New Mexico aims for gradual reopen with ‘encouraging’ COVID-19 data

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE ) – New Mexico is still meeting its targets set by the state to reopen more of the economy. However, health officials don’t want everyone to get their hopes too high just yet.

KRQE News 13 spoke with the state’s top doctor on Wednesday about the latest COVID-19 trends and where New Mexico could be headed. Dr. David Scrase, Secretary for the state’s Human Services Department, said seeing lower daily case counts in our statewide average lately is encouraging, but any loosening of restrictions will still be gradual.

“I think the question of how long do we have to be in a good place before we start reopening? Is a really good one,” said Dr. Scrase. “We know that one day is not long enough because we tried that around memorial day and had between Memorial Day weekend and Fourth of July weekend, this huge upturn in cases.”

The state’s website shows where daily case counts went up in June and July and have started to trend down again. The state uses a seven-day rolling average to track COVID-19 cases, which takes into account the date a test was taken.

New Mexico’s latest seven-day average is 116 cases, down from a 320 cases per day average the state saw last month.

New Mexico is also hitting its targets for testing numbers, contact tracing and hospital capacity – all good signs. According to the COVID Exit Strategy website which tracks state reopenings, New Mexico has recently moved from red to yellow.

Surrounding states are still trending poorly.

KRQE News 13 asked Dr. Scrase about travel since Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s 14-day quarantine is still in effect for anyone coming into New Mexico from out-of-state. It’s clear from Sunport traffic that a lot of people still aren’t traveling.

“I know it’s really hard because we’re wired to get together with families over holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, you know Fourth of July,” said Dr. Scrase. “Thanksgiving and Christmas especially, and these are gonna be years where I’m gonna have to quote myself by saying there are just some things we’re gonna have to give up for just one year until we’re all vaccinated.”

With Labor Day in mind, health officials are asking people to avoid large gatherings at their homes so that the state doesn’t see another uptick in cases. Among the state’s top priorities is the reopening of New Mexico schools, which Dr. Scrase said they plan to discuss more during Thursday’s news conference with the governor.

“If I were gonna pick one thing that we could do to reopen that would affect the most New Mexicans, to me it’s kind of obvious that it would be schools,” said Dr. Scrase. “We’ve got 330,000 kids in school, we’ve got their parents, we’ve got the teachers and staff at the schools.”

He also stressed the importance of having low case counts and low test positivity rates in communities where schools do reopen, saying southeast New Mexico is still a concern. “If there are lots of cases, or there’s an outbreak, or really high case counts, or high test positivity rates, we know that school reopenings won’t go well,” Dr. Scrase said.

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