LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO (KTSM) – With cases of COVID-19 on the rise in New Mexico, governor Michelle Lujan Grisham amended the state’s pandemic regulations, tightening up restrictions on Tuesday.
Among the regulations that were amended: All individuals arriving from out-of-state must quarantine for 14 days; no longer will individuals be exempt if they test negative within 72 hours of traveling to or arriving in New Mexico. Additionally, mass gatherings of more than five people are once again prohibited, which includes amateur and professional sports, according to the guidelines.
With the new regulations in place, it would appear very difficult for collegiate sports, like football at the University of New Mexico, and basketball at UNM and New Mexico State University, to continue. However, in the last few weeks the state also issued “COVID-Safe practices,” that, if adhered to, would allow the state’s collegiate teams to practice, compete, and travel.
“Collegiate athletics will be governed by the COVID-Safe Practices that the state and higher education institutions have agreed upon, which permit, in accordance with rigorous and regular testing protocols, individuals to travel here and compete,” an official with the Governor’s office told KTSM on Tuesday.
For New Mexico State men’s and women’s basketball, which is scheduled to begin practices on Wednesday, they must adhere to very strict protocols in order to practice and play games. As of Tuesday night, NMSU director of athletics Mario Moccia said the university was still confirming with the governor’s office that they were on track to meet the guidelines.
Moccia told KTSM that he expected the basketball teams to be allowed to begin practices on Wednesday, but could not yet give a definite answer. The Aggies are planning to begin testing both programs weekly on Wednesday, as mandated by the NCAA, then test them three times per week once games begin, once again by NCAA mandate.
However, the state of New Mexico has different regulations NMSU has to abide by.
“We have plans of testing everyone starting tomorrow, they will be PCR tested,” Moccia said. “It’s planned to increase to 3 times the week of the first game per the NCAA. We’re definitely prepared to start, we just need to get some clarification.”
It is possible that the state could require them to test more than once per week even before competition begins. According to the Albuquerque Journal, the state’s full list of guidelines include – but are not limited to – strict and regular testing protocols; mask requirements for everyone not actively on the field of play; capacity limits for indoor practices and trainings; a prohibition of spectators at practices and games; quarantine requirements for any visiting teams; and a code-of-conduct document to be signed by all participating players and personnel.
Moccia said that NMSU has been going above and beyond with its testing protocol since the summer, and while he expects the Aggies to be cleared to practice sooner rather than later, NMSU brass want to do their best to make sure everything is ready to begin.
“We’ve done a great job of testing, a pretty good job of social distancing, et cetera,” Moccia said. “Whenever there are new things that come down the pike, we want to huddle up to make sure we’re on the same page.”