August presents more of the same for New Mexicans. Last week Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials extended the state’s emergency public health order for another month and keep intact existing public health restrictions and guidelines while the state continues to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The emergency public health order signed on July 30 will be in effect for 30 days, ending August 28. This means the prohibition on mass gatherings remains in effect, as well as the temporary indoor occupancy restrictions for certain businesses, particularly indoor “close-contact” businesses such as restaurants and gyms.
The extended public health order streamlines the categories of business operations. Wineries and distilleries will now be classified alongside other food and drink establishments such as restaurants, meaning outdoor and patio seating is permitted while indoor seating and service are not, and outdoor tables must be separated by six feet of distance.
Also unchanged is the statewide requirement that all individuals wear face coverings in public and that business operators require customers to wear face coverings upon entrance.
Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase said although the state is not where it needs to be in terms of positive cases, there are some signs of stabilization.
“Unfortunately, stabilizing at a high level of daily case counts will result in sustained pressure on state resources, will result in too many illnesses and too much risk,”
Scrase said the statewide rolling 7-day case average has been steadily increasing since mid-June.
“We’ve got to stay the course and drive down the spread of infection in our state,” Scrase said. “We all know the steps we can take to do that: Stay home, avoid groups of people, wear a mask, keep six feet apart from others, and wash your hands frequently.”
After decreasing from May to mid-June, New Mexico’s reported COVID-19 fatalities are once again rising week-over-week, Scrase said, adding that while ventilator usage has remained steady COVID-19 hospitalizations have also risen in aggregate since early July.
“Every New Mexico life is important; every single one,” Scrase said. “That’s why we’re all fighting so hard.”
“We don’t know about the long term effects of this virus. And once you have it, you’ll always have it,” Lujan Grisham said. “There are numerous compelling studies that indicate that there are long term significant health care issues related to getting COVID. Lung scarring and other pulmonary issues related to being on a ventilator. Anything from liver and kidney damage to some specific issues with children. No one is immune from the worst aspects of COVID.”
Rapid responses conducted by the state Environment Department and other state agencies continue to increase, with 215 rapid responses to places of employment where COVID-19 exposure occurred during the week of July 20-26.
Almost a quarter of the state’s rapid responses for occupational exposure were reported in the food industries.
While a newly formed state childcare agency is looking to expand daycares, the governor said parents can expect a shortage of child care as long as schools remain closed.
“Without everyone being able to go back to school in person, I do not doubt that we’re going to fall short on meeting everyone’s needs and childcare, including making sure that we have the right childcare subsidies for everyone,” Lujan Grisham said.
The governor also admonished local leaders after learning that some are disregarding New Mexico public health orders. She said among those are sheriff’s deputies who refuse to wear masks in courthouses and are causing concern among prospective jurors.
”I find it appalling that any local leader or any law enforcement entity would just say you ’can’t make us,’” Lujan Grisham said.
The governor added she was “incredibly disappointed” to learn that in Roswell, the city council has met without wearing masks and resolved not to enforce the state health orders.
“Personal behavior is the essential factor right now,” Lujan Grisham said. “Countless New Mexicans have made so many incredible sacrifices to reduce the spread of the virus in their communities – and yet too many New Mexicans are still gathering in groups, not wearing face coverings and taking undue risks. The state’s public health requirements reflect everything we know to work in reducing the opportunity for the virus to spread. We’ve got to keep on the right track to ensure our students and educators can get back in the classroom this school year. I want to encourage New Mexicans in the strongest possible terms: We cannot let our guard down.”
The emergency public health order signed by Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel is effective for 30 days through Aug. 28.