An aggressive approach including widespread testing helped New Mexico stem the spread of covid-19. It’s now in much better shape than surrounding states, reports Scientific American.

There is a joke in New Mexico that the rest of the country does not know the state is part of the U.S. This summer, as cases of COVID-19 surged in many parts of the nation, New Mexico really did seem to stand apart. While Arizona and Texas, its neighbors to the west and east, loosened activity and business restrictions and then experienced alarming increases in COVID-19 numbers, New Mexico kept a tighter grip on the spread of the contagion. To date, Arizona has had more than twice as many cases and nearly twice as many deaths as New Mexico has per 100,000 people. The latter state also has far fewer cases and deaths per 100,000 than Texas. New Mexico’s governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has taken an aggressive approach toward the pandemic. She declared a statewide emergency on March 11, the same day the state had its first positive case. She closed K–12 schools two days later, and quickly issued public health orders to limit public gatherings and shut down nonessential businesses. New Mexico began a widespread virus testing program for residents to curtail the spread (testing availability and delays are still problems in many other states). And on May 16 the state instituted a mask mandate. In June restaurants were allowed to open indoor dining at limited capacity, but in the middle of July permission was rescinded after an uptick in cases. As of September 7, the government has instructed all New Mexicans to “stay home except for outings absolutely necessary for health, safety and welfare.” These actions came with strong public health messages that explained how the moves curtailed disease spread. The reduction in disease can be seen in New Mexico’s test results.

Read the full article in Scientific American. Featured image: This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. Credit: NIAID-RML