State will enforce mask wearing, hold off on Phase 2 reopening
Last updated 7/1/2020 at 6:03pm
SANTA FE — New Mexicans will be required to wear face coverings in public for the next two weeks, and fines are possible for violators.
The change in state practices during the COVID-19 pandemic was announced Wednesday afternoon by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has delayed Phase 2 reopening until at least July 15 due to rising COVID-19 infections.
Data released by the state indicated the infection rate is at 1.2 percent, above the desired rate of 1.05. The infection rate, Human Services Secretary David Scrase said, means 100 infected people spread the virus to 120 more people.
The governor advised New Mexicans to avoid gatherings during the Independence Day weekend, particularly parades and parties, and to celebrate from home however possible.
Additionally, anybody who travels out of state is subject to a 14-day quarantine, regardless of travel method. There is an exception for out-of-state residents who work at New Mexico's essential businesses.
The governor's orders take effect immediately.
Lujan Grisham also warned that if data doesn’t improve over the next week, restrictions may be re-enacted on indoor dining, gyms and occupancy limits at retailers and houses of worship.
Additionally, Lujan Grisham said, New Mexico needs to flatten the infection curve again or schools may not have the opportunity to reopen. The governor did not specifically answer a question on the odds schools would reopen, but said, “I’m still cautiously optimistic we’re making the proactive decisions we should.”
Scrase said nothing about the virus has changed and behavior is the only way to combat spread.
“The things we did to reopen in late May and early June,” Scrase said, “were not countered by (protections we took against spread).”
He advised the state to increase its mask usage, and to make sure they are properly worn with the nose and mouth covered. He added people who feel sick should not go to work and employers should not pressure them to show up.
Lujan Grisham said an initial effort at positive reinforcement on masks has been unsuccessful, so the state has to start adding accountability and divert resources to enforcement. Lujan Grisham said she is frustrated masks became a political issue, and is disappointed too many residents didn’t take them seriously.
“We flattened the curve because people did what we asked them to,” Lujan Grisham said. “I said if we couldn’t maintain adherence (on masks), we would enforce it.”
She said she’s received calls from numerous workers who aren’t comfortable with customer bases that are not taking precautions.
“That business has to have COVID safe practices,” Lujan Grisham said. "So do you.”
Regarding a question on whether wearing masks in vehicles is required, Lujan Grisham said she does because she is never alone in a vehicle and is usually accompanied by security detail, but in general she does not consider a car to be a public space.
When asked to reconcile a spike in positive tests and low numbers of hospitalizations and deaths, Scrase noted the latter two categories generally have a data lag of about 13.2 days following positive cases.