SANTA FE, NM (KFOX14/CBS4) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced restaurants in the state will close indoor seating services and will have to revert to outdoor seating and take-out or shut down for the next two weeks.
“I know this news is a tough pill to swallow for many New Mexicans,” Lujan Grisham said. “This public health crisis has been an overwhelming challenge for all of us – not least business-owners and workers whose lives and livelihoods have been upended as this virus spreads. But as I’ve said many times throughout this pandemic: We will not wait, as a state, for the worst to occur to make the hard decisions. We will not wait for rising cases to turn into rising hospitalizations and deaths as in our neighboring states."
The order, which is effective Monday, July 13, comes as COVID-19 cases in New Mexico continue to rise amid the state’s reopening efforts. The order is effective through July 30.
“We knew when we began our methodical reopening process that we would be introducing risk, and to counter that risk we would all have to amend our behavior and take every individual precaution to begin to live in a COVID-positive world and sustain that process,” Lujan Grisham said. “Unfortunately, our state’s dramatically rising case numbers reflect that those behavior modifications and precautions have either not been taken seriously or taken up by enough people."
The governor stressed that if no further action was taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the number of deaths from the disease could double over the next two weeks.
"The virus has not gone anywhere," Lujan Grisham said. "If we let our guard down, it will continue to spread with a vengeance."
Statewide cases of COVID-19 in New Mexico and the rolling average of cases in the state continue to rise, according to a news release from Lujan Grisham's office. In the past two weeks, New Mexico has seen 3,049 new COVID-19 cases, representing 20.2 percent of the total cases confirmed in the state.
“There has been significant community spread in our state since New Mexico opened more businesses,” said Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel, “and that spread has not been sufficiently mitigated with COVID-safe behaviors like face-coverings. Without those behaviors and strategies being uniformly adopted, the best way to reduce transmission is to reduce the opportunity for spread. We will all help each other through this.”
The New Mexico Department of Health reported 264 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths Monday.
There have now been a total of 15,291 COVID-19 cases confirmed in New Mexico, 6,363 of which have recovered, and 548 people have died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“COVID-19 cases in New Mexico are climbing at an alarming rate. We’re seeing an increase in younger people under 30 years of age that are testing positive for the virus – it has almost tripled in rate. Young people are not invincible – the first known COVID-19 related lung transplant was performed on a patient in Chicago in her 20s,” said Human Services Secretary David R. Scrase, M.D. “Her lungs became so damaged she could not survive without support from machines and received a double-lung transplant on June 5. We know that human-to-human contact is spreading the coronavirus, therefore if you want to see our economy recover, save 33,000 lives, and protect yourself: remain vigilant. Stay at home, wash your hands, clean surfaces, cough into a tissue, everyone needs to wear a face mask in public, and maintain social distancing of a minimum of 6 feet.”
Restaurants, which had previously been permitted indoor dining at a limited capacity on June 1, and breweries, which had been permitted limited indoor capacity on June 15, will be able to continue operating patio and outdoor seating at 50 percent capacity while adhering to COVID-19 safe practices. Restaurants can continue carryout and delivery services and breweries are permitted to continue curbside pickup.
Gyms and other close-contact businesses, like tattoo shops and salons, are now limited to 25 percent capacity under the amended order.
School reopenings will depend on the state's ability to contain the spread of COVID-19, Lujan Grisham said.
"The virus has been unleashed: Too many of us are still not wearing masks. Too many of us are still congregating in groups, taking risks with our own lives and endangering the health of our family members, our neighbors and our state," Lujan Grisham said. "This virus does not discriminate. But we know prolonged exposure without face-coverings – as is the case in high-contact indoor settings – is a significant risk factor. And if we are to safely reopen our schools this fall, if we are to prevent further illness and hospitalization and death in our state, we must eliminate as much of the risk as we can. We flattened the curve in this state once. We’ll do it again."
Lujan Grisham also announced that contact sports such as football and soccer will not have seasons this fall, but may be allowed to begin seasons later in the school year if COVID-19 is effectively contained.
The New Mexico Activities Association announced the 2020 football and soccer seasons would be postponed to the spring semester. A plan aimed at ensuring all sports seasons are played in the 2020-2021 school year will be released soon, the NMAA said.
"Education-based athletics are an important part of the educational process," NMAA Executive Director Sally Marquez said. "The NMAA will work tirelessly to ensure all students have the opportunity to participate in all sports and activities of their choosing during the 2020-2021 school year."
At this time, non-contact fall sports are under review but will likely be permitted to have fall seasons with a delayed start.
The governor said there will be no fall sports if schools cannot reopen because of the presence of COVID-19 in New Mexico.
“I am grateful to every New Mexican who is doing everything possible to slow this virus down," Lujan Grisham said. "What we’re learning from the increase of COVID-19 cases across the state is that it’s going to take all of us together to put this virus in its place and allow us to really be able to move on with our lives. The best way to take care of our families and our economy is to take care of each other. Please wear facemasks. Please don’t gather in large groups without them. Please keep physical distance from others, and practice those healthy habits we were raised on. Emergency public health orders aren’t about controlling lives; they’re about saving lives. Getting this virus under control means being able to reopen our businesses, getting our kids back in schools and reuniting families with their loved ones in nursing homes. We have proven we can flatten the curve once; the only way we’ll flatten it again and get back to the lives we want to lead is pulling together.”
Other changes in the public health order include the closure of state parks to non-New Mexico residents. Visitors to state parks will be required to demonstrate proof of residency and adhere to physical distancing. Camping will remain prohibited and the parks will be open to day-use only.
Lujan Grisham also stressed that there will be a zero-tolerance policy for those not adhering to public safety orders, including the mandate to wear face coverings in public spaces. This includes those exercising at gyms and other indoor fitness centers, Lujan Grisham said.
Find the latest info on COVID-19 in our area and across the U.S. in our coronavirus section.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date with the biggest stories in our area.