SANTA FE – New Mexico has extended its stay-at-home health order with minor revisions through the end of August in response to a surge in coronavirus cases, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Thursday.
Lujan Grisham said more progress is needed before the state can reopen the economy further, and she urged residents to be cautious and conscientious in avoiding possible exposure.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Mexico increased by 255 on Thursday to 20,388 since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Three new virus-related deaths were reported, increasing that figure to 635 statewide.
The governor has delayed re-entry to school classrooms until at least Sept. 7 and rolled back plans to reopen the economy by restoring a ban on indoor restaurant service and requiring a 14 day self-quarantine as travelers enter or return to New Mexico.
Students with special needs and those in kindergarten through third grade who have the most learning needs could be allowed to meet one-on-one with teachers or in small groups before Sept. 7.
Republican elected officials and restaurants are waging a legal battle against the governor over recent health restrictions aimed at stopping the virus.
Face masks are required in all public places, and Lujan Grisham previously urged law enforcement to issue citations to individuals who deliberately flout the rule.
On Thursday, Lujan Grisham said she is gravely concerned about the expiration this week of a $600 weekly federal supplement to unemployment benefits, blaming Republicans in the U.S. Senate for delays in negotiating an extension. The state provides a maximum weekly unemployment benefit of $461.
“You can’t live on that amount of money and $600 was critical,” Lujan Grisham said.
State labor authorities are approving unemployment benefits automatically for people who don’t return to work because of their advanced age or for a variety of serious medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to the coronavirus.
Workforce Solutions Department Secretary Bill McCamley on Thursday said people 65 and older and other “high-risk workers” should consider not returning to work immediately because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other documented health conditions will automatically qualify workers for unemployment benefits. They include chronic lung disease, severe asthma, severe obesity, diabetes and a serious heart issue. People 65 and over need not submit additional paperwork.
In an online video workshop, McCamley emphasized shared responsibility among employers and workers when it comes to safety precautions at businesses. New Mexico has created a certification process for businesses that complete coronavirus safety training.
Attanasio is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.