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New Mexico prepared for coronavirus, governor says


Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, left, bumps elbows with Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel after a news conference in the Governor’s Office in Santa Fe on Wednesday. They and other members of her Cabinet were bumping elbows in place of shaking hands to reduce the spread of germs. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham urged New Mexicans on Wednesday to prepare for the new coronavirus by taking common-sense steps to protect themselves and others.

People should wash their hands frequently, stay home if they’re sick, and contact their doctor if they show flu-like symptoms and have traveled to a hot spot for the virus, she said.

“Be prepared – don’t be panicked,” Lujan Grisham told a news conference at the Capitol.

New Mexico has tested two people for the virus, one of whom didn’t have it, she said. Test results for the other person are pending.

Lujan Grisham, a former secretary of the state Health Department, said it’s likely that every state will be affected by the coronavirus eventually. But New Mexico’s centralized public health programs and smaller population, she said, will help the state avoid some of the complications facing other states.

“We are ready for any emergency,” Lujan Grisham said.

She participated in a phone call this week with Vice President Mike Pence and other governors, she said, on the potential for reimbursement as states test patients and watch for the virus.

Lujan Grisham said that as governor, she is authorized to spend $750,000 to respond to an emergency.

State officials, she said, are engaging in “tabletop exercises” for how to respond if the virus surfaces in New Mexico. That includes the possibility of “off-site locations” that could be used to provide care and limit transmission of the virus.

“We’re doing the work we should be doing,” the governor said.

Common-sense steps can limit the spread of the disease, Lujan Grisham said. People should wash their hands frequently or use hand sanitizer.

If you’re sick, she said, stay home. If you show symptoms and have traveled to certain countries – such as China, South Korea, Iran or Italy – contact your doctor, who will advise on next steps.

At least one local employer, Sandia National Laboratories, has curtailed travel.

“We are just trying to use good sense,” Deputy Labs Director Dori Ellis told the Journal. “We’re trying to be judicious, making sure our employees are safe and that we do the work that has to be done.”

Sandia has more than 12,300 employees in the state.

Journal staff writer Scott Turner contributed to this report.


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