5 million set aside for marketing throughout the summer.

The mayor also addressed fears about a possible renter eviction crisis. He emphasized that there are resources for those struggling with rent and financial difficulties due to the pandemic. “There is a lot of money available for rental assistance,” the mayor said. New Mexico DreamTeam spokesperson Eduardo Esquivel-Gonzalez highlighted the organization’s partnership with the city and their ongoing efforts to provide Albuquerque residents with financial support and advisement. Gonzalez said that the financial navigation service is free and is provided in over 300 languages at no cost to the client. 

Since Bernalillo County entered turquoise, many businesses have faced challenges to completely open up, the primary one being a lack of applicants for open positions. The city is also experiencing similar challenges on the road back to operating at pre-pandemic capacity. “We have a shortage of transit drivers. We have a shortage of solid waste drivers. We have a shortage of facility security. We desperately need people to come back to work.”

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