Home News COVID-19 Situation Governor praises efforts to control virus, but warns of possible surge

Governor praises efforts to control virus, but warns of possible surge

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In this file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks during a COVID-19 briefing at the state Capitol in Santa Fe on Aug. 13. In a press conference Thursday, Lujan Grisham praised recent efforts to combat the virus while warning of a possible surge in cases following the Christmas holiday. (Gabriela Campos/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Although every county in New Mexico is considered at very high risk for spread of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had praise for New Mexicans in helping to manage the pandemic during a livestreamed press conference Thursday afternoon.

However, she and other state health officials also warned the upcoming Christmas holiday puts the state at risk for another surge in COVID-19 cases in the new year.

Meanwhile, in Thursday’s daily COVID-19 update from the New Mexico Department of Health, Chaves County recorded 28 new cases, its lowest number of daily new cases in more than a month. The state reported 1,702 new cases, bringing the total number since March to 126,045. The county’s total is now 6,047.

The state also reported 48 deaths — a single-day record — including two from Chaves County.

The deceased were a woman in her 40s who had been hospitalized and a woman in her 70s who was a resident of Sunset Villa Care Center, 1515 S. Sunset Ave.

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The total number of deaths related to COVID-19 in the state is now 2,097, including 75 in Chaves County.

As of Thursday, 852 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state, with 162 on ventilators. Dr. David Scrase, secretary of Human Services, reported during the press conference that as of Thursday morning all hospitals were at capacity but their numbers were steady.

“We’re way overfull, but we’re managing,” he said.

Despite the high numbers of cases and deaths Thursday, the state is seeing positive trends due to the health behaviors of people across the state, Lujan Grisham said.

She noted that even though all 33 counties are now in the Red Level, or very high risk, 27 counties improved in at least one of the two metrics the state measures in its Red-to-Green risk assessment system.

“The overwhelming majority of counties are showing improvement toward yellow and green levels. That means they’re lowering their positivity rates, the state’s positivity rate as a whole has come down and the number of cases in their communities is also coming down,” she said.

“It means that we’re learning to live with the virus. That means we can have a little more risk introduced into our communities,” she said.

Chaves County was one of 23 counties that improved both their average number of new daily cases and positivity rates. Chaves County had an average of 121.2 new cases a day per 100,000 people from Dec. 1 to Dec. 14 and a test positivity rate of 21.4%.

In order to move to the Yellow Level, or high risk, a county must have either an average of eight or fewer new cases per day or a test positivity rate of 5% or less.

Lujan Grisham said the data shows it is possible for behaviors such as mask-wearing, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and frequent hand-washing to have a difference on the spread of the virus.

She cautioned that even with a COVID-19 vaccine becoming available and another possibly on the way next week, New Mexicans must continue those precautions.

“We are not out of the woods. We have far too many hospitalizations — far, far, far too many — and until we get infections at 1,000 or below, it’s too many infections every day,” she said.

She acknowledged that Christmas has deep religious meaning and family traditions for many, but asked that people consider spending their holidays with family and friends through online connections.

She said she will be doing so with her family on Christmas Day and in a virtual Christmas party with her cabinet Thursday night.

“It won’t be the same. It won’t be easy. But you will make the difference in so many other people’s lives,” she said.

Lujan Grisham, Scrase and Dr. Tracie Collins, NMDOH secretary-designate, all said they expect to see a rise in cases in early January, however, based on trends with previous holidays.

Collins said more doses of the Pfizer vaccine should arrive in the state next week, but could not say how many. A vaccine from Moderna is expected to receive emergency authorization approval Friday from the Food and Drug Administration. If that happens, the state’s shipment of that vaccine will be used for staff and residents of long-term care facilities, Collins said.

The Department of Health expects to launch an online dashboard early next week that will show the vaccine shipments the state receives as well as when they are distributed.

Even with more vaccines on the way, Lujan Grisham said the general public should not expect them to be available until early spring.

Beyond health care workers and those in nursing homes, essential workers — which the governor describes as a “huge category” of people including first responders, transportation and utility workers, and educators and child care workers — will be prioritized for the vaccine.

“There’s thousands of them and we’re only going to get 10,000 to 15,000 to 20,000 a week, so it’s going to take awhile to get through,” she said.

She said the state’s goal is to have 70% of the population vaccinated. Combined with continued COVID-Safe practices, the vaccine should allow the state to open more services and activities, she said.

“I think it’s critical to our ability to restore the state’s operations and our day-to-day lives,” 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/.