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New Mexico’s governor unveils ‘slight reopening’ and face mask requirement, but is wary of surge

SANTA FE, New Mexico — New Mexico is giving the green light for some non-essential businesses and services, including retailers, to reopen come Saturday while mandating that face masks be worn in public with few exceptions.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a news conference from the state Capitol on Wednesday that the next public health order will allow certain businesses to reopen at 25% of ordinary occupancy to avoid crowding and guard against coronavirus transmission. Large retailers will have a 20% limit.

New Mexico "slight reopening" begins Saturday, May 16, but everyone is required to wear a face mask in public spaces and the stay-at-home order remains in effect.

  • Allowed to reopen with maximum occupancy limits shown below:
  • 25% - retail
  • 25% - offices, call centers
  • 20% - "big box" stores, large retailers
  • 10% - houses of worship
  • Remaining CLOSED for now:
  • Movie theaters
  • Concert halls
  • Amusement parks
  • Dine-in at restaurants
  • Indoor malls
  • Salons
  • Gyms

The new reopening order will not apply in the northwest corner of the state — where infections continue to surge as the coronavirus has taken an outsized toll on the Navajo Nation.

New Mexico health officials cautioned that infections among children are also surging as they announced 12 more deaths and 155 newly confirmed infections from the coronavirus.

As of Wednesday, New Mexico had 5,364 reported positive cases and 231 reported fatalities associated with the virus, with 62 fatalities reported in the last week alone. At least 200 New Mexicans remain hospitalized.

There were just four new cases reported in Doña Ana County for a total of 249. Also in southern New Mexico, officials said there were now 38 cases among migrants at the Otero County ICE Processing Center and 21 infections among federal detainees at the Otero County Prison Facility.

"States have very little authority over federal detention centers, and I know that no one in New Mexico will be surprised when I say that the federal government isn't testing. They're not testing in ICE detention facilities that I'm aware of anywhere in the country," said Lujan Grisham.

"So let's talk about what they didn't do," the governor continued, "they didn't take any of our standards for how you visit, how you are training staff, what you do for infection control, mandating that guards and staff have masks. And this is a huge failure in the federal system."

New Mexico officials announced this week that Covid-19 testing is now available for all workers in the state, symptomatic or not — with an emphasis on the service industries as well as government employees and utility and construction workers.

Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel said the state has also expanded drive-up testing sites that can process insurance information and collect nasal swab samples while participants never leave their car.

Testing for the novel coronavirus in New Mexico has increased from limited testing in early March to around 20,000 a week. State officials want to test 7,500 people a day eventually as part of a plan to limit the spread of the virus while gradually reopening the economy.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has warned that lifting stay-at-home orders too quickly could lead to serious consequences, both in deaths and economic hardship. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, has continued to push states to act to right a free-falling economy.

Lujan Grisham has assembled an advisory council of business leaders to consult in private as she takes gradual steps to reopen the state's economy.

Article Topic Follows: New Mexico

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