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New Mexico extends stay-at-home order

San Juan County may see cases spike some time in May
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, seen here in 2019, announced an extension of the statewide stay-at-home order until May 15.

FARMINGTON – Colorado might be lifting its stay-at-home order on Sunday, but the governor of New Mexico has announced an extension of her stay-at-home order.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the order would be extended through May 15, citing social distancing as the best defense against COVID-19. While Lujan Grisham said the social-distancing practices are working, she emphasized the state is not ready to return to “normal.”

“What does normalcy look like? It isn’t going to look like it did in January. We’re not going to be congregating in large groups at parks. We’re not going to huge concerts. I don’t think that’s going to happen anywhere really in the country,” Lujan Grisham said during a news conference.

As of Thursday morning, the state Department of Health reported 2,210 positive cases out of 41,232 completed tests. There were also six new COVID-19-related deaths on Wednesday, raising the state’s total to 71 deaths.

During the news conference, Dr. David Scrase, Cabinet secretary for the state’s Health and Human Services Department, spoke about the importance of increased testing. He said for every case the state knows about, there could be 30 to 40 more positive cases it is unaware of.

The governor also announced the state would reopen in phases, with the input of the newly formed Economic Recovery Council. The council would allow business leaders to work with public health experts and the administration on the phased-in plan for reopening the state.

In a plan outlined by Lujan Grisham, the first phase would allow some nonessential businesses to reopen and require at-risk individuals to continue to stay home. Phase 2 would see more nonessential businesses open but limit large gatherings of people. A similar formula is being followed in Colorado.

Scrase also named certain objectives the state hopes to meet before easing the stay-at-home order. The criteria includes implementing contact tracing, increasing hospital capacity, seeing lower case rate trends and increasing testing capacity. Currently, the state has the capacity to run about 5,000 tests per day, Scrase said.

There are currently 64 testing sites in the state’s 33 counties, Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said. She also acknowledged Wednesday the need for expanded testing, including focusing on specific communities such as long-term care facilities and grocery store employees.

As New Mexico extends its stay-at-home order through the middle of May, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced his “safer-at-home” phase this week. Certain businesses, such as personal training, tattoo parlors, salons and dog grooming, will be allowed to reopen.

According to Polis, the goal is to maintain 60% to 65% physical distancing, with local governments and health departments able to enact stronger or weaker guidelines than those offered by the state.

During Wednesday’s news conference, Scrase said New Mexico has been able to “flatten the curve,” but he predicted the number of virus cases in San Juan County and other parts of northwest New Mexico are likely to spike in the next month.

As of Thursday morning, San Juan County had 339 positive cases out of 2,216 total tests completed with 22 deaths related to the virus, according to the state’s Department of Health data. San Juan Regional Medical Center had 21 positive inpatients and had received more than 2,000 calls on its COVID-19 hotline.

The hospital also provides three weekly drive-thru screening days, typically Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

lweber@durangoherald.com

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