The prom in the pandemic

Hobbs, New Mexico, is planning to have a high school prom. In Texas. The scheduled date is July 16.

It’s not an official function of the school, according to the Hobbs News-Sun, but a volunteer project organized by parents. They hired a safety consultant and even found an empty building that hasn’t been used in a year, so it should be virus-free.

Hobbs is within a few miles of the Texas border. Texas has gone way further than New Mexico in relaxing its emergency rules. It’s now experiencing a spike in cases that threatens to overwhelm its healthcare system.

But apparently not in the corner of Texas that borders Hobbs.

As of July 1, Lea County, where Hobbs is located, had 134 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and no deaths. The adjacent Texas county, Gaines, had 15 confirmed cases, also with zero deaths.

At first glance, the prom plan appears low risk. However, this virus refuses to be contained.  Highways run through these communities. One infected visitor strolling through the Walmart could spread infection and change these numbers overnight. We recall that one choir member in Washington State infected 52 others in a single choir practice. A few died.

The mayor of Roswell is complaining that New Mexico’s rules have been too hard on the economy and were unnecessary in his part of the state. Look at our low numbers! said Mayor Dennis Kintigh in a recent op-ed article.

The mayor ignores the possibility that maybe the numbers are low because the statewide emergency restrictions worked.

I predicted a few months ago that if New Mexico escapes a major outbreak, due largely to the governor’s sweeping precautionary measures, some people will say the state overreacted. Mayor Kintigh has proved me right.

Maybe southeastern New Mexico has escaped the worst because the aliens – the green ones from outer space – have been zapping the virus. If that is what’s happening, New Mexico is sitting on an economic development bonanza bigger than the Permian Basin.

De Baca County, with zero reported cases and around 2,000 people, has probably been spared by nature. Same for Mora County – zero cases, fewer than 5,000 people. Roswell, on the other hand, is a medium-sized city with around 47,000 people. If it wasn’t the aliens, Roswell has more likely been spared a major outbreak because the bars, restaurants, churches and schools were closed.

The July 1 report from the governor shows the infection rate in southeastern New Mexico is low, but going in the wrong direction. The rate of spread in southeastern New Mexico is 1.66,  compared to the previous week’s 1.17. That means on average, every infected person passes the virus to more than one person. At that rate it will never stop, and we will never be free of it.

This week, the rate of spread is going down in the northeast and southwest quadrants of the state. In central New Mexico, after going down last week, it’s now going up.

In hard-hit northwestern New Mexico, where the outbreak has been severe and local government has responded with drastic measures, the spread rate went way down but has gone up in the last two weeks. It had been down to .78, which means each infected person was infecting less than one other person. The July 1 rate was 1.08.

We all wish this entire pandemic would end. For now, the only way to move toward that result is for everyone to help stop the spread. Everyone.

It’s understandable that parents in Hobbs want to do something nice for their kids. So do parents all over the country, but most would rather help end this pandemic than send their kids to a dance. Just, please, after it’s over, don’t let the kids anywhere near their grandparents for at least two weeks.

Triple Spaced Again, © New Mexico News Services 2020


This entry was posted in Articles. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *