April 16, 2020

Lujan Grisham reacts to White House’s ‘guidelines’ for reopening economy

Gage Skidmore

President Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland Flickr cc

President Donald Trump unveiled guidelines for states to reopen the United States economy, but Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham warned about putting “the cart before the horse.”

The White House released guidelines, not a plan and did not attempt to force governors to open the economies as some had thought would happen. Earlier this week, Trump had said he had “absolute authority” to restart the economy on his own.

Lujan Grisham did say that the state’s upcoming partnership with the federal government on testing and contact tracing “is an enormous step forward” and that doing that work “will set the stage for New Mexico to be in the driver’s seat, nationally, for economic recovery – and I believe it will ultimately help state businesses reopen faster and stay open for longer.”

The White House guidelines include three phases for states to reopen. 

Before easing restrictions, the guidelines say there should be fewer influenza-like illnesses and few COVID-like cases within a two-week period, a downward trajectory of positive tests or documented cases and that hospitals in a state or region should be able to treat all patients without crisis care.

The guidelines also say that states should be able to “quickly set up safe and efficient screening and testing sites for symptomatic individuals and trace contacts of COVID+ results.”

Lujan Grisham said it wasn’t time to start taking steps to reopen businesses in New Mexico.

“As CDC, FEMA, and public health experts across the country have made clear, we are not at a point currently where it would be safe to reopen, and doing so prematurely would undo the heroic work of our health workers and first responders, endanger many more people and essentially guarantee enhanced transmission of the virus, leading to more illness and death,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “Indeed, just today, we saw the highest single-day COVID-related death toll in our state. Every one of these cases is a tragedy. Every one of the victims and their families and loved ones are in my prayers. And as a state, we mourn with those families. The sad reality is we will see more; that’s the awful nature of this virus, and that’s why we absolutely must keep up our vigorous social distancing efforts, difficult as it is to sacrifice our sense of normalcy. We are flattening the curve – but we can’t stop now. ”

The New Mexico Department of Health announced eight eight COVID-19 related deaths on Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 44. Nearly 1,600 people in the state have tested positive for COVID-19 so far.

Republicans in the state have pressured the governor to ease restrictions, arguing that the economic damage of the restrictions are too much for the state.