“If you are sick, stay home.”
That was the governor’s message Wednesday morning announcing that Covid-19 is here, with three New Mexicans thought to have contracted the virus after state tests came back positive. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is confirming, state officials said.
Gov. Lujan Grisham, kicked off her press conference this morning modeling the use of hand sanitizer during what is by any account an extraordinary moment.
After declaring a state of emergency, the governor said New Mexicans who have symptoms should not get in their car and drive to the doctor.
Instead they should call a Department of Health hotline: 855-600-3453.
Because the number one goal should be containment, she said, which includes not going to a doctor’s office at which one would not be able to get tested.
Minimizing human contact is the number one goal.
To drive the point home, the governor said all non-essential state employees will be working from home. And she urged local government and private sector employers to consider following suit.
The state has the capacity, right now, to test 2,400 people, and the results after testing are available within hours.
Whether or not that capacity is enough, is unclear. But Lujan Grisham expressed confidence in the state’s preparedness, saying her staff has been “working diligently” since January to be ready for this day.
The three confirmed cases–called presumptive test results–include a Socorro county husband and wife in their 60s who recently traveled to Egypt, and a Bernalillo county woman in her 70s who traveled to New York City. All three are self-isolated at home.
The state has sent the presumptive test results of the three to the CDC and expect confirmation within 48 hours. Two of the cases were reported through travel tracking by the CDC, and the third was reported by a hospital.
There is no indication, today, of “community spread” outside of these travel related occurrences, Lujan Grisham said. Preventing spread of the virus by individuals within the state is the goal of the recommendations that people, as much as possible, stay home.
New Mexico has one public laboratory for testing located on the University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque, and has an active partnership with Tricore laboratory. The declaration of a state of emergency, Lujan Grisham said, frees resources needed to fight the spread of the virus. That includes partnering with labs around the state to ensure timely test results.
The governor urged New Mexicans to practice social distancing. They should consider not going to church, not going to community events, not going to neighborhood association meetings, or even a basketball tournament. To emphasize the need to not hold large community events, she said the annual Gathering of Nations event in Albuquerque–which draws large numbers of people from around the country–won’t happen in April.
These measures should be followed by everyone, she said, even those with low risk, so that they in turn don’t put those with compromised immune systems or the elderly at risk. All this said, she expressed confidence in the state’s preparedness, stressing the state is conducting a coordinated response that includes the entire healthcare system, including hospitals, labs, and first responders.
“No one who is leading this response is panicked,” the governor said. “No one in New Mexico should be panicked.”
New Mexico In Depth will be mapping confirmed Coronavirus cases in the coming weeks, on the following interactive map.
Trip Jennings contributed to this report. Map infogram created by Celia Raney.