By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

Governor says state 'at extreme risk'


October 14, 2020

Noting a large increase in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday the state was “at extreme risk of uncontrolled spread” of the disease and feared a rollback of restrictions this week, including imposing a curfew, if the daily caseload didn't show signs of stability.

Two confirmed cases were reported Saturday in Quay County — one a child under 10 years old and the other person age 60 to 69. Both were in the Tucumcari ZIP code.

The governor and Human Services Secretary David Scrase said New Mexico's virus numbers had become worrisome, and that trend largely continued after their briefing:

• A total of 488 cases — a record since the pandemic began — were reported Friday and another 486 on Saturday;

• The seven-day rolling average rose to more than 300 by the weekend. That number had been under 100 a month ago;

• Hospitalizations for COVID-19 reached 130 by the weekend, almost doubling from a few weeks ago;

• The state's test-positivity rate reached 9.7% percent on Wednesday alone and the seven-day average had risen to 4.2% by Oct. 6, an increase of two full percentage points in less than two weeks. The gating criteria benchmark is 5%;

• The state's spread rate of the disease was 1.24, well above the gating criteria of 1.05;

• Scrase said several hospital officials told him they were “very nervous” about the outbreak, and intensive-care units were beginning to fill;

• New Mexico had the third-worst increase of cases in the nation, behind only Vermont and New Hampshire;

• Scrase said a Los Alamos National Laboratory heat map of coronavirus cases showed a huge amount of activity just across the Texas border, fueling persistently high cases in southeast New Mexico and Dona Ana County. The Amarillo metro region had more than 2,900 active cases through Friday;

• Scrase said New Mexico was on track to have 700 cases in a day soon, and exponential growth could mean 6,400 cases in one day before Halloween.

Scrase added the caseload hike couldn't be attributed to an increase in testing. He noted the average daily tests performed had risen only 25% in recent weeks, while the disease's caseload had more than doubled.

Scrase and Lujan Grisham said residents should increase their efforts in wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands often and having lunch breaks alone. Residents should avoid group meetings, potlucks, work gatherings, eating lunch indoors and working while sick.

Lujan Grisham also urged residents to restrict travel to three or fewer COVID-safe activities per day.

“We may very well be forced to move backward in our reopening efforts,” she said, which “would be another devastating blow to our economy.”

When asked by a reporter what restrictions she might impose, Lujan Grisham refused to speculate, saying it was premature. She said she was considering a statewide curfew because it would cause the least amount of economic harm.

Thursday's health briefing was conducted by Zoom videoconference instead of the governor's office because Lujan Grisham was under a self-imposed quarantine. She had been exposed last week to a mansion custodial worker who tested positive for the virus. Lujan Grisham said the worker was experiencing only mild symptoms of the disease. The governor said she and her fiance so far have tested negative for the virus.

Saturday’s cases in Quay County increased its total to 79 since the pandemic began. A total of 41 cases have been reported in the Tucumcari ZIP code, 33 in Logan and five in San Jon.

A total of 51 people in the county have been deemed as recovered from the virus, with two deaths since the pandemic began. A total of 2,083 COVID-19 tests have been administered in the county.

Through Monday, it appeared Quay County would meet the benchmarks of having fewer than eight daily cases per 100,000 people and a test-positivity rate of under 5% before the state gives its school-reopening grades this week.

A total of 389 new cases in New Mexico were reported Monday, with four deaths. The death toll rose to 915.

In the U.S., more than 7.8 million people have been confirmed with the virus, with more than 215,000 deaths.


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