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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

"covid-19" by Prachatai is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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On Friday, Gov. Lujan Grisham announced that New Mexico would follow the new CDC guidelines and ease mask restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated. The new statewide rules went into effect on May 14. Individuals who are not vaccinated are required to still wear a face mask. Reaction to the news in local businesses has been mixed as some will continue to require a face mask to enter their establishments. 

“We’ve decided to keep the masks as a requirement. Because we deal with children, the elderly, and those who work in nursing homes. We’re here to keep people happy and keep people safe at the same time,” Limonata Cafe’s Public Relations Manager, Phillip Sandoval said. Many businesses are taking a similar approach. Downtown Java Joe’s is still requiring masks when customers are not seated.

For other local businesses, an end to the mask mandate has been met with eager enthusiasm. Backstreet Grill in Old Town has taken a stance on the state’s pandemic health protocols with signs on its patio condemning the governor and the mask rule. A prominent sign on their patio states “Peaceful Protest In Action,” to clearly communicate their disapproval of the mask mandate. Backstreet Grill was also the site of an anti-mask and anti-vax protest on May 8. The New Mexico Department of Health served the restaurant a restraining order earlier this month for continuing to violate state health guidelines. Jungle Jam, a trampoline park on the westside leaves the decision up to the customer on whether to wear a mask. 

Large national chain stores such as Costco, Traders Joe’s and Sam’s Club will allow fully vaccinated customers to choose whether or not they wear a mask.

Health officials are still urging New Mexicans to use precaution as restrictions lift. “Unvaccinated individuals remain at risk of contracting and spreading the virus; over 99% percent of new COVID-19 cases nationwide are among the unvaccinated,” Department of Health Secretary Tracie Collins said. Mass gatherings are still limited in their capacity, with 75 percent indoor capacity still in effect. “While the science is clear that vaccinated individuals are protected, New Mexicans must continue to get vaccinated in order to guarantee that protection. Vaccines are safe, effective, and widely available to New Mexicans–please get vaccinated,” Human Services Department Secretary, David Scrase said.  

The mandate for masks in schools are still in place. The Pfizer vaccine was just recently approved for students ages 12-15. Masks are still required at health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and while using public transportation. 
State guidelines still require unvaccinated individuals to wear a mask in public areas. To be considered fully vaccinated, individuals must wait two weeks after receiving their vaccine. To schedule an appointment to receive a first or second dose of the vaccine, visit vaccineNM.gov.

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