We’re in unprecedented territory in terms of reaction to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus, or COVID-19. The president’s travel ban, then declaration of a national emergency, the stock market’s roller-coaster ride, cascading announcements throughout the end of the week as one major sporting event after another was canceled. Pro basketball suspended, no March Madness, MLB’s Opening Day delayed.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a public health emergency and state officials banned some large gatherings (involving 100 or more people, in places like stadiums and auditoriums) in the wake of New Mexico’s first COVID-19 cases coming to light. “New Mexico is not going to wait as long as some other states to make the hard decisions about this pandemic,” she said.
The count of positive COVID-19 cases in New Mexico stood at 13 as of Saturday: Six in Bernalillo County, two in Socorro County, two in Sandoval County and three in Santa Fe County.
The state announced closure of all K-12 public schools — for three weeks beginning March 16 — as a safety measure.
No word yet on any local cases, but institutions around Roswell have already begun reacting. The Roswell public schools, even before the state’s school-closure announcement, had moved to ban travel, and a number of local events have been canceled by organizers.
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We’re publishing notice of those cancellations in the newspaper as we become aware of them.
ENMU-R and NMMI have also altered their schedules.
Hand sanitizer’s been in short supply around here for a few weeks, but recently other items have disappeared from the shelves as well, as some degree of local hoarding appears to have begun in earnest. You know the items.
And there’s a hint, here and there, of a feeling that goes beyond uncertainty. One can hardly blame people: The news alerts popping up on our phones, hours of analysis and re-analysis on television, night after night — again, unprecedented territory.
Exercising caution — and taking seriously the threat of illness — should be a given for everyone at this point. There are things we should all be doing (and not doing).
State health officials, in statements released throughout the week, urged everyone:
• “Self-isolate” — stay at home — if you’re sick.
• Avoid non-essential travel to out-of-state areas that have been impacted by the virus.
• Exercise “extreme caution” when planning any out-of-state travel.
• Call the Department of Health at 1-855-600-3453 if you’re exhibiting the symptoms of COVID-19. Those include cough, fever or trouble breathing.
• Take basic precautionary steps to protect your health and the well-being of those around you: Wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds; clean “high-touch” surfaces every day with household cleaners; and “avoid sharing personal household items.”
The coronavirus, in most people, causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for older people and those with underlying health issues, it can be much worse. By the end of last week, it had killed approximately 5,000 people worldwide.
Detailed information on the virus can be found on the website of the Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov. Up-to-date information, including recommended safety precautions, can also be found on the New Mexico Health Department’s website, nmhealth.org.
Here’s something not included in the state’s recommendations: Verify, with trusted sources, all information related to the virus and its impacts. There’s a lot of misinformation on Facebook and elsewhere online, some of it potentially quite harmful.
We got just a taste of that this past week in Roswell when rumors circulated that a local hospital had been “placed on lockdown” due to the virus. It hadn’t been.
Another good reminder: Support each other.
But we caution against understandable uncertainty crossing the line into fear, or panic.
If nothing else, a state of panic does not serve well efforts at keeping ourselves and those around us safe. And that’s got to be job one.