New Mexico cracks down on hoarding of medical supplies

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico confirmed a coronavirus infection that has no apparent link to travel as the governor took new steps Wednesday to limit the spread of the contagion by restricting restaurants to take-out service and closing down movie theaters, gyms, spas and shopping malls.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced five new positive tests for coronavirus, bringing the state total to 28 infections. A woman in her 40s in the Albuquerque area is the first case of so-called community spread in which there is no clear connection to travel outside the state.

Urging state residents to cut short or avoid distant travel, the governor raised the specter of the coronavirus possibly sweeping through the state’s smaller Native American pueblo communities. About 10% of the state’s population is Native American.

“People need to think about what they’re doing to neighbors and their families,” Lujan Grisham said.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The state is discouraging any business activity that brings together 10 people in one place and will limit purchases of medical supplies and some sanitary items such as toilet paper to prevent hoarding and shortages.

Without the purchasing restrictions, the governor said, infants may end up without nursing formula, and the elderly could be stuck with no toilet paper.

“We’re not rationing. We’re not withholding,” Lujan Grisham said. “We’re leveraging.”

The new state orders take effect Thursday morning and run through April 10.

New Mexico previously closed schools, ordered state personnel to work from home and shut down public access to state buildings including museums. Many houses of worship and tribal-operated casinos have shut down.

Private and public medical labs in New Mexico are now equipped to process as many as 700 testing samples a day, the governor said. The state plans to open five new drive-thru public coronavirus screening sites in coming days.

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