SANTA FE, New Mexico – New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is ordering workers at retail stores and restaurants to wear face coverings as a precaution against the spread of Covid-19, she announced at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
The requirement is starting with big box stores and major grocery stores on Wednesday and extends to other essential businesses starting next Monday.
The governor also announced that federal recovery funds would be channeled into so-called "hazard pay" for childcare workers.
Here are the details:
- Starting May 6, face coverings will be required at restaurants and essential businesses operating as a retail space with a "footprint greater than 50,000 square feet."
- Starting May 11, employees at all essential businesses that are operating as a retail space will have to wear a face covering.
- The state will use a portion of its federal CAREs Act funding to offer hazard pay to childcare providers during the pandemic: $700 a month for full-time workers and a $350 a month for part-time workers.
In addition, the governor strongly encouraged all employers to obtain face coverings for all their employees over the coming week as preparation for a potential reopening in mid-May. She said those who can't ensure they have coverings may not be able to reopen.
Beyond her order for employees of certain businesses, Lujan Grisham encouraged everyone to wear face masks. She also reiterated for people to stay home and practice social distancing if they need to go out for essential work or errands.
“If New Mexicans don’t behave safely, we won’t be able to reopen more than we have. Every single one of us has to do their part,” said Lujan Grisham.
Her comments came as state health officials warned that current trends in coronavirus infections might compel the state to extend the current stay-at-home order past May 15.
There were now 4,138 virus cases reported as of Tuesday in New Mexico, an increase of 107 over the past 24 hours. In Doña Ana County, there were 173 total cases — up three from the prior day.
New Mexico's death toll grew by a half-dozen to 162. It remained at just two for Doña Ana County, which is far less than deaths and cases reported in McKinley, Bernalillo, Sandoval and San Juan counties.
McKinley County, which includes the city of Gallup and is part of the Navajo Nation, accounts for three of every 10 cases statewide. Gallup is currently under lockdown until Thursday by order of the governor.
Human Services Secretary David Scrase said the state has not yet achieved a uniform downward trend in infections and aggregated cell phone data shows that residents are traveling more.
“It’s possible we are getting close to a peak” in daily infections, Scrase said. “We are not actually seeing that downward trend.”
Concerns about new infections extended Tuesday to the state prison system.
Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said the state will soon begin systematically testing prison inmates for the first time. By May 13, the state intends to test all guards and staff, along with 25% of inmates. Incoming inmates will be tested and isolated from the general prison population for 14 days as a precaution against virus transmission.