Home News COVID-19 Situation Lujan Grisham sounds alarm on COVID

Lujan Grisham sounds alarm on COVID

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Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham gives a COVID update Thursday afternoon while quarantining in the Governor’s Mansion in Santa Fe. (Submitted Photo)

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Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday afternoon that New Mexico’s sharply rising COVID-19 cases mean that stricter public health orders could be reinstated soon unless residents stay home more and take other steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

“If we don’t deal with this right now, immediately — and this is really mostly personal behaviors — then we would be at risk of having to roll back some of the introduction of risks, such as business capacity and schools and other related issues,” she said during a press conference broadcast on social media.

Lujan Grisham spoke while self-isolating at the Governor’s Mansion in Santa Fe. She began the two-week quarantine Monday with her fiance, Manny Cordova, after a staff member tested positive for COVID. She said she and Cordova have tested negative.

Lujan Grisham and Dr. David Scrase, Secretary of Human Services, said during the press conference that the high number of cases since Oct. 2 are “alarming” and show an “exponential” increase. They said the state is at “extreme risk of uncontrollable spread,” which could overwhelm residents, hospitals, health care workers, contact tracers and state health department officials.

On Thursday, the state reported 387 new cases, bringing the statewide total to 31,756. The number of new cases on Wednesday, 426, was the second-highest since the pandemic began, Lujan Grisham said. The state’s current positivity rate of 9.7% is one of the worst for New Mexico since March.

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Chaves County has one of the largest increases in new cases in the state, with 340 total new cases during the two-week period of Sept. 24 to Oct. 7.

Lujan Grisham compared the situation to a wildfire, saying the COVID outbreak could grow quickly out of control. She asked people to view the messages given during the press conference as “sprinklers” to lessen the threat.

“If this doesn’t work, we might have to evacuate the building and the building might have damage,” she said.

The governor and Scrase said that the increase is probably caused by a few factors. One is in-person classroom instruction at public schools, with 91 staff and 66 students testing positive so far. Another is the high COVID numbers in Texas border cities, with people there traveling to New Mexico. A third factor is what she and Scrase characterized as lack of proper COVID-safe behaviors by many New Mexico residents.

The governor said too many residents fail to wear masks, practice social distancing or avoid crowds, which is evident from social media posts, news reports and information provided to contact tracers. In addition to doing better at all those behaviors, Lujan Grisham asked people to stay in their homes as much as possible and to take only three trips outside their residence each day for work, self-care and errands. People telecommuting to work might be able to limit trips even more, she said.

“While we do want our businesses to survive, I want you to think about other ways to support them,” she said. She recommended online ordering, delivery, curbside service and other alternatives to shopping inside buildings.

Scrase added that people who are working at job sites should not gather in conference rooms for meetings, eat meals at work with co-workers or take off their masks when around others.

He also said that people should get tested if they have symptoms or have been around someone who has tested positive and should self-isolate until a negative test result is obtained. He also said that “rapid” tests are not effective for asymptomatic people.

For Halloween, New Mexico residents need to engage in family activities at home and avoid door-to-door trick-or-treating, parties, haunted houses or other situations that involve crowds or close contact, Lujan Grisham said.

“The virus is not going away,” she said. “Our ability to prevent it from actively spreading, that is on us, and we need to do a much better job.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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