Congratulations, New Mexico, and keep up the great work. Your actions are unequivocally saving lives in our state.
In recent weeks, we have dramatically driven down our COVID-19 case numbers. We have kept our positivity rate low while maintaining steady and reliable testing. We have slowly and steadily improved our contact tracing and rapid response efforts. We have protected health care workers, first responders and precious hospital resources.
New Mexico is winning the fight against this hideous virus. And we should be proud of ourselves.
But we have to remember how we got here – and the risk of letting our guard down.
None of our recent success happened by accident. New Mexicans all across our state are making the correct and safe choices in their day-to-day lives to protect themselves, their families and their communities. The public health guidelines laid out by my administration have been consistent and data-driven, and New Mexicans have answered the call. Across our state, a million thoughtful sacrifices by New Mexicans have served to protect our people.
I said a few weeks ago that New Mexico had a chance to show the rest of this country what it looks like when a state does the work necessary to beat this virus. I said we could be the New Zealand of the United States. And we’re on our way. We have all made the necessary sacrifices to protect one another, we have pulled all together in the same direction and we are making progress.
Now here’s the hard part. We are in this fight until there’s an effective and widely accessible vaccine for COVID-19. There’s no finish line, not till then. There’s no halftime show, no timeout, not even a quick breather on the sideline. The virus will not give one inch. We can’t let up. I will say it again: We cannot let up.
COVID-19 is everywhere, and we know how quickly it spreads, and we know how dangerous it can be. Our success is only as durable as our willingness to stay the course. We have already lost hundreds too many New Mexicans, loved ones of all ages, grandparents, parents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. Every one of them is more than a statistic. Every one is an empty chair at the table of a grieving family. We still have work to do in preventing these deaths, these unimaginable heartbreaks and hardships.
New Mexico’s COVID-19 gating criteria help us measure our standing against the virus. They warn us when we’re heading in the wrong direction, and they signal when it might be safe to consider tweaking the guidance and restrictions in place to protect public health. We’re beating our gating criteria now, and that’s a wonderful testament to New Mexicans. But meeting those criteria, or exceeding them, doesn’t mean we’re back to normal; it means what we’re doing is working. We’re successfully suppressing the virus. We opened the parachute in time. Now would not be the moment to cut the harness.
As we saw earlier this summer, any “reopening” we undertake introduces new risk, new opportunities for the virus to spread. We are clear that New Mexicans — and indeed people all across our country — are hungry for an economic recovery. I want that, too. I want a thriving state more than anything. But the virus, right now, demands some limitations on routine daily life – socializing with friends, going back to work, in-person learning and so much more. And no one wants to go backward, especially not after working so hard to get where we are. Worse still is to “reopen” and regress, a whiplash of burden too many businesses and workers and families have had to bear. We have to look at resuming “normal” day-to-day activities not as a flip of the switch but as a turning of the dial. These are tough decisions, and as I’ve said, we must see steady and sustained progress to once again take the leap of faith and introduce risk into an already risky environment. Lives and livelihoods hang in the balance.
In short, fewer New Mexico infections do not mean less risk for our state. Progress in our fight against this virus does not mean the battle is done. As we have seen too many times, one infection becomes one hundred very rapidly. We can reduce opportunities for the virus to spread, and we have, but we cannot eliminate them entirely. These are the foremost considerations when we evaluate if and when it is appropriate to permit new risk in business environments, in school environments and all across our state.
Please know that your actions are making a difference. Please know that I am grateful to you every single day. And please have patience, and keep the faith, as we carry on day by day.