BY DAN BOYD / JOURNAL CAPITOL BUREAU CHIEF
Published: Thursday, April 2nd, 2020 at 2:20pm
Updated: Thursday, April 2nd, 2020 at 10:05pm
Annie King, from Santa Fe, loads her groceries after shopping at La Montañita Co-op in Santa Fe on Thursday. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says health officials are encouraging residents to wear masks when in public. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)
Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – With coronavirus spreading through nearly all parts of New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday that state health officials are now strongly encouraging residents to wear masks when they venture out in public.
While the face coverings are not required and should not be viewed as providing complete protection against COVID-19, the Governor’s Office suggested that masks could mitigate the spread of germs amid an outbreak that has led to 403 confirmed coronavirus cases statewide.
Seven New Mexicans have died of COVID-19, nearly all of them elderly individuals with underlying health issues. The most recent death – that of a Bernalillo County woman in her 70s – was reported by state health officials on Thursday.
“Our guidance to the public will be that face coverings may provide some additional benefit and are encouraged – but of course they do not replace the important actions of staying home, washing your hands, and aggressive social distancing as far as reducing the spread,” Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki told the Journal.
Specially designed masks for doctors and nurses should not be used by members of the public, however, to ensure there are as many as possible for front-line health care workers.
Specifically, the Governor’s Office said it’s important that state residents do not use the snug-fitting N95 face masks that protect medical workers from coronavirus.
There is a statewide stock of only about 44,000 such face masks, the Associated Press reported.
Meanwhile, the new state-level recommendation came as President Donald Trump’s administration was reportedly finalizing guidance urging most Americans to wear face coverings when leaving home.
The federal recommendations would apply at least to those who live in areas hit hard by community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.
While some health care experts have questioned how effective the wearing of masks in public is when it comes to combating the coronavirus, there’s been recent movement nationwide toward face coverings in grocery stores, pharmacies and other public places.