As cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus continue to expand nationally and globally, the number of confirmed cases in New Mexico has also increased. According to the March 24th update from the New Mexico Department of Health, the number of cases statewide is now at 100.
Although the number of confirmed infections continues to grow, especially in more populous regions, it's important recognize that testing in New Mexico is also increasing. Governor Lujan Grisham spoke to this point in an appearance on MSNBC Monday night. Higher testing rates of testing help give states a more accurate picture of the infection's spread in the population and improve opportunities for containment through social distancing measures. As the Governor points out, it is especially critical during the next two weeks for anyone with symptoms to get tested and for all New Mexicans stay home and follow social distancing protocols.
For ongoing updates and information on the COVID-19 coronavirus in New Mexico, please consult the following excellent information resources:
As all non-essential businesses across the state close their brick and mortar doors in compliance with the Governor's latest Executive Order of March 23, it is important to recognize the assistance that is being provided to small businesses at this time. Federal low-interest disaster loans are now available to "business owners whose operations are severely impacted by the COVID-19 health emergency." Loan applications can be accessed through the Disaster Assistance Loan portal. If you are unsure of how to apply, begin by watching this slide presentation on how to apply for disaster loans.
In addition, the New Mexico Economic Development Department has created state specific programs to "assist businesses seeking emergency loans or lines of credit to deal with negative economic impacts from COVID-19. NMEDD can guarantee a portion of a loan or line of credit up to 80% of principal or $50,000. Loan proceeds are flexible and can be used for (and not limited to) the following: working capital, inventory and payroll." Other opportunities provide options for loan payment deferment.
For more information, go to the NMEDD COVID-19 response page or contact Johanna Nelson, Johanna.Nelson@state.nm.us or (505) 469-6204.
With most educational institutions closing their doors in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and moving classes to online platforms, it is vital for schools, districts, and universities to consider the impact this shift will have on the large number of New Mexicans who lack a home broadband connection or reliable computing devices. Despite the fact that cell phones are prevalent and most young people appear adept with technology, 1 in 3 rural residents still do not have a broadband connection at home and/or lack adequate computing devices (laptops) for online learning. The impact of the coronavirus on businesses and local entities has added to these challenges, as the closure of libraries and coffee shops has made access to public wifi in remote areas more difficult than ever.
National research has been pointing to these disparities in online access for several years. But the full impact of these digital inequities has now been underscored by the response to the coronavirus. As a recent op-ed by Rutgers University professor Vikki Katz notes, the disadvantages faced by the “under-connected” mean that, when learning moves online, they will be less able to access and complete work, or to have the resources necessary to overcome these challenges.
To make online learning equally accessible to all, we must work to provide broadband access, computer devices, and the skills needed to use them to everyone. In New Mexico, many of the Internet Service Providers are responding to this need by offering free service and wifi hotspots during this public health crisis. A complete listing of providers and their current offers, compiled by the New Mexico Department of Information Technology, is posted on the New Mexico Public Education Department coronavirus webpage. The National Digital Inclusion Alliance has also begun compiling a multi-state listing of free and low-cost internet plans available to people during this outbreak.
Online access has become especially important during the current virus outbreak. One of the many ways in which we can support each other most is by assisting colleagues and neighbors in finding available, affordable broadband service and computing equipment.
In a press conference given today at 3:00 p.m., Governor Lujan-Grisham announced additional guidelines and restrictions to help limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Beginning tomorrow, Tuesday 25 March, at 8:00 a.m., ALL non-essential businesses will be closed. In addition, gatherings of more than 5 people will be prohibited. Only essential businesses are exempt from closure; these include health care facilities, emergency management facilities, and food distribution entities, such as grocery stores. You can view the complete list of exempt businesses on the New Mexico state government coronavirus update page. A copy of the press release is also attached.
The importance of at staying home and practicing social distancing during this critical period cannot be over-emphasized. Staying at home is the most effective tool we have for limiting exposure, decreasing the spread of the virus, and lowering the total number of cases in the community and the state. When you must go out, for food or necessary services, maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet between individuals, refrain from gathering in groups of more than 5, and continue to wash hands and sanitize shared surfaces thoroughly.
By staying at home and practicing social distancing, you not only help keep you and your family safe; you also help keep medical facilities from being over-whelmed with high numbers of infected individuals, and thus better able to effectively treat their patients. These practices also help keep health care providers, emergency personnel, and essential leadership staff, all of whom we depend on at this time, safe and healthy so that they can continue to perform their jobs well.
The number of the COVID-19 coronavirus cases in New Mexico reached 35 on Thursday 19 March, including the first positive test in San Miguel County. The increase comes as Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has begun to make testing available in a number of locations statewide. A mobile "drive-through" testing unit was set up outside Memorial Middle School on Thursday and the state is awaiting results from tests completed on that day. According to information provided to the Las Vegas Optic by the San Miguel County emergency manager Leo Maestas, the individual who tested positive was likely exposed during travel and is in self-isolation at home.
Testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus is now available at several sites across New Mexico, including Alta Vista Regional Hospital in Las Vegas. Testing at Alta Vista is available to those exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, which include fever, cough, and shortness or breath and/or difficulty breathing. Note that testing at Alta Vista is currently done as an ER visit and the hospital is billing for this service as an emergency room visit. Please call the medical center for questions about testing at: 505.426.3615. Other testing sites in nearby locations include Christus St. Vincent's in Santa Fe. For a complete list of testing locations, go to the New Mexico Department of Health website at cv.nmhealth.org and click on the purple box on the right showing "Public Screening and COVID-19 testing sites.
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