Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham announced a statewide stay at home order this week, which will be enforced by State Police.
The order shuts down all non-essential businesses and prohibits gatherings of five or more people in hopes of slowing the spread of the outbreak of COVID-19.
Lujan-Grisham expressed frustration at the failure of many New Mexicans to heed the advisories to self-isolate, and so enacted the order which makes non-compliance punishable by law.
New Mexico saw its first confirmed COVID-19 death in Eddy County March 22.
The state’s confirmed cases were listed at 136 Thursday.
According to State Police spokesman Ray Wilson, the State Police are tasked with enforcing the order statewide. “Chief Tim Johnson has mandated that officers educate the non-compliant establishment about the requirements of the order and allow them a reasonable opportunity to adapt,” he said. “We anticipated many businesses would voluntarily comply in the interest of protecting public health, and thankfully that is what we have encountered so far and have not had to issue any citations.”
The charge for non-compliance with the public health order is a petty misdemeanor, punishable by a $100 fine and up to six months in county jail. Each successive day of non-compliance is considered a separate offense.
“The Torrance County Sheriff’s Office has not received any requests from the governor to enforce anything regarding COVID-19,” said Sheriff Marty Rivera. “As a department, we are still handling our normal call load with some added precautions. The deputies have been instructed to handle as many calls for service as they can over the phone.”
Rivera said anything that requires the physical presence of deputies will be handled as it was before. “We have asked that Torrance County dispatchers try to get information from callers if anyone has been sick or exposed to COVID-19 prior to us arriving. … As far as enforcement of social distancing and gatherings of people, the governor has asked New Mexico State Police to enforce that.”
Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer Connor Otero said, “The enforcement action will come from State Police, not us, as of now.”
Santa Fe County Dispatch also confirmed that as of yet, enforcement of the order has not fallen to the counties and municipalities.
Edgewood, Moriarty, Mountainair and Estancia Police Departments had not responded to telephone and email inquiries by The Independent as of March 26.
The order allows “essential businesses” to remain open, providing that they minimize operations and staff to the greatest extent possible.
Businesses such as salons and fitness clubs are to shut their doors entirely. The state website lists in detail which businesses are deemed “essential” and “non-essential.”
New Mexicans can call 833-551-0518 or email [email protected] for information about the shutdown and to report non-compliance during this public health order.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]