Calling COVID-19 an "insidious virus," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other state officials provided updates Friday afternoon on the current state of the spread, as well as preparations that are underway as healthcare providers gear up for an expected surge of New Mexicans requiring help during the pandemic.
As of today, New Mexico has 492 cases, an increase of 89 new positive tests, with "community spread in most of the state," according to Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel. The breakdown of cases in counties can be found at the end of this report. Updated: These figures were updated April 4, after the state released a press release that said the April 3 figures had erroneously included three duplicate figures. The map and totals below have not been updated, as we do not at this time have specific information about the erroneously included numbers.
As of today, 41 people have been hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19. That figure, the state says, may include individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 out of state but are currently hospitalized here, but does not include New Mexicans who tested positive for COVID-19 and may have been transferred to a hospital out of state.
As of today, 34 people have been designated as recovered by the state health department.
The Department of Health on Friday also reported three additional deaths in New Mexico related to COVID-19. All are reported to have had "underlying medical conditions":
- A male in his 90s from Bernalillo County who died, April 2.
- A male in his 80s from Bernalillo County who died, today April 3.
- A male in his 70s from Sandoval County who died early this afternoon.
The number of deaths in the state related to COVID-19 is now 10.
"This is the most painful part of this job is to report those to everyone in New Mexico," Lujan Grisham said during her 90-plus minute public announcement. "And certainly that effort is nothing compared to the absolute loss for the families who have suffered this terrible insidious virus. Our hearts go out to you and our prayers."
Lujan Grisham, Kunkel and Human Services Secretary David Scrase provided various updates on testing and preparations.
Kunkel noted the state is running more tests since expanding testing criteria earlier this week to include asymptomatic people who have had contact with others who have tested positive for COVID-19. The state's Scientific Laboratory received 800 specimens yesterday; TriCore lab, more than 1,000. Additionally, she said, the state's national labs, as well as New Mexico State University and Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamagordo, are working on being able to do testing. As of now, she noted, the state has 60 testing sites—44 of them in 22 counties were open today—and people can determine the sites' hours of operation on the DOH website. As of today, the state has performed 15,632 tests.
Additionally, she said, health officials meet "every morning to determine if there are hot spots or places that need a test site open on that date." This morning, for example, she said "we were able to go to nursing homes and some of our pueblos as a part of that early morning work with epidemiology." In the past 48 hours, the state has visited five nursing homes to provide testing, a detention center and detention center and "are working with other agencies to go to other congregate settings…these are all good things and we continue to encourage people who need to be tested to come out to the sites or to call us."
As the case numbers increase, the state continues to model the outbreak and prepare for surges. The good news, Scrase said, is that while New Mexico initially saw exponential growth every two days, that has slowed to every four days for doubling case numbers, which he attributes to success in the current social distancing orders. On the downside, the state has numerous groups that remain at high risk for the disease: a rapidly aging population that ranks No. 1 in the US for cirrhosis and liver disease; and No. 7 for diabetes. In addition, the state's high rate of accidental death and suicide correlates with addiction, which also can be a high-risk factor for COVID-19 patients.
As more data comes in, Scrase said officials create a new model every Monday to project how the virus will impact healthcare facilities. As of now, officials expect hospitals to be at full capacity the third week of April through the first week of May, though some places—such as Gallup and Farmington—may surge earlier, as soon as the coming days. Other counties with fewer cases may surge later. Ultimately, the goal of social distancing, is to lower the number of cases to reduce the height of the peak, but also to push out the surge so as not to max out hospital resources.
The state is planning for a scenario in which New Mexicans on the whole observe moderate to high levels of social distancing. These include the current social measuring distances, and closures of schools and non-essential businesses. Maintaining these levels, officials estimate, will still require the state to find an additional 1,281 general hospital beds, 1,586 ICU beds and 1,004 ventilators. The current models also estimate 3,066 deaths. While the state is planning for those numbers, he said, there is still the chance to lower the number of people who will need hospitalization and ventilators.
"Please remember of all the things that every team is doing to combat COVID in the state," he said, "what the people of New Mexico are doing to stay at home, wash your hands, avoid as much contact as you can with other people, those are the critical interventions."
To that end, the governor said she will be extending the current stay-at-home order through April, and will be announcing additional measures to address people's use of big box stores such as Home Depot and Lowes.
In addition to readying hospitals, the governor said efforts continued to secure the appropriate Personal Protection Equipment, and she demonstrated what surgical gowns, gloves and N-95 respirator masks look like. "I know you are well aware of the challenges of having access to resources," she said. "It is true the state-by-state effort to go after supplies and equipment is incredibly competitive. Frankly, it is a system that is not working for anyone, everywhere."
Through partnerships with various businesses, she said, the state is working to both create more supply as well as sanitize existing supplies for re-use. Doing so has required various federal approvals. Lujan Grisham emphasized that people who are not healthcare workers should not buy such masks and use them. However, both she and Kunkel said people can wear cotton masks.
"It might be a prudent strategy to start wearing some kind of covering," Kunkel said, noting that she hoped for additional guidance from the Centers for Disease Control on the parameters of such cotton masks.
Regarding the federal government, Lujan Grisham also said she also had sought and received approval from the federal government to employ 750 members of the Army and Air National Guard to assist the state in various tasks, such as food and test deliveries.
In response to questions from SFR and other reporters, officials also said they would soon be providing additional data that this paper and others have been repeatedly requesting, such as testing, hospitalization and recovery data by county. "We think it's really important to see data about who's been impacted," Lujan Grisham said. "This data will be incredibly important over a year's time."
Scrase, however, cautioned that while anonymizing data in larger urban areas was reasonable, it could present challenges in smaller towns. The goal, he said,"is to have as much transparency as we possibly can" while also protecting people's privacy. "It's not always possible to do both of those at once." The state plans to begin making more data available through an online platform in the coming days.
Lastly, the governor said the Department of Corrections plans release 40 inmates approximately 30 days before their planned release and is continuing to review other ideas to lower the incarcerated population "without minimizing public safety."
Per the state Department of Health, the most recent cases are:
- 39 new cases in Bernalillo County
- 3 new case in Cibola County
- 1 new case in Doña Ana County
- 8 new cases in McKinley County
- 26 new cases in Sandoval County
- 9 new cases in San Juan County
- 4 new case in Santa Fe County *
- 2 new cases counties not yet identified
per a news release, the county cases were updated to correct today's numbers for Santa Fe, which were initially attributed by the state to Socorro County.
Statewide breakdown for total cases
County totals are subject to change upon further investigation and determination of residency of individuals positive for COVID-19.
Bernalillo County: 202
Catron County: 1
Chaves County: 13
Cibola County: 8
Curry County: 6
Doña Ana County: 22
Eddy County: 4
Grant County: 1
Lea County: 2
McKinley County: 32
Otero County: 2
Rio Arriba County: 5
Roosevelt County: 1
Sandoval County: 66
San Juan County: 50
San Miguel County: 1
Santa Fe County: 52
Socorro County: 4
Taos County: 13
Torrance County: 3
Valencia County: 5
Counties not identified: 2