Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

Governor extends current health order

 

August 5, 2020



This month’s coronavirus regulations will be like last month’s.

New Mexico's governor on Thursday extended the current health order through Aug. 28 with the hope the number of cases would fall. She said that would allow students to return to schools after Labor Day and prompt the easing of some restrictions that month, as well.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during her briefing that current health restrictions that would remain in place include occupancy limits for many businesses and churches, bans on public gatherings, recommendations of social distancing and hand washing, and a continuation of the mask mandate.

Lujan Grisham said more immediate goals are reducing COVID-19's spread and positivity rate, expansion of testing and contact tracing, ensuring COVID-safe behaviors and businesses adhering to facial-covering mandates, and supporting businesses that use COVID-safe practices.

“In short, we have everything in place that can and will get our state back to a better and steadier place in our fight against this virus — if and only if New Mexicans make and continue to make the right individual and collective decisions,” she said. “We’ve got to keep on the right track to ensure our students and educators can get back in the classroom this school year.”

Human Service Secretary David Scrase said the state's seven-day average of 330 coronavirus cases had flattened or gone down slightly, “but it's too early to predict victory.” He said the daily rate also was too high.

New Mexico had seen the number of daily cases exceed 200 for more than a month, and the number rose past the 20,000 mark since the pandemic began.

Scrase said daily deaths and hospitalizations had remained relatively low despite the sharp uptick in cases. He attributed that to more cases in people age 10 to 30 who generally suffer fewer health effects from the disease.

Lujan Grisham said in addition to death risk, emerging evidence shows COVID-19 infection can lead to long-term health issues such as heart scarring and lung, liver and kidney damage.

The state's spread rate of the virus was 1.09, above the goal of 1.05. New Mexico continued to meet its goal for daily tests (7,800-plus of a goal of 5,000), test positive rate (4.12% of a goal of 5%), intensive-care bed availability and personal protective equipment supplies. Contract tracing criteria had not met their goals but had improved.

In response to a question, Lujan Grisham said she would discourage political events and protests because they violate the ban on public gatherings.

She also discouraged door-to-door visits by political candidates.

“That is a terrible idea in a COVID world,” she said.

In response to a question, the governor said she would refer the state’s attorney general to the Lea County sheriff’s department for not enforcing parts of the health order.

Lujan Grisham said she would partially relax a 14-day quarantine for out-of-state travelers in New Mexico, particularly for those on business. She also said she soon might loosen family visitation rules for group-living homes for the developmentally disabled. Lujan Grisham said she anticipated issuing the new rules by Monday, but neither had been announced before the Quay County Sun’s deadline.

Rapid responses

Environmental Secretary James Kenney said his office had seen an eightfold increase in rapid responses to COVID-19 cases at businesses and entities throughout the state.

The rise in cases occurred in late June and early July, after the state had loosened some health restrictions.

Kenney said the healthcare field made up most of the rapid response cases with 17.5%, followed by restaurants with 16% and retail/wholesale at 15.5%. Construction was fourth with 8.4%.

In July, rapid-response teams were referred five times to COVID-19 cases with employees at Quay County businesses or entities.

State aid

Lujan Grisham announced nearly $600 million in aid to businesses affected by the pandemic. They include:

• $400 million from the New Mexico Recovery Loan program, which offers low-interest loans through nmfinance.com;

• $100 million from the New Mexico Recovery Fund, which offers below-market fund through sunmountaincapital.com;

• $50 million in New Mexico Recovery grants through counties or cities;

• $35 million from the New Mexico Small Business Investment Corp. through loanfund.org;

• $10 million in business loan guarantees from community banks through gonm.biz.

More information for businesses can be found at 833-551-0518, option 2.

Individuals who need assistance with food, medicine, cash or electricity bills should go to yes.state.nm.us. Those who need help with childcare should go to newmexicokids.org. Help also is available by calling 855-662-7474.

The governor began her briefing with information about business and individual aid programs because renewal of a jobless-claims benefits bill was delayed in Congress.

 
 

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