New Mexico re-enacts public health restrictions as COVID-19 cases rise in the state

Las Cruces News

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KTSM) – New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Thursday that the state of New Mexico will re-enact emergency public health restrictions on high-contact indoor environments where face-coverings are not worn in order to slow the rising spread of COVID-19 across the state. 

A new emergency public health order declaring the state’s renewed public health protections will be effective Monday, July 13, officials said in a news release.

New Mexico’s statewide cases of COVID-19 and a rolling average of cases have risen and continue to rise, according to the New Mexico Department of Health. In the past two weeks, the state has seen 3,068 new positive cases of COVID-19, representing 21.5% of the total positive cases statewide over the course of the pandemic.

The new public health order will prohibit indoor dining at restaurants, which had been permitted at a limited capacity in the state since June 1. Also restricted will be indoor seating at breweries, which had been permitted at limited capacity since June 15. 

“There has been significant community spread in our state since New Mexico opened more businesses,” said Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel, “and that spread has not been sufficiently mitigated with COVID-safe behaviors like face-coverings. Without those behaviors and strategies being uniformly adopted, the best way to reduce transmission is to reduce the opportunity for spread. We will all help each other through this.”

Both restaurants and breweries may operate outdoor seating at 50 percent of the maximum occupancy as determined by fire code. Restaurants may continue to operate carry out, pickup, and delivery services. Breweries may continue to operate curbside pickup services. 

The public health order will also be amended to restrict out-of-state visitors at New Mexico state parks. Visitors to state parks must demonstrate proof of residency or will not be permitted entry.

According to New Mexico State Parks, visitors must show one of the following to demonstrate residency: a valid New Mexico license plate, New Mexico driver’s license or ID card, New Mexico vehicle registration, a federal document attesting to residency, or military identification.

In order to ensure compliance with the new public health order, State Parks will further modify days and hours of operation for a handful of parks due to the continued visitation from out of state residents and the additional staff time needed to enforce the public health order. Visitors can check the list of state parks currently operating here.

“I know this news is a tough pill to swallow for many New Mexicans,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “This public health crisis has been an overwhelming challenge for all of us – not least business-owners and workers whose lives and livelihoods have been upended as this virus spreads. But as I’ve said many times throughout this pandemic: We will not wait, as a state, for the worst to occur to make the hard decisions. We will not wait for rising cases to turn into rising hospitalizations and deaths as in our neighboring states. 

The state’s mandate that all individuals must wear face-coverings in public – in effect since May 16 – will be strengthened to additionally require individuals to wear face-coverings while exercising.

This requirement includes those exercising at indoor gyms and fitness centers. Operators of those establishments, like operators of other essential businesses, must require customers to wear face-coverings; violators will be subject to a fine.

“We knew when we began our methodical reopening process that we would be introducing risk, and to counter that risk we would all have to amend our behavior and take every individual precaution to begin to live in a COVID-positive world and sustain that process,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “Unfortunately, our state’s dramatically rising case numbers reflect that those behavior modifications and precautions have either not been taken seriously or taken up by enough people.”

Gov. Lujan Grisham continued, “The virus has been unleashed: Too many of us are still not wearing masks. Too many of us are still congregating in groups, taking risks with our own lives and endangering the health of our family members, our neighbors and our state. This virus does not discriminate. But we know prolonged exposure without face-coverings – as is the case in high-contact indoor settings – is a significant risk factor. And if we are to safely reopen our schools this fall, if we are to prevent further illness and hospitalization and death in our state, we must eliminate as much of the risk as we can. We flattened the curve in this state once. We’ll do it again.”

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