Governor issues severe warning about rising cases, transmission rate; New Mexico at risk of re-enacting public health restrictions
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday extended the state’s emergency public health order through July 15 and issued a severe warning about the risk of New Mexico being forced to re-enact more severe public health restrictions in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 across the state.
Reflecting the rising case count and COVID-19 transmission rate in all regions of the state, the state’s amended emergency public health order does not enact any additional easings of public health restrictions intended to mitigate the spread of the virus. The governor and state health officials signaled last week that “Phase Two” of the state’s reopening would be on hold until public health conditions warrant further relaxations of restrictions and the state’s gating criteria could once again be met.
The governor at a news conference warned New Mexicans that the spread of COVID-19 in New Mexico and beyond – with visitors continuing to come into the state and New Mexicans traveling and returning without adherence to the state’s public health requirements and advisories – presents the possibility that the state will this month be forced to reinstitute certain business closures to protect the health and safety of residents as well as the state’s health care capacity.
State officials expressed concern about rising positivity among younger cohorts of New Mexicans. This week the largest group of news cases is among individuals in the 20-to-29-year-old age group (27 percent of new cases), according to the Department of Health, and over the past seven days, the second-highest group of new cases is among individuals from age 30-to-39 (19.9 percent of new cases).
New Mexicans are once again urged to restrict travel outside of the home to the bare minimum. In order to underscore the importance of wearing face-coverings for all emergent and necessary travel outside of the home, the governor announced that the state will aggressively enforce the mandatory face-covering requirement for all residents in public places. In accordance with state law, violators will be subject to a $100 fine. In addition, retailers will now be required to ensure that their customers are wearing face coverings in order to enter store premises.
COVID-19 cases are rising precipitously in neighboring states and indeed across the U.S. Therefore the governor today announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all out-of-state travelers into New Mexico, whether traveling by air or by vehicle. Hotels and other places of lodging are expected to enforce the 14-day travel quarantine for any out-of-state visitors and report non-compliance to state health authorities. That executive order is attached.
With the Fourth of July set for this weekend, the governor and state health officials once again urged New Mexicans to avoid all public gatherings and celebrate the holiday from home, in a safe and physically distant manner. Anything less – including attending parades organized by some municipalities across the state – presents an urgent risk to public health and represents a violation of the state public health order, which is punishable by a monetary fine.
“I want to be as clear as I can possibly be: New Mexico, in this moment, still has the power to change the terrible trajectory of this virus,” the governor said. “But our time is limited. And we are staring down the barrel of what Texas, Arizona and many other hard-hit states are grappling with.
“I want absolutely nothing less than to move backward, to re-enact restrictions on certain activities, but I am prepared to do it to protect the health and safety of New Mexicans. Indeed we all must be prepared for the potential reality of once again adjusting our lives and livelihoods to protect ourselves and our communities and our state from this heinous virus. COVID-19 hasn’t gone anywhere. We can either choose, all together, to wear face-coverings and keep physical distance from others and protect our state from this virus and move forward in a COVID-positive world – or we can become the next Texas or Arizona. I know which option I choose, and the actions of my administration in enforcing COVID-Safe Practices will unequivocally reflect that.
“Let me be clear again: Based on what we know about how this virus spreads and incubates, we expect our recent uptick in cases to continue. But we will know – if New Mexicans adhere to public health restrictions, if New Mexicans stay home to the greatest extent possible, if New Mexicans wear face-coverings – that we are once again headed in the right direction if and when we see our cases and transmission rate stabilize in the coming weeks. I am optimistic New Mexicans will heed this warning and get us to that place. But if we do not see that, if too many New Mexicans and out-of-state visitors use this upcoming holiday weekend as an opportunity to partake in dangerous congregating behavior, we will not hesitate to re-enact some public health restrictions, and we will be moving backward in our fight against this virus, point blank.”
“The scientific data is very concerning, new cases of coronavirus are spiking up and the virus has the ability to be transmitted even from people with no symptoms, which has made it extremely difficult to manage from a public health perspective,” said New Mexico Human Services Department Secretary David R. Scrase, M.D. “Until we have a vaccine that can be widely applied and provide immunity, most of us are still at risk. This is not the time to relax. New Mexicans need to take sensible measures and not let their guard down. The virus hasn’t changed: stay at home as much as you can, wear a face mask, maintain 6 feet of social distancing when in public and wash your hands often.”