- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - It’s possible restrictions on youth sports and training could be eased if New Mexico continues to make progress in limiting the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham indicated during an online briefing Thursday.

With the public health order due to expire soon, the governor said her administration will be taking another look at the current restrictions early next week. The review will take into account the latest data on cases and transmission rates as well as the effectiveness of the state’s COVID-19 safe practices and what has been learned during the first wave of school openings.

“But again, the focus is on education. No. 1 priority,” Lujan Grisham said. “Because if we do that successfully, then we know we can do more business opening and that’s really important to the state.”

The governor and health officials said the seven-day average case count has reached one of its lowest levels in months, the rate of transmission is meeting targets and hospitalizations remain low. An additional 161 COVID-19 cases were reported Thursday, bringing the state’s total to more than 26,420 confirmed infections since the pandemic began. The death toll stands at 816.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.



For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some - especially older adults and people with existing health problems - it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

State officials were pleased with the numbers and congratulated residents for wearing face masks, keeping their distance from one another, avoiding large gatherings and staying home as much as possible.

There are some areas of the state where improvements are still needed if school districts want to reopen their classrooms to teachers and students, officials said. This marked the first week of limited in-person learning for nearly 50 schools - and about 3,600 elementary students - that are in what education officials call a green zone where cases and spread rates are low.

Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said the state has set a high bar for bringing back students under a hybrid model, which involves both time in the classroom and virtual learning from home. That includes making infrastructure improvements at schools and ensuring they’re all stocked with the necessary personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies.

“We are really bringing in every resource from across the state to make sure that we get this right,” he said. “New Mexico wants to be a model for how you reopen schools, how you keep schools open, how you contain any infection that happens.”

Fire marshals from around the state have been helping with the effort by providing guidance to school districts on the use of protective gear and social distancing. Testing surveillance also will be expanded, with the aim of reaching at least 5% of the staff a week.

The Public Education Department also is planning next week to start a series of focus groups for teachers and families to get feedback on how the reopening is going and where there might be room for improvements.

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