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New Mexico governor says virus spread in neighboring El Paso poses threat to her entire state

SANTA FE, New Mexico -- New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday said coronavirus spread in neighboring El Paso "poses a great risk to Dona Ana County and the entire state of New Mexico."

She cited both the El Paso area's rising toll of deaths (54) and cases (1,930), including a recent 39% increase in hospitalizations. She compared El Paso's population base to that metro Albuquerque, by far New Mexico's most populous area, in outlining the potential risk.

There were just four new virus cases reported in Doña Ana County on Wednesday, putting the infection total there at 322. To date, there have been just two deaths.

State officials noted that "spread in the southwest (part of the state) appears to be under reasonable control," which is why the governor expressed concern about the threat posed if El Paso's surge expands into Doña Ana County.

Health leaders said traveling from one location to another and not following social distancing guidelines can quickly result in spread.

"Covid got here from people traveling, we know this creates high risk," Lujan Grisham explained. "If you're shopping or going to a movie theater in El Paso. you're posing a risk in New Mexico."

Across all of New Mexico, the governor said there were seven additional virus-related deaths in the state on Wednesday, with the total number of deaths of New Mexicans now 283.

In addition to the deaths, the state reported 144 new cases. As of Wednesday, New Mexico reported at total of 6,317 infections.

The governor reported that 206 people were hospitalized, with 58 of those patients on ventilators. She said that's a bit higher than the national average.

Some of the key data, however, has Lujan Grisham saying the state is managing the virus correctly.

The state has conducted 147,344 virus tests as of Wednesday, which means about 7% of all New Mexicans have been tested. It sounds low but in comparison to other states, it is one of the highest rates in the nation.

In other southwestern U.S. states, Texas has tested just 2% of its population, Arizona 3% and Oklahoma 4%.

Also, fewer people who get tested in the Land of Enchantment have the virus - it's only about 4%.

At the same time, the state is moving slower than most at reopening.

“We are not yet seeing New Mexico cases decline,” Lujan Grisham said. “In fact, states that have reopened quickly haven't done it as thoughtfully as maybe we believe in New Mexico and they are already seeing those spikes.”

Republicans in the state senate called for the governor to reopen everything by Thursday. In a letter to the governor, they claimed that the virus has not risen to the levels initially thought by many experts and leaders both nationally and statewide.

The governor, though, rejected that idea and has laid out a multi-phase plan that will last till August slowly opening businesses and service. Phase two of reopening businesses in New Mexico is expected to happen in early June, which will include restaurants at 50% capacity to ensure social distancing practices.

Lujan Grisham on Wednesday did call a special session of the New Mexico Legislature, which she said would be held June 18 to deal with a "looming deficit" to the state's budget as a result of the pandemic's "economic crisis."

She estimated up to a $2.4 billion gap in fiscal year 2021, but noted that she believed half of it could be addressed with stimulus money from the federal government and the rest through cuts to capital projects. The governor expressed optimism that employee furloughs and cuts to daily state operations could be avoided.

"I don't anticipate that we're going to have to make deep cuts, but we will have to slow spending," Lujan Grisham said in response to a reporter's question.

(ABC affiliate KOAT contributed to this report.)

Coronavirus / Coronavirus Video / Health / New Mexico Politics / News / Top Stories / Video

Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.



  1. I attribute the surge to all the non compliant white people who were walking around without masks (like the downtown demonstrators) in late March. Selfish morons.

      1. If you don’t like a hispanic majority here why don’t you move? This old gringo has no problem being in the minority. I have hispanic neighbors on both sides and have loved and respected them for years. If you have a problem living here you could move to maybe North Dakota?

        1. Montana. I’m moving to Montana as soon as I retire in 2024. But I wasn’t saying I mind living here. The racist made a comment about WHITE people spreading the virus and I was just stating there aren’t enough white people left in El Paso to be considered Typhoid Mary.

          1. You have a point of sorts, but all of us can spread the virus if we don’t take precautions

          1. Nope. Your Navajos are leaving the Gallup area and spreading out. I see you still can’t find Gallup on map.

          2. It’s going to spread. The Chinese designed it that way. Nothing we are going to do will stop that. Eventually, everyone will get it. Just like the flu every year.

  2. According to US intelligence, there is absolutely no evidence that would support that the Chinese manufactured the virus. Very few people get the flu each year thanks to vaccines. We will find a vaccine to this too.

  3. they can manipulate the number of positives and report some deaths that aren’t covid but even then they are falling behind on the scare tactics. 39% increase in hospital admits….ohhh scary. Lujan just keeps moving the goal posts and uses any news to keep her power grab. When this is over she will have done more damage to New Mexico than covid, meth, crack, child abuse, and alcohol combined. The lawsuits are piling up and the tax payer will cover it but in the end if she ends up prosecuted it’ll be worth it

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