Home News COVID-19 Situation Governor: Guidelines strong, but numbers going in wrong direction

Governor: Guidelines strong, but numbers going in wrong direction

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Despite being commended on its coronavirus safeguards, New Mexico is trending in the wrong direction, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a press conference Thursday afternoon.

No revisions to the state’s health order were announced in the press conference.

“I know the temptation must be incredibly great for family celebrations, birthdays and weddings. This is exactly how this virus spreads. We just can’t do it. We have sacrificed so much in this state,” Lujan Grisham said in the livestreamed press conference.

“We can’t allow the sacrifices we’ve made for each other to be in vain. We cannot allow another wave,” she said.

“The guidelines we’ve put in place are strong enough to manage the virus,” she said and once again encouraged New Mexicans to follow the state health order and wear masks, practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings.

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Lujan Grisham noted the National Safety Council this week rated New Mexico high on providing essential safeguards against the coronavirus. The state tied with California, New York, Rhode Island and Washington state on criteria that include providing clear safety guidelines to employers, conducting sufficient testing, efficiently identifying and tracing contacts, and ensuring access to mental and behavioral health resources.

But the state’s numbers continue to rise, and Lujan Grisham announced 227 new cases of COVID-19. Thursday’s daily update from the New Mexico Department of Health listed 40 new cases in Chaves County.

In addition, the governor and Dr. David Scrase, Human Services secretary, reported several of the criteria the state measures — such as spread rate, average daily cases and the number of rapid responses to businesses — have also increased in the last week.

In a rapid response, the state tests all employees and sanitizes the facility, possibly closing it until it is safe to open again.

“We are also seeing each day a higher proportion of counties reporting COVID cases, so this isn’t just a couple small areas where we are seeing an increase in cases. This is happening over most of the state, particularly in the Bernalillo County area, the southeast part of the state along that border,” Scrase said.

In Thursday’s update, 22 counties and one correctional facility reported new cases.

Bernalillo County had the state’s highest number of new COVID-19 cases at 53. Doña Ana County had 47, Lea County 16 and Eddy County 14. Seventeen counties reported fewer than 10 new cases each.

Five deaths related to COVID-19 were also reported Thursday. The deceased include a woman in her 70s from Eddy County who was a resident of Lakeview Christian Home in Carlsbad, the fifth death at that facility this week.

The other deaths were a woman in her 30s from Bernalillo County, a man in his 70s from Doña Ana County, a man in his 20s from Rio Arriba County and a man in his 60s from Santa Fe County.

Two had been hospitalized and all had underlying health conditions.

The total number of deaths in the state related to COVID-19 is now 882, including 12 in Chaves County since March.

The state’s total number of cases of COVID-19 is now 29,661 including 1,261 in Chaves County. The state’s total includes a correction for a case in San Juan County identified as an out-of-state resident.

Across the state, 86 people are hospitalized. Lujan Grisham said that is a 30% increase from the previous week and said 11 people are on ventilators.

Scrase reported two of the state’s gating criteria have moved into the red this week. The 10-day average of spread rate — or how many people one infected person can spread the virus to — is now 1.27, above the state’s target of 1.05 or less. The seven-day average number of daily cases is 171. The state’s target is 168 cases or less per day.

The statewide test positivity rate rose slightly to 3.24% but is still within the state’s target of 5% or less.

Chaves County is one of nine counties in the red zone, above the state’s target of average daily cases per 100,000 people and test positivity rate, although Eddy County has overtaken it as the state’s hot spot with the highest rates in data released earlier this week.

Chaves County has 22.7 cases per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate of 6.7% in the two-week period of Sept. 15 to Sept. 28.

Counties that have a positivity rate of 5% or less and eight or fewer new cases per day on average are able to operate with fewer restrictions such as being able to conduct the hybrid model of learning in public schools and allowing visitation to nursing homes.

The number of rapid responses to businesses or organizations reporting COVID-19 cases has increased as well, at 248 for the week of Sept. 21-27, the second-highest since mid-August, when there were 254, Lujan Grisham said.

According to data from the New Mexico Environment Department, there were 18 rapid responses in Chaves County during that week, with 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“We had higher cases in August than we do now, but we’re seeing higher rapid responses,” Lujan Grisham said, adding there were 99 reported Thursday.

The general services industry — which includes auto and appliance repair, hair and nail salons and laundry services — has seen the biggest increase in rapid response at 175%, Lujan Grisham said.

“That means New Mexicans are going to more locations and more businesses. That means we’re taking the virus with us. That is an incredible trend that gives me great pause about whether or not in as timely a manner as we could, we can get this virus back under control,” she said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.