In-person learning for New Mexico public school students won't take place until at least after Labor Day on Sept. 8, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced today during a news conference updating on COVID-19 in the state.
The decision to delay in-person learning comes as New Mexico reports 343 new positive test results for COVID-19, the highest number of new cases on a single day to date. Those new cases bring the statewide total so far to 18,163; the health department has designated 7,056 of those cases as recovered.
The state also announced five new deaths; there have been 596 fatalities.
"Unfortunately, one of those is a 40-year-old [from Lea County] with underlying conditions," Lujan Grisham said. "Every single one…is mourned by everyone in the state of New Mexico and what's horrifying around the country is I don't know there are any Americans left who don't know someone who has either gotten very sick and hospitalized or lost a friend or loved one to COVID."
As of today, 167 people are hospitalized, 34 on ventilators.* A complete list of new cases, fatalities and statewide figures is available at the end of this story.
While students won't return to in-person learning, online learning will begin with the start of the school year in August, the governor said. "The pause is on in-person learning," she said. "It is not a pause on making sure we work to meet our educational requirements."
Schools will be able to offer some limited in-person one-on-one learning for students with special needs and some kindergarten through third-grade students, she added. "Youngest students have the most difficult time getting the most out of our distance learning," Lujan Grisham said. "Because of that they have the most risks from falling so far behind we can't get them caught up."
Similarly, special-needs students are "another group of students who are not getting what they need and they need both emotional and physical healthcare support that were being delivered to them in a school setting. If they can't come back to school, all of that is being minimized…this is a group we believe we can safely serve."
As for higher education, Stephanie Rodriguez, a senior advisor for the governor, tells SFR via email that "higher education institutions will be deploying online and remote learning across their campuses this fall except for clinical, practicum or field-based experiences for critical workforce areas, such as healthcare and vocational education."
The governor noted that 85% of teachers had expressed concern about returning to in-person learning safely and approximately 40% of parents don't believe it's safe for their children to return to school. Further, around 40% of school districts had already decided to delay in-person learning.
"This is un-chartered territory," the governor said, and "…if you don't have the right evidence and you know the risks are severe, you gotta go slow, you gotta be cautious, you gotta be safe."
When the state proposed starting the school year with a hybrid model of remote and in-person learning, New Mexico appeared to be on a positive trajectory with COVID-19 and expected cases would have declined significantly by now. Instead, they have increased, as indicated in the graph below.
"We are doing better than the vast majority of states in the country and we're doing better than our neighbors and I want you to take heart from that," she said. "But it isn't enough. We have to do more. I know we're all disappointed that we didn't quite make the grade for a hybrid in-person model to start in August. We still have time to do what's right and stop those positivity rates and slow the rate of infection so we can get there in September."
New Mexico had its highest number of cases to date today, with several other concerning indicators, according to Human Services Secretary David Scrase, who provided an overview of both cases and gating criteria for COVID-19 in the state.
As the above chart notes, the state has had a 123% increase over the last five weeks. "This is the curve we mainly follow," Scrase said. "This is the one that tells us we're still having a significant problem."
Heat maps of cases below show the total number of new cases by county over the last seven days on the left, compared with the number of new cases per county during the same time period. Bernalillo, Doña Ana and Lea counties have had notable increases in cases during that time period. "The main thing driving the growth and this uptick in cases is more people are spending more time outside their homes with more other people for longer periods of time interacting," Scrase said. "That is how COVID spreads: with human-to-human interaction."
While the state is meeting four of its gating criteria for re-opening, it remains behind in contact tracing for people who have tested positive and those they may have infected, although it has the highest rate of success in the US, Scrase said, with contact tracers able to reach 83% of people with positive tests.
The Medical Advisory Team that oversees the gating criteria is now looking at incorporating additional benchmarks that help more fully capture the situation on the ground, he said, such as an average daily rate per 100,000 New Mexicans and a test positivity rate. While New Mexico is meeting its effective rate of transmission criteria at 1.03 percent (the gating criteria is 1.05), that doesn't capture the rising number of cases.
Scrase said the state also is seeing a trend he described as "alarming" regarding higher rates of cases among children ages 0 to 19 comprising close to 22% of new cases as of July 22. "One thing we do know…[from] at least one study is that [ages] 10 -19 tend to transmit COVID very similarly to other adults, and so the myth that kids can't transmit it is turning out not to be true," he said.
Environment Secretary James Kenney also reiterated information regarding the state's rapid-response program for businesses that have employees who test positive. That rapid-response protocol includes:
- temporarily ceasing operations
- testing some or all employees
- retesting employees at a later time
- ensuring a safety plan that encompasses New Mexico’s COVID-Safe Practices is in place
The environment department has overseen 80% of those rapid responses—there have been more than 800 thus far—through its Occupational Health and Safety Bureau. As far as impacted industries, "the rise in positive employees at restaurants has increased 15-fold," Kenney said.
State rapid response data and other COVID-19 resources are available online.
Masks and more
As always, the governor and other officials reiterated the importance of wearing masks and social distancing, with the governor showing side-by-side photographs of people in Taos following the public health mandate and those in Hobbs, eating inside a restaurant without masks.
"I don't think the people who are trying to support a local business understand the risk they're taking," Lujan Grisham said regarding the photo from Hobbs, "and understand they're creating enforcement issues that we take seriously …Until we get as a state to moving less and wearing masks more and socially distancing more we aren't going to be able to function as effectively as we certainly could."
Scrase also doubled-down on the importance of wearing masks, as required under the current public health law, noting the "overwhelming evidence" of their efficacy. He also reiterated the importance of people avoiding close contact in crowded closed spaces.
Lastly, Workforce Development Secretary Bill McCamley provided an update for New Mexicans receiving unemployment, as the $600 weekly federal supplemental benefit expires this week and Congress has not yet signed a replacement bill.
"We're going to make sure to do everything in our power to make sure everyone gets all of the unemployment dollars they can get," he said.
COVID-19 by the numbers
- 126 new cases in Bernalillo County
- 6 new cases in Chaves County
- 5 new cases in Cibola County
- 7 new cases in Curry County
- 31 new cases in Doña Ana County
- 6 new cases in Eddy County
- 4 new cases in Grant County
- 1 new case in Guadalupe County
- 3 new cases in Hidalgo
- 33 new cases in Lea County
- 3 new cases in Lincoln County
- 6 new cases in Luna County
- 26 new cases in McKinley County
- 7 new cases in Otero County
- 5 new cases in Rio Arriba County
- 6 new cases in Roosevelt County
- 16 new cases in Sandoval County
- 21 new cases in San Juan County
- 6 new cases in Santa Fe County
- 1 new case in Sierra County
- 1 new case in Socorro County
- 7 new cases in Taos County
- 1 new case in Torrance County
- 3 new cases in Union County
- 9 new cases in Valencia County
- 2 new cases among New Mexico Corrections Department inmates at the Lea County Correctional Facility
- 1 new cases among New Mexico Corrections Department inmates at the Otero County Prison Facility
- A female in her 80s from Bernalillo County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
- A female in her 90s from Bernalillo County who was a resident of Spanish Trails Rehabilitation Suites facility in Albuquerque and had underlying conditions.
- A male in his 60s from Doña Ana County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
- A female in her 40s from Lea County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
- A female in her 60s from McKinley County who was hospitalized and had underlying conditions.
The Department of Health has identified at least one positive COVID-19 case in residents and/or staff in the past 28 days at the following facilities:
- The Adobe in Las Cruces
- Advanced Health Care of Albuquerque in Albuquerque
- The Aristocrat Assisted Living Center in Alamogordo
- Avamere Rehab at Fiesta Park in Albuquerque
- Bear Canyon Rehabilitation Center in Albuquerque
- BeeHive Homes of Farmington in Farmington
- Bloomfield Nursing and Rehabilitation in Bloomfield
- Blue Horizon Assisted Living in Las Cruces
- Bonney Family Home in Gallup
- Brookdale Juan Tabo Place in Albuquerque
- Camino Healthcare in Albuquerque
- Casa Contenta Assisted Living in Rio Rancho
- Casa del Sol Center in Las Cruces
- Casa de Oro Center in Las Cruces
- Casa Real in Santa Fe
- Cedar Ridge Inn in Farmington
- Clayton Nursing and Rehab in Clayton
- Crane’s Roost Care Home in Aztec
- Desert Springs Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hobbs
- El Castillo in Santa Fe
- GoodLife Senior Living in Carlsbad
- Good Samaritan Society in Las Cruces
- Life Care Center of Farmington in Farmington
- Montebello on Academy in Albuquerque
- The Neighborhood in Rio Rancho
- New Mexico State Veterans’ Home in Truth or Consequences
- North Ridge Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Albuquerque
- Princeton Place in Albuquerque
- Red Rocks Care Center in Gallup
- Retirement Ranches, Inc. in Clovis
- Retreat Healthcare in Rio Rancho
- The Rio at Las Estancias in Albuquerque
- Rio Rancho Center in Rio Rancho
- Sagecrest Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Las Cruces
- Sandia Ridge Center in Albuquerque
- Sombrillo Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Los Alamos
- Sierra Health Care Center, Inc. in Truth or Consequences
- Sierra Springs Assisted Living in Los Lunas
- Spanish Trails Rehabilitation Suites in Albuquerque
- Sunset Villa Care Center in Roswell
- Taos Living Center in Taos
- Welbrook Senior Living Las Cruces in Las Cruces
- White Sands Healthcare in Hobbs
According to a state news release, previously reported numbers included seven cases that have been identified as a duplicates: one case in Bernalillo County, four cases in Doña Ana County, one case in Sandoval County and one case in Valencia County. Two cases that have been identified as out-of-state residents: one case in Doña Ana County and one in Eddy County. Previously reported numbers did not include one case that was thought to be an out-of-state resident that has since been determined to be a New Mexico resident and has been added to Luna County. County totals are subject to change upon further investigation and determination of residency of individuals positive for COVID-19.
Bernalillo County: 4,131
Catron County: 4
Chaves County: 235
Cibola County: 283
Colfax County: 11
Curry County: 335
Doña Ana County: 1,864
Eddy County: 207
Grant County: 63
Guadalupe County: 27
Harding County: 1
Hidalgo County: 84
Lea County: 465
Lincoln County: 47
Los Alamos County: 16
Luna County: 175
McKinley County: 3,844
Mora County: 6
Otero County: 127
Quay County: 28
Rio Arriba County: 261
Roosevelt County: 101
Sandoval County: 972
San Juan County: 2,890
San Miguel County: 35
Santa Fe County: 462
Sierra County: 22
Socorro County: 68
Taos County: 81
Torrance County: 52
Union County: 17
Valencia County: 285
Cases among people being held by federal agencies
- Cibola County Correctional Center: 2
- Otero County Prison Facility: 276
- Otero County Processing Center: 149
- Torrance County Detention Facility: 43
Cases among people being held by the Mexico Department of Corrections
- Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Valencia County: 24
- Lea County Correctional Facility: 2
- Northwest New Mexico Correctional Center in Cibola County: 1
- Otero County Prison Facility: 466
- Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe County: 1
*Per the health department, hospitalization figures include people who were tested elsewhere but are hospitalized in New Mexico, but don't include people who were tested here but are hospitalized out of state.