Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham urged President Donald Trump during a conference call Monday to provide more help to states struggling to expand their testing capacity amid the coronavirus outbreak – the same day four new cases surfaced in Bernalillo County.
New Mexicans also prepared Monday for more disruption of daily life as the Archdiocese of Santa Fe postponed the annual group pilgrimages to Chimayó and Tomé Hill. Drive-up coronavirus testing sites drew such long lines that Presbyterian Healthcare Services set up portable toilets at one location.
Altogether, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus reached 21 in New Mexico, with especially rapid growth in Bernalillo County, the site of the last eight cases.
Lujan Grisham, meanwhile, confronted Trump during a conference call.
The New York Times, which obtained a recording of the call, reported that Lujan Grisham and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee reacted angrily after Trump told a group of governors to try to get respirators and other equipment on their own, instead of waiting for the federal government to fill the growing demand.
“If one state doesn’t get the resources and materials they need, the entire nation continues to be at risk,” Lujan Grisham said, according to the New York Times account.
She told the president and others on the call that a lack of federal help is keeping New Mexico and other states from expanding their testing capacity – even when they try to act on their own, as the president suggested, according to a summary provided by the Governor’s Office.
New Mexico, for example, is working to purchase a machine to expand its testing capacity but needs federal help to secure some of the material used to conduct the tests, said Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for the governor.
Lujan Grisham demanded a follow-up call from Vice President Mike Pence, Stelnicki told the Journal.
She and Pence subsequently talked in a second call, and the vice president committed to getting New Mexico what it needs to expand testing capacity, Stelnicki said.
NM cases at 21
Four more adults in Bernalillo County tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, pushing New Mexico’s total number of cases to 21.
The state now has 14 positive cases in Bernalillo County, three in Santa Fe County and two each in Sandoval and Socorro counties.
The most recent people to test positive are a 20-year-old man, two 30-year-old women and an 80-year-old man – all in Bernalillo County, which includes Albuquerque.
Each of the four new cases is travel-related, and the state hasn’t seen signs of “community spread,” state spokeswoman Jodi McGinnis Porter said.
The state Department of Health also said it is investigating each case to see whom the person came in contact with and to collect swabs for testing from anyone showing symptoms.
Laboratories in New Mexico had conducted about 1,270 tests through midday Monday, with 21 people having tested positive.
At least two elected officials in New Mexico are now in isolation.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., announced plans Monday to self-quarantine after a brief interaction with an individual who was at the time asymptomatic but later tested positive for COVID-19, his office said.
Luján is exhibiting no symptoms, and health professionals have advised that the congressman is at a low probability for infection. But out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of the public, he has chosen to self-quarantine.
Lt. Gov. Howie Morales is also in isolation and working from home, after a trip to Washington, D.C., last week on state business. Morales isn’t showing symptoms but is following the state’s recommendation of 14 days of self-isolation after any travel outside New Mexico.
Monday also brought a new round of closures and postponements for New Mexicans.
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe postponed the traditional Good Friday group pilgrimages to El Santuario de Chimayó and Tomé Hill. It also discouraged individuals from making the trip on their own.
The archdiocese said “a very difficult decision was made with a great sense of sadness.”
Monday was also the first day of a new state order requiring restaurants and bars to operate at no greater than 50% of seating capacity.
Customers can no longer be seated at the bar, and occupied tables and booths must be at least 6 feet apart. Each party must be limited to six people.
Lujan Grisham continued her push to get people to stay home if they can. The U.S. government issued similar recommendations Monday, telling people to avoid social visits and discretionary travel over the next 15 days.
“The best thing we can do to combat the virus is limit ourselves to only essential outings,” Lujan Grisham said in a video her office released Monday. “Quite frankly, if you conduct yourself as if you already have the virus, and isolate yourself as much as possible, the chances of transmission are much lower and our communities, as a result, will be safer.”
The governor on Monday also signed executive orders that make about $3.25 million in state funds available for humanitarian relief and other emergency services to address the coronavirus outbreak.
At least $1.5 million of the money can be tapped to help children and families affected by the three-week closure of K-12 public schools in New Mexico, which began Monday.
Another order provides an extra $250,000 to support the New Mexico National Guard, ensuring it has at least $1 million available if it’s deployed.
Lujan Grisham’s declaration of an emergency last week directed her administration to use the National Guard, if necessary, to support civil authorities and provide humanitarian aid.
Scott Turner, Ryan Boetel and Mike Murphy contributed to this article.