New COVID-19 measures coming Friday
Businesses with four rapid responses in 14 days must close for two weeks.
Last updated 10/20/2020 at 4:09pm
SANTA FE — Four strikes will now mean two weeks on the bench for New Mexico businesses. And restaurants will be required to keep track of customers who choose to dine in.
Those are two of many new measures that will be put into place Friday in efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. Some retail businesses may also be required to start closing early.
The changes were announced Tuesday afternoon by New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
The state will begin to give a daily watchlist of rapid responses, which take place when a business reports a positive COVID-19 infection. Any business that requires four rapid responses in a two-week period will be required to cease operations for 14 days to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
“We are in a very difficult place in the state of New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said. “The virus is winning. The virus doesn't have to win. We can win, we can manage it.”
Environment Department Secretary John Kenney, in response to a reporter question, said 42 New Mexico businesses would currently be ordered closed under the new requirement and more than 400 others would be between one and three rapid responses. The 14-day observation window will begin Friday, Kenney said, and every business will begin its count at zero regardless of how many prior rapid responses it's had.
The governor believed the rapid response measure would crack down on virus spread, and also announced the following measures effective Friday:
• Restaurants can offer indoor dining at 25% occupancy, but must complete the online New Mexico Safe Certification program by Oct. 30.
• All retail spaces must close by 10 p.m. every night. Retail spaces are considered to be businesses selling goods or services directly to a customer that include grocery stores and “big box” stores. A pharmacy, Lujan Grisham said, would not fall under the definition of retail.
The governor asked New Mexicans to shop alone or online, and consider curbside pickup and delivery options.
• Food and drink establishments must keep a logbook for three weeks of indoor diners for contact tracing purposes. Such measures were previously voluntary.
• Businesses in high-risk counties will be a focus of spot testing of employees.
• State-operated museums and historical sites will close.
Lujan Grisham stressed that the data mattered more than the date for making decisions, but that state officials would evaluate if and how measures have worked after a week.
“Everyone knows we will make tough decisions,” Lujan Grisham said. “We will continue to make tough decisions.”
The governor noted New Mexico has one-third less hospital capacity than any other state, and that one in three New Mexicans have what could be considered underlying health conditions; “we have to get it right,” Lujan Grisham said.
Regarding in-person schooling, Lujan Grisham said the state will hold off on expanding current standards.