Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and New Mexico Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase both offered up their own metaphors for the drastic increase of COVID-19 cases and how the state can lower that number.
“We’re in it for another nine months or longer, it is a marathon, I need everyone to stop at that marathon stand, this is not literally, figuratively,” Lujan Grisham said, citing health officials who said a COVID-19 vaccine may not be ready and widely available until next year. “Take that sip of water and just keep doing the work that you’re doing. Because if we don’t, we don’t even get to have conversations about schools and kids.”
Scrase likened the record number of COVID-19 cases in the state to a car on ice.
“We can slam on the brakes today, and I hope we will slam on the brakes as individual citizens and families and communities in terms of COVID-safe practices, but it’s going to take two weeks for the car to stop because people who are already infected will develop symptoms,” he said.
Both Lujan Grisham and Scrase’s analogies were in reference to several days of significantly higher numbers of new cases, even than the previous peak in cases in the state this summer.
On Thursday, New Mexico health officials reported an additional 672 cases of COVID-19, setting a new record for daily cases.
Lujan Grisham said because the daily number of positive cases is rapidly increasing, the state is reinstituting some restrictions that had recently been rolled back and for some restaurants, there will be new restrictions.
The state announced earlier in the week that starting October 16 restaurants that serve alcohol will have to close at 10 p.m. Gatherings will again be limited to 5 people after several weeks of the state allowing gatherings of ten people.
But as early voting starts the same day as the updated restrictions, Lujan Grisham said there are currently no additional restrictions for voting.
“We want people to be able to exercise their voting rights, we are still reminding people about absentee ballots,” she said.
Scrase said there are categories or high, medium and low risks when it comes to many activities, including voting. Lowest-risk voting, Scrase said, would be mail-in ballots and in-person is a higher risk option.
“Then of course, in my opinion anyway, the highest risk is not voting at all,” Scrase said.
Lujan Grisham said data show the likely reason for dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases are restaurants and retail stores. She said it appears that people are not shopping for essential items, but using those trips to socialize.
“People are staying far too long and engaging in activity that is not safe in a COVID world,” Lujan Grisham said.
She justified further restrictions by pointing to the high number of positive cases and said it shows that not enough people are taking the disease seriously enough.
“It bears repeating because we’re not succeeding at combating the virus. The virus is now winning,” Lujan Grisham said. “The reality is we are in uncharted waters, this is the most serious emergency that New Mexico has ever faced.”
The governor warned that further restrictions might be warranted if positive cases and hospitalizations don’t reduce, but did not specify what those might be.
“The very real fear here is that if we can’t marry these new restrictions with the highest level of personal commitment, they will not be enough, and we will know in short order,” Lujan Grisham said. “If they’re not enough, then as a state, we have to be prepared to make tough decisions. And what I want everyone to know is, I’m prepared to make another really tough decision.”
According to information in Lujan Grisham and Scrase’s presentation, two out of three hospitals throughout the state are over 100 percent capacity in their respective intensive care units. This, she said, causes problems for those who need to go to the hospital for conditions or procedures unrelated to COVID-19.
Lujan Grisham said it seems that many people have “let up” on diligently limiting trips outside their homes and being “conscientious about our mobility,” possibly because of “national rhetoric” that the disease is not dangerous or that there are plenty of treatment options available.
“All of that is nonsense. It is absolutely not true. We can’t fall prey to that non-fact based, non-evidence based rhetoric,” Lujan Grisham said. “It’s part of a political process for some, and certainly we’re in that time zone in the country right now. But it’s also just these conspiracy theories that have nothing to do with fact.”
Lujan Grisham did not mention him by name, but President Donlad Trump has at certain times said COVID-19 should not be feared and that the treatment he reportedly received after testing positive helped him recover in less than a week.
Lujan Grisham encouraged New Mexican’s to work together to slow the spread of the disease and to “go after” it with a “vengeance.”
“That’s how it treats us,” Lujan Grisham said. “That’s how we have to treat it right back.”