IT’S HEEEERE! For the last week, the corona virus has dominated the national news. All three national media news agencies have devoted up to half of their beginning news programs to the corona virus and then some and what’s happening around the world.
Each time the news casts would put up a map of the United States showing the states in red where the virus has been found, New Mexico would be in black. Now New Mexico is in red. With 5 cases of the virus now found in New Mexico, the pandemic has indeed arrived to the Land of Enchantment.
The corona virus was formally declared a “pandemic” by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the World Health Organization there are more than 124,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in 104 countries and territories. More than 4,200 people have died worldwide. Of those deaths, more than 3,100 people have died in China.
More than 1,200 people across 38 states and Washington D.C. who have confirmed cases of coronavirus. The U.S. death toll is at least 33, including 24 deaths in Washington state. More than 1,100 cases are spread across at least 41 states and the District of Columbia. At least 33 people have died. 25 have died in Washington state, four have died in California, two have died in Florida, one died in New Jersey and one in South Dakota.
The NBA has suspended its season “until further notice” after a Utah Jazz player tested positive March 11 for the coronavirus, a move that came only hours after the majority of the league’s owners were leaning toward playing games without fans in arenas. Now there will be no games at all. Other major sporting event tournaments such as the rest of the NCAA finals are being held without fans.
President Trump spoke to the nation announcing a 3O day travel restrictions. Trump said he is suspending all travel between the U.S. and Europe for foreign nationals for 30 days beginning Friday as he seeks to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Trump blamed the European Union for not acting quickly enough to address the coronavirus and saying United States clusters were “seeded” by European travelers. The truth is the only “cluster” is in the White House given the President’s poor handling of the crisis.
Just when things were looking great with respect to oil and gas royalties to finance state government, BAM the corona virus hits, a global oil price war ensues, and New Mexico gets hit in the process, all within one month since the adjournment of the New Mexico legislature. The global oil price war has hit hard the recent revenue boom and has caused the state budget surplus to evaporate. New Mexico’s most recent revenue estimates pegged oil prices for the budget year that ends in June to average $52 per barrel and the price of oil has now plummeted to $33.19 dollars a barrel. The result was the Governor vetoing the $49 million capital outlay bill and line item vetos of another $100 million in projects from the $7.3 Billion dollar budget.
GOVERNOR MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM DECLARES PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY
On March 11, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham became the first New Mexico Governor to invoke the 2003 Public Health Emergency Response Act (PHERA), issuing an Executive Order declaring a “public health emergency” giving her administration broad powers to deal with the coronavirus . The governor urged people to avoid public gatherings, sanitize common surfaces and minimize contact with other individuals, even if it means staying home from church or going out less often in order to slow transmission of the virus. During a press conference declaring the emergency, Lujan Grisham said New Mexico has 2,400 tests available to determine who has the coronavirus. Health officials will be determining who is most in need of the test. The state has completed about 129 tests for the coronavirus so far and just 5 have turned up “presumptive positive.”
In announcing the Public Health Emergency the Governor had this to say:
“This is a very highly infectious virus. … This is a serious situation. I will use every tool and resource to keep us safe.”
Republican State Senator William Sharer, R-Farmington, accused the governor of going too far. He declared people should take common-sense steps to protect themselves, but said the governor’s message will damage tourism and disrupt life in New Mexico far beyond what’s necessary.
In a written statement, Republican Senator Sharer had this to say:
“The Governor has called for mass panic, then told us not to panic. . . I encourage people to take common sense measures to prevent the spread of any disease. We all should take the same precautions as we do to avoid the flu. If we put this in perspective, many more people get sick and die from the seasonal flu in our state every year than have contracted COVID19 in the entire United States.
While we are concerned about the seasonal flu, we don’t declare states of emergency and cause panic over it. The governor’s emergency declaration is already having huge negative effects, The governor has touted tourism as the way to move away from the fossil fuel industry that currently funds the state budget. As of today’s emergency declaration, she is actively destroying that industry as well. . . The panic the governor induced in New Mexico has the potential to go on and on. Wash your hands and ignore the panic.”
MAJOR EVENTS CANCELLED
Following the announcement of the 5 coronavirus cases in the state, the New Mexico Athletics Association (NMAA) made the decision to ban fans from the state basketball tournament. The NMAA will limit those in attendance to essential team personnel. The decision was made hours after the NMAA released a statement that encouraged people who were ill to stay home.
On Wednesday, March 11, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared a public health emergency after the state Health Department confirmed COVID-19 coronavirus cases in New Mexico. In the interest of public safety, Governor Lujan Grisham ordered the cancellation or postponement of all events in state-owned facilities including the Gathering of Nations. All events at Expo New Mexico have been canceled at least through the end of March. These include the Monster Jam, Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festival, the World Series of Team Roping, ABQ Rubber Stamp Show, Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Festival, Central New Mexico STEM Research Challenge, MasterWorks of New Mexico, New Mexico Renaissance Celtic Festival, New Mexico Photographic Art Show, and Treasures of the Earth Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Expo. The flea markets have also been closed through the end of the month.
The Good Shepherd Center canceled the annual Brother Mathias Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner scheduled for Saturday. People who pre-purchased tickets can get a refund by calling 243-2527 extension 303.
The Albuquerque Little Theatre is postponing all performances of “Beauty and the Beast,” scheduled for March 13, 14 and 15. Those who already have tickets can call the box office Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. at 505-242-4750 extension 2.
The U.S. Army announced it was canceling this year’s Bataan Memorial Death March on March 15 at White Sands Missile Range. Just a day earlier, organizers announced that a record-breaking 10,000 had registered to march this year.
NEW MEXICO HEALTH SECRETARY ANNOUNCES BAN ON PUBLIC GATHERINGS
On March 12, New Mexico Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel announced a temporary ban on public mass gatherings of 100 people or more, as the state’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus have rapidly intensified. Secretary Kunkel has the authority to impose the ban under the 2003 Public Health Emergency Response Act (PHERA) now that the Govener has declared a public health emergency. Mass gathering means any public or private gathering that brings together 100 or more individuals in a single room or connected space in close proximity to one another.
The ban announced by Secretary Kunkel applies to facilities such as auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, theaters, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space. The ban took effect immediately. However, airports, public transportation and shopping malls are exempt from the order. It also does not apply to weddings, funerals, restaurants, bars, hospitals and schools, retail stores, grocery stores, offices, businesses, clinics, courthouses, places of worship or shopping Malls.
NEW MEXICO EDUCATION SECRETARY ANNOUNCES PUBLIC SCHOOL CLOSURES FOR 3 WEEKS
Late March 12, Cabinet Education Secretary Ryan Stewart announce that all New Mexico public schools will be closed and classes canceled, starting Monday, March 16, for three weeks. The governor’s office said in a news release that the closure of K-12 public schools is in response to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.
Education Secretary Ryan Stewart had this to say about the school closures:
“This is a proactive measure to limit the potential community spread of COVID-19. …We have seen other states take this measure after they have experienced community spread of this virus. New Mexico is going to be proactive and do everything we can to prevent the potential spread of the virus. I have been in communication with all of our superintendents about this proactive step, and we are all going to work together to address this public health challenge.”
ARCHBISHOP ANNOUNCES CATHOLIC CHURCH AND SCHOOL CLOSURES
Archbishop John C. Wester announced on Thursday, March 12, that the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is canceling its church services and closing its schools until further notice, effective immediately, following the lead of state officials who have ordered the closure of all New Mexico K-12 public schools for three weeks. The measures were taken to prevent community spread of COVID-19. The Archbishop had this to say about his decision:
“The church is very much pro-life and we see this as very much a pro-life issue. … We are concerned about the health of our parishioners, particularly those who are elderly, and people with underlying and chronic health conditions.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
When Republican State Senator William Sharer says “Wash your hands and ignore the panic” the only one that needs to be ignored is Sharer, given that even Republican President Trump knows how bad things are getting and the impact it is having on a crashing stock market. Instead of just keeping his mouth shut and allowing the Governor to lead, Senator Sharer pops off deciding to ignore science and medicine and suggests to “wash your hands”.
It is clear that this is a very infectious disease that is spreading like a wild fire throughput the world, the United States and now New Mexico. The Governor is taking action to get a handle on the health crisis and its called leadership. There is no doubt that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham knows what she is doing and declaring a “Public Health Emergency” was without a doubt the right call.
Governor Lujan Grisham has the experience, knowledge and credentials to deal with the crisis. From 2004-2007 Governor Lujan Grisham served as the Secretary of the Department of Health, the agency that now assumes power in making decisions regarding coronavirus and public safety. The Governor also served as a longtime director of the New Mexico Agency on Aging, now the Aging and Long-Term Services Department, experience that is timely because the coronavirus is most serious for individuals over 60, many of whom are in nursing facilities that the Governor as a cabinet secretary oversaw.
Government officials urged people to protect themselves by:
Washing their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
Cleaning “high-touch” surfaces daily with regular household cleaners
When coughing, use a tissue or cough into the forearm of your elbow
Avoiding the sharing of personal household items and, when sick, staying home rather that going to work or school
Staying home when sick
Avoid large crowds and public events
Older adults and those with chronic illnesses are most at risk to contract the virus that could result in death from complications. Even healthy people not worried about getting sick should take steps to protect themselves and others. The strategy must be to limit the chance of transmitting the disease to persons who are more vulnerable.