Home News Local News New Mexico finds 5th virus infection, bans big gatherings

New Mexico finds 5th virus infection, bans big gatherings

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health officials on Thursday banned mass gatherings that involve 100 or more people in spaces such as stadiums or auditoriums as a way to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.

The move came as the state announced a fifth person had tested positive for the virus.

The order on gatherings came from Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel and provides exemptions for people at airports, mass transit sites, shopping malls, homeless shelters, courthouses, health care facilities, places of worship, weddings and funerals.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said, “New Mexico is not going to wait as long as some other states to make the hard decisions about this pandemic.” On Wednesday, she declared a public health emergency to help secure emergency provisions and personnel and to enforce health directives.

The latest case of coronavirus is a woman in her 40s from Bernalillo County. A possible travel link was being investigated.

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It is the second infection in the Albuquerque area. Other positive tests include a couple in their 60s in Socorro County who recently returned from Egypt and a woman in her 60s from Santa Fe who had visited New York.

Albuquerque Academy, a private high school, has closed after someone associated with the school came into contact with a person infected with the virus.

Public school districts in Albuquerque and Santa Fe previously imposed education-related travel restrictions on staff and students, while Las Cruces schools canceled games, tournaments and musical performances.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

New Mexico has opened a medical hotline to help people assess symptoms and seek care with precautions against new transmission. Nonessential state workers have been instructed to work from home if possible.

The Gathering of Nations on Wednesday announced postponement of what organizers bill as North America’s largest powwow. The event draws thousands of indigenous people from around the globe. Organizers are hopeful they can reschedule.

“The biggest unanswered question is when will the virus let up. As long as the virus is going, we’re postponed indefinitely,” founder Derek Mathews told the Albuquerque Journal.

Nearly a dozen other events at the state fairgrounds have been cancelled, and this year’s Bataan Memorial Death March event that typically draws thousands of military members and veterans to White Sands Missile Range was cancelled. The remainder of a popular statewide basketball tournament for high school teams will be played without fans after the New Mexico Activities Association decided to bar spectators.

New Mexico court administrators have announced precautions designed to protect trial juries from potential exposure to possible infection, limiting jury-selection pools to 25 people. Judges will postpone civil jury trials while criminal proceedings continue.