Curry goes green
Last updated 9/19/2020 at 1:14pm
SANTA FE — She believes the state is “trending in exactly the way we are hoping to” on COVID-19. So on Thursday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham introduced recreation-related changes to the state’s public health order aimed at reopening the state while keeping virus spread low.
Also, Curry County moved into the “green” status for counties allowed to begin hybrid school learning on Thursday. The county has 7.7 daily cases per 100,000 residents with test positivity at 3.9%. The state requires 5% test positivity or less and eight daily cases or less per 100,000 residents.
Regarding counties that have begun a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning, Lujan Grisham said counties that had met the benchmarks for hybrid status won’t be required to fall back to remote-only learning if they just miss the gating criteria in the following two-week period. Lujan Grisham said there could be circumstances where a county could be removed from hybrid learning, but they would have to be extreme examples.
Among county schools impacted:
• Clovis Municipal Schools plans to take one week to transition and begin its hybrid model Sept. 28 for preschool through fifth grade. A release from the district encouraged families to monitor email, the school website and the district’s Facebook page for further details.
• Melrose Superintendent Brian Stacy said the school will begin hybrid learning on Wednesday, with one cohort going in-person Mondays and Wednesdays and remote Tuesdays and Thursdays, and vice versa for the other cohort.
Stacy said the change will apply to pre-K through sixth grade, and he wasn’t sure on a timeline to bring back grades 7-12.
• Attempts to contact officials at Texico Municipal Schools and Grady Municipal Schools were unsuccessful Friday.
Roosevelt County remains outside of the criteria, with 12.5 daily cases per 100,000 and test positivity at 6.5%. Portales Municipal Schools plans to start phasing in-person schooling in on Oct. 20, even if the state clears Roosevelt County earlier.
The state reported 159 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 154 on Friday. The Thursday rundown included one case in Curry County and six in Roosevelt County, while Friday added seven Curry County cases and five in Roosevelt County. That brings the total state cases to 27,350 since the beginning of the pandemic in March. Nine new deaths over the two days brought the state total to 841.
As of Thursday, the state was averaging 90 daily cases, with a spread rate of .89 and 2.16% test positivity. In order to keep the test positivity low, Lujan Grisham encouraged getting a test for anybody feeling a cold or flu or who may have been in close contact with a COVID-positive person.
Regarding contact tracing efforts, Lujan Grisham thanked New Mexicans for answering calls from the Department of Health, and for the information they provide during those calls. The state is averaging 19 hours from positive tests to isolation recommendations and 29 hours to recommending quarantines for close contacts.
“We want to be aggressive in our testing approach,” Lujan Grisham said, “and I need New Mexicans to help us.”
Amendments to the state’s public health order:
• Allow camping at state parks Oct. 1, with no more than 10 to a group. A Friday release from the State Parks Division said online reservations were necessary and only New Mexico residents could enter state parks.
Brantley Lake, Pecos Canyon, and El Vado Lake State Park will remain closed to camping due to staffing shortages or normal seasonal closures, but will remain open for day-use. Morphy Lake and Manzano Mountains State Parks remain closed due to construction.
• Allow youth sports practices with no more than 10 to a group, with competitive contact play remaining off limits.
• Grant pick-your-own pumpkin patches the ability to operate, with further guidance coming for other autumn activities such as corn mazes and haunted houses.
• Swimming pools can operate with up to 10 people at a time.
Except for swimming, mask wearing is required in all circumstances. The public health order was effective Friday.
The order, Lujan Grisham said, will be effective through mid-October. She said the goal is to keep infection rates low so in-person school can happen again and businesses can operate at increased capacity.
“New Mexicans have long shown when we’ve got to be tough and strong and tackle difficult circumstances, we do it and we do it in spades,” Lujan Grisham said. “New Mexico businesses deserve our attention and our effort, and so do our kids.”
In other matters addressed during the press conference:
• Lujan Grisham said isolation is obviously the most effective defense against any infection, but it can impact mental health. She noted resources included the NMConnect app, the state mental health crisis line (855-NMCRISIS) and a healthcare worker and first responder support line (855-507-5509).
• Environment Department Secretary James Kenney said the department has handled 4,662 citizen complaints, but there has been a recent 30% drop in reports that he attributed to businesses following COVID-safe guidelines. He said healthcare is the top industry for rapid responses at 18.5%, followed by retailers and wholesalers at 13.1% and restaurants at 11.8%.
• State Personnel Office Director Pam Coleman encouraged filling out the Census, and being a “Census-evangelist” for spreading the word to family and friends. She noted that each person who fills out the Census brings back about $3,700 annually in federal funding, so not filling out the Census is like giving a $10 bill away every day. The deadline to respond is Sept. 30.
• Addressing a question about college basketball, Lujan Grisham said she enjoys sports and is a Lobo mom. She appreciates New Mexico’s colleges being good public health partners, but said colleges in other regions are seeing outbreaks that give her concern. She said she’s cautiously optimistic about college sports, but needs to look at data over the next few weeks. Eastern New Mexico University is not participating in sports during the fall semester.