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New Mexico imposes mask mandate; requires vaccinations for some workers

SANTA FE, New Mexico — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Tuesday that face masks will once again be required in all public indoor settings, with limited exceptions, and regardless of vaccination status.

This new mandate will begin Friday and it comes as vaccination rates remain stagnant and infections increase.

The state is also requiring vaccinations for employees in hospitals and other medical close-contact congregate settings. Employees have 10 days from Tuesday to receive their first shot.

Lastly, the state will require all employees at private, public and charter schools in New Mexico to either be vaccinated against Covid-19 or submit to weekly Covid-19 testing. This begins next Monday. Lujan Grisham already requires the same of all state government employees.

The governor talked about the directives during a news conference Tuesday afternoon that you can watch in its entirety in the video player at the bottom of his article.

Lujan Grisham said during the briefing that she was making “tough but necessary decisions” now in hopes that infections level off in September and start to decline at least by November or December. Modeling by the state has shown that daily case totals could top 1,000 by late August or early September.

“This surge is a terrifying indicator of moving absolutely in the wrong direction, and hospital systems around the country are failing," she said, adding there are not enough health care workers or hospital beds to treat Covid-19 patients or others with unrelated conditions.

New Mexico Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase said at the briefing that everyone wants the pandemic to be over but that the virus has its own timeline. He also noted that the delta variant is spreading up to four times more rapidly than the strain of the virus that was more prevalent last year.

While vaccines help to prevent serious illness and death from a Covid-19 infection, Scrase said the bad news is that the virus is still spreading.

New Mexico has outpaced neighboring states and the nation as a whole when it comes to getting people vaccinated. About two-thirds of residents 18 and older have been fully vaccinated, but state health officials warned again Tuesday that evidence shows inoculated people can still become infected and spread the virus.

The overall uptick in cases comes as New Mexico prepares for large public gatherings — such as the state fair and the international balloon fiesta, which normally draws thousands of spectators and pilots from around the world.

As part of the latest public health order, proof of vaccination will be required for anyone attending the state fair and the governor said she is encouraging organizers of the balloon fiesta to consider similar requirements and other precautions.

Lujan Grisham stopped short of saying New Mexico would require vaccine passports. However, she encouraged local governments and private businesses to set their own indoor mask mandates and vaccination requirements, saying the two tools can help slow down transmission.

The state Health Department has recorded more than 221,000 Covid-19 infections since the pandemic began. While the daily case totals remain far below the peak seen in the winter, state data shows there has been a 4.5% increase in confirmed cases since the beginning of August.

Scrase said the positivity rate among those getting tested also has increased from just 2.5% in July to 9% as of this week.

State officials said Tuesday there were about 340 people hospitalized due the virus. That's nearly double the number two weeks ago.

To read the full public health order on masks, click here. To read the full public health order on vaccination requirements, click here.

Article Topic Follows: New Mexico

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