With New Mexico making strides in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a partial reopening of dine-in services and several other businesses including barbershops, gyms and indoor malls.
Beginning Monday, restaurants will be able to provide dine-in services at 50% of operating capacity in accordance with a new health order, Lujan Grisham said Thursday at a livestreamed press conference.
The new health order would go into effect June 1 and last up through the end of the month.
She added that 50% occupancy is meant to ensure patrons stay 6 feet apart.
At the news conference, Lujan Grisham said the decision for a further reopening of businesses is based on data about the state’s progress in containing the virus and confidence the state can maintain its gains and meet or come close to gating criteria for a safe reopening. She said social distancing practices have helped accelerate the positive trend.
“I am incredibly ecstatic because we are just exactly where we said we would be if we followed these efforts. We have, we are, if we continue to do that, we can move in this positive direction,” Lujan Grisham said Thursday at the news conference.
Gating criteria includes the following measures: reduction in virus spread rate, testing capacity, contact tracing and isolation capacity and statewide health care system capacity.
Unlike some previous orders, the new order will apply statewide, including in Cibola, McKinley and San Juan counties, which have been hot spots for the virus and slower to reopen.
Bar, counter and standing services will continue to be prohibited, but patrons may be served if seated at tables at least 6 feet apart. Bars will remain closed but may continue to offer takeout and delivery if allowed under their license.
Service stations within restaurants that require people to congregate will be discontinued, while regular sanitizing training for employees on cleaning processes must be provided.
As of Monday, hair and nail salons, barbershops, massage services and tattoo parlors will be allowed to resume operation at 25% of maximum occupancy and on a by-appointment basis.
Indoor malls will be able to reopen at 25% capacity, though loitering will be prohibited and food courts must remain closed, Lujan Grisham said.
Gyms will be permitted to operate at 50% capacity and pools can be used but only for lap swimming and lessons of up to two students at a time.
Personal training is allowed for up to two trainees, though group fitness classes, sparring, grappling, wrestling and other forms of person-to-person contact training are still prohibited.
Hotels, per the new order, will be able to operate at 50% capacity.
Lujan Grisham added drive-in theaters will be permitted to operate with COVID safe practices
State parks will also continue to reopen for day use in phases, though camping will not be allowed, she said. A press release from the New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources stated the Bottomless Lakes is one of nine state parks that will open for day use Saturday.
The state’s 14-day quarantine order for airport arrivals will be amended to permit travel related to certain businesses to occur.
Under the new order, the prohibition on mass gatherings will remain in place. Provisions limiting retailers and houses of worship to 25% of occupancy will remain in place, Lujan Grisham said.
Face masks also need to continue to be worn in public, she added.
Lujan Grisham though warned sustained progress against the virus is dependent on New Mexicans continuing social distancing practices such as frequent hand washing and mask wearing and sick individuals isolating themselves.
“If we don’t do that and vulnerable populations stay as secluded and socially isolated as they can, all of this changes,” she said.
Virus transmission and gating criteria, Lujan Grisham said, will determine how rapidly the reopening will happen, such as the reopening of entertainment venues such as theaters, casinos, museums, zoos, breweries, bowling alleys and mass gatherings.
“If New Mexicans make decisions that are COVID safe practices, that determines what is going on with the virus and that in turn will determine what decisions we can make in a productive and safe manner,” she said.
The New Mexico Department of Health released its daily tally of new deaths and confirmed cases as the conference got underway. According to the report, 108 additional cases of the virus and six deaths were announced Thursday. The new totals bring the state’s death toll from the pandemic to 335 and positive tests for the virus to 7,364.
No new cases or deaths were reported Thursday for Chaves County.
As of Thursday, 196 individuals were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 2,684 cases have been designated by the Department of Health as having recovered.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext, 301, or firstname.lastname@example.org.