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New Mexico governor orders 'shelter in place' over spiraling COVID-19 resurgence

In an acknowledgement of how bad things have gotten, New Mexico is returning to sheltering in place starting Monday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday. That means everyone must stay home unless they work in an essential business, or need to go out for groceries or medical care. 

And she announced she’s calling the New Mexico Legislature into a special session within days to help New Mexicans struggling to keep food on the table, pay their bills, and stay in their homes. And to help businesses survive. 

We’re experiencing the greatest emergency our country has seen, Lujan Grisham said in an online update, and with no federal guidance and support, that means she has to take action, dismissing notions that she should follow the lead of other states that aren’t closing businesses, she said.  

The overwhelming need, right now, she said is for New Mexicans to shelter in place to fight the spread of the virus. 

That means her own family isn’t getting together in person for Thanksgiving, she said, so that they’ll be intact and whole for the Thanksgivings to come. 

But far too many families will come together, and will then come together again for a funeral, she said. “It’s not worth the risk. It’s not worth the risk.”

Those were my thoughts exactly a week ago when I pulled the plug on visiting my family for Thanksgiving. I had rented a camper, with plans to stay in a park since I’d need to physically distance from my mother, who is approaching 80 and has a heart condition. Cancelling was hard, because it’s been over a year since I’ve seen her, or most of my sisters. But my decision came on the heels of a COVID diagnosis in a close family member, and the sudden death of a close friend. 

Like she said, it’s not worth the risk. 

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As public officials predicted, we are experiencing a wave of COVID-19 that exceeds the spring and the summer surges by leaps and bounds. Public health officials predicted we’d likely see a surge as we crept toward winter. Here’s what that surge looks like:

Our hospitals are maxing out, our health care workers stretched too thin. And we’re not alone. It’s happening across the country. 

What does a buckled healthcare system look like? It means the spread of COVID-19 through the ranks of nurses and doctors, sidelining them or worse. It means a lack of hospital beds and medical treatments to meet the need. It means many more people will die. We have to reduce the number of cases, so that there is less spread to vulnerable populations: older people and people with underlying conditions. 

This is the backdrop for what some may believe are draconian actions by Lujan Grisham. 

As everyone knows, the COVID induced economic shutdown in the spring led to mass unemployment. Our unemployment rate jumped from 4.8% in February to 11.9% in April. Since then, it’s moved up and down, landing at 9.4% in September. The regional food bank in Santa Fe provided food to more than 900 households on Saturday, and is asking for financial donations. 

So it’s welcome news that Lujan Grisham recognizes the state needs to move resources out the door to struggling New Mexicans.

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