Positivity map

Last month in Arizona, a staggering 1 in 4 people tested for COVID-19 received a positive result.

Currently in Texas, it’s about 1 in 6.

Yet in New Mexico, the numbers are very different. About 1 in 30 tests is coming back positive.

The state is performing much better than its neighbors on a key coronavirus metric called the test positivity rate, which measures how many people who get COVID-19 tests turn out to have the disease.

The statistic is an indication that New Mexico is proving itself to be a safer island — epidemiologically speaking — in a sea of states doing a poorer job of monitoring and controlling the virus.

It also helps explain why officials were able to report a steep decline in the state’s COVID-19 transmission rate Thursday, just several weeks after New Mexico experienced a troubling surge.

“We’ve had a couple of peaks, and hopefully we’re through a big part of the second peak,” said state Human Services Secretary David Scrase, a main figure leading the state’s efforts against the novel coronavirus.

Test positivity rates are gaining more visibility nationwide as health officials look to them as a key factor in making decisions on reopening the economy. Unlike the rate of new cases or hospitalizations, the positivity metric helps determine whether testing is widespread enough to accurately understand the spread of the virus.

And among the dizzying trove of COVID-19 statistics being analyzed in New Mexico, this number is taking more prominence: State officials just added it to the list of criteria they use to make policy decisions about reopening the economy, which has taken a severe hit through the crisis.

While Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said it’s been difficult to watch the economic hardship, she’s reiterated that her public health mandates have been necessary.

She recently noted members of the state’s Economic Recovery Council had questioned whether adding the test positivity rate to the state’s gating criteria would be “moving the goal posts” on the metrics used to decide how and when to reopen the economy.

But the governor and Scrase have dismissed that notion, saying including the statistic helps them make better policy decisions. Scrase likened its addition to the greater assortment of professional baseball statistics now available to fans compared to what existed years ago.

“You have a better sense of what this player might be able to deliver,” he said in an interview.

“I don’t think we’re making any taller hoops or anything else,” Scrase added. “We’re just doing everything we can to understand the epidemic better and make sure the next time we do some reopening, we don’t get the same result we did when we did it in early June.”

Fractions and math

To understand the test positivity rate, Scrase explained, it’s helpful to think of a fraction in mathematics.

The top number, known as the numerator, is the total of COVID-19 cases detected over a given period of time. The bottom portion in the fraction, or the denominator, is the total number of tests conducted during that period.

Now divide the numerator by the denominator. In New Mexico, you get a seven-day rolling average of 3 percent through Aug. 6, according to state figures. Johns Hopkins University data puts the rate even lower for the state, at 2.6 percent.

That’s a far cry from Arizona and Texas, where that number is now around 16 percent for both states, according to Johns Hopkins. Utah and Colorado are faring better, but still well above New Mexico. That’s also true for the entire U.S., at 7.5 percent.

The meaning of the math, officials said, is twofold: New Mexico is doing a better job at controlling the spread of the virus than many states while at the same time testing more people per capita.

“A low positive rate, when you’re doing adequate testing, is a good indicator that the community is doing well,” said Dr. Jason Mitchell, chief medical officer for Presbyterian Healthcare Services and a member of the state’s Medical Advisory Team, a key unit in dealing with the state’s COVID-19 response. “And a high positive rate is a very dangerous indicator.

“So, when you look at other states in the U.S. and they have a 16 [percent] or 20 percent positive test rate, that means there’s a lot of spread you may or may not be aware of,” Mitchell added. “That’s a scary number to have.”

As for New Mexico’s numerator, Scrase said many residents’ compliance with social-distancing and mask-wearing instructions has helped keep the number of cases down. A few weeks ago, during a resurgence of the virus that saw the test positivity rate briefly rise above the state’s 5 percent target, the governor and her administration admonished residents for being too lax in adhering to those orders.

But things have changed, Scrase said.

“The people of New Mexico have been cooperative with us and adapted, and I think mask-wearing is way better than it was even a month ago,” Scrase said.



The reopening debate

State officials, who have been heavily criticized by some for going slow in reopening the economy, insist health restrictions have been critical to the improvement. New Mexico shut down its economy sooner than most states when the pandemic first hit, and it didn’t go as far as some others when it began to reopen in June.

Texas, by contrast, reopened sooner and had one of the shortest initial stay-at-home orders in the country. It also let bars open before shutting them down again.

Additionally, while New Mexico reinstated a ban on indoor dining at restaurants after cases resurged in July, Texas has kept such service partially open.

“If you’re going to pull a Texas and reopen bars, that’s going to be a big problem,” said Kathryn Hanley, a biology professor at New Mexico State University who specializes in virus evolutionary ecology. “People acted like there had never been a pandemic.”

New Mexico’s contact tracing efforts also are helping to keep the spread down, Scrase said, as Health Department tracers are reaching over 80 percent of people who test positive.

Contact tracing is a disease-control strategy used to track people who have been in close contact with carriers of the coronavirus so they can be isolated and officials can limit the spread of the virus.

All of these factors combined have led to the recent sharp decline in the state’s COVID-19 transmission rate, officials said. The spread rate dropped to 0.72 as of Thursday, a level well below the state’s target of 1.05 and an indication the number of infections is now on the decline.

As for testing — the denominator in the test positivity fraction — New Mexico has significantly ramped up its capabilities over the past few months, increasing from around 4,600 tests per day in mid-June to around 7,900 per day by late July.

Several factors have helped the state achieve that broader capacity, including the fact that around four-fifths of all tests are processed at two labs — TriCore Reference Laboratories and the state’s own facility.

Those buildings are located near each other in Albuquerque, Scrase said, helping the state cut down on turnaround time for results and any hiccups that can arise because of lengthy transportation times.

It also has helped that the state Department of Health has repurposed much of its workforce to run testing operations and experts from private health care providers advised the state to use the best testing equipment, Scrase said.

“We’ve stuck to those tests that are most accurate,” he said.

Several of the state’s leading health care providers recently announced they no longer would administer tests for asymptomatic people amid a temporary disruption in accessing testing supplies. But that decision does not appear to have stopped overall testing numbers from going up.

“There is, at this point, enough capacity at different institutions that are taking up the slack to test asymptomatic people,” Hanley said.

Magnets for criticism

Not everyone is happy with the state’s efforts to fight COVID-19, even if they do mean better metrics than neighboring states. State Republican leaders have criticized the governor over her emergency orders, arguing Lujan Grisham has gone too far and is causing irreparable economic damage.

“While we welcome the news that infection rates are going down in New Mexico, the damage has been done: thousands of lost jobs, a shattered economy, closed businesses, a state budget drowning in red ink,” state Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said Thursday. “These are the true vestiges of the governor’s poor leadership.”

Some New Mexico business owners are irate as well. Several filed a lawsuit against the governor that argued her enforcement of the mandates was unlawful, but the state Supreme Court ruled against them last week.

Still, the economic harm of the pandemic and the state-ordered shutdowns is palpable. New Mexico’s economy might have contracted nearly 30 percent in the second quarter, according to a Moody’s Analytics forecast cited by a leading state economist Friday.

Dawn Iglesias, chief economist at the Legislative Finance Committee, also cited a report by the company Yelp, which found 687 businesses have closed in New Mexico since the start of the health emergency. Of those, 355 were permanent closures, Yelp’s report said.

As the news swings from good to bad and back, the greatest question facing state officials and medical advisers charged with managing the pandemic response remains the same: Will eventual steps to reopen the economy again drive up the test positivity rate and the transmission of COVID-19 in New Mexico?

Not if New Mexicans wear masks and maintain social distancing, said Mitchell, of Presbyterian Healthcare Services and the state’s Medical Advisory Team.

“It is not futile. It is not hopeless,” he said. “If we follow the basics, then we have a lot of hope and we’ll continue to be a successful state.”

Reporter

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.

(69) comments

Ed Li

Incredibly grateful to our Governor and other state leadership for their swift action. The hard decisions made in any such crisis as this will always come with the critics but it is obvious that the correct path was taken when compared to our neighboring states.

andres paglayan

This is deceptive math. It is only a measure of testing coverage, not a measure of positive cases.

New Mexico has roughly 2,000,000 inhabitants, and a total of 22,700 positive cases so far. That implies around 1.1% of positive rate.

California (Covids' boogeyman) has about 40,000,000 inhabitants, and a total of 500,000 positive cases so far. That implies around 1.25% (Just barely over NM)

Are we better at testing? yes, about 50% better. But that's all.

Mike Johnson

Well said, here's what Johns Hopkins says about % positive test rate: "The rate of positivity is an important indicator because it can provide insights into whether a community is conducting enough testing to find cases. If a community’s positivity is high, it suggests that that community may largely be testing the sickest patients and possibly missing milder or asymptomatic cases. A lower positivity may indicate that a community is including in its testing patients with milder or no symptoms. The WHO has said that in countries that have conducted extensive testing for COVID-19, should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days." A high positivity rate does NOT prove that there is more infections and more rapid spread.

Jim Zebora

I just wanted to thank Jens Gould and the New Mexican editors for thinking so highly of their readers that the story contained a lesson for us in how to calculate a percentage.

Kenneth Detro

Look in the prisons. The rate of infection there compared to the population is worse than in the worst parts of California. Guards work limited schedules, case workers simply refuse causing communication difficulty with clients, hospitals ship infected, severely ill prisoners back to the prison who then infect others while the prison cannot care for them. Its a tragedy unfolding that appears only to be geting worse.

Chris Mechels

The simple fact is that we don't have enough reliable data to make a call, and the government isn't transparent enough. A low test rate CAN mean not much Covid, OR it can mean that you are testing where Covid ISN'T. You need to know the testing strategy, and that is not revealed. Low rate, or testing stupidly?? Perhaps a bit of both?? Look to New York, a clear success story. "From worst to first". Lots of testing AND contact tracing. New Mexico is falling down on Contact Tracing and masks, as MLG has us wearing "face coverings" not masks. That's just stupid. Got to fix the masks and contact tracing. Also, need to do IR temperature scanning, which is not happening. We are improving, but need to do a LOT better. NY shows what is possible. China is much better, but perhaps not possible in our culture. We should at least be able to match NY, if we'd just clean up our act.

Mike Johnson

True, the positive test rate is very limited to interpret anything except the level of testing, period. As Johns Hopkins puts it in their testing website: "The rate of positivity is an important indicator because it can provide insights into whether a community is conducting enough testing to find cases. If a community’s positivity is high, it suggests that that community may largely be testing the sickest patients and possibly missing milder or asymptomatic cases. A lower positivity may indicate that a community is including in its testing patients with milder or no symptoms. The WHO has said that in countries that have conducted extensive testing for COVID-19, should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days." A high positivity rate does NOT prove that there is more infections and more rapid spread.

Angel Ortiz

Throughout this COVID crisis the forum has filled with hatred for the Governor, incredible conspiracy theories, and disdain for the way the crisis has been managed. Yes, our economy is going to take a hit and will take a long time to recover but we as a state are in a better situation than our neighbors in Texas or Arizona. Anyone notice that the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, ND is beginning this weekend? 250,000 bikers from numerous states not wearing masks, social distancing is non-existent. I will gladly take my chances in NM. Even with those who continue to complain about their civil rights and how their lives have been impacted. Put on your big boy pants and grind it out for a few more months. Improvise, adapt and overcome.

Mike Johnson

Yes, and I know many who are in Sturgis enjoying themselves and they will soon be back here around Santa Fe. But I am sure they will cower in fear at our powerful and strict Guv as she enforces their 14 day quarantine period........[lol][lol][lol][lol]

Chris Morgan

I think that my kids are suffering huge amounts from lack of socializing, lack of physical outlets (sports) and lack of mental growth and development. Six months ago, a lot of adults were complaining that, today kids don't socialize enough and spend too much time in front of their screens, and don't get outside to play and exercise. Now that these same adults are at risk of a really contagious virus, the story has changed. What follows is not a "pro-republican" essay, rather an essay written by a registered democrat that is tired of being misled.

“We haven’t nailed down what the target would be if we decided to add (7-day case average) as a criteria,” said Dr. David Scrase, secretary of the New Mexico Human Services Department. “But none the less, it’s just common sense that you can’t reopen very much of anything when you’re at the worse point so far.."

So, our governor's cabinet has no plan? After all, they have not published data that prove that restaurants are truly the place of spread (I won't accept the mere fact that someone who works in a restaurant testing positive is truly significant, as this does not identify where they caught COVID). The Department of Health has not published data that the COVID will spread in schools that have properly screened students, socially distanced the students and the kids are wearing masks and washing their hands. This deadly virus needs to be followed closely, but I would argue that our governor's office is not doing this successfully. We need real data, not just "common sense". Common sense does not justify public health emergency declarations.

I have a few questions for our state's governor:

1-- Why can't we accept the fact that there is a 2-4% prevalence rate in New Mexico? That is where the numbers have been since April. If we accept this, maybe we could judge when things are improving over time. It is foolish to simply look at how many positive cases are reported. That is not useful information, nor is it science. It is, in fact BS: bad science.

2-- Why wouldn't anyone expect to see a 100% increase in positive COVID tests when the state has more than doubled the number of tests over this same time period. We did increase the number of tests from roughly 4000 a day to 8000 a day starting after the fourth of July. The "spike" occurred a few days later. My point is, if you double the testing again, you will see another "spike". You will see the same phenomena in testing men for prostate cancer post-mortem. Most men die with, not of prostate cancer. They succumb to some other type of unfortunate morbidity.

3--Why is it not OK for the federal government to lack a plan (it is not ok), but OK for our state to lack a plan for schools and businesses to reopen, as quoted above? I just want a plan, that's all.

4--Why is it OK for this same quoted individual from the Human Service Department to say "One of the nuances that we are learning from doing the reading, what actual, its not that the kids going to school, its that the parents are now free with their kids in school to go out and about, go to stores, to go back to work for example.... --Scarce, KRQE 13 News, July 16. He said this. Seriously. He did.

5- - How many of the positive tests are the same individuals getting re-tested for the second or even more times, so they can return to work safely? Why is this not accounted for?

6--How many ICU beds do we have in NM, and how many have COVID (+) patients are in them, as opposed to being filled with other diseases and illnesses? You can't stop a virus from spreading with bandanas (CNN reported this earlier today). We need to understand the true purpose of our actions. I think we have forgotten this. I am postulating that the governor is truly "not seeing the forest for the trees." She is caught up in her agenda, forgetting the reason to shut down schools, hotels and restaurants to in order to preserve ICU beds and PPE supplies and "slow the spread".

7-- Of the roughly current 130 hospitalizations, how many are simply admitted for observation as opposed to actually being in the ICU? How many beds do we have? The lock down has been touted for a few various reasons over time. Lets not forget what MLG has said (over time, in this order) 1-- preserve ventilators and ICU beds, 2--preserve PPE 3-- Slow the spread 4-- "We are going to kick this virus out of New Mexico!" Its a moving target, I know. Except for #4, I think we have achieved all of these goals.

8-- How exactly are we going to "Kick this virus out of New Mexico" without a vaccination? Are we to believe that we are locked down until this vaccination is widely available? Would this be part of the fact that we don't really have a plan in this state? Can we please state our exact plan? We've had quite a bit of time to formulate this plan.

9-- Why are the DOH hiding the data that I referenced above? Are NM citizens too dumb to process it for ourselves? I challenge you to search the DOH site for this information. I can assure you that the DOH has this information, but it is not appropriate reading for us "lay people".

10-- Why are we not doing wide spread randomized community testing to truly understand this virus' spread in our state? Maybe we wouldn't have to extrapolate the 2-4% community prevalence if we would do these simple surveys of New Mexico. We have the capability to see these numbers. They just don't support the governor's most current agenda to "kick this virus out of New Mexico!" I just don't think it is possible for human's to beat a virus without a vaccination. I will site use the examples of small pox, polio and the seasonal flu to support this statement.

Understand, I am a lay person with these questions. I don't want to see this virus spread and kill anyone in this world. Furthermore, I agree that the answer is not simply "reopen" everything. But it is also not black and white. There is a middle ground. Let's pursue that better plan. Economic and educational health is very closely related to personal health. All have to be addressed. The solutions that we have in place now are not going to solve our long term goals.

I would state that, with the information I've asked for, maybe we could get a plan together and progress forward. Until the time comes when we do have a coherent plan, we should expect that we will continue to have some people blindly following a leader, a lot of people that are just confused and upset, and still more people will be very angry.

Governor MLG and the Santa Fe New Mexican: Why can't we have the answers to these questions? What is your plan?

Pawel Fludzinski

Excellent comments and completely agree. Thank you for the post.

Maxwell Vertical

Excellent points and questions. I too am very concerned about the impact this is having on children. This isn't discussed nearly enough.

Susan Noel

I completely agree. Another number I would like to see is how many of those who have "recovered" (number is always available) are over 65.

Ted Nugent

Susan: can you post something meaningful?

Maxwell Vertical

Snarky Kathy, you remind me of a Chihuahua barking at semis on I-25.

Mike Johnson

Excellent, couldn't have said it better myself.[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Ted Nugent

Chris, ever heard the word "succinct?"

Maxwell Vertical

Arf, Arf, Arf!

Indrid Cold

Kathy, have you ever heard of a “Karen”?

You may want to change your name accordingly. You sound like one.

Claude Hayward

We can't fix stupid, nor even legislate against it. Most of us are lucky enough to stay clear of stupid as it blunders its way towards an uncertain future. It is useful to stay alert, as the printing presses are running overtime to keep up with the Darwin Award demand.

What I can do, and am fairly OK with it, is stay home as much as possible, wear a mask in public and wash my hands often. I've given up on getting a test; been turned down too often. I am 75 and non-symptomatic and rural enough that I can go days without seeing or talking to anyone outside the house.

I try to be supportive and respectful of others. I don't feel in the least bit oppressed by being part of this effort and frankly, I am tired of all the sniveling about freedom, when so much of that precious freedom is being squandered on self-centered nonsense and trivia.

Thanks to all of you that are taking this seriously and finding it in themselves to act like grown-ups as we all try to get through this.

Susan Noel

Problems with your arithmetic. You show Arizona as having a 15.5% virus positivity rate. But your first sentence says 1 in 4 people tested for covid19 received a positive result.That would be 25%, not 15.5%. The numbers are often wrong. I would love it if someone would come up with the number of those over 65 years of age who have recovered from this disease. Not available anywhere that I can find. Also deaths from ALL CAUSES is an important number. Also not available anywhere that I can find. These numbers matter because life and death decisions are made by both the medical and political fields based on faulty and incomplete statistics.

Anna Cheevers

There's been a lot of problems with journalists and math

James Keller

Mr. Gould's arithmetic is just fine. As stated clearly in the caption for the graph, the 15.5% rate for Arizona is the seven-day rolling rate — the percentage of positive results tallied over the preceding seven days. I assume he wrote this article yesterday, which would mean this was the positivity rate for August 2 through August 8. (The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center's site says 15.7%, but it's a small discrepancy. Perhaps they calculate the number more than once a day and he accessed it at a moment when it was 15.5%.) On the other hand, Mr. Gould identifies his "one in four" (25%) statistic as representing Arizona's positive results in the month of July — so for the 31 days from July 1 through July 31. These are entirely different metrics, representing time periods that do not overlap.

Susan Noel

You aren't wrong. However, you are making assumptions. Why not just write the report clearly saying that there are presently 1 in 6.5 positive cases instead of 1 in 4? Obfuscation whether on purpose or by carelessness helps no one.

Maxwell Vertical

The low positivity rate is good but is due to high rates of testing compared to other states. Simply put, on a per capital basis the denominator is bigger.

Manny NoMask

Don't worry, the mass exodus from New Mexico will be glorious. It truly will be an island. An island of staggering poverty and despair. Wake up NM, your governor hates you.

Ted Cloak

Isn't it a bit immoral for business people to demand the sacrifice of human lives to protect their bottom lines?

BOB SCHWARTZ

who knows if any of this is true or MLG just trying to make herself look good. Its all a mind game, If such low numbers existed, then the state is destroyed financially and mentally and should be opened but the weekly news from MLG is always negative. MLG just doing whatever to portray herself positively for her own gain, nothing more nothing less.

Barry Rabkin

It would be completely irresponsible to "open the State" even if these numbers were true. Why? Because the virus still exists; it still does not have a vaccine. 'Opening the State' is a great way for more people to be exposed, to be infected, to be hospitalized, to need ventilators or use other healthcare resources, and to die.

Pawel Fludzinski

I have yet to hear anyone define the endgame. Is it once everyone is vaccinated? Won't happen. Despite progress, vaccine is not yet available. How much deeper into despair must people go before those making decisions realize that the response to the pandemic is untenable?

Anna Cheevers

I don't know you, but I really appreciate this comment. Thank you for posting in this feed.

Pawel Fludzinski

Beth, Thank you.

Maxwell Vertical

The virus isn't going away, even after a vaccine is available. We have to learn to live with it. If you want to continue to live in shutdown, that's your choice.

Susan Noel

Right!

John Onstad

Bob:

The Governor has no idea of the financial and emotional damage she's causing, nor does she care. A small anecdote: I called Esperanza, a shelter for families experiencing abuse, and they said they've been full to overflowing since mid-March.

According to this article 365 NM businesses have closed permanently. That's a boatload of hardship.

Joseph Stalin said: "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." So it is with tyrants.

John

Comment deleted.
Anna Cheevers

do you have anything useful to say? Or do you just troll people?

Comment deleted.
Maxwell Vertical

Woof, woof.

Michelle Laflamme-Childs

For those commenting about it, you can see the per-capita rate by state at the CDC website which shows us still much better off than our neighboring states.

Christian Vanschayk

NM is further proof that letting health experts set the policy and courageous politicians enable and enforce that policy is by far the best course of action for our public health and the economy.

Barry Rabkin

1000% correct !!

Anna Cheevers

If you sit down and look at the numbers it absolutely DOES NOT justify the restrictive measures in this state. Whomever is telling the governor to act this way is beyond irresponsible. The hospitals have managed this extremely well, they are not full never were. Between steroids and remdisivir the recovery rates are improving well. Death rates keep dropping. We are #1 for suicides right now, we also have chronic addiction issues. We will see many people that put off care die of cancer. They will arrive for help at later stages.That’s a fact. The economic impact of this state may lead to more unnecessary deaths than covid. In children for example the flu is by far more deadly but schools are closed. Cuomo knows this which is why nyc schools are pushing to open. I firmly believe that we did a great job in the front end and are now over grossly overreaching on the back end. This state is poor we’re #49 for almost everything. Now hundreds of businesses have closed. For the New Mexican that actually must work for a living this is financial ruin. I know this is a state where well off people come to retire but they do not understand that the poor in this state must work. That if we have more business close tourism will falter. A ruin far worse than a virus whose death rate is high ONLY in high risk people where the majority of deaths are in fact near the life expectancy of Americans. I know so many people in nyc that got covid and recovered without hospitalization. I also know two that died, one in a nursing home and one with co morbidity issues. Nursing home related deaths are almost half the deaths in the country. That should absolutely be the focus isolate high risk and let the rest of us get the economy going. That’s how here immunity builds. Someone gave the governor data that the death rate is 1.4. The citations for that data are a mystery. You try to click and there’s no link. It’s 100% manipulation of the data by showing the mean and not showing by categories like she did in the beginning. It’s well above 5 percent over 60 could be as high at 10 percent over 75 but below 60 it drops drastically and is well below 0 percent the younger you are. This writer worked for Bloomberg then he should understand the death rates for most are extremely LOW. Our spread rate is extremely low ridiculously low in fact. Please reopen indoor dining. Please provide accurate risk rates for covid. What’s happening here is not good. I think the governor is being ill advised. I can’t fully blame her for this so makes decisions based on data but the data is being presented in such a way to scare the public and that’s frankly BS cuomo did not do this. He was very transparent and hit home who was at risk.

Pawel Fludzinski

Completely agree. In short, the "treatment" is worse than the disease.

Anna Cheevers

Serious question: "We need to have different guidelines as a function of risk profile - age, comorbid conditions, etc" How do we create that model with the data that's provided by the state? Do you think there's some way to create this algorithm? I don't think the politicians will do it, but considering I'm observing very high risk people not adhering to guidelines I strongly feel this could really help drive smarter policy and help change the minds of those that think they are low risk when they are in fact high risk. I don't see how we can get to the Swedish model without clearly showing real risk rates while we wait for vaccine. You could even go as far as creating an app for those wishing to plug in co-morbidities. Do you think this is possible. I know this would really help doctors with patients.

Susan Noel

Excellent suggestions

Bill Salopek

Beth you can't use the "low numbers" to justify reopening (too quickly), as those low numbers exist BECAUSE we are closed. It's as if you are saying speed limits are not necessary because traffic deaths are low. Or that vaccines are not necessary because so few people have those diseases. Your premise makes no sense.

Anna Cheevers

My premesis 100% makes sense. The spread rate goal is under 1.05 it's currently around .75!!! we've beyond exceeded our goal. You cannot justify the folding of hundreds of businesses, expansion of poverty, increased suicide and mental health crisis rates, when you've beyond reached your goals. WE DID A GREAT JOB. She did the right thing at the beginning 100%. Now we need to balance this with more risk to expand the local economy. I haven't even touched that fact that oncologists in other states are seeing many more fatal cancers because the public is terrified of going for check ups. Shutdowns have real consequences. It's beyond financial. 1.05 --That's the level this state decided prevented shut down or could seriously threaten our hospital capacity rates. This is about balancing risk with hospital capacity and isolating this virus from high risk people. IT IS NOT about harming people with low to no risk rate that can build immunity to actually protect high risk people. It's called the Swedish model and they may not have a second wave. We can handle opening more and keep watching the spread rate. If it get's too close or breeches 1.05 then we sit down and revisit this. Currently what we're doing is pretty irresponsible. Our restaurants are folding right and left. Some of these small businesses are in dire straits and need to feed their families. Stimulus is ending. We are a state of tourism we can't have small businesses keep folding. We shut down for the hospitals to prep. They did a fantastic job. I'd ask you how you justify your thought process on shutdowns when I just laid everything out to you now in black and white. The death rates amongst most individuals is extremely low. We currently have 130 hospitalized of which I don't know the percentage of those in the ICU because they don't tell you, but we have capacity when you look at current bed to patient rates. We are not risking anything based on the actual metrics. This virus is not going away. We must live with it. It will spread we need it to not hit high risk people. That's this countries strategy. So yes it's spreading it will spread.

Pawel Fludzinski

You nailed it with "This virus is not going away." We need to have different guidelines as a function of risk profile - age, comorbid conditions, etc. As you so well point out, the risks introduced by the reaction and restrictions put in place as a response to the pandemic outweight the risks of the pandemic itself. With the virus not going away, we need to plan how to live with it in a rational, well-thought approach.

Ted Nugent

Beth: has anyone introduced you to the word, "summarize?" Come on, after 3 sentences your commentary becomes tiring.

Anna Cheevers

I'm sorry it's challenging for you. Next time I will put colors, signs and unicorns for your poor attention span. BTW if you are the RN Kathy Cota from AZ turn in your license you're a sham to anyone that works in medicine dealing with this crisis.

PHILIP VANDERWOLK

As a resident and business person in Santa Fe, I have been sickened by what is happening to our city and state. The Governor and her staff appear to have good intentions but are clearly over reaching, in my opinion. I recently visited Massachusetts and was shocked by the people that were out in restaurants and social settings and the contrast with the current environment in New Mexico. Even though Santa Fe and Cape Cod have the same positivity rate (2.1%), Santa Feans are still being told to stay home and wait for a vaccine. On Cape Cod, people are wearing facial coverings, social distancing and actually living their lives. I'm trying to figure out if MLG is trying to ruin our economy (for the election) or is addicted to her power trip.

Ted Nugent

Two options for Mr. Vanderwolk: (1) Stay in MA where you are happier, or (2) file Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for your NM business due COVID.19.

Richard Irell

If Santa Fe & Cape Cod have similar results using different methods and if Cape Cods’ protocols are less draconian than Santa Fe’s, than why shouldn’t we use the less harmful approach?

Barry Rabkin

Our Governor is not trying to ruin our economy. She is not addicted to 'her power trip.' She is doing whatever she can to save lives.

I am a Boston Native who moved to Santa Fe 3 years ago. I know full well after living back home for 30+ years that Santa Fe (and NM more generally) doesn't have anywhere near the extensive healthcare system (including world-class hospitals) that Massachusetts has.

Our Governor must manage this virus with the resources she has ... and she is doing a wonderful job. I am thankful for her focus on saving lives and striving not to have our much-smaller healthcare system overwhelmed. (Yes, I realize that our businesses are being horrendously hurt. But saving lives is more important.)

Susan Noel

I've lived in NM since 1966. NM has a terrible health care system. Many proficient doctors left the state when our senators and representatives, thinking they were doing a good thing, reduced the amount of reimbursement from Medicare. In other words, our doctors get less money for doing the same things as doctors in neighboring states. As far as getting into the health care system here, an old Navajo woman said what I also believe when she was interviewed by CNN. She had been tested and found positive for Covid19. When she was asked how she felt now, she said great. She was also asked why she didn't go to the hospital. She said that the people who went to the hospital didn't come back. That's been my personal experience with other illnesses of some of my friends.

Ted Nugent

@ Susan: Do you just make this stuff up as you go along?

Susan Noel

I'm trying to live life as well as I can given the restrictions. I wear a mask and physically distance when possible. However, I go out and see friends using outside venues.

Ted Nugent

Who cares?

Donato Velasco

People just stopped getting tested that would bring the numbers down

Kathy Fish

What are your qualifications again? By the way, the metrics aren't about how many people are getting tested, it's about how many tests are coming back positive as a percentage.

Pawel Fludzinski

Lets take a fictional town in NM. Population 2100. Testing capacity 1000. 3% positive tests, or 30 people. 3% of testing capacity, 1.4% of town population. Lets take a fictional town in Texas. Population 29900. Testing capacity 3000. 16% positive test, or 480 people. 16% of testing capacity. 1.6% of town population. Essentially the same rate of infection in both towns (1.4% vs 1.6%) but a > 5x difference in positive test rates (3% vs 16%). Like I said, the results in the article may be true, but one cannot know for certain without knowing the per capita testing capacity of NM vs Texas.

Richard Irell

I’m not understanding your math.

The positivity rate is number of positive tests/number of tests

Assuming that the testing is random (perhaps a big if) the NM town would have .03 * 2100 positive cases or 63 cases.

The TX town would have .16 * 29900 or 4784 positive cases.

Pawel Fludzinski

Apologies if I wasn't clear. Positive test rate is number of positive tests divided by the number tested; not the total population. In my fictional example, only 1000 people were tested in the fictional NM town; 3000 people in the fictional Texas town. You cannot use the town's population as the denominator in the calculation; you have to use the number of people tested.

Sticking with these fictional towns - testing capacity is 1000 out of 2100 population in the NM town, or about 50% capacity. Testing capacity is 3000/29900 in the fictional Texas town, or about 10% capacity. With a 10% capacity (instead of 50% capacity), the Texas town is much more likely to test people that are exhibiting symptoms and/or are at higher risk, so will most likely have a higher positive test rate.

Susan Noel

Absolutely right. I have an acquaintance who originally predicted 10,000,000 deaths in the US based on the original numbers. When I pointed out that the usual course of viruses is for positive cases to increase and deaths to decrease, he demeaned my comment. He wants so badly to cling to his dire predictions that I think he feels people aren't really trying. I'm kind of joking. But I do think all of this has given "meaning" to a lot of people's lives.

Bill Salopek

But it wouldn't change how many people have the disease. It's like you are saying if we close our eyes, the monster goes away. I'd rather know where it is than pretend it's not there.

Amy Earle

I’m grateful on a daily basis that we have a Democratic Governor that believes in science. The same can not be said of our neighbors TX and AZ. Our openings were very gradual and the brakes were applied immediately when we began to see spikes. We’ve conducted a lot of testing all along and masks were required long before most states began requiring them. Our neighbors continue to throw caution to the wind despite their extremely high case and positivity numbers. They could learn from us. The republicans can complain all they want but because the governor has used sense lives have been saved. The anti science republicans also do not understand that it is impossible to have a thriving economy with virus running rampant. It’s only when it is under control that people can begin going about life in a much more normal way. We are doing things right and in the long run we will all benefit. Our low virus rate shows that the virus is not widely circulating in the population and we are testing enough. Contract tracing is possible in NM. None of that can not be said in TX or AZ. We are in the right track and need to stay the course painful though it might be so we can get to the other side of this.

Pawel Fludzinski

I certainly hope the journalist's conclusion is true, that "New Mexico remains an island" (i.e. low positivity rate for COVID testing vs Texas) reflecting, presumably, a better effort on the part of its citizens to contain the virus. However, one cannot firmly draw that conclusion without first testing everyone in both Texas and New Mexico.  Short of testing everyone, we need to know whether Texas' per capita testing capacity is at least the same level as New Mexico, before we cannot firmly draw the stated conclusion.   Texas has greater than 10x the population of New Mexico (29.9M v 2.1M) - does Texas have greater than 10x the testing capacity of New Mexico? If not, it is reasonable to assume that as per capita testing capacity goes down, only the more ill (or those that suspect they have the virus) will get tested, driving the positivity rates up.  

Pawel Fludzinski

I certainly hope the journalist's conclusion is true, that "New Mexico remains an island" , a result of its low positivity test rate (1/30) for COVID, reflecting, presumably, a better effort on the part of its citizens to contain the virus. However, one cannot draw that conclusion strictly on test positivity rates without first knowing what the per capita testing capacity is in each state. Texas has greater than 10x the population of New Mexico (29.9M v 2.1M) - does Texas have greater than 10x the testing capacity of New Mexico? If not, it is reasonable to assume that as per capita testing capacity goes down, only the more ill (or those that suspect they have the virus) will get tested, driving the positivity rates up. Unless we know whether or not Texas' per capita testing capacity is at least the same level as New Mexico, we cannot firmly draw the conclusion drawn. As I said the beginning, I certainly hope

Pawel Fludzinski

Apologies - this is a redundant post. Can't figure out how to delete.

Susan Noel

Right!

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