Citing an increase in the rate of transmission of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Wednesday not only will the mask-wearing mandate be continued, but that it will also be aggressively enforced with fines possible for violations.
The state has extended the current health order to at least July 15, meaning the state will not move forward in its phased reopening plan. The governor also advised against gatherings to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend.
“Nobody wants to let this incredibly important holiday go by, but if we want next year’s holiday to be incredible, this one has to be COVID-19 safe,” she said in a live-streamed press conference Wednesday afternoon.
She encouraged communities to cancel parades and urged families to not have large gatherings for the holiday.
Grisham warned if numbers do not come under control in the next two weeks, the state could follow others such as Florida and Arizona that have stepped back their reopening plans. It could also jeopardize the reopening of schools in August, she said.
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“If we don’t flatten the curve again and protect our health care workers and protect New Mexicans, we can’t reopen. And in fact, if it gets worse, then you have to roll back like most of the other states with these huge spikes are doing,” she said.
New Mexicans, especially younger people, need to do better in wearing masks in public, Grisham said.
“You’re not wearing them. This creates a problem for everybody who’s adhering. You’re making it unsafe for them, unsafe for yourself and we continue to see increases in the spread of the virus,” she said.
The state announced 130 new cases of COVID-19 in Wednesday’s update including one in Chaves County, bringing the states total positive cases to 12,276. Three new deaths related to COVID-19 brought the state’s death total to 500, while Chaves County’s death toll stands at 2 from the virus.
Dr. Davis Scrase, secretary of the Human Services Department, said not only is the number of cases increasing, but so is the spread rate, or the number of people that one infected person could pass the virus to.
The spread rate is now at 1.2 statewide but is 1.66 in southeast New Mexico, he said.
The disease is also increasing among younger people, with a 27% increase among children in the past week, Scrase said. The 20 to 29 and 30 to 39 age groups have also seen large increases, Scrase said.
In announcing the enforcement of the mandatory mask order, Grisham emphasized businesses rather than individuals would be penalized.
“Businesses, you must require customers to wear face coverings. If you don’t require them to wear face coverings, then there’s a penalty to the owner of the business. Violators putting our state at risk are subject to a $100 fine,” she said.
She did not specify how mask-wearing will be enforced.
The state will also reinstitute the 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors.
“Without these quarantines, given the spike in cases and the positivity rate, the likelihood that that comes in across our borders is incredibly high,” she said.
The next 14 days will be critical, Grisham said, and the state will be closely monitoring for outbreaks, with rapid response teams that can quickly test and contact-trace positive cases.
“I don’t want to end up in a situation like our neighboring states where you have positivity rates that are doubling every week and are seeing the ICUs full to capacity before we make decisions,” she said.
“We’re going to do that before that happens and re-flatten our curve. There’s no reason New Mexico has to be out of control,” she said.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.