Health officials: Data shows masks, social distancing works

State Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase offered some data supporting the use of masks and social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19. 

The use of face masks in public has become a polarizing topic among some communities as the state has loosened its restrictions on businesses, including closures, over the last week. 

While cloth masks aren’t suitable for use in healthcare settings, Scrase said they are still useful at preventing the spread of the illness among the general public. A review published in May that analyzed 21 studies found that mask use provided a “significant protective effect,” and reduced the risk of infection significantly, ranging from 80 percent among healthcare workers to 47 percent among the general public.  

Research has found cloth masks are not as effective at preventing infection as other types of masks. A separate review that focused specifically on cloth masks recommended policymakers standardize cloth mask materials to ensure the fabric offers high filtration of particles. Another study found that adding a nylon stocking outer layer to cloth face masks increased particle filtration, and brought some mask filtration efficiency above that of the 3M surgical masks. 

The World Health Organization recommends that masks be worn tight against the face to minimize gaps, stretching across the nose and below the chin. One study found that face masks are more effective at reducing transmission of viruses that transmit easily among asymptomatic individuals.

Single biggest daily jump in COVID-19 confirmed cases Friday with 331 positive tests

The state announced the biggest single jump in daily cases of COVID-19 on Friday with 331 additional positive tests with a large part of the increase in  cases coming from the Otero County Prison Facility and the northwest corner of the state. This brings the total number of cases to 8,672. This is the second day in a row when a large portion of the number of additional cases came from the Otero County Prison Facility, with 116 cases from federal inmates and 13 cases from inmates held by the state. McKinley and San Juan counties have the next highest number of additional cases, with 77 new cases in McKinley and 52 new cases in San Juan County. The state Department of Health also announced four additional deaths related to COVID-19, bringing the number of deaths to 387.

Guv: Racism is ‘public health emergency,’ will appoint racial justice czar and council

On Thursday, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said racism is a “public health emergency” and that she would make examining government policies with institutionalized racism in mind “the center of my administration.”

She announced the formation of the Council for Racial Justice, which will be comprised of several African American community leaders, and she will appoint a racial justice czar. The council will include state Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, a Democrat from Albuquerque, NM Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs Director Alexandria Taylor and the Reverend Donna Maria Davis of the Grant Chapel AME Church, along with others. Lujan Grisham said during the live press conference that the nation has to “own what slavery did.”

“Until we own that sin…that disgrace, we don’t have the opportunity to move forward,” Lujan Grishan said. The press conference came after recent events that have gripped the nation. Video showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on an African American man, George Floyd, for nearly nine minutes, killing him.

Food service workers at risk in school meal programs

Since schools in New Mexico closed due to COVID-19 in March, food service workers across the state have continued serving meals to students in need, and their families. While the food helps feed hungry students, particularly those who no longer have access to free or reduced meal programs at schools, food service workers in these programs may be at greater risk of catching the virus. Two meal distribution sites within Gadsden Independent School District based in Chaparral, NM closed in May due to possible COVID-19 exposure. There were 236 cases of the virus reported as of June 1 in Chaparral, between Otero and Doña Ana Counties, according to the New Mexico Department of Health. Two kitchens at North Valley and Vado Elementary Schools, where potentially infected employees had been working as of May 19, were closed and 20 employees within the GISD student nutrition program were placed in quarantine due to self-reporting possible exposure.

DOH: 110 more cases at Otero County Prison Facility; 218 in state overall, 8 additional deaths

The state Department of Health announced Thursday an additional 218 cases of COVID-19, the second day this week with at least 200 new cases, and eight additional deaths. Of the new cases, 110 are at the Otero County Prison Facility; 66 among those held by federal agencies and 44 among those held by the state Department of Corrections. The state of New Mexico now has 8,353 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 383 deaths related to the disease. With the newly reported cases, 4.3 percent of all cases in the state are among inmates at the Otero County Prison Facility among those held by either the federal government or the state. Among the eight newly announced COVID-19-related deaths, five were among residents of McKinley County, two from San Juan County and one from Bernalillo County.