Starting tomorrow, most of New Mexico will enter the first phase of a state economic recovery plan with reopenings of some businesses and services.
That plan, previewed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday, was detailed more thoroughly in a news conference today, accompanying the daily COVID-19 report from health officials.
Regarding the latter, the state announced 164 new positive COVID-19 tests today, and 11 new deaths. That brings the statewide totals so far to 5,662 and 253 deaths. The health department has designated 1,671 COVID-19 cases as recovered.
New cases continue to be the highest in the northwest counties of McKinley and San Juan: 57 and 37, respectively, followed closely by Bernalillo County with 36 new cases. All 11 deaths also took place in those counties, with six in McKinley County. A detailed breakdown of today's cases and fatalities is available at the end of this story.
As such, McKinley, San Juan and Cibola counties are exempt from the new health order, but have moved into the preliminary phase the rest of the state has been in. Generally speaking, the state is evaluating "gating" criteria for phased reopening in two-week intervals.
On the bright side, as of today, New Mexico is meeting its goal of a rate of transmission of 1.15. On the other hand, 223 people are hospitalized, 49 on ventilators and all of the state's ICU beds are full.
The numbers serve as a reminder, the governor said, that tomorrow's "slight reopenings must not be considered an invitation to leave your house. The virus risk remains high and it is living among us."
Moreover, New Mexico is not as yet "seeing cases decline. What we're looking for is cases declining…if you don't help us as we ease restrictions, if you're not really strict about these protocols, we will see cases rise." If that happens, she said, shutting down again would be her only option.
As such, the reopenings will be balanced with more COVID-safety protocols, such as the cleaning requirements for operating businesses and, most significantly, masks for everyone.
The governor acknowledged the mask rule has been controversial. "I know this has been debated on social media," she said. "I would like to remind folks if you could make that kinder. I know not everyone agrees with this. If you could try to make it practical and not political. These are not political statements. This is about mitigating spread, mitigating risk. We're saving lives. We all have a social contract and responsibility to do that."
Lujan Grisham compared face masks to other public health practices such as car seats, seat belts, booster seats and airbags. "none of that was popular because they take incredible changes, some of them have a cost impact, but we know in fact that they save lives." She also reinforced that masks will not be enforced with fines. "We are not trying to do negative reinforcement for masks," she said. "Positive, behavior changes is what we're looking for."
Along those lines, the governor announced, "given the incredible creativity and solidarity in this state," a statewide mask competition that kicks off today. Modeled on March Madness, the competition will begin with public voting, proceed to brackets and, eventually, as-yet-to-be-determined prizes. You can submit a photo of your mask here: https://cv.nmhealth.org/mask-madness/
As for the new health order, some businesses will be able to open under certain conditions tomorrow, with a few changes to what was announced on Wednesday. Notably, houses of worship, which the governor said previously would be limited to 10% capacity, will be allowed to operate at 25% occupancy. All retailers can operate at the same capacity, but must have COVID-safe practices in place. Other non-essential businesses, such as offices and call centers, also can operate with up to 25% capacity, but the governor encouraged employers to allow employees to work from home as much as possible.
In addition, the state Motor Vehicle Division will open for some services by appointment only.
The governor also announced more state parks will be open for day use.
Even with the reopenings, all New Mexicans are encouraged to stay home if possible, and those who are considered vulnerable should be extra cautious, as should those who live with vulnerable populations.
Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver also spoke at the news conference to reinforce absentee voting whenever as possible. Those who must vote in person will have to wear a mask, and voting locations will follow COVID-safety practices. Poll workers, she said—80% of whom are over the age of 60 and therefore more vulnerable to the virus—will be wearing N95 masks.
"We want to make sure we protect the individuals that go there to vote as well as the people who are volunteering long days over the next several weeks to make sure our democracy continues to run here in New Mexico," she said.
People who have already requested an absentee ballot should have received or will receive it in the coming days, she said. People can apply for an absentee ballot up through May 28, but those who request or complete it close to election day on June 2 should turn it in directly to their county clerks or to a polling station to ensure their ballots are counted on election day.
- 36 new cases in Bernalillo County
- 1 new case in Cibola County
- 2 new cases in Curry County
- 11 new cases in Doña Ana County
- 2 new cases in Guadalupe County
- 57 new cases in McKinley County
- 4 new cases in Sandoval County
- 37 new cases in San Juan County
- 2 new cases in San Miguel County
- 1 new case in Santa Fe County
- 1 new case in Taos County
- 3 new cases in Valencia County
- 7 new cases among individuals held by federal agencies at the Otero County Prison Facility
- A female in her 60s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
- A male in his 70s from Bernalillo County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Robin House Assisted Living Center in Albuquerque.
- A female in her 50s from McKinley County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
- A female in her 80s from McKinley County who had underlying conditions.
- A male in his 50s from McKinley County who was hospitalized, had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Dungarvin New Mexico facility in Gallup.
- A male in his 60s from McKinley County who was hospitalized, had underlying conditions and was a resident of Sundance Care Home in Gallup.
- A male in his 70s from McKinley County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
- A male in his 80s from McKinley County who had underlying conditions.
- A female in her 50s from San Juan County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
- A female in her 80s from San Juan County who was hospitalized, had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Cedar Ridge Inn facility in Farmington.
- A second female in her 80s from San Juan County who had underlying conditions and was a resident of the Cedar Ridge Inn facility in Farmington.
- Bernalillo County: 1,180
- Catron County: 2
- Chaves County: 30
- Cibola County: 100
- Colfax County: 5
- Curry County: 36
- Doña Ana County: 270
- Eddy County: 17
- Grant County: 16
- Guadalupe County: 19
- Harding County: 1
- Lea County: 15
- Lincoln County: 2
- Los Alamos County: 6
- Luna County: 8
- McKinley County: 1,787
- Otero County: 8
- Quay County: 5
- Rio Arriba County: 30
- Roosevelt County: 14
- Sandoval County: 483
- San Juan County: 1,274
- San Miguel County: 9
- Santa Fe County: 114
- Sierra County: 1
- Socorro County: 49
- Taos County: 23
- Torrance County: 18
- Union County: 3
- Valencia County: 63
- Cibola County Correctional Center: 2
- Otero County Prison Facility: 31
- Otero County Processing Center: 40
- Torrance County Detention Facility: 1
Congregate living facilities
- Advanced Health Care of Albuquerque in Albuquerque
- Albuquerque Heights Healthcare and Rehab in Albuquerque
- Aztec Health Care in Aztec
- Beehive Homes in Farmington
- Bonney Family Home in Gallup
- Brio Assisted Living in Albuquerque
- Cedar Ridge Inn in Farmington
- Central Desert Behavioral Health in Albuquerque
- Clayton Nursing and Rehab in Clayton
- Dungarvin New Mexico, LLC in Gallup
- Haciendas of Grace Village in Las Cruces
- Ladera Center in Albuquerque
- Las Palomas Center in Albuquerque
- La Vida Llena in Albuquerque
- Legacy Santa Fe in Santa Fe
- Life Care Center of Farmington in Farmington
- Little Sisters of the Poor in Gallup
- McKinley Care Center in Gallup
- Namaste House Assisted Living in Farmington
- The Neighborhood in Rio Rancho
- Red Rocks Care Center in Gallup
- Robin House Assisted Living Center in Albuquerque
- Sandia Ridge Center in Albuquerque
- Spanish Trails Rehabilitation Suites in Albuquerque
- Sundance Care Home in Gallup
- Taos Living Center in Taos
- Tohatchi Area Opportunity Services (TAOS) in Tohatchi
- Tungland Corporation in Farmington
- Uptown Genesis in Albuquerque
- The Village at Alameda in Albuquerque
- Wellbrook Transitional Rehabilitation Center in Farmington
*Per the health department, hospitalization figures include people who tested positive elsewhere but are hospitalized in New Mexico, but don't include people who tested positive here but are hospitalized out of state.