- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Health officials said Tuesday that the number of COVID-19 cases and the rate of transmission are on the rise in New Mexico, leaving the state trailing when it comes to two of its most important metrics.

Human Services Secretary David Scrase acknowledged during an online briefing Tuesday that if things don’t change, the state will see the curve continue to rise. He said he would rather see New Mexicans following the health order already in place rather than the state imposing more mandates to limit spread.

“I would prefer not to continue on this rollercoaster,” he said. “I’d prefer to allow folks to respond - to stay at home, to wear those masks, keep those distances, stick within the public health guidelines. I think everything we need to do right now could be accomplished if 100% of us followed the public health guidelines.”

The public health order mandates face masks and social distancing, limits indoor dining and the size of gatherings and calls for people to stay home whenever possible.

An additional 178 cases were reported Tuesday, pushing the total to more than 29,150 since the pandemic began. Another two deaths were reported, putting that overall count at 875 statewide.



Scrase pointed to a nationwide effort that tracks the progress of states meeting various benchmarks, saying New Mexico has now slipped behind neighboring Arizona and is considered to be trending poorly. The map shows Arizona’s COVID-19 rate is decreasing after having skyrocketed earlier this summer.

Texas still is considered to have uncontrolled spread, and New Mexico health officials said those counties bordering that state continue to have some of the highest rates in New Mexico because of interstate commerce and employment in those areas.

In other developments, New Mexico has increased annual child support collections by $18 million as it intercepts federal economic impact payments to parents whose children do not live with them.

The Legislature’s budget and accountability office reported that child support collections by the state’s enforcement office increased to $156 million in the 12-month period ending June 30.

Economic impact payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 for children were part of the $2.2 trillion relief package signed into law in March by President Donald Trump. New Mexico also is linking unemployment insurance claims automatically to child support programs so that a portion of benefits can be withdrawn.

Additionally, agency performance evaluations for the April-June period turned up stark variations in efficiency, in some cases demonstrating that officials can work effectively from home, said the evaluation from the Legislative Finance Committee.

Among performance setbacks, the New Mexico Corrections Department failed to effectively manage the COVID-19 pandemic at the Otero County Prison Facility, where almost 90% of the population has been infected and several inmates have died.

As schools switched to distance learning, the state waived standardized testing requirements, the Legislative Finance Committee noted. That leaves no reported measures of student performance such as math and reading proficiency.

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.

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