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New Mexico governor lifts travel restrictions amid ‘brighter’ virus outlook

SANTA FE, New Mexico — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham at a Covid-19 briefing on Wednesday said New Mexico would be ending mandatory self-quarantine requirements for visitors and residents arriving in the state.

The governor and state health officials cited what they described as “a brighter pandemic outlook” for the change in policy.

Under the governor's updated executive order that begins Thursday, visitors from anywhere outside of the state will instead be advised to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days and to seek out a Covid-19 test upon their arrival in or return to New Mexico.

Previously, visitors or arrivals from “high-risk” states were required to physically separate from others for at least 14 days from the date of their entry into New Mexico or for the duration of their presence in the state, whichever is shorter.

Lujan Grisham acknowledged the sacrifice of residents and visitors. But she urged them to remain vigilant.

“Please consider continuing to limit travel to only what is necessary for your work and family," she said. "This is the best way to ensure our progress is sustained and we can continue to save lives and protect New Mexicans’ health and livelihoods.”

Despite January having marked the deadliest month yet of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., New Mexico has fared better in recent weeks as rolling seven-day average of new confirmed cases has been dropping.

New Mexico has recorded more than 178,000 Covid cases since the pandemic began, including 512 new cases Wednesday. Some of the lowest daily case totals since October have been reported over the last week.

The state's death toll now stands at 3,430, and the governor acknowledged a one-day surge in virus-related deaths with 31 reported on Wednesday. Four of those occurred in southern New Mexico: Women in their 50s and 70s in Doña Ana County, a man in his 70s who was a Las Cruces nursing home resident and another man in his 70s from Luna County.

Overall, Lujan Grisham sounded an optimistic note about progress against the virus during her news conference, noting that average daily deaths, infections and hospitalizations are declining.

Wednesday's developments came as the governor also indicated that Dona Ana was among the counties whose state virus ratings improved, allowing more business re-openings.

More than half of the state's 33 counties have now emerged from strict lockdown — earning favorable yellow and green ratings on a color-coded map — as test positivity rates decline. That opens permission for limited indoor dining at restaurants, though movie theaters, bars and contact recreational facilities remain closed statewide.

According to the data, all but four counties saw a positivity rate below 10% in the most recent two-week period.

“Today is a day to really feel good about the collective efforts of the state,” Lujan Grisham said.

The governor and state health officials pointed to testing efforts and high vaccine distribution rates for the recent suppression of the virus in parts of New Mexico.

Nearly 5% of the population has been fully vaccinated, and state officials have been pushing for more doses to be delivered to the state as the number of residents who have registered to receive a shot was approaching 605,000.

The Biden administration plans to have the federal government administer vaccines directly through community health centers as a way to distribute vaccines more equitably. It’s also planning to have 100 federally run vaccination centers operating by the end of February.

Some states are worried that the vaccines going to the community health centers and the federal vaccination centers would be subtracted from the allotments normally going to the states. New Mexico health officials did not immediately say Wednesday whether they support the federal plans given the state’s successful distribution efforts so far.

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Associated Press

KVIA ABC-7

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