On July 1, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham extended the state’s emergency public health order through July 15 and cautioned people to avoid large gatherings—including ones planned for Independence Day.
In addition, Lujan Grisham warned that the state might have to re-enact public health restrictions if people are unwilling to comply with public health orders voluntarily, as other states around the nation are now doing.
The governor warned New Mexicans that the spread of Covid-19 in New Mexico and beyond presents the possibility that the state will be forced to reinstitute some business closures to protect the health and safety of residents as well as the state’s health care capacity in July.
State officials expressed concern about rising numbers of Covid-19 cases among younger residents.
This week the largest group of new cases is among individuals in the age 20 to 29 category, or 27% of the new cases, according to the health department.
Over the past seven days, the second-highest group of new cases is among individuals from age 30 to 39 years old, or 19.9% of new cases. As of July 1, 1,625 children ages 19 and under have tested positive, forming 13.4% of the total cases in the state.
“The scientific data is very concerning, new cases of coronavirus are spiking up and the virus has the ability to be transmitted even from people with no symptoms, which has made it extremely difficult to manage from a public health perspective,” said New Mexico Human Services Department Secretary David R. Scrase, M.D.
Lujan Grisham announced that the state will “aggressively enforce” the mandatory face-covering requirement for all residents in public places, with violators subject to a $100 fine.
In addition, retailers will now be required to ensure that their customers are wearing face coverings in order to enter store premises. Businesses who do not comply will face a penalty, Lujan Grisham said.
With July 4 festivities set for this weekend, the governor and state health officials once again urged New Mexicans to avoid all public gatherings and celebrate the holiday from home, in a safe and physically distant manner, including avoiding large family gatherings.
She said anything less, including attending parades organized by some municipalities across the state, presents an “urgent risk to public health” and is a violation of the state public health order, which is punishable by a monetary fine.
“Let me be clear again: Based on what we know about how this virus spreads and incubates, we expect our recent uptick in cases to continue,” Lujan Grisham said.
The amended public health order can be found at cv.nmhealth.org.
During Lujan Grisham’s address she said she was asking local police departments to help enforce mask-wearing in public. In the Tricounty area there are four different police departments and three county sheriff’s departments.
Municipalities in the area are waiting for guidance from the Attorney General, according to Mountainair Mayor Peter Nieto, who said until then, municipalities would not be enforcing the health order.
Other towns had different opinions, with Estancia Mayor Nathan Dial taking the opposite tack, saying the town has no authority to enforce a public health order because it isn’t a law.
“Right now, we haven’t received any instructions or guidelines on how to enforce it,” said Nina McCracken from Edgewood Police Department. She said the department will be working to get clarification on what the Governor’s order would entail. She said, “Last we were aware New Mexico State Police wer the only ones allowed to enforce the public heath order.”
“As of right now we have no power to cite any individual to wear a mask, said Moriarty’s Mayor Ted Hart. He said the city will be waiting on the Attorney General’s guidance before beginning enforcement on any mask violations.
“We do not have the authority to enforce an order,” said Estancia Mayor Nathan Dial, adding, “New Mexico State Police have the authority.” He said the local police department can advise people to wear a mask but they cannot enforce it because they don’t have a law to refer to. “We are not going to encourage mask wearing, its not our concern,” he said.
“No municipality will enforce it until we get guidance from the Attorney General’s office,” Nieto said.
He said he was not sure when the instructions would come but that the town will not enforce without it. He said the AG’s role is to determine if the governor’s public health order is enforceable under the authority of a muncipality.
“The goal of the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department is to educate and inform the pubic that there is a new directive from the governor’s office and hopefully people will comply,” said spokesperson Juan Rios.
He said that the approach the department is taking is to inform people about a violation as a first response and as a second response enforce it by issuing a citation.
“The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is not enforcing this order. Everything in regards to the order will be referred to New Mexico State Police and NMDOH,” said spokesperson Joseph Montiel.
He said that the department has been actively encouraging social distancing and wearing masks and will continue to do so.
Torrance County Sheriff’s Department didn’t respond to The Independent by the time this issue went to press, but county manager Wayne Johnson did reply, referring The Independent to the Sheriff.
“NM State Police will continue to respond to complaints for violations of the public health order as we have since early March, said spokesperson Dusty Young said, adding that “wearing of face coverings” is part of that. “We believe and sincerely hope that everyone follows the mandate because we don’t want to go backwards where more business have to close again.”
New Mexico state health officials announced 248 additional Covid-19 cases and three deaths on July 2.
As of July 2, there have been 12,520 positive cases, with 356,637 tests performed.
A total of 1,945 people have been hospitalized due to Covid-19, there have been a total of 503 deaths in the state, and a total of 5,627 people have recovered.
New Mexicans who report symptoms of Covid-19 infection, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and/or loss of taste or smell should call their health care provider or 1-855-600-3453.