An alarming rise in hospitalizations across New Mexico prompted Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) to roll out new restrictions for businesses on Tuesday, saying that the goal was to avoid closing schools that have partially reopened.
The number of hospital beds per capita in New Mexico is lower than nearly any other state, and as of Tuesday, 81 percent were filled, officials said at a news briefing. Roughly 71 percent of ICU beds were in use.
Starting Friday, restaurants, gyms, and stores must shut down for a two-week period if they report four coronavirus cases in 14 days or less. If that restriction were in place today, 42 businesses across the state would be closed, Environment Secretary James Kenney said Tuesday, according to the Albuquerque Journal. A new state watch list will list businesses that have had two or more outbreaks since the start of the pandemic.
All retailers, including grocery stores and big-box stores like Wal-Mart, will be required to close at 10 p.m. “We’re not shutting down,” Lujan Grisham insisted in a Tuesday news conference, saying that the goal of the targeted restrictions was to “break the chain of escalating statewide infections and prevent the virus from overwhelming state hospitals.”
Despite being one of the poorest states in the nation and home to a large elderly population, New Mexico fared relatively well during the early months of the pandemic, which experts credited to the state’s early emphasis on social distancing and free, widespread testing. But cases have exploded since the start of September, and began reaching record highs earlier this month. Over the past week alone, hospitalizations have risen by 64 percent, while the average number of new cases being reported each day grew by 43 percent, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.
“We all acted a little more normal and little less cautious,” Jason Mitchell, a physician and chief medical officer for Presbyterian Healthcare Services, told the Albuquerque Journal. No specific demographic, activity or location appears to be driving the trend, he noted.