Health Department prohibits large gatherings
March 11, 2020
SANTA FE — New Mexico health officials on Thursday issued an order temporarily prohibiting mass gatherings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel issued the order. It defines mass gatherings as events that bring together 100 or more people in a single room or connected space like auditoriums, stadiums, arenas, conference centers and theaters, according to a health department news release.
The order means this weekend's Lion's Club Gun/Knife Show is postponed. Event organizer Joe Whitehurst was optimistic it could be rescheduled after the order is lifted.
The order exempts places of worship as well as:
• airports, shopping malls, shelters, retail and grocery stores, offices and businesses, courthouses, all educational institutions, child-care centers, healthcare facilities and other congregate care facilities.
“We said (Wednesday) morning the situation would evolve. It will continue to evolve. New Mexicans can expect their health officials to make the best decisions possible as we move through this public health challenge day by day,” Kunkel said.
Also from the news release:
“I support the public health order, which solidifies the guidance I gave yesterday as to large events,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “I will say it again: New Mexicans need to be prepared and proactive and avoid large public gatherings. I regret that this will affect previously planned and even ongoing events, but right now public health is the first consideration.
“We have seen what has happened in other states; we have seen what organizations like the NCAA and many others have decided; we want to be as safe and secure and preventive as we can be. New Mexico is not going to wait as long as some other states to make the hard decisions about this pandemic.”
The Centers for Disease Control says the virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person when an infected person coughs or sneezes, producing respiratory droplets that can reach others who are within about 6 feet.
The governor had already postponed large events at state-owned venues, including the Gathering of Nations, which had been scheduled for April 23-25 in Albuquerque.
The Health Department on Wednesday reported the state’s first three confirmed COVID-19 cases, prompting the governor to declare a public health emergency, as other states have, and take charge of New Mexico’s response to the pandemic. A fourth confirmed case was reported later in the day.
The emergency order gives the state financial flexibility and access to emergency resources to fight the potential spread of the virus and minimize public health risks for New Mexicans.
The authority for Kunkel’s order emanated from the governor’s original order, and both are set to expire together in 29 days, although they can be renewed.
The order comes midway through the New Mexico Activities Association’s high school basketball tournament, underway at The Pit in Albuquerque. State officials on Wednesday afternoon advised the NMAA to prepare for an order limiting people in a public space, and organizers announced late Wednesday night that games would continue to be played but without spectators in compliance with the order.
Citizens are asked to take precautions, including frequent handwashing, not touching your face, avoiding crowded areas in general and avoiding all non-essential travel.
• Area nursing homes do not have directives from the state, but many are restricting visitors or visiting hours, and screening visitors with temperature checks and questions.
• State courts will remain open for business to fulfill constitutional and statutory duties, but civil jury trials not yet started will be postponed absent exceptional circumstances and jury pools will be limited. Out-of-state work travel is suspended for judges and judicial employees, and proceedings will be conducted by teleconference as much as possible. Also, jurors who have traveled to areas with high concentrations of confirmed COVID-19 cases should contact the court before reporting.
Various area events have been postponed:
• A welcome ceremony for new Clovis Community College president Charles Nwankwo scheduled for Monday has been postponed.
• The Floyd Country Jamboree will be postponed, likely until early summer.
• The Special Hearts Prom (scheduled for March 21 at the Clovis Civic Center) is postponed to June 27.
• The Rocky Mountain Elk Banquet (March 28, Clovis Civic Center) is postponed to June 13.
• The Spring Arts, Crafts and DIY Show (April 4-5 at the Clovis Civic Center) will be rescheduled to this summer (date pending).
• The United Way 60th Anniversary Banquet (April 7) is postponed, with a new date pending.
• ENMU Open House, scheduled for March 21, is canceled
• Cow Girls Rodeo Association (March 13-15, Curry County Events Center) is postponed
• Original Team Ropers (March 21, CCEC) is postponed
• Home and Garden Show (March 28-29, CCEC) is postponed
• The Mack Brown Little Dribblers basketball tournament in Dora is canceled.
• The Roosevelt Chamber of Commerce's family movie night is canceled.
• The Beer-versary Party on Clovis Main Street is postponed.
• The Jack Williamson Lectureship at ENMU is postponed, with a likely rescheduling in the fall
• Hero Night, (April 4, CCEC) is postponed
• Clovis Community College Cultural Arts Series events are postponed.
We will provide updates when they become available.