Lujan Grisham: Fight COVID-19 with a vengeance

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.

Lujan Grisham warns of possible ‘uncontrollable spread’ of COVID-19

Speaking from the governor’s residence because of a quarantine due to a possible COVID-19 exposure, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham warned that New Mexico is “at extreme risk of uncontrollable spread” of the disease as cases continue to increase throughout New Mexico. Lujan Grisham said both she and her fiancé tested negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday for a second time, though they would remain quarantined for a full two weeks, in accordance with state health officials’ guidance. “When you have uncontrollable spread, where we can’t manage the outbreaks, you become quickly a potential epicenter for the country and you overwhelm your healthcare workers, your hospital services and we have far more, many more, deaths and our mortality rates just keep rising,” Lujan Grisham said. She urged New Mexicans to abide by COVID-safe practices and emphasized staying away from large gatherings and avoiding leaving the house unless absolutely necessary. While she did not make any changes to the state’s public health order, which will expire next weekend, she did say that things like K-12 sports and club sports remain prohibited, except for limited practices with groups of ten or fewer individuals with no contact.

Health official urges New Mexicans to abide by state health guidelines to slow COVID-19 spread

If all New Mexico residents and workplaces follow the guidelines in the state’s public health orders, there would be no need to impose further restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19, Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase said on Monday. 

This comes as the state sees an increase in the number of confirmed cases in the state and other metrics tracked by the state move in the wrong direction. In an update on the tagging criteria by the state, Scrase said that he expects the state will be outside its gating criteria for the daily number of confirmed cases—and the state remains above its gating criteria for spread rate. “That trend is headed upwards,” Scrase said of the daily number of cases. “And today’s counts are going to bring those counts up as well.”

On Tuesday, the state Department of Health reported 178 new cases of COVID-19. The state uses the date of specimen collection for its gating criteria, which differs from the date cases are reported. 

The numbers the state used for its gating criteria show that there are 152 daily cases, as of Sept.

Focus on education as state continues to see COVID-19 improvement

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials had a largely positive press conference related to COVID-19 on Thursday. While the governor addressed further discussions of further easing restrictions, she said the focus is currently on in-person education and childcare. 

“Focus is on education. Number one priority,” Lujan Grisham said. “Because we know if we can do that successfully, we know we can do more business openings.”

But it was because of the continued improvement in numbers that officials can even consider starting a conversation. “All of our success is really behavior by New Mexico residents,” Lujan Grisham said.

PED gives update on opening some elementary schools to in-person instruction

The state is getting ready to allow some elementary schools to reopen for in-person instruction next week, as part of a hybrid model with remote learning, the state Public Education Department Secretary said in an online press conference on Thursday. “We’ve been anxiously awaiting the point where we can get back into schools, with the public health conditions and the systems that we’ve put in place to support those conditions are in place,” PED Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “We’ve taken a very deliberate approach to this because we know we don’t want to be in a situation where we’re seeing big outbreaks or we’re seeing some of the issues that have happened elsewhere.”

The state will allow districts and charter schools in counties with under 5 percent positivity rate and under eight daily cases per 100,000 residents, both on 14-day rolling averages, to reopen if they wish. Additionally, districts and charter schools in those counties that qualify must have PED-approved plans for reopening, including strict COVID-safe protocols, to get the go-ahead to reopen. Seven counties did not meet either goal, as of the data from Aug.

State outlines further reopening, begins plans for some in-person learning

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham further outlined the changes to the state’s public health order, which will go into effect on Saturday and last through at least September 18, and officials provided updates on preparations for a return to in-person learning for some elementary school students in September. But the state Human Services Department Secretary, Dr. David Scrase, warned against complacency. “As we begin reopening, this is not an invitation to go back to everything we’ve always done,” he said. He said it was part of a small, gradual reopening. The easing of restrictions includes allowing indoor dining for the first time in over six weeks.

COVID-19 cases increase, plus officials provide an update on gating criteria

The state Department of Health announced 208 new cases of COVID-19, a second-straight day of increases after reported cases plummeted earlier in the week. The state also announced five additional deaths related to COVID-19. Also on Thursday, health officials said that New Mexicans shouldn’t expect changes to the state’s current public health order before it is set to expire on August 28. 

The number of cases exceeded 200 newly reported cases for the first time since August 9. Over a quarter of the newly reported cases, 59, came from Bernalillo County. Lea County, which has had among the highest newly reported cases per capita over the past week, reported 27 new cases.

Good news, but still far to go for NM’s COVID response

In another COVID-19 update with a positive tone, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her Human Services Department secretary outlined how the state’s response to COVID-19 has continued to improve in much of the state. “Let’s keep showing the country what leaders New Mexicans are,” Lujan Grisham said. Related: 177 new cases and two new deaths related to COVID-19

The state has consistently been under its goal of a 5 percent positivity rate—which is the percentage of positive tests out of the total number of tests—in recent days. “I think it really demonstrates that if we limit our activities, we limit the contact we have with individuals, that we wear masks, that we do good handwashing, those activities really make a difference,” Lujan Grisham said. But she and Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase warned that hitting gating criteria is not a finish line, but just a signal that they can consider further “risk” by reopening areas previously closed, including in-person instruction at public schools and further businesses.

Guv optimistic, but still cautious, as COVID-19 number improve

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state officials had good news for New Mexicans when it came to COVID-19 during her Thursday press conference. 

The number of cases, after reaching a peak in mid-July, have dropped down in the past couple of weeks through much of the state. The positivity rate on tests has also dropped, even as the number of tests remains high in the state. But Lujan Grisham noted that there is a long road ahead, and it’s not an invitation for New Mexicans to abandon COVID-safe practices. She warned the state is not “out of the woods” yet, even as things trend in the right direction. Because of this, and other efforts, Lujan Grisham and Aging and Long-term Services Secretary Katrina Hotrum-Lopez announced that limited nursing home visitation would be allowed.

Public health order extended as state focuses on aid

The state of New Mexico will extend its public health order with very little changes to the current  one, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Thursday. The state will still limit capacity at many locations, like places of worship and retail stores, and not allow indoor dining at restaurants, while keeping movie theaters closed and not allowing mass gatherings. Additionally, the state will still require all New Mexicans to wear face masks while in public. While the 14-day quarantine requirement for all travelers from other states remains in place, the governor said there would be some changes for those on necessary business and medical travel, likely announced on Friday. The public health order will also move wineries and distilleries into the same category as restaurants and breweries, which will allow them to serve customers outdoors, including on patios.