New Mexico, “The Land of Enchantment” (also known locally as “The Land of Mañana” and “The Land of Entrapment”) doesn’t rank well on many nationwide surveys. We come in at a strong 47th place on a list of states ranked by wealth , 49th place in education and a staggering 50th place –that’s last, folks–for best place to raise a family. But that’s all in the past!
As of Friday, April 24th, our state came up smelling like green chile. The New York Times recognized New Mexico for being extremely poor compared to other states (thank you!), yet somehow overcoming the odds and flattening the curve. Our neighbors in Colorado are not faring so well, and scientists speculate our good fortune thus far is due to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s aggressive plan of action early on.
Helen Wearing, a mathematician University of New Mexico who specializes in disease ecology, said, “Hundreds of lives were saved because of what the state did early on, and that’s using conservative estimates.”
By all means, we weren’t cut out for success. Our population is relatively advanced in years, we don’t have enough hospital beds as it is and we have the worst livers in the country. All of this points to New Mexico being literally buried by this pandemic more rapidly than other states.
Gov. Lujan Grisham made the call to close schools throughout the state on March 12th. She recently extended her stay-at-home order until at least May 15th, and she remains cautious about opening the state back up. It’s not a popular decision with everyone, especially the NRA and crappy churches, but the numbers don’t lie.
“Our governor left abortion clinics open but closed us down,” said Steve Smothermon of Legacy Church, the Albuquerque megachurch who sued the state of New Mexico over churches being included in the ban on large gatherings.
Our current status as a state successfully fighting the novel coronavirus is not secure, however. This victory could collapse within days if we give up our careful social distancing now. It’s essentially a crappy time to be a governor of any state, and every policy enacted has the potential to stave off or cause mass deaths. In addition to being sued, Gov. Lujan Grisham has to deal with potential spread from states surrounding us who make the choice to reopen, construction workers building the border wall down south, and people within the state refusing to cooperate with executive orders.
Martin “Modey” Hicks, Mayor of Grants, New Mexico, still plans to open up the city on Monday, claiming that his town is essentially dying as it is. He doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a business dying financially and actually physically dying, but he’s highly confident in his decision. It just goes to show that you should never trust a mayor with a nickname in quotes next to their real name.
I want to believe we can do this. I want to keep seeing New Mexico at the top of a list for doing something well, just this once. If I could, I’d thank Gov. Lujan Grisham personally for saving our lives and making sure there will be enough hospital beds to accommodate New Mexican COVID-19 patients when our state peaks. Do I want to see local businesses go under? Absolutely not. Do I want us all to survive this and get a chance to try again? Yeah, I think that would be swell.