During a weekly press conference with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on COVID-19, the governor covered the usual topics and encouraged people to stay home and wear masks.
But probably the biggest news is that Lujan Grisham has scheduled a date for a special legislative session.
“I am pleased to announce now that the special session that I will be convening will be convened next Tuesday just before Thanksgiving,” said Lujan Grisham. “We’ve spent the last few days working with lawmakers, both houses, both sides of the aisle, to work out those details.”
Lujan Grisham’s office announced last week that she plans to call on lawmakers to meet and arrange additional financial support for New Mexicans.
During this week’s press conference, Lujan Grisham said she wants $300 million from New Mexico’s CARES Act earmarked for unemployment benefits, housing subsidies and small business grants. who have been affected by the public health order.
“We want to bring this help to New Mexicans. They need unemployment, they need housing assistance and businesses need subsidies,” said Lujan Grisham. That gives us a day to get the processes started right this Wednesday before Thanksgiving so that on Monday, when we come back, we push the money out the door. It is essential that we do so.
As Thanksgiving approaches, New Mexico is also seeing a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases and associated deaths. The state was four days into what Lujan Grisham called a “reset” or two-week period of a stay-at-home order on Thursday and all non-essential businesses closed. Lujan Grisham clarified at the press conference that essential businesses are places like hardware stores and grocery stores.
Lujan Grisham and New Mexico Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase spent the majority of their time focusing on the severity of the cases in New Mexico. Lujan Grisham said at the start of the pandemic it took just fewer days to reach 10,000 cases. Now, she said, it only took seven days to get to the most recent 10,000 cases.
Scrase also confirmed that a former hospital building in Albuquerque will be used to help ease pressure on hospitals as COVID-19 cases routinely number in the thousands daily.
The old Albuquerque hospital building will not be a full hospital, Scrase said. Instead, it will serve as a way for patients to get medical care at their respective homes.
“It won’t be like a stand-alone hospital,” Scrase said. One of the main uses will simply be to transfer people from hospitals, a little earlier than they would otherwise have gone home, to the Gibson facility for the remainder of their stay.
The two also urged New Mexicans to stay home and not travel during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
“The best defense against the virus is to stay home, to stay isolated,” said Lujan Grisham. “If you have to go out, from a distance, wear a mask. The virus is everywhere. He is looking for an opportunity to propagate with you.
Scrase also said he has received questions about the effectiveness of wearing masks, given that the number of cases in the state continues to rise dramatically. Scrase said that since there has been a mask mandate for about eight months and COVID-19 still seems to be spreading aggressively, people tend to question the effectiveness of public health orders and wearing masks. But he said it was likely due to people not following those health orders.
“Public health orders by themselves do not reduce the number of cases,” Scrase said. “These are New Mexicans complying with public health orders and doing what they say.”