The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Governor lifts NM mask mandate


Last updated 2/19/2022 at 10:59am

Staff and wire reports

Many New Mexicans are rejoicing in the ability to breathe free again. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday lifted the indoor mask mandate.

The state had been one of only two still under an indoor mask mandate. The other was Hawaii.

The governor had been under increasing pressure to drop the mandate in recent weeks. On Thursday, the final day of the legislative session, she insisted politics did not play a role in the decision.

She said she “won’t waver” on the effectiveness of those masks and said she would not visit her elderly mother without wearing one.

“Not today, not tomorrow and I think likely, I may never visit her without a mask because my primary concern is her health and safety,” Lujan Grisham said.

Area school districts reacted quickly to the governor’s announcement.

“Beginning immediately, Portales Municipal Schools will no longer mandate the wearing of masks in the schools for staff or students,” Superintendent Johnnie Cain wrote in an email to parents sent out Thursday afternoon.

Cain stated that masking at school will be each parent’s decision.

“Staff will also work to ensure that students who wish to wear masks are not harassed by others,” his email stated. 

“Just because masks are no longer mandated does not mean the schools will be less diligent in helping to maintain COVID safe practices. Our cleaning routines will continue as we have been doing all year. Social distancing will continue to be monitored, and surveillance testing of staff will continue as well as for any students who wish to test.”

Clovis Municipal Schools officials also immediately lifted mask requirements.

“If a parent or guardian would prefer their child to continue wearing masks at school, they are encouraged to work with their classroom teacher. Our District will respect the autonomy of families to make individual mask decisions, as now afforded by state law,” the school announced in a news release.

Though the mandate was lifted, there are exceptions in many places. According to a news release from the Governor’s Office, an updated health order states masks will remain in effect for congregate settings, including hospitals, nursing homes and detention facilities.

Masks in schools will be the province of school boards and other governing bodies as the threat of COVID-19 appears to be lessening throughout the state.

“Since January 28, the number of hospitalized New Mexicans has dropped by 37%, down to (427 on Thursdsay),” state Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus wrote in an email to public school officials.

“We now finally have open beds in our hospitals: both general beds and ICU beds. And while this is still a challenging time for our hospitals and providers, they all tell me that the burden has begun to lighten over the past several weeks.”

National Education Association New Mexico President Mary Parr-Sanchez spoke in favor of Lujan Grisham’s move in a statement released by the union Thursday afternoon.

“I know that students will be much happier without the mask mandates, and I know that their learning will be accelerated, given that they can now see the full facial expressions of educators that feel safe removing their masks,” Parr-Sanchez said.

The Santa Fe New Mexican contributed to this report.

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