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Governor’s quick actions helped mitigate crisis

Dr. (Deane) Waldman’s opinion piece in the (July 22) Journal accused Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of making New Mexico “go COVID-19 insane” and “destroying our state in the name of bad medicine and non-science.”

While criticizing the governor’s steps to safeguard public health, Waldman admits “New Mexico has an exceedingly low rate of illness and death for COVID-19.” The strong steps taken by the governor have allowed New Mexico to achieve significantly lower infection and mortality rates than our neighboring states of Arizona and Texas.

The country’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has stressed the need for facial masks and social distancing. States that ignored his advice and prematurely loosened their restrictions have experienced recent surges, which led many to reinstitute stricter measures. The truth is that we will only be able to successfully bring back and grow our economy back when we control the virus. There is near uniformity among our nation’s health experts that widespread mask use is necessary to tame the COVID-19 pandemic.

Without widespread testing, it is impossible to project accurate prevalence estimates and precise case mortality rate estimates. Under the governor’s leadership, New Mexico has achieved the fourth-highest rate of testing per 1,000 population in the country. … Recent data indicate New Mexico has tested 577,810 people, identified 21,130 confirmed and had 655 deaths yielding an estimated case fatality rate of approximately 3.1%.

While contracting COVID-19 may produce some immunity to subsequent infection, we lack accurate data on the duration of this immunity. Dr. Waldman is undoubtedly correct that we likely underestimate the true number of cases. However, this does not automatically translate to a lower case fatality rate since we likely also underestimate the number of COVID-19-related deaths. The appropriate way to compare COVID-19 and influenza deaths is to examine weekly death counts.

New Mexico is fortunate that our governor has the foresight and fortitude to institute statewide precautions that have enabled us to avoid the spike in cases that has afflicted our neighboring states of Arizona and Texas. The experience of our health-care workers clearly demonstrates the seriousness of COVID-19 infection.

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