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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Tuesday she will renew public health restrictions and warned that more stringent rules could be imposed because of a rise in COVID-19 cases.
The updated regulations will take effect later this week. They’ll include limiting gatherings to five people or less, a mandatory 14-day quarantine for visitors from states deemed high-risk, reduced hotel capacities and a 10 p.m. closing time for food or drink establishments serving alcohol.
Lujan Grisham said the virus is spiking in New Mexico right now and that the state has experienced some of the worst increases in the U.S. so far this fall. Without a vaccine, she said officials have only a few tools to fight the virus — such as making people wear masks, staying home as much as possible and avoiding groups of people.
“This kind of overwhelming and dramatic statewide spread signals one thing: Too many of us, succumbing to COVID fatigue, are no longer using those tools,” the Democratic governor said. “We’re no longer taking those precautions. We are giving the virus too many opportunities to spread.”
State health officials have reported more than 33,360 cases since the pandemic began. Officials have said 915 residents have died.
New Mexico lost ground with its efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 as newly reported daily infections hit a record of 488 last Friday. That was followed the next day by 486 cases. The high numbers have continued in recent days.
The state for several weeks has missed benchmarks set by health officials for reopening, including virus spread and positivity rates and daily case totals. Hospitalizations also have increased.
Lujan Grisham said New Mexico is fast approaching the point when community spread of the virus becomes uncontrollable and the only option is to shut down opportunities for the virus to spread.
“Rollbacks will mean more economic turmoil for so many workers and business owners in our state who have already suffered and sacrificed so much,” she said. “But it is our only chance to prevent more devastating illness and to save lives. No one wants to come to that point.”
Without improvements, the governor’s office said the state will again restrict indoor dining service and roll back maximum occupancy allowances at other retail and dining establishments.
As for the early closing times that will be mandated for establishments that serve alcohol, other states such as Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington have imposed similar limits on operating hours. New Mexico officials promised rigorous enforcement.
Under the new rules, hotels will have their maximum occupancy reduced from 75% to 60% for those that have completed state virus prevention training. For those that haven’t, the occupancy rate will be reduced to 25%.
The state previously had loosened the rules for gatherings, allowing more than 10 people to gather. That will again be reduced to the limit of five people that New Mexico imposed earlier this year.
The governor is expected to discuss the revised health mandates during a public briefing on Thursday.
In recent weeks, COVID-19 has spread rapidly throughout all regions of New Mexico, including an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
In order to stem this alarming rise of COVID-19 statewide, renewed public health regulations will go into effect beginning Friday, October 16.
Without a vaccine, we have only a few tools against this awful, invisible enemy:
– We must wear our masks
– We must avoid large groups of people
– We must limit our travel outside of the home, particularly our time in enclosed indoor spaces
When we do these things, we can crush the virus, and we protect our families, our communities and our state from being overrun by illness.
But the virus is booming in New Mexico right now, leaving us with no other option than to restrict opportunities for COVID-19 to spread.
Effective Oct. 16:
– Any food or drink establishment in New Mexico serving alcohol must close at 10:00 p.m. each night, as advised by the Economic Recovery Council. This requirement will be rigorously enforced by the state.
Effective Oct. 16:
– Maximum occupancy restrictions will be reduced to 60 percent for places of lodging that have completed the N.M. Safe Certified training program and to 25 percent for places of lodging that have not completed the training program.
Effective Oct. 16:
– All individuals arriving from higher-risk states must self-quarantine for a period of no less than 14 days or for the duration of their stay in New Mexico, whichever is shorter, removing the exemption for a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours.
Effective Oct. 16:
– Mass gatherings of more than 5 individuals are once again prohibited, defined as any public or private gathering, organized event, ceremony, parade, organized amateur contact sport or grouping that brings together individuals in an indoor OR outdoor space.
I once again urge, with my whole heart, that New Mexicans in every corner of the state, city leaders, county leaders, business leaders, community leaders all take up the mantle of fighting this invisible enemy, of requiring and encouraging safe behavior.
No one, least of all me, wants to get to the point of necessitating additional rollbacks.
The crisis is not over.
The virus is still with us.
Let’s step it up, all together, once again.