Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham sounded a note of caution — and trumpeted another weapon — in the state’s fight against the novel coronavirus, noting its current efforts are not flattening the rate of new cases enough to slow the spread.

Officials said New Mexico continues to see an increase in the daily number of new cases, even outside the severely affected northwestern part of the state.

“I am still optimistic, but this data is critical because it indicates that we’re not doing as well as we could,” Lujan Grisham said Tuesday during a briefing broadcast on Facebook. “I cannot allow for a new normal to assume that we’re going to continue to have increased death rates in the state.”

The governor’s comments came as New Mexico nears the two-month mark of a March 11 state of emergency declaration. COVID-19, which has taken the lives of more than 70,000 Americans, has killed 162 people in the state, according to the Department of Health. More than 4,138 people have tested positive in New Mexico.

Lujan Grisham announced new public health measures Tuesday, ordering all restaurants and essential businesses operating in a retail space of at least 50,000 square feet to ensure by Wednesday their employees wear masks or other face coverings.

By Monday, all essential retail businesses must require employees to wear face coverings.

“We know this will unequivocally help us protect those consumers,” the governor said.

The governor also said New Mexico is going to use a portion of its funds from the federal coronavirus relief bill to offer incentive pay to child care workers. The incentive pay will come to $700 per month for full-time workers and $350 per month for part-time workers.

Human Services Secretary David Scrase said the state continues to see an increase in cases in the northwestern part of the state — home to a large number of Native Americans — adding it was “disturbing” that the number of new cases in the rest of the state was also still going up.

“We are not actually seeing that downward trend,” he said. “That is a problem for us in terms of containing the spread of the disease.”

He did say the northeastern and southeastern regions are “doing very well” in terms of flattening the curve of the spread. According to the state’s regional map, Santa Fe County is in the northeastern region.

But Scrase painted a sobering picture of the potential for virus-related deaths to escalate if residents don’t practice social-distancing measures.

The governor said it was not yet clear whether the state could enter “Phase One” of its plan to reopen the economy by May 15, when the current stay-at-home order is set to expire. She said that decision would depend on data regarding the rate of new cases.

As they have in recent days, state Republicans again sharply criticized the governor for not taking more steps to open the economy, and House GOP legislators said they have asked U.S. Attorney General William Barr to look into a possible violation of civil rights due to the state’s public health orders.

An April 29 letter sent to Barr by state House Republican Leader Jim Townsend suggests Lujan Grisham is one of “numerous governors” who are making decisions with what he called “almost dictatorial powers by intimidating people to stay at home.”

“The governor’s actions have made it clear that she will push in any way possible to test the limits of every New Mexican’s constitutional rights,” Townsend said in a statement. “If civil rights violations have occurred across our country as a result of these mandated closures, I have little doubt that New Mexico will unfortunately be in that mix.”

The governor again urged residents to practice social distancing and to wear face masks in public to help contain the virus’s spread. She said residents should not drop their protective guard until medical experts come up with a vaccine for the respiratory virus.

“You are protecting others from you, and the only way you can do that is to stay away from other individuals and to wear a mask,” Lujan Grisham said.

Speaking about concerns that the state’s assisted living centers are seeing a rise in positive test results, State Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said seven of those facilities have more than 10 confirmed cases, and another 23 have somewhere between one and 10.

The state is increasing its oversight and surveillance of those centers, Kunkel said.

The Department of Health also is focusing on prisons and jails, where advocates say staff members and inmates are susceptible to the virus because of the close quarters and lack of access to personal hygiene materials.

By May 13, the state aims to test all prison guards and staff and 25 percent of inmates, while ensuring new inmates are tested and undergo 14 days of isolation, Kunkel said.

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Jens Gould covers politics for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He was a correspondent for Bloomberg News in Mexico City, a regular contributor for TIME in California, and produced the video series Bravery Tapes.

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(47) comments

Maxwell Vertical

Santa Fe County has smashed the curve. It's time for the governor to think and act regionally like Newsom in California, and Cuomo in New York. Both have severe hotspots but recognized other regions of their states are doing much better, and they're making policy accordingly.

Dr. Michael Johnson

Agreed, but she is not intelligent enough to do anything except, one-size-fits-all government, and too lazy to do anything else.

Bill Cass

Governments make decisions every day that will inevitably lead to the death of some of its citizens. If we changed the speed limit to 55 less people would die. If we required monthly vehicle inspections less people would die. If prison sentences were much longer, less people would die. But we don't do that, because we balance personal freedoms against the loss of life. So let's not act like this is a new thing. Yes, if we open the state up too soon it might lead to more deaths. Probably will. And if we keep everyone in their homes until 2025 it will lead to less deaths. But we won't. MLG did a great job at the inception of the outbreak, then she went AWOL, and now seems to be trying to play catch up. There is no reason in the world retailers cannot be open with modest social distancing and hygiene requirements. I can to to Lowe's Garden department and be shoulder to shoulder with other customers, but I can't go to my local mom and pop nursery. It has ceased to make sense.

Dr. Michael Johnson

Well said!

Chris Mechels

No mention in this piece that 63 of the Correction's staff have been tested, with four positives.

Also, no mention of testing the County Jail inmate population around the state. These jails potentially are even worse than Corrections as the turnover is much higher.

Chris Mechels

So the Governor FINALLY comes to face masks. Her message since 13 February (look it up) is that we Should Not wear face masks. Even now, she prefers "face coverings".

Late to the problems in the Tribal Areas and the Nursing Homes, she is now late to the prisons. But it seems WE are to blame, not her. So typical.

Amy Earle

Of course the republicans are complaining. They like the Trump motto that the red state governors have adapted. Get the economy opened now because I can’t win re-election with a bad economy. If it requires multitudes of additional deaths oh well. The governor is smart. She’s following the same model NY’s Cuomo has. Our state is far from out of the woods even if those with magical thinking would like it be so. None of these states that have flung open the doors are and in a month or two they will reap the consequences. None of this includes the economy is not going to just suddenly revive. There’s not a big appetite among the sensible public to frequent restaurants, bars, movie theaters, or much else. A lot of businesses aren’t coming back nor are the jobs associated with them. It’s just a fact. Saving lives is smart. Those of you who are complaining now will be grateful she had enough common sense to be cautious when those states who weren’t begin dealing with a potentially more catastrophic second wave. 71, 079 deaths in the US and counting. Should we shoot for a few million? Obviously our governor doesn’t think so.

Bill Cass

The Cuomo model? Seriously? They have twice the number of deaths of Florida, which has two million more people. Cuomo ordered nursing homes to take in COVID 19 patients, directly leading to the death of 4,000 people. Cuomo screamed that they needed 40,000 ventilators. Wasn't even close. We can debate MLG's response, but Cuomo has been an abysmal failure. He makes great sound bites, but the numbers don't lie.

Jim Klukkert

Florida, an American tourist destination and retirement locale, is not the International financial center, trade hub and gateway city that is the New York City region.

I think you may be comparing the Big Apple with Florida Oranges, two entirely different items.

Bill Cass

Not really. Cuomo's predictions/models have been wrong on every count. He has not limited subway travel in any way, packing people not wearing masks into subway cars like sardines. He was slower to the draw than Trump, and it isn't even close. If he were a Republican he would be impeached for his incompetence.

Al Chavez

From a currently circulating meme:....."H**l hath no fury like a mildly inconvenienced white person."

Bill Cass

He** hath no indignation like a rich liberal.

Dr. Michael Johnson

Indeed Mr. Cassara, and Fanta Se is full of them, with no respect or empathy for those not in their "tribe". But the common folks, who have to work for a living, usually notice when their Constitutional rights are taken away. And by my count the Guv's edicts have violated at least 5 of our Constitutional Amendments. Just wait until the cases start reaching SCOTUS......there are many thousands in the state with standing in those cases. [beam]

Jim Klukkert

Okay Mikey, which is it. Is Santa Fe filled with bleeding heart liberals, or folks who have " no respect or empathy for those not in their "tribe""

We are the COMMON FOLKS, unbeholden to BIG OIL as y9u are.

BTW, your post on legal precedents against lawful Public Health Orders applied only to extreme cases. Perhaps a Ph.D., but a J.D. you are not.*

The contempt you show for the truth knows few bounds, Mikey. Real folks will suffer for the lies you read.

*Charles AnTroll, that's fancy educated talk for having a degree as a lawyer.

Jim Klukkert


Charles Andreoli

Aww, little jimmy klucker thinks he's a lawyer. Isn't that another name for Parasite ?

Leo Catelli

That could apply to all of humanity, regardless of race. Or, perhaps, a "mildly inconvenienced American"

Leo Catelli

The majority of the people I've seen in town not wearing face masks in public and likely not taking the recommended measures seriously...weren't white.

Robert Bartlett

Some 18,000 New Mexicans die each year. It is safe to project that the shutdown itself will be responsible for an incremental death toll an order of magnitude greater than the Wuhan virus or seasonal flu totals. There will be a reckoning.

Jim Klukkert

Robert Bartlett- Did you mean to write: "It is safe to ASSUME that the shutdown itself will be responsible for an incremental death toll an order of magnitude greater..."

ASSUMPTIONS do not make FACTS. Your comment prove nothing, & is without merit.

Jim Klukkert

Robert Barkley – what a sad and lonely life you must have to make stupid comments like “hush little boy.”

One might wonder if you would have the courage to make such mean-spirited comments in person, or if you preferred to name call from the safe anonymity of being online.

My thanks to you for so fully disclosing your lack of civility and good intent. Such brutal honesty tanks any impact your comments might otherwise possess.

Robert Bartlett

You want to meet in the schoolyard!


Jim Klukkert

Your call O Hateful one. Bullies make threats. Bullies are cowards.

Jim Klukkert

Your offer " to meet in the schoolyard!" is perfectly the logical outcome of the over the top hostile tone with which you and your like thinking colleagues deliver invective, name calling, personal insults and other comments intended to drive folks like me into leaving this forum.

I am not intimidated. We have endured much to bring this country to a better place. We will not be turned round.

Shame on you and your kind.

Charles Andreoli

No little jimmy it's not a better place because of you and the rest of the Lemmings. And it is being turned around thanks to our great President Trump. The next 4 1/2 years are going to be even better. Hope your head doesn't catch fire and explode.

Robert Bartlett

LOL Your family must be embarrassed by your childish posts.

Jim Klukkert

Bartlett: These are the community guidelines: " Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not."

Do you see your comments actually meeting these standards? No need to reply, I am already convinced of your malicious nature.

So which school yard to you propose for our meeting? I am going with War is Not the Answer, but do tell, please further embarrass yourself. Are you making your mother proud, Bully Bartlett?

Al Chavez

I don't know why it's so hard to understand that the continuing explosions of new Covid-19 cases in the northwest corner of the state is such a danger. The virus does not know a thing about arbitrary boundaries that make up a county. It's only a hop, skip, and a jump for the virus to travel to everyone who touches those counties and from those counties to everyone else.

And take a look at what scientists at LANL have discovered:

This ain't going away soon folks.

Dr. Michael Johnson

What an ignorant dolt she is. Anyone who has ever studied statistics knows that when you increase sampling, in this case testing, you increase the factor you are sampling for in absolute numbers. They have doubled the number of tests lately, so obviously the number of positives, in absolute terms, will increase. If she and her unqualified advisors had half a scientific brain, they would notice that the percentage of positives has declined, below 5%, that is the metric they should be using for gauging spread, and hospitalizations should be used as the health care impact metric, which has been flat and well below capacity. What a bunch of unscientific idiots we have running our lives.

Gene Hill

Calling her an ignorant dolt is not at helpful, but you are totally correct about the growth rates. If the virus recovery rate is 14 days, it would take about a 7% rate of daily new positives to replace the recoveries. Dr. Scrase and others saying cases go keep going up is asinine ... of course they are going to go up, especially with rapidly expanding testing. And waiting for the already overburdened DOH to confirm recoveries does not give the true picture either.

Dr. Michael Johnson

Thank you Mr. Hill, I'm sorry for overreacting, but I am very angry at her and her incompetent advisors who continue to run our lives with shoddy to nonexistent science. That bothers me greatly as a scientist. Dr. Scrase is a geriatrics doctor and has no experience at infectious diseases, and Kunkel is a lawyer Mich met at UNM law school, an old crony, they should not be in charge of this state.

Gene Hill

No problem Dr. Johnson. At this point Scrase seems to be the weak link in the scientific management of the pandemic. Between his inability to distinguish active vs. recovered cases, and the ridiculous "social distancing scorecard" he pushed that measured cellphone movement at the expense of rural residents, I think he's causing more trouble than he's worth.

Dr. Michael Johnson

Indeed Mr. Hill, and if you go back to the presentation he gave about a month ago, when they predicted the peak would be in late May (wrong), he showed how his "model" indicated there would be over 1400 deaths by August in NM, as well as 3400 people hospitalized and 1600 of them on ventilators. All wildly inaccurate numbers they shaped and formed their "rules" around. Now they are afraid to say how wrong they were, for political reasons of course.

Jim Klukkert

You would not have that Ph.D., Dr. Johnson, if when you defended your dissertation, you employed the sort of inflammatory and unsubstantial rhetoric with which you pollute the Comments pages.

From two of today’s Mike Johnson rants, here is a quick sampling of the name calling with a healthy dose of personal attack: "ignorant dolt… tiny tyrant's ego, power obsession, and control over the people… she could care less about public health… She has blood on her hands…”

We tire of your caustic commentary of insult and negativity. From the quality of your postings, here and elsewhere , it appears you are the one not qualified. Most importantly, you were not elected, your views are in a distinct minority, and you are not, thank god, in a position of any authority.

Dr. Michael Johnson

Klukk, you are quite a caution........[beam]

Richard Vinet

Thank you, Mr. Klukkert! If Renfro and Johnson were in London during The Blitz during WWII, they would be whining about having to keep their lights turned off after dark. They would be saying there was no Blitz. They would be saying it's nothing but a lot of pinko commie hooey being perpetrated by corrupt politicians with an agenda and they would keep their lights on if they felt like it because it was their god-given right. People like them are asocial and their irresponsible attitudes are a danger to us all.

Jim Klukkert


Dr. Michael Johnson

No Mr. Vinet, as a proud veteran of the Vietnam War, I know the difference between an armed attack by a foreign enemy and a politician peeing on my leg and calling it a rain storm. You should too, but perhaps you have never served your country and can't understand the distinctions?

Lucy Greer


Charles Andreoli

Little jimmy klucker please define we ? You seem to be the only whiner here. Who elected you as spokes person for the rest of us.

kyle renfro

OH BROTHER, WE WILL be ready in 2025 to open . She is itching to spend the permanent fund. She will try to keep her programs in tact and spend the permanent fund . The legislature needs to meet to impeach her and get this train a rollin or commit her to mental testing.

Barry Rabkin

It's the virus that will determine when we open and how quickly we can reopen. Not political pressure, not whining, and not believing that 'people will die anyway.' Yes, legislature needs to meet to give her a medal for not caving in to the ignorant whiners.

Richard Vinet


Emily Koyama

Oh, they may well give her a medal, but it will be about as meaningful as Obama's Nobel Peace prize....a political stunt, nothing more.

DJ Lake

Agreed!!! This is not the flu.

Connie Lopez

Nice that child care workers being helped a bit. People still not wearing masks though, nor will they. Connie Lopez-Lucero

Orlie Romero

2.1 million New Mexicans/163= monitor and place rules on those sick, over 65 and serious diabetic issues. Other than that scenario, need to return to 100% normalcy. With Walmart, Walgreens, Sa

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