New Mexico state leadership on Thursday, April 30, announced the extension of the state’s emergency public health order through Friday, May 15, as the COVID-19 pandemic remains a grave risk to residents of all ages and in all communities across New Mexico.
As of Thursday, April 30, there were 3,411 reported positive cases in the state of New Mexico and 123 reported fatalities associated with the virus. The highly contagious virus continues to spread in communities statewide, with particular emphasis in the northwestern part of the state.
Despite continued spread, New Mexico as a state has begun to flatten the curve, purchasing much-needed time to ramp up its healthcare system. Because of that hard work, the state is entering the “Preparation Phase” for gradual, safe reopenings.
With that objective, the amended public health order relaxes several restrictions to begin relieving economic pressure.
In short, physical distancing must be maintained to assure the spread of the virus is stunted in every part of the state.
“These changes do not make our fight against the virus any easier; in fact, New Mexicans’ obligation to our social contract only deepens as we enter the next phase,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “The best defense against this virus, until there is a vaccine, is physical distance from other people.”
The amended order, authorized by Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel and effective at 8 a.m., Friday, May 1, maintains the directive that New Mexicans remain at home except for outings essential to health, safety and welfare.
The amended order similarly maintains that gatherings of more than five individuals are prohibited. Restaurants and dine-in outlets may provide only curbside and delivery service, as before.
Grocers and other essential retail services must continue to operate at only 20 percent of their maximum capacity as determined by fire code.
The order allows for partial reopenings for business operations deemed non-essential to health, safety and welfare.
Non-essential retailers, beginning Friday, May 1, may provide curbside pickup and delivery services if permitted by their business license. Liquor licenses, for instance, do not allow for curbside or delivery service.
Child care may now be extended to people operating non-essential businesses.
Additional changes include:
State parks may reopen on a modified day-use-only basis, as staff is available. Camping and visitor centers are still closed. The Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources department will notify the public of the parks that will be open in the near future.
Federally licensed firearm retailers may open by appointment only as needed to conduct background checks and to allow individuals to take possession of firearms ordered online.
Golf courses may open to golf only — no dine-in or retail service.
Pet services — including adoption, grooming, daycare and boarding — are permitted to operate.
Veterinarians are permitted to operate.
A separate public health order dated Thursday, April 30, addresses New Mexico’s June 2 primary election by allowing polling locations to open with limits.
The order says no more than four voters or 20 percent of capacity may be inside a polling place at a time; mobile voting units may have no more than two voters at a time.
A third public health order allows medical facilities to gradually resume non-essential but medically necessary procedures (including ambulatory and inpatient surgery) based on extensive guidelines from the Department of Health.
The guidelines are designed to prevent a shortage of personal protective equipment and to safeguard the health of patients and health care workers.
“We know those who are infected do not always show symptoms, and we know the virus does not care about county lines; we must all be vigilant. The progress we have made is tenuous — and it is subject to change,” Lujan Grisham said in a recent press release.
“But when we reach a place, as we have, where our collective actions have begun to flatten the statewide curve, we can begin to make productive, safe decisions about alleviating some of the awful social and economic pressure this virus has brought down on us all. Today we are willing and able to do that.
“As we move forward, and as we make more careful decisions about relaxations, the data about this virus and its spread in our state will be our guide; public health remains first and foremost priority.”
She continued, emphasizing that the reopening of New Mexico depends upon New Mexicans.
“Going out and congregating will worsen the spread of this disease. It will lead to more illness and likely death. A cavalier attitude toward individual activity is a grave danger to our collective health,” the governor said.
“We cannot win this fight — we cannot prevent the illnesses and deaths of our neighbors all across the state – if we let our collective guard down. As a state, we have to prevent and manage the spread of this virus and provide for safe social and economic activity. Every day moving forward we will do both.”
At a remote news conference Thursday, April 30, the governor and state health officials outlined potential additional relaxations that could occur upon the expiration of the amended health order.
These prospective relaxations — which will be evaluated by the governor’s Economy Recovery Council and supported by findings of Cabinet-led subcommittees on specific industries — are dependent upon increasingly positive trends in COVID-19 illness and transmission data as determined by the state’s “gating criteria.”
Those criteria include:
• A mitigated spread of the virus as reflected in the effective rate of transmission, to be measured by the state Medical Advisory Team
• Adequate and stable testing resources, to be measured by the Department of Health
• Effective contact-tracing plans and resources, to be measured by epidemiologists at the Department of Health
• Health care systems operating below staffed capacity for beds, ICU availability and ventilators
• Sufficient personal protective equipment for health care workers and first responders, to be measured by the Department of Health and Medical Advisory Team
Weekly modeling from the Medical Advisory Team will be regularly posted moving forward on the COVID-specific microsite, cv.nmhealth.org. Modeling data is available here: cvmodeling.nmhealth.org.
That data along with slides from state officials’ remote news conferences are available here: cv.nmhealth.org/newsroom.