SANTA FE – New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham set a June 1 target date to restart dine-in service at restaurants and reopen gyms, hair salons and shopping malls at limited capacity. Those businesses have been shuttered since March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The first-term Democratic governor and two Cabinet secretaries on health issues said Wednesday that a seven-day average of daily infections appears to have peaked around the start of the May and that progress has been made on several fronts toward meeting the state’s so-called gating criteria for reopening the economy.
In an online news videoconference, they also cited an expansion in the number of daily tests to about 4,400 and complimented state residents for largely embracing a requirement that face masks be worn in public.
The governor also said she plans to call a special session of the Legislature on June 18 to rewrite the state’s spending plan for the current fiscal year that ends on June 30 and the next year starting July 1.
She expressed optimism the state can avoid any significant cuts to personnel and services in public education, health care, child protective services and public safety – though the state will have to “slow spending” and likely rein in previously approved infrastructure projects. Those calculations are based on the availability of federal coronavirus relief funds, state financial reserves and possible new withdrawals from an $18 billion state trust fund.
Health officials reiterated warnings that New Mexico residents should not travel to neighboring states that are moving more quickly to lift coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and gatherings.
“We are following the public health data, not what other states are doing,” Lujan Grisham said. “I’m not looking at Arizona, I’m not looking at Texas.”
Human Services Secretary David Scrase said that New Mexico is “getting good control of the virus,” even as health officials acknowledged that it is too soon to lift a lockdown in three hard-hit northwestern counties that account for the majority of infections and deaths in New Mexico.
New Mexico on Wednesday reported another 134 coronavirus cases, bringing the statewide total to more than 6,300. Health officials also reported seven new deaths, bringing that total to 283. More than 200 people are hospitalized, with several dozen of them on ventilators.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and lead to death.
Officials also said during an online update that all of the staff members in the state Corrections Department have been tested and about one-quarter of inmates at state lockups have been tested. About two-thirds of the state’s 33 counties also have met that testing goal within their jails.
State health authorities are making it possible for New Mexico residents to spend food stamp benefits to purchase food online and reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission associated with local shopping trips.
The Human Services Department announced Wednesday in a news release that money from the federally subsidized Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can be used for online food purchases at Walmart and Amazon using electronic benefit transfer cards.
Human Services Department Deputy Secretary Angela Medrano said in a statement that online purchases mean that more New Mexico resident can stay home and help slow the spread of COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the state’s application for online purchasing authorization earlier this month.