LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico is taking on a new ‘county-by-county’ strategy to reopen in the pandemic, and most of the state is swimming in the red zone, with only Los Alamos County in the yellow. “The whole state except for Los Alamos County is in the red,” explained Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, during her November 30 news conference. “Los Alamos is yellow.”
Under the new ‘red to green’ reopen plan, 32 out of New Mexico’s 33 counties are in a ‘red’ zone, meaning they have both a high COVID-19 case rate average over a two-week span, and a test positivity rate greater than 5%.
But in the sea of red, is Los Alamos County. KRQE News 13 asked Human Services Secretary, Dr. David Scrase about what can be attributed to a lower spread rate in Los Alamos County.
“I think there’s absolutely no question that if you live in a higher-income neighborhood, let’s just say, or area, or county, your chances of getting coronavirus are much lower,” Dr. Scrase explained. “Maybe 1/6th to 1/10th as much as someone who lives in a low-income neighborhood or area.”
Dr. Scrase said that’s also reflected in statewide data. The yellow county has a population of roughly 19,369 people according to 2019 census estimates.
It’s also home to Los Alamos National Laboratory, where some of the most highly educated and wealthy people in the state work. Many of those employees are working remotely in the pandemic.
“If you’re in a low-income area, you’re more likely to have to go to work, particularly as an essential worker,” said Dr. Scrase. “And whenever you do that, you have more exposure to people.”
Dr. Scrase said testing and isolating cases is also important. He said the state is working to address community inequities by adding more testing sites and resources in places with higher spread rates.
“I think that the state is doing everything we can to number one, recognize that you are at a disadvantage if you live in a low-income area, or you’re an individual who doesn’t have sufficient resources – to meet those needs however we can,” said Dr. Scrase. “And that’s our job, and we appreciate those communities who work with us to allow us to do that.”
He said the state is also providing hotel space for people who can’t isolate at home safely.
“I think every community’s way of balancing economic recovery and the safety of our population – is gonna be a little different,” Dr. Scrase explained. “And I think that the state’s really eager to help folks in different communities meet those needs in whatever ways we can.”
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