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How COVID-19 Has Impacted New Mexico

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

These are vexing times for everyone, including governors, between the pandemic, recession and protests. We are joined now by New Mexico's governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham. Like many other Democratic governors, she has criticized what she considers to be the president's lack of response to the coronavirus pandemic and the administration's response to protests against police brutality. Governor Lujan Grisham joins us now from Santa Fe. Thanks so much for being with us.

MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: You're welcome, Scott. I'm delighted to spend some time with you.

SIMON: COVID rates in New Mexico have been decreasing in recent weeks, but there you are, right between two hot spots in Arizona and Texas. Do you believe you've been able to do something different that other states can learn from?

LUJAN GRISHAM: I do. One of the issues that has certainly worked to our favor is we've kept our stay-at-home order consistently in place and our emergency orders. We've been very cautious about our reopening so that you don't have this kind of flipping back-and-forth. And where I think we're now seeing real success again, and we can hold it as we continue to get kids back to school after Labor Day, is our mask-wearing and social distancing.

And we're an enforcement state, so if you don't wear a mask, you can be fined. And if businesses don't help us enforce and they don't meet their COVID safe practices, they're fined. And we loathe that environment, but it is making a productive, positive difference in our ability to manage and live with COVID.

SIMON: You must've had to deal with a lot of people that just say, look; you know, we're individualists here; I don't like being told what to do.

LUJAN GRISHAM: Every state seems to be dealing with that in ways I don't think any governor, irrespective of party, ever anticipated. It was never this angry. And I think part of it is social media, and part of it is the fact that we've had inconsistent messaging.

SIMON: The Navajo Nation, as I don't have to tell you, has been hit hard by the virus. And I gather it's going into a 32-hour lockdown this weekend starting Saturday night. They're worried about people traveling. Do you consider limiting movement between cities in New Mexico?

LUJAN GRISHAM: The Navajo Nation is an incredibly tough situation. I think the leadership of the Navajo Nation has been remarkable. We did go to a pretty severe curfew and restriction of movement in and out of the city of Gallup. And our goal was we don't want someone getting infected in Gallup and taking it to a remote area in the Navajo Nation where they don't have access to medical services. And it began to lower the curve, and it gave the hospitals in Gallup the breathing room they needed to catch up.

SIMON: Governor Lujan Grisham, Joe Biden, according to many reports, is going to unveil his running mate in the next few days. Your name has been on that list. Anything you can tell us? Have you been vetted, as they say?

LUJAN GRISHAM: You know, I'm like every other American. I am waiting to hear. It's an honor to be in the list. I love that this nation is really focusing on the qualities, qualifications, experience and intellectual capacity of so many remarkable women who have, I think, a much better plan for serving Americans than the current occupant of the White House. But that's all I know. I was going to ask you, Scott, what have you heard?

SIMON: (Laughter) You know, they don't make me part of that circle, so nothing. Well, I - let me put it this way. Does something in you leap when the phone rings?

LUJAN GRISHAM: I want voters to think about how hard it's been, particularly these last six months. And if they would think about a way in which they could bring dignity, respect and security and minimize fear, when the phone rings and I get asked to participate in that, I'm all over it. But I'm expecting to get a call that suggests that I can do more to encourage particularly Hispanic and Latino communities to make their voices heard in this election.

SIMON: The governor of New Mexico, Michelle Lujan Grisham, thanks so much for being with us.

LUJAN GRISHAM: You're very welcome. Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.