Oregon, New Mexico issue lockdown orders as Covid-19 model predicts US deaths may nearly double by March 2021

While Oregon has announced a two-week ‘freeze,’ a 'stay at home' order has been imposed in New Mexico

                            Oregon, New Mexico issue lockdown orders as Covid-19 model predicts US deaths may nearly double by March 2021
(Getty Images)

To combat a surge in coronavirus cases, governors in New Mexico and Oregon have issued new lockdown orders. The statewide “two-week freeze” announced by Oregon Governor Kate Brown will be in effect from November 18 through December 2 and includes limiting social get-togethers (indoors and outdoors) to no more than six people, total, from no more than two households, closing gyms and fitness organizations and closing indoor recreational facilities, museums, indoor entertainment activities and indoor pools and sports courts. 

Zoos, gardens, aquariums, outdoor entertainment activities and outdoor pools will remain shut and eating and drinking establishments will be limited to take-out and delivery only. Besides closing venues that host or facilitate indoor or outdoor events, the freeze requires all businesses to mandate work-from-home “to the greatest extent possible” and closing offices to the public. It also prohibits indoor visiting in long-term care facilities, but outdoor visitation has been allowed for “supporting quality of life.”

“Since I announced a two-week pause one week ago, we are seeing an alarming spike in both cases and hospitalizations. The virus is spreading in the community and, every day, it is infecting more and more Oregonians. This situation is dangerous and our hospitals have been sounding the alarms. If we want to give Oregon a fighting chance, we must take further measures to flatten the curve and save lives. I know this is hard, and we are weary. But, we are trying to stop this ferocious virus from quickly spreading far and wide. And in Oregon, we actually can do this,” said Brown. 

Stating that the evidence is “very clear that masks save lives,” the governor asked Oregonians to wear one at all times except when eating and drinking, whether they are indoors or outdoors. “If this sounds and feels similar to our ‘stay home, save lives’ order I issued back in March, that’s because it is. The cycle of this virus is such that if we are seeing case rates topping 1,000 now, and that means our hospitals are headed for very dark days ahead,” she warned.

Among other measures, the order mandates limiting faith-based organizations to a maximum of 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors, restricting grocery stores and pharmacies to a maximum of 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pickup and limiting retail stores and retail malls (indoor and outdoor) to a maximum of 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pickup.

Governor Kate Brown has asked Oregonians to wear a face mask at all times except when eating and drinking, whether they are indoors or outdoors (Getty Images)

“Given the data and modeling we are seeing, my public health experts tell me that some counties will need longer to flatten the curve. So I want to be very clear that there are some Covid-19 hotspot counties that will likely need to stay in the freeze for much longer than two weeks. Multnomah County, for example, will be in this freeze for at least four weeks. Our actions right now, no matter where in the state you live, are critical,” explained Brown.

California, Oregon and Washington have also jointly called for a halt in non-essential travel, urging the public to indefinitely avoid out-of-state travel unless necessary.

What’s happening in New Mexico?

In New Mexico, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a “stay at home” order, which will begin on November 16 and last two weeks, through November 30. Calling it the “most heightened level of statewide public health restrictions,” the governor announced that New Mexico will temporarily re-enact a statewide order closing in-person services for all non-essential activities to “blunt the unprecedented spike of Covid-19 illnesses and to attempt to relieve dramatically escalating strain on hospitals and health care providers across the state.”

Any gathering of more than five individuals is prohibited, including amateur youth sports. New Mexicans have been instructed to stay at home except for those trips that are essential to health, safety, and welfare – such as for food and water, emergency medical care, to obtain a flu shot, or to obtain a coronavirus test. 

Indoor malls are closed, and outdoor recreational facilities – such as outdoor golf courses, public swimming pools, outdoor tennis courts, ski basins, youth programs, and New Mexico state parks, among others – will remain shut till the public health order is in effect. Close-contact recreational facilities – such as indoor movie theaters, event venues, bars, dance clubs, performance venues, go-kart courses, automobile race tracks, adult entertainment venues, and other places of recreation or entertainment – must remain closed.

According to the latest order, gathering of more than five individuals is prohibited in New Mexico
(Getty Images)

Houses of worship have been asked not to exceed either 25% of the maximum occupancy of any enclosed building or 75 individuals at any one time.  Essential businesses – such as grocery stores, pharmacies, shelters, child care facilities, gas stations, infrastructure operations, and others – must minimize operations and in-person staffing to the greatest extent possible but may remain open for limited essential in-person activities. Food and drink establishments may provide curbside pickup and delivery services, but on-site dining is prohibited.

“A retail space identified as an essential business in the public health order – such as a grocery store, a hardware store, an automobile or bike repair facility, laundromats, liquor stores, and large “big box” retailers — may not exceed either 25% of maximum occupancy or 75 customers at any one time, whichever is smaller. These essential retail spaces must close by 10 pm nightly and may reopen at 4 am,” stated the announcement. 

According to health officials, New Mexico’s rolling 7-day average of new Covid-19 cases is 1,012, nearly 10 times greater than the state’s target for a safe “reopening” process. The total coronavirus hospitalizations in the state have risen at least 214% over the most recent four weeks. The state has recorded 182 coronavirus deaths over the past two weeks, a record throughout the pandemic and a 143% increase over the prior two-week period. “The public health data make clear that more aggressive restrictions are not only warranted but essential if we are to prevent mass casualties,” argued Grisham.

Experts warn of more Covid-19 deaths in coming weeks

In a national forecast, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicted that within the next few weeks, deaths could climb as high as 282,000. “This week’s national ensemble forecast predicts that the number of newly reported Covid-19 deaths will likely increase over the next four weeks, with 5,500 to 13,400 new deaths likely to be reported in the week ending December 5, 2020. The national ensemble predicts that a total of 260,000 to 282,000 Covid-19 deaths will be reported by this date,” suggests the forecast published on November 12. 

According to another projection by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, the death toll in the US -- currently at 242,216 as per cases reported to the CDC as of November 13 -- could nearly double by March 1 to 438,941. The Johns Hopkins tracker shows that as of November 14, 244,304 Americans have died in the Covid-19 pandemic. 

An earlier IHME forecast had warned that cumulatively, 511,373 American lives could be lost to Covid-19 by February 28, 2021. “We find that achieving universal mask use (95% mask use in public) could be sufficient to ameliorate the worst effects of epidemic resurgences in many states. Universal mask use could save an additional 129,574 lives from September 22, 2020, through the end of February 2021,” it had suggested. 

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