Rep. Christine Chandler: Moving Towards Reopening



I’d like to review the status of the state’s plans to reopen New Mexico, including some discussion of the justification for going slowly.

Obviously the gradual reopening of businesses and the eventual easing of the public health order are dependent on judgments that must be based on the behavior of the virus and the nature of COVID-19 disease that it causes. We are learning to avoid conditions that will expose especially vulnerable segments of the population to the virus in the absence of firm understanding of many of its characteristics.   

In the absence of detailed knowledge of the characteristics of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, but with strong evidence that it is highly contagious and very lethal to certain segments of the population, New Mexico followed the advice of epidemiologists by issuing, pursuant to existing state law, mandatory closures of non-essential businesses, and  voluntary stay-at-home orders, wearing of masks, and limitations on the gathering of groups of more than five persons – collectively known as “social distancing.”  

These measures reduce the number of exposures between susceptible persons and possibly infected persons, and by keeping any person-person contact to distances greater than six feet, reduce the possibility of transmission in such exposures.  These numbers are best guesses in the absence of hard data on the virus, but they seem to have been effective in other places in the world where the pandemic has peaked and is in decline, and in past pandemics.  

After the toll of deaths and serious illness, including long-term effects on recovered victims, the biggest impact of the pandemic is the enormous damage done to our economy by the imposition of these necessary restrictions.  Therefore it is imperative that we continue to study and characterize the virus and the disease, develop treatments and tests for active infections and for exposure and immunity, so that we may begin to “reopen” the economy and recover from the damage that this pandemic has brought.  We must only act based on the data, opening the economy judiciously while continuing to monitor the disease so that we mitigate a second wave of infections, deaths, and economic hardship.

The Governor announced this week that because there have been indications that new cases in New Mexico may have peaked, she is beginning to consider gradual re-openings of some businesses. This is good news. But it is important that this reopening be accompanied by continued monitoring and care that no second wave is triggered by moving too fast.  

Thank you Los Alamos residents for acting responsibly by recognizing that your actions affect others. Be safe.