Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham opened the October 15, 2020 press conference, stating the state's numbers were "not just alarming, but shocking."
Presenting the weekly update were Grisham and Dr. David Scrace, via Zoom, from their respective residences. Grisham was on her last day of quarantine after a positive case occurred at the governor's residence. She has since tested negative twice, but continued her quarantine for the full 14 days.
After the recent virus activity in the state, Grisham said she will continue to self-isolate.
Before getting into the data, Grisham thanked the internet audience for putting up with the virtual meeting vehicle, Zoom. She said we've all become familiar with several different virtual meeting programs over the past few months.
As of October 15, 2020, New Mexico had 672 cases and a positivity rate of 8.1%. "We are the highest in the nation, in a bad way," Grisham said. "Now we're in those columns where we are leading the country in uncontrollable spread."
Hospitalizations went up, and Grisham commented on the two-part concern of the increase. "People need health care for all kinds of reasons," she said. "We're seeing an increase in cases requiring ventilators and COVID-related care." The governor warns New Mexicans that a high capacity of COVID-related cases in the hospitals makes it difficult to receive care for the normal, daily activities that also need medical care. "It pushes out those who need help, like mothers giving birth," she said.
"We have an obligation to do more than offer condolences for those who have passed," Grisham said. On top off all the COIVD-19 cases, the first flu case of the 2020-2021 flu season was reported on October 15. "Flu is another reason people will need hospitalization."
Grisham reminds New Mexicans to visit togethernm.org/flu to find out where to get a flu shot.
"This is not new, but it bears repeating because we are not succeeding," Grisham said. "We are in uncharted waters. This is the most serious emergency that New Mexico has ever faced. The health risks are extreme." Grisham said the state is moving very rapidly in the wrong direction, and that will put undue strain on health care providers across the state. "We are beyond the markers for uncontrollable spread. The virus is now everywhere."
Grisham said it's at the grocery stores and gas stations, and plead for New Mexicans to help get the virus under control again. This includes mask-wearing and hand washing. "We need to be courteous and conscientious about how we move through the community," she said. "We have succumb to the national rhetoric; we cannot fall into that false information. This is a deadly virus and it is living among us."
"Stay home. It keeps other New Mexicans safe. I need everyone to recommit to their own personal responsibilities and social contracts," Grisham said. "If you don't have to go out, don't go out." She said she still wants people to support their communities and small businesses. "Do it online, shop from home," she said. "We need to and must do that."
"If you go out, wear a mask," Grisham said. "I am hearing that mask wearing is getting more and more relaxed in the state. I'm with every other person that says it feels constrictive," she said. "But if it mitigates the spread, that is incredible."
Grisham said the state needs to get as close to 100% compliance when it comes to wearing masks. She also suggested not having all family members running errands in groups.
She revisited the "COVID triangle" concept she suggested last week. Essentially the request is to make no more than three stops in a day. "If you can do less, do less," she said.
The rapid response team is showing a dramatic increase. "Many places have to close down for two weeks due to positive cases," Grisham said. "We (the Rapid Response team) cannot deal with exponential spread. Businesses will have to stay closed longer before the state can come in."
"We're putting essential workers out of commission by having this type of spread," Grisham said.
El Paso had 717 cases on October 15, with 438 hospitalized cases. Grisham requests New Mexicans halt travel to El Paso at this time.
Grisham warns New Mexicans that the lack of public health efforts may force the state to make tough decisions. "It is out of control and if we don't get it right we will restrict high risk activities."
"None of this is fair. This is a crisis level, horrific situation," Grisham said. "And it just means we have to do more and work harder."
Scrase agreed that fast action must be taken. "I hope we slam on the brakes," he said. "It's going to take two weeks to get the car to stop."
This week, Scrase said there was an increase in all age groups across the board. "You can pick any line and they all have increased - higher than we have been. Ever."
"I'm often accused of trying to scare people," Scrase said. "But I'm not wanting people to be afraid, I'm wanting people to get motivated." He said there's a lot more about the virus that we don't know, compared to what we do know.
Scrase also reminds New Mexicans to get their flu shots.
"It will be a significant challenge to keep up with the contact tracing," Scrase said. He also mentioned hospitals are reaching capacity. Contrary to some beliefs, border towns are not able to use neighboring states for health care. Those hospitals are at or near capacity as well.
"We all have to really recommit to fighting this virus for another year," Scrase said. "Nobody likes the situation we are in."
"The notion we are all invincible is wrong," Grisham said. "We identify the right measures, model what the trends will be, and as soon as the shift happens people stop practicing those health measures."
Grisham said she knows everyone is tired. "We are exhausted by the pandemic," she said. "If we stay at home we can manage the virus. We introduced risk and things fell apart. We are physically and emotionally fatigued." Another concern she has is that fewer folks are taking a fact-based initiative.
"This virus overwhelms every other aspect of our lives, including access to health care," Grisham said.
For further information and resources, please refer to the following:
New Mexico Crisis and Access Line
Updated COVID-19 information
New Mexico Early Childhood and Care Department
New Mexico Environment Department
New Mexico Education Department
New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions