COVID-19 in New Mexico: Governor resumes partial shutdown, shelter-in-place order for two weeks
Lujan Grisham also calls for special legislative session to direct aid for businesses and workers
SANTA FE - Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday a "reset" of a two-week partial shutdown and shelter-in-place order the state enacted during the spring in a bid to curb the recent surge of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 disease.
She also said she would be calling for a special legislative session in the near future to ask lawmakers for assistance to businesses and workers affected by a second partial shutdown down the state's economy.
The orders will be in effect from Monday through Nov. 30, encompassing the Thanksgiving holiday. For this year, the governor urged New Mexicans to refrain from gathering with anyone outside immediate household members.
"Thanksgiving isn't occurring in the Lujan Grisham household" other than virtual greetings, she said during a video news conference.
She added that the stakes are grave: "Far too many families in America —and I hope that's not going to be true in New Mexico — are going to choose to come together, and they're going to end up being together again to attend a funeral for one of those family members," she warned.
Gatherings of more than five individuals have been banned for weeks, and New Mexico residents are required to wear face coverings in public.
The new restrictions came as New Mexico hospitals have reached the limits of available beds and medical staff.
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Under an amended emergency public health order, in-person services for nonessential business transactions are ordered to close for two weeks starting Monday, and residents are instructed to stay home except for business "essential to health, safety and welfare," including working from home whenever possible.
Businesses defined as essential — such as grocery stories, pharmacies, laundromats, liquor stores and automobile and bicycle maintenance facilities — are required by the order to minimize staffing as well as occupancy, limiting those present to either 25 percent of their maximum fire code capacity or 75 people, whichever is smaller.
Essential retailers will also be required to close by 10 p.m. and remain closed until at least 4 a.m. the following day. Certain categories of items such as medications, durable medical equipment, baby formula, diapers, sanitary care products and hygiene products, are to be limited to three items per individual to avoid runs on available supplies.
Places of worship will operate under the same capacity limits for the two-week period, reducing congregations to 25 percent of their legal capacity or 75 people, whichever is smaller.
Close-contact recreational facilities, such as cinemas, museums with interactive displays, casinos, performance venues and more all remain closed.
Hair and nail salons, gyms, tattoo parlors, spas, bowling alleys, ice skating rinks and more must refrain from in-person staffing for the two weeks the order is in effect.
Food and drink establishments may continue to offer curbside and delivery service but must close on-site dining for two weeks.
Businesses defying the public health orders are vulnerable to civil penalties of $5,000 per day.
The new measures were announced after recent weeks in which COVID-19 has surged across the United States including New Mexico, where the seven-day rolling average od daily cases stood at 1,012 Friday, exceeding the state's criterion for safe reopening tenfold. On Thursday, the state reported a daily record of 1,753 new infections of the coronavirus.
As a consequence, hospitalizations have reached a crisis point statewide, with a rise of 214 percent over the past month and 471 COVID-19 patients admitted as of Thursday.
New Mexico Human Services Secretary David Scrase said that while the hospital system was running low on general and ICU beds, the situation is worse when accounting for the lack of medical personnel in the state.
Fatalities have also spiked, with 182 deaths associated with the disease documented in the past two weeks. On Friday, the state health department said that nearly one out of five patients hospitalized with COVID-19 since the state's first cases were identified in March have died.
Tiered reopening after Nov. 30
Lujan Grisham expressed confidence the two-week partial shutdown would "blunt the virus," saying it had been effective earlier in the pandemic when the state enacted similar temporary restrictions.
After Nov. 30, she announced that a tiered county-by-county system would establish benchmarks for local resumptions of in-person commerce, in a departure from the administration's position in the spring, when health orders were applied statewide.
The system would include red, yellow and green tiers for each county based on positivity rates and daily case counts, granting counties more "flexibility" and opportunity to demonstrate strategies reduce risk and prevent community outbreaks.
Lujan Grisham said some counties would likely be in a position to reopen right away after Nov. 30, due to lower rates of spread and test positivity, but further details on how quickly services might resume in counties with higher prevalence of COVID-19, including in the Albuquerque and Las Cruces metropolitan areas, were not yet available.
The state Republican Party leveled criticism at the Democratic governor's latest moves. GOP chairman Steve Pearce said in a statement that the two-week order "will continue to destroy our fragile economy and cause more pain and distress for New Mexicans." He also called for the governor, cabinet members and government workers to "give up their paychecks and share the statewide pain."
Indifferent to party politics, the coronavirus continued its spread across every corner of the state.
On Friday, the health department announced 1,237 new positive cases and 22 more deaths, of whom 20 had recently been hospitalized. All but one of the fatalities were reported to have underlying medical conditions which can exacerbate the dangers of COVID-19.
Among the fatalities was an inmate who had been held at the Northwest New Mexico Correctional Center in Grants. The man was in his 50s and had recently been hospitalized.
Altogether, 1,198 New Mexico residents had died of the disease by Friday afternoon. There were 455 people reported hospitalized in New Mexico with the disease Friday.
Meanwhile, 24,449 out of New Mexico's 62,006 cases had been designated as recovered. The positive cases accounted for 4.6 percent of the 1,348,194 tests documented by the health department.
Read the Nov. 13 emergency public health order here: