New Mexico To Begin Opening Businesses in Phases: Adds Trump is Welcome With a Mask and Supplies We Need

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham officially announced Thursday that the state public health order will be extended to May 15. The extension and new changes go into effect Friday.

The new changes to the order include:

  • Non-essential retailers can operate via curbside pickup and delivery service where permitted by their license.
  • State parks to reopen on a modified day-use-only basis as staff is available. Camping and visitors are still closed
  • Pet services (adoption/groomers/daycare/boarding) permitted to operate.
  • Veterinarians permitted to operate
  • Golf courses allowed to open for golf only. No dine-in food service or retail allowed.
  • Gun stores can operate by appointment only given need for background checks)

The governor also says that the instruction to stay home remains in place for all individuals at this time. She also reminded New Mexicans that mass gatherings are prohibited and that the 14-day quarantine order remains in place for out-of-state airport arrivals.

What will remains closed

  • Offices, workspace, retailers (except for curbside/delivery)
  • Dine-in restaurants and bars (except for curbside/delivery)
  • Indoor malls, gyms, salons, theaters and casinos

But, Lujan Grisham added, it’s vital that people continue wearing masks when venturing outside.

“If you don’t, then sustaining this recovery phase will get very hard to do, nearly impossible,” she said. “And in addition, it’s really unfair to our economic partners who are trusting that we are going to give them good, safe criteria … so they can open up again.

“This public health crisis has also become an economic health crisis, and there is great urgency to address both, and we believe we can safely and productively do that,” she said.

The governor said the state had 198 new positive cases of the respiratory virus Thursday, for a total of 3,411. Of that number, 172 patients are in the hospital, and 44 are on ventilators, the governor said.

To date, New Mexico has reported 123 deaths, including 11 new ones Thursday. Nearly 68,000 New Mexicans have been tested for the virus.

The governor said a new public health order will be set in place Friday to replace one that expired Thursday.

The state has slowly moved from testing just people who experience symptoms of the virus — coughing, a fever, shortness of breath and muscle pain, for example — to others in an effort to abate the spread of the virus, she said..eek forecast of confirmed cases that shows a “weekly projected number of cases” into early June.

For May 3, for example, the best case scenario is a total of 2,905 positive cases, while the worst case scenario tops 6,350.

For May 31, those case numbers, respectively, are 3,374 on the low end and 28,264 on the high end.

Scrase said the state has to find a way to slowly reopen because COVID-19 is likely to be around for a long time, even if on a seasonal basis, much like the flu.

He said we have to “relearn how to reopen and keep our economy going” while awaiting a vaccine to be developed to fight the virus.

“We have to live in a COVID-positive world,” he said.

Aside from three counties seeing a rapid increase in coronavirus cases — McKinley, Sandoval and San Juan — Scrase cited a study showing the average number of cases per day over a seven-day period. The study says the state hit its peak in positive cases in early April.

“We may be able to safely begin to get out a little bit more,” he said.

But the good news still comes with a caveat as cases in the northwest portion of the state continue to tax the health care system.

For example, McKinley County, he said, is now at its maximum capacity for providing ICU beds for patients with COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus.

“All 14 ICU beds in McKinley County were full” as of yesterday, he said.

As a result, the state has been transferring some of those patients to Albuquerque. “Now in Albuquerque, all the major hospital ICUs are full to normal capacity, so they are now shifting over to what we call surge capacity,” he said.

Like the governor, Scrase emphasized the need to maintain social distancing practices — standing at least 6 feet from other people and gathering in groups of no more than four or five people at once — to stem the spread of the virus.

“All of our behavior” affects the criteria for reopening successfully, he said.

“We are really the critical part, every single citizen, in doing this,” he said.

Speaking of a longer-term plan for reopening the state, the governor said retailers may be able to get back to operating at 25 percent occupancy, based on fire code capacity, by mid-May.

Dine-in at restaurants and bars could be permitted at up to 50 percent capacity by the same time.

Gyms, hotels and places of worship could operate in a limited fashion as well, she said.

Small businesses already have paid a financial price for the health care order, and many will not be able to reopen, she said

She said New Mexicans should still avoid unnecessary travel, including trips to reopened businesses.

Some people who are afraid of contracting COVID-19 are hesitant to go to a hospital for other medical issues, the governor said, adding hospital personnel know how to keep patients safe. She encouraged people who need medical care to get it.

Employers should start screening employees for symptoms of COVID-19 and “do everything they can to safeguard everyone else.”

She warned that if data begins to show New Mexico is “backsliding” in terms of its daily number of COVID-19 cases, the state “may have to take another course, and that course causes more economic damage than the prudent, steady course we are recommending today,” she said.

Challenges remain to ensure the virus does not spread with the partial reopening of businesses on Monday. The governor said mandating that everyone wear masks, and enforcing such an order, would be “incredibly challenging” for a number of reasons — including for those who already have breathing problems and may find a mask to be an impediment.

The governor said residents should expect health officials to start ramping up efforts to test inmates and staff members in the state’s prison system. She said the state has not “been as robust at getting to all of the correction sites” in the state.

“We’re on it,” she said, adding those efforts would become a “high priority” as soon as Friday.

Asked about President Donald Trump’s plan to visit Arizona next week, she said she would welcome him to New Mexico if “he is masked” and “if he is bringing Air Force One with the supplies we need in the state of New Mexico.”

She said she has not spoken to him about coming to New Mexico and hopes any such visit is not tied to a “mass gathering” — including for political campaign purposes.

News Reporter