State on track to expand reopening on June 1

“We think that we’re through the peak,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during her press conference Wednesday afternoon. But, she and health officials warned, without continued social distancing the state could see another peak and have to go backwards on reopening. The governor also announced a date for the state’s special session to address a massive budget hole, which projections said would exceed $2 billion. Because New Mexico continues to do well in slowing the spread of COVID-19, the governor said that the state appeared to be on track to open more businesses, including dine-in restaurants by the start of June, what the governor referred to as “Phase 1B.”

Much of the state entered Phase 1 of the reopening on May 15, which allowed retail stores to reopen as long as they abided by 25 percent capacity and the COVID-safe practices outlined by the state. The new phase, Lujan Grisham said, would include dine-in restaurants, salons, gyms, malls and other services.

One in nearly four-thousand: NM prison COVID-19 testing shows strikingly low positive rate

New Mexico appears to have bucked another national trend. Just one of the nearly 4,000 inmates and staff tested in the state’s 11 prisons is positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, according to results released by the state Corrections Department on Friday. The lone positive result, according to a news release from department spokesman Eric Harrison, was for a correctional officer at the Otero County Prison Facility in Chaparral, near the U.S. border with Mexico. The officer is now in self-quarantine at home, Harrison’s release said. Across the nation, prisons and jails have emerged as hotspots for COVID-19, with incarcerated populations and those who work to supervise them testing positive at alarmingly high rates in some places. 

Many inmates suffer from pre-existing health conditions that make them particularly susceptible to the often fatal consequences of COVID-19, leaving prisons with some of the most vulnerable populations in the U.S. as the pandemic continues its march.

State tweaks some aspects of Saturday’s reopening, including more allowed in places of worship

During a press conference on Friday, the governor announced tweaks to the public health emergency order that will go into effect tomorrow, including allowing larger crowds at places of worship and all retailers, as most of the state enters “phase one” of reopening. “We want to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. She also continued to ask the public to wear cloth masks. The new public health emergency order will go into effect on Saturday, after the current order expires at midnight. Related: Secretary of State encourages absentee voting

On Wednesday, the governor said the order would have limited in-person attendance at places of worship to 10 percent of fire code capacity and at “big box” retail stores to 20 percent of capacity.

State to allow some businesses to open, require masks in public

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Wednesday a slight easing of COVID-19 restrictions, while also announcing some increased restrictions as of Saturday, May 16. 

While Lujan Grisham said the state would start allowing retailers and some other businesses to open to the public with capacity limitations, she also said the new public health emergency order will require everyone in the state to wear a face and nose covering when in public spaces. 

She said many businesses, with the exception of entertainment businesses like movie theaters, could open this weekend as long as they keep their capacity at 25 percent of what the fire code allows. She said those businesses must also continue to take certain precautions against spreading COVID-19. 

Large retail “box” stores would have their capacity capped at 20 percent. The easing of restrictions would not apply to Cibola, McKinley and San Juan counties, which are in northwestern New Mexico and have experienced the most cases so far. But those counties would see the restrictions moved to the “preparation phase” which the rest of the state has been in since May 1. “It means that we expect you to have COVID safe practices, that your employees and staff are wearing masks and anything else that really works at stopping the spread of the virus,” Lujan Grisham said. 

She also announced the shift to require, everyone to wear masks or nose and mouth coverings in public areas. 

“This is very different than what I said last week,” Lujan Grisham said.

State eases some restrictions, but keeps stay-at-home order in place

The governor announced that, beginning tomorrow, some restrictions put in place by the state will be eased, but she urged that New Mexicans should still remain home as much as possible and noted that the stay-at-home order will remain in place. The new public health emergency order goes into effect on May 1 at midnight and runs through May 15. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said that this came because the curve has flattened for much of the state, though she emphasized that northwestern New Mexico is still in danger, as cases continue to grow. 

Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase also announced that the state would allow hospitals to increase operations for medically necessary surgeries not related to COVID-19. As part of an order to reduce the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), the state banned elective procedures. Still, Scrase said, “We’re asking folks as they resume to go no more than half-capacity” for a few weeks and that hospitals are in “absolute and complete compliance with all DOH guidelines” including those that are part of the public health emergency order.

Lujan Grisham gives update on COVID-19 response, unemployment, small business

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the idea that some communities in the state feel they don’t have to comply with the state’s restrictions are “tantamount to opening up a pool and having a ‘pee’ section. This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.”

The statement came during a Friday afternoon press conference that included updates on the state’s unemployment efforts, federal stimulus money and more. But Lujan Grisham also continued to urge residents across the state to comply with orders to make sure New Mexico can continue to flatten the curve of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Related: DOH announces six more COVID-19-related deaths and 153 test positive cases Friday

She also addressed those who live near surrounding states that are themselves easing restrictions, and whether those who live in New Mexico would travel . “I worry greatly about the impact here,” the governor said.

State starts planning to ease restrictions as curve flattens

New Mexico’s social and physical distancing is working in New Mexico overall, the “curve” has been flattened and the state is preparing plans to ease restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. “I want you to celebrate—in your house with your family,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. That was the optimistic news from the governor’s weekly COVID-19 press conference on Wednesday afternoon. Lujan Grisham cautioned that the work was not yet done, and said the state would extend its public health emergency order through May 15 in the coming days; it currently runs through April 30. Public health emergency orders can only be extended for 30 days at a time.

Guv says state will be part of White House COVID-19 pilot program

The governor announced during a press conference on Wednesday that the state would be working with the federal government on a pilot program related to contact tracing and surveillance related to tracking the spread of COVID-19. While she didn’t have specific details, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said, “I felt really good about the fact that they recognized that we want to do that and we’d like to help the federal government attack that as a national strategy.”

Meanwhile, the state gave an update on a number of other areas, including on the spread of COVID-19 in the state, updates on testing and updates on more resources and supplies headed to the state. As for the pilot program, Lujan Grisham said she spoke to the White House, which said they were interested in working with New Mexico because of the work done by the state on testing and getting the medical system ready. “They want New Mexico to be a pilot for surveillance and research and what we call contact tracing,” Lujan Grisham said. “That’s finding out a more automated way and bringing in more workers to figure out who has been exposed.”

Lujan Grisham said she expected the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to be directly involved in the pilot, which would include several states.

Lujan Grisham gives update on COVID-19 response, preparations for ‘surge’

The state of New Mexico has statewide community spread of COVID-19, and continues to prepare for a surge in cases that can overwhelm hospitals.

That was part of a Thursday update on New Mexico’s response and plans for the spread of the coronavirus that has spread throughout the world, including in every state in the United States.

The state continued to urge residents to remain home as much as possible, emphasizing that social distancing will lower the seriousness of the peak and help avoid the worst of projections from state models from taking place in New Mexico.

Governor, administration prepare for coronavirus ‘surge’

In a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and cabinet officials outlined the state’s preparations for the expected “surge” in cases of COVID-19 in the upcoming weeks and the resulting hospitalizations, which will strain and even overwhelm the state’s health care systems, as it has in other areas of the country and world. And the state provided a stark update on how many New Mexicans could die, well above previous estimates. She said the state will make preparations to expand its hospital bed capacity, medical equipment and COVID-19 testing, while urging the public to practice socially distancing to keep the peak of cases as low as possible. Related: Guv’s public health order extended another month

What exactly that peak amount of cases looks like is something officials and experts have been considering as a way to prepare. 

A widely shared model from the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts that the state will hit its peak amount of COVID-19 cases on May 2, which would require 1,594 hospital beds and 239 beds in intensive care units. The model predicts a total amount of 529 deaths from COVID-19 in New Mexico, with a peak of 16 daily COVID-19 deaths on April 29.