NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Public protests, health orders, and an election year; there is a lot going on in the country. When it comes to the fight against COVID-19, health officials say New Mexico is trending in the right direction for reopening, and they hope to keep it that way. KRQE News 13 talked to one of the state’s top doctors who’s helping guide the state through the pandemic about the current state of affairs in New Mexico.

“I’m like the coronavirus, I’m not registered as a Republican or a Democrat,” said Dr. David Scrase, Secretary for the Human Services Department. “I’m just trying to take what science we have and apply it in a way that’s sound and is safe for New Mexicans, but also acknowledges that we can’t just close down the economy for 18 months.”

Dr. Scrase said he’s disappointed that topics like mask-wearing have become a political issue for some. Seeing protests like the one on Monday where people are crowded together, shouting, and not wearing masks, makes health officials concerned about the virus spreading.

“I do believe though that people are getting a false sense of security as we reopen,” said Dr. Scrase. “That somehow everything is getting better, and the virus has not changed even that much in terms of its ability to infect folks.”

Right now, New Mexico is still one of few states green on the COVID Exit Strategy U.S. map for reopening, showing the state is meeting federal testing criteria and trending downward in COVID-19 cases. As more places reopen, Dr. Scrase argues it’s that much more important for people to follow health guidelines.

“COVID-19 is not registered as either a Democrat or a Republican. It’s an independent virus that has no political considerations whatsoever,” said Dr. Scrase. “It’s really the science of doing everything we can, even if these interventions aren’t perfect, doing everything we can to reduce the chance of us spreading to others or in turn us getting the infection from others.”

The state doctor said it’s still too early to tell if any of the recent public protests might contribute to an increase in cases, but they’ll likely find out in a couple of weeks. “I don’t think us expressing our concerns about what’s happening in society is something we can put on the shelf for 18 months,” said Dr. Scrase.

Dr. Scrase encourages anyone who wants to protest to protect themselves and others by wearing a mask and staying six-feet apart from others. “I’ve actually been advocating for Zoom protests, but nobody has taken me up on that idea,” he added.