On Thursday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced two new public health orders, one rationing health care in the state, and the other banning “non-essential” surgical procedures. The orders take effect on Friday, December 11, and go until at least January 4. During the presser, she also announced her 2022 re-election plans for the governorship.
According to the New Mexico Health Department’s press release on these new orders, “all hospital acute care facilities in the state may not provide non-essential surgical procedures. Non-essential surgeries are defined in the order to include procedures that may be delayed without undue risk to the patient’s health. The order outlines criteria to be considered in distinguishing between essential and non-essential procedural needs.”
The order clarifies what exactly makes up an “essential” procedure:
For purposes of this Order, “non-essential surgical procedures” include those services which can be delayed for three (3) months without undue risk to the patient’s health. Examples of criteria to consider in distinguishing between essential and non-essential actions include: (a) threat to a patient’s life; (b) threat of permanent dysfunction of an extremity, including teeth, jaws, and eyes; ( c) risk of metastasis or progression of staging; ( d) prenatal and postnatal care; and ( e) any other factors that will conserve medical resources without creating undue risk of permanent harm to patients.
This Order’s prohibition on non-essential surgical procedures is not meant to apply to: (a) the provision of emergency medical care or any actions necessary to provide treatment to patients with emergency or urgent medical needs; and (b) any surgery that if not performed would result in a serious condition of a patient worsening ( e.g., removing a cancerous tumor or a surgery intended to manage an infection).
The new “Crisis Care” standards implemented in the orders also mean doctors and nurses could be assigned duties outside of their traditional areas of expertise, which are outlined in Gov. Lujan Grisham’s prior executive order. The order states:
[H]ealthcare professionals will be asked to assist in additional areas outside their scope of practice and to provide support, in any way possible, with the treatment and care of those infected with the COVID-19 virus and to stretch limited resources beyond usual and customary practice.
Providers have raised concerns about their legal protections when asked to address the extraordina1y demands of treating New Mexicans with and without COVID-19 during this heightened medical surge. For these reasons, I find that it is in the public interest to invoke certain provisions of AHEMA and ELA to ensure that physicians will not hesitate to respond and provide necessary assistance as “Contingency Care” standards have been implemented in many hospitals and in the potential event that “Crisis Care” standards are brought into effect.
Also announced during the Governor’s press conference was that all 33 counties are in “red” status, meaning harsh bans on businesses and everyday activities will remain in effect, such as 25% capacity or 75 people per grocery store, no indoor dining at restaurants, restrictions on churches, lodging, “close contact” businesses such as salons and gyms, no indoor recreational facilities, and only 25% capacity at outdoor facilities.
The Governor focused on COVID-19 testing as well, saying that the more people get tested, the more counties will shift from “red” with harsh restrictions to “yellow” or “green,” meaning slight relief for New Mexicans.
She said, “New Mexico small businesses and our local economies, quite frankly, are depending on us. They cannot make it if we do not do all the public health measures. I mean, They are completely, unequivocally dependent on our good public health measures. Without them, we just bring this virus to them.”
“Here’s the best Christmas gift that we can give New Mexico’s economy. All of those families who have family businesses — blood, sweat, and tears, their life savings in these businesses — we need more New Mexicans to get tested,” she added.
The Governor admitted how her public health orders are “completely unfair” to those grieving after a loved one has passed away, and her mandates have barred them from attending their funeral. “That would impact how many people could say goodbye to a loved one in that grieving process,” she said. “A pandemic knows no fairness boundaries. It just moves–it just wants us to get close and let our guard down. That’s the perfect environment for a virus. Funerals are particularly hard. It’s particularly hard to have a mask on. It’s particularly hard not to hug a grieving family member. It’s particularly hard not to pat someone on the back. It’s just particularly hard.” She added, “these are really high-risk environments.”
Lastly, the Governor answered a question from a reporter about possibly being tapped for the fictitious presidential cabinet of former Vice President Joe Biden, in which she announced her 2022 re-election as governor.
She thanked Biden “for his confidence,” while throwing the Trump Administration under the bus as one that “doesn’t care about federal government services.” She said, “I’m staying,” and “New Mexicans should expect that I run for re-election in ‘22, and I will keep my fingers crossed that I can convince all these hard-working New Mexico families that I deserve another four years.” Lujan Grisham was previously snubbed by Biden for Secretary of the Health and Human Services after she turned down his offer to be Secretary of the Department of Interior.