Extended Interview: Dr. Scrase on NM’s July 1 reopening

Coronavirus New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Following through with what the state has been aiming for since late April, New Mexico will reopen entirely on July 1, 2021. That reopening means lifting the COVID-19 restrictions that have surrounded day-to-day life and activities since March 2020, including a limit on the number of people allowed at mass gatherings and capacity limits inside of businesses.

Following the state’s announcement Friday, one of New Mexico’s top health officials, Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase sat down with KRQE News 13 Digital Anchor Chris McKee for an extended interview. The interview covers a wide range of pandemic-related topics, including why the state chose to reopen July 1, despite falling short of the 60% vaccination goal for people 16 and older.

“We have data coming in from Texas now, we’ve made those connections and we’re scrubbing that data, and last night, people were up late, long lines getting that vaccine, so while we haven’t counted all the data, we’re very very confident that we are within that margin of error to declare that we’ve made it,” Scrase said. “The state’s going to reopen on July 1st after 465 days of pandemic here as of today.”

With reopening planned for July 1, the state will get rid of the color-coded, county-to-county reopening criteria. A continued health order is still expected to take shape in the state, however, Scrase says the health order should have minimal effect on business operations and day-to-day life.

“For the average New Mexican, (the next health order) will be a combination of a free and open economy and whatever the CDC is telling us about things we ought to consider about masking, particularly if I’m vaccinated, schools, workplaces,” Scrase said. “All those things that we think will be coming out soon.”

Dr. Scrase says New Mexico is still not close to true “herd immunity.” However, with more than 115,000 New Mexicans ages 12 and over now considered fully vaccinated, coupled with the number of individuals who’ve contracted COVID-19, Dr. Scrase says the state is poised to fully reopen.

“We’ve got folks who had COVID, who had immunity that didn’t get vaccinated,” Dr. Scrase said. “We know that’s about 50-percent of the folks who got COVID have been vaccinated, 50-percent have not, so that other 50-percent may have some immunity.”

Moving forward in addressing the pandemic, Dr. Scrase says the state will continue an aggressive vaccination campaign. He says future incentive offerings aren’t off the table. New Mexico’s vaccination rates nearly tripled this week compared to last week, as the state began offering $100 incentives for individuals completing their vaccination series.

“There are lots of components of how are we going to manage this pandemic, which is not over, going forward, in a longer period of time,” said Dr. Scrase. “How are we going to respond to outbreaks? How are we going to respond if there’s a new variant that’s hopefully not resistant to the vaccine? Or what if there is? So we’re putting those plans together.”

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