Governor stresses social distancing in Friday news conference

Coronavirus New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham held a remote press conference Friday to provide updates on COVID-19 efforts in New Mexico.

The governor was joined by Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel and Human Resources Secretary Dr. David Scrace. Governor Lujan Grisham stressed that New Mexicans remain at home during this time as it is the best course of action for lowering the spread of the coronavirus. “We do have community spread, so we have to work even more diligently to stop that spread, to mitigate that and to prevent the kinds of surges we’re planning for in our healthcare system,” the governor said.

Along with updating the community on the current numbers of infected in the state, the governor said New Mexico has 41 individuals in hospitals and 18 on ventilators. Addressing a chart showing the course of hospital cases in the state, Governor Lujan Grisham said about 44% of COVID-19 hospital patients are in need of a ventilator.

Kathy Kunkel from the Department of Health said that the department meets every morning to go over potential hot spots in the state that may need a test sight set up. “We were able to go to nursing homes and to some of our Pueblos as a result of that type of early morning work with epidemiology,” Kunkel said. Due to the broadening of criteria for COVID-19 testing, Kunkel said their SLD site saw 800 specimens Thursday and TriCore is seeing over 1,000.

The governor gave updates on efforts involving aid from the federal government. New Mexico now has the ability to call up to 750 soldiers and air guardsmen and women in the state under what is called a Title 32 request. “We have more folks that can help us do the emergency work that we need in this pandemic,” the governor said.

Governor Lujan Grisham also said that the federal government will work with President Nez and the counsel delegates of the Navajo Nation to set up service delivery sites in both Shiprock and Crownpoint. The governor also announced the Army Corps of Engineers have decided on the old Lovelace Gibson Hospital site for a step-down hospital service in preparation for a surge in COVID-19 cases. A high school in Gallup has also been chosen as a site.

Dr. David Scrace identified in a slide (above) that San Juan and McKinley Counties are seeing a significant increase in cases of coronavirus. Dr. Scrace identified a few reasons as to why New Mexico is at a higher risk for a higher rate of death from COVID-19. “Number one, we have a rapidly aging population. We are 39th in states in 2020, we’ll be number four in 2030. Our population is aging. We are number one in America for chronic liver disease and cirrhosis which increases risk of death of COVID. We’re number seven in America for diabetes,” Scrace said.

Dr. Scrace also showed a slide indicating that New Mexico was in among the bottom two or three states as far as growth rate of the virus. Scrace attributes statewide measures of social distancing as to why it’s so low.

The doctor also said our rate of cases doubling statewide was good. We are doubling every four days.

Dr. Scrace also identified the number of hospital beds available per county throughout the state. As of Friday morning, 72% of hospital beds were occupied and 28% are open.

In talking about the upcoming surge of COVID patients the state will see, Dr. Scrace identified three basic resources hospitals can provide: Baseline, Surge Capacity, and Maximal Capacity.

Scarce believes New Mexico will see a surge sometime between the third week of April and the first of May. The doctor did stress that the surge will happen at different times at different places depending on the characteristics of the spread in different communities. Dr. Scrace did say the surge will likely happen sooner in places like Gallup and Farmington.

The doctor stressed that with the state’s continuing compliance with stay-at-home measures, New Mexico can get to the numbers in the top row of the graph below.

Throughout the press conference, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham stressed that continuing social distancing and staying home is the best strategy in fighting the coronavirus. In regards to the upcoming Easter holiday, the governor said the goal is to not have any congregate religious activities over Easter. “Home is holy. We know that individuals will practice your faith. You should,” the governor said.

The wearing of masks was also addressed. Health Secretary Kunkel said in light of the fact that COVID-19 can not only be spread by droplets from a sneeze but by breathing the air, wearing a mask outside is a prudent strategy to wear some kind of covering when you leave the house. “Multiple layers of cotton fabric that are up against your face are probably the best we can do at this time,” Kunkel said advising that we cannot use medical-grade materials so as to free them up for the medical community to use.

For those with health questions or believe they have symptoms related to COVID-19, the governor once again gave out the COVID-19 hotline and website. A list of resources throughout the state are available at the COVID-19 State Resource Information Hotline or at the state website.

New Mexico Coronavirus Resources

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