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Tierna Unruh-Enos is the managing editor and associate publisher at The Paper.

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New Mexico has issued updated temporary guidance to re-implement a statewide requirement that face masks be worn in all public indoor spaces, with only limited exceptions, and regardless of vaccination status, to stem the state’s rising tide of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in the state.

On Tuesday Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that masks would once again be required in all public indoor settings, with limited exceptions, and regardless of vaccination status beginning this Friday and will remain in effect until at least September 15.

The state is also requiring vaccinations for employees in hospitals and other medical close-contact congregate settings. Employees have 10 days from Tuesday to receive their first shot.

Lastly, the state will require all employees at private, public and charter schools in New Mexico to either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. This begins Monday.

“We all want the pandemic to be over,” said Acting Health Secretary David R. Scrase, “But the virus has its own timeline. And the virus has mutated. At this stage, the delta variant makes up virtually 100 percent of new COVID-19 cases in New Mexico. This variant spreads up to four times more rapidly than the virus we were dealing with last year.”

The uptick in cases comes as the state prepares for large public gatherings this fall—such as the international balloon fiesta, which normally draws tens of thousands of spectators and pilots from around the world.

New Mexico has outpaced neighboring states and the nation as a whole when it comes to getting people vaccinated. About two-thirds of residents 18 and older have been fully vaccinated, but state health officials warned during a briefing earlier this month that evidence shows inoculated people can still become infected and spread the virus.

The state Health Department has recorded 220,340 COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began. While the daily case totals remain far below the peak seen over the winter, state data shows there has been a more than 4 percent increase in confirmed cases since the beginning of August.

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