On Wednesday, May 5, Governor announced that on June 1, service industry businesses will be allowed to start reopening. Dine-in restaurant services, salons, gyms, malls and other services will be allowed to re-open with restrictions. During the Wednesday briefing, the Governor said that as of May 20, the state has made steady progress in fighting the corona virus to allow the openings. In making the announcement, the Governor said:
“We might come to you even earlier, but right now we want you to know… there’s nothing that we’re seeing, even though we had an increase in cases today largely related to a high-risk area, that we aren’t going to get to our targets exactly when we should. ”
The Governor and Dr. David Scrase, Human Services Secretary, both emphasized to keep moving forward and allow for the business reopening, there is still a need for everyone to take necessary precautions such as wearing masks and social distancing. Everything can change and businesses could be order to close again if the public fails to follow the social distancing rules.
Dr. Scrase released data showing most regions are seeing a decline in the corona virus while the northwest part of the state continues to see an increase in reported cases. Scrase also reported that according to the CDC guidelines New Mexico is one of only two states that are on track to go onto Phase 1. Despite all the progress being made by New Mexico, Dr. Scrase still emphasized the need for caution by saying:
“If we jumped out of a plane with a parachute on and we’re descending and drifting toward earth and slowing down but still 1,000 feet above… we would not conclude its time to take off the parachute. It would be time to continue that slow descent and prepare for a landing in a COVID positive world”
During the May 20 news conference, the governor pointed out that El Paso, Texas is still seeing a surge in cases that could spread into New Mexico. El Paso is seeing more hospitalizations due to the virus. The governor said New Mexicans who travel to El Paso raise their own risk of infection and spreading the disease.
RESUMING CHURCH SERVICES EASIER SAID THAN DONE
On Wednesday, May 13, Governor Michell Lujan Grisham announced that New Mexico all retail business, with a few exceptions, could operate at 25% capacity. Lujan Grisham also said that churches and houses of worship would be able to meet in person as long as they restrict in-person attendance to 25% of each building’s capacity as set by the fire marshal.
Notwithstanding being allowed to, resuming church services is easier said than done. A few Albuquerque-area congregations said despite the new rules, they are not yet ready to open thier doors.
Paul Murphy, the interim lead pastor for Hope Church, a congregation in the Albuquerque Northeast Heights, said that in pre-virus times the church had about 600 people attend its two Sunday morning services. However, Hope Church is not rushing to resume in-person services.
According to Ryan Bestelmeyer, the lead pastor of Refuge Church which has a congregation about 300 people said the mask requirement would be particularly difficult to enforce at his church which is attended by many families with young children. Bestelmeyer said he intends to send out recorded services online rather than relaunch in person services.
Sagebrush Church, has a congregation of between 14,000 and 15,000 people with several locations in Albuquerque and elsewhere across the state. Sagebrush has not set a reopening date for its in-person services. According to Church Spokesman Eric Williams, enforcement of social distancing and mask wearing could be too problematic. As a result, Sagebrush Church will continue to do services online.
CATHOLIC CHURCH ARCHDIOCESE GUIDELINES
Catholic Church Archbishop of Santa Fe John Wester issued guidelines for all catholic churches throughout the state for resuming in-person services. Those guidelines are as follows:
People over age 60, those with compromised immune systems, and anyone concerned about being infected with the COVID-19 virus should stay home.
Congregants must keep a distance of six feet from one another in all directions, and pews may be roped off. Members of the same family may sit together.
No handshaking or contact between people or families during church services is allowed.
Anyone over age 3 must wear a face covering except when they are speaking.
Cleaning staff are to disinfect commonly touched surfaces after each Mass, including pews, chairs, lecterns, door handles and rails. Restrooms are to be disinfected after each liturgy.
No open holy water should be present in churches.
Hymnals, missalettes and other prayer books should be removed.
There will be no congregational singing except by the cantor and one instrumentalist.
Collection baskets will not be passed and congregants are encouraged to use online giving.
MINIMIZE THE SPREAD
The Lujan Grisham Administration and state health officials say all New Mexican’s can do their part and should practice the following:
Stay home except for work, urgent needs or emergencies.
Wear a cloth face covering whenever you venture out in public.
Keep at least 6-feet of physical distance from others in public spaces.
Do not congregate in groups of more than 5 at parks and on hikes.
Support local businesses. See buynmlocal.com on line.
Help your neighbors by offer to shop for groceries if you can using personnel protection practices, make face coverings for others if you have extra fabric or other resources.
Monitor yourself for symptoms and find out how to get tested.
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UPDATED CORONA VIRUS CASES
On Thursday, May 21, the New Mexico Health Department announced that 11 more New Mexicans have died amid the coronavirus pandemic resulting in the death toll now at 294. Health officials also said testing has confirmed 163 additional cases of the virus resulting in a total of 6,472. The new cases include 19 state inmates at the Otero County Prison and 40 new cases in Doña Ana County, which borders Texas.
SPECIAL SESSION DATE ANNOUNCED
During her May 20 press conference, Governor Lujan Grisham announced that June 18 will be the start for a special legislative session. The session is required to deal with the state’s deficit and to adjust the state budget amid a major hit to expected revenue related to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the collapse in oil prices. The governor hopes to reach bipartisan agreement on financial measures and wrapping up the session in a few days.
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
By all accounts, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is doing a better job than most Governor’s in the country to get a handle on the pandemic in New Mexico and taking the necessary steps to protect all New Mexicans. The approach Governor Michelle Lujan has taken is to first move aggressively to close down New Mexico and she now being cautious about lifting the restrictions to deal with the crisis. The clear and unmistakable message Governor Lujan delivered with the limited opening of the state is that all of what she has ordered is indeed “flattening the curve”.
The state is making significant progress, but we still have a long way to go given the fact that increases in cases is still occurring. New Mexico is now inching closer to reopening over perhaps the next 2 months.The Governor has sent the clear message that in a real sense, it’s all on use to make sure we do are part and follow the social distancing rules. Otherwise, if there is a major spike in diagnosed cases, the state could be close once again.