State renews emergency public health order
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state health officials on Thursday announced the state of New Mexico will extend its emergency public health order and keep intact existing public health restrictions and guidelines while the state continues to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The emergency public health order retains the state’s public health prohibition on mass gatherings and keeps in place temporary indoor occupancy restrictions for certain businesses, particularly indoor “close-contact” businesses such as restaurants and gyms.
Also unchanged is the statewide requirement that all individuals wear face coverings in public and that business operators require customers to wear face coverings upon entrance.
The governor will likewise renew her executive order mandating a temporary quarantine for individuals traveling into the state.
The statewide rolling 7-day case average continues to press the bounds of its highest point since the outset of the pandemic, having increased 41% since July 1; the 7-day average has been steadily increasing since mid-June. The state’s rate of spread – expressed as an r-effective, signifying the average number of subsequent infections one infection will reproduce – remains above 1, meaning cases will continue to grow. Three of the state’s five public health regions – the northwest, southwest and southeast – have r-effective numbers of 1.6, 1.2 and 1.2, according to the Medical Advisory Team. The metro and northeast regions both had r-effective numbers of 0.9 as of Tuesday.
After decreasing from May to mid-June, New Mexico’s reported COVID-19 fatalities are once again rising week-over-week – the state Department of Health reported 36 COVID-19 deaths the week ending July 25 and has reported 25 already this week, through Wednesday. While ventilator usage has remained steady, according to the state Medical Advisory Team, COVID-19 hospitalizations have also risen in aggregate since early July.
“We’re still not where we need to be as a state, but we are seeing some hopeful signs of stabilization,” said Human Services Secretary David Scrase, M.D. “Unfortunately, stabilizing at a high level of daily case counts will result in sustained pressure on state resources, will result in too many illnesses and too much risk. We’ve got to stay the course and drive down the spread of infection in our state. We all know the steps we can take to do that: Stay home, avoid groups of people, wear a mask, keep six feet apart from others and wash your hands frequently. Every New Mexico life is important; every single one. That’s why we’re all fighting so hard.”
Rapid responses conducted by the state Environment Department and other state agencies continue to increase, with 215 rapid responses to places of employment where COVID-19 exposure occurred during the week of July 20-26. The prior week saw 185 rapid responses, and the week prior to that saw 175. Almost a quarter of the state’s rapid responses for occupational exposure – 48 the week of July 20-26 – were reported in the food industries (restaurants, grocery stores and food manufacturing facilities).
“We continue to work around the clock to respond to positive cases in the workplace,” said Environment Department Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “We are grateful for the cooperation of the vast majority of New Mexico employers, who are taking steps to protect employees and customers. But we can do better – stay home, avoid gatherings and wear a mask when you go out. You, too, can help protect employees of New Mexico businesses.”
The extended public health order streamlines the categories of business operations. Wineries and distilleries will now be classified alongside other food and drink establishments such as restaurants, meaning they may operate under the same requirements: Outdoor and patio seating is permitted while indoor seating and service is not and outdoor tables must be separated by six feet of distance, among other COVID-Safe Practices required for restaurants and eateries.
“Personal behavior is the essential factor right now,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “Countless New Mexicans have made so many incredible sacrifices to reduce the spread of the virus in their communities – and yet too many New Mexicans are still gathering in groups, not wearing face coverings and taking undue risks. The state’s public health requirements reflect everything we know to work in reducing the opportunity for the virus to spread. In short, we have everything in place that can and will get our state back to a better and steadier place in our fight against this virus – if and only if New Mexicans make and continue to make the right individual and collective decisions. We’ve got to keep on the right track to ensure our students and educators can get back in the classroom this school year. I want to encourage New Mexicans in the strongest possible terms: We cannot let our guard down.”
The emergency public health order signed by Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel is effective for 30 days through Aug. 28. That order is attached to this news release. An updated executive order pertaining to mandatory quarantine for individuals arriving in the state will be disseminated upon its execution.
New Mexicans seeking food, economic or health care help – or personal help in any number of areas – are encouraged to visit www.newmexico.gov/i-need-assistance/.
New Mexico small businesses seeking assistance applying for the various programs established by the state may call the state’s information hotline, 1-833-551-0518, and select option #2.