How New Mexico Is Beating the Virus

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham holding a face mask in between speaking at a coronavirus press conference in Santa Fe, N.M.Credit...Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal, via Associated Press

LAS CRUCES, N.M. — On March 13, the same day that a reluctant President Trump admitted that the coronavirus pandemic was a national emergency, a storied New Mexico hospital established the nation’s first drive-through testing for the virus.

The next day, hundreds of cars lined the streets of Albuquerque, the state’s largest city. A second hospital jumped in with more testing. Within days, drive-through testing — still not widely available in much of the nation, even today — expanded here to Las Cruces, to the southern edge of the state.

One of the nation’s poorest states, with a small population flung across 122,000 square miles, New Mexico quickly accomplished what for the United States as a whole seems elusive: widespread testing for the deadliest pandemic in a century.

For all its haunting, natural beauty, New Mexico is a land of grit. Led by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the state swiftly shuttered much of its economy, not waiting on the federal government. It also tapped two secret weapons: sophisticated medical knowledge, a legacy from its role as a hub of aerospace research, and the scientific power of the nuclear weapons laboratories that occupy the state’s high desert plateaus.

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By Richard Parker Mr. Parker is the author of “Lone Star Nation: How Texas Will Transform America.”

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