Serving the High Plains

Senior center reopens

For the first time in 16 months, the Tucumcari Senior Center opened to serve meals to its clients inside its facility Monday morning after being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Betty Martinez was the first to enter through the northwest door of the Third Street facility at 11:30 a.m. She underwent a temperature scan and was asked several screening questions - including vaccination status - before being allowed to walk to a table, where staff brought a fresh-cooked meal of chicken strips, mashed potatoes, broccoli and cheese, salad, a roll and peaches and strawberries.

Seniors citizens were required to wear masks except while eating and drinking. The second person inside, Mike Montano, was carrying a mask in his hand and was reminded to wear it, which he did.

Those who did not declare they were fully vaccinated could not enter and instead could get grab-and-go meals delivered to their vehicles near the front entrance.

Shortly before noon, about a dozen people had filed into the dining area, with more still coming.

Before the pandemic, site manager Mary Ann Dominguez said the senior center typically served 60 to 80 people a day.

She said about 25 senior citizens still are too nervous about the virus to eat in the dining room and would continue with their grab-and-go meals as they have for months.

But Walt and Thelma Robinson said they were enthused about having meals inside the Tucumcari Senior Center again.

"I missed coming in here every day," Thelma said.

"And the people," Walt interjected.

"Yes, the people," she said. "We felt kind of isolated being at home all the time. We're just glad we could come back."

Socializing will be kept at a minimum, however. Staff have been instructed to get the senior citizens out of the building quickly after they finish their meals. Exercise programs and games also remain on hold.

The Logan Senior Center also opened its doors for the first time Monday morning since the pandemic took hold in New Mexico last March.

Dominguez said she was happy to open the Tucumcari Senior Center again but acknowledged being wary of the virus' presence. The state Department of Health reported 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Quay County last week, up from two the week before.