Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham tightened her administration’s public health restrictions Tuesday as New Mexico’s novel coronavirus numbers continued to spike far above the state’s targets.
The governor will extend the state’s emergency public health order Friday, when the current restrictions are due to expire, and will add new rules aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.
The new restrictions include reducing maximum hotel occupancy rates, lowering the allowable size of mass gatherings, and forcing food and drink establishments serving alcohol to close at 10 p.m. every night.
The state also will require people arriving from “higher-risk states” to self-quarantine for a period of no less than 14 days, or for the duration of their stay in New Mexico.
“When the community spread of the virus becomes uncontrollable — and we are fast approaching that point — our only option is to simply shut down those opportunities for the virus,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement.
The changes come after Lujan Grisham cautioned last week the state might need to clamp down on New Mexico’s economy again amid a huge rise in coronavirus cases.
Since then, the numbers have continued to worsen — a setback for a state whose coronavirus metrics have regularly outperformed most of the nation for much of the pandemic.
New Mexico’s test positivity rate, which measures how many people who are tested for COVID-19 turn out to have the disease, has shot up to 5.3 percent. The statistic was 3.4 percent at the beginning of the month and is now above the state’s target of 5 percent.
New Mexico’s seven-day average rose to 333 on Oct. 7 from 220 just a week earlier; the state’s target is 168.
The COVID-19 transmission rate is now 1.26, higher than the target of 1.05. A rate below 1 would mean the virus is in decline rather than spreading.
On Tuesday, state officials reported 355 additional COVID-19 cases, about one-third of which were in Bernalillo County. Three more deaths were announced, and 125 people are hospitalized in New Mexico for the disease.
Lujan Grisham reiterated a warning that she could reinstate more stringent restrictions “in the near future.”
If case numbers do not improve, the state will again restrict indoor dining service and “significantly roll back” occupancy limits at retail and dining establishments, the Governor’s Office said.
“Rollbacks will mean more economic turmoil for so many workers and business owners in our state who have already suffered and sacrificed so much,” Lujan Grisham said. “But it is our only chance to prevent more devastating illness and to save lives. No one wants to come to that point.”
The current public health order, which expires Oct. 16 and will be extended along with the new amendments, restricts most businesses to partial capacity.
As for the measures announced Tuesday, hotels that have completed the “NM Safe Certified” training program will have their maximum occupancy cut to 60 percent from 75 percent. Places of lodging that haven’t completed the program will see that limit reduced to 25 percent from 50 percent.
Gatherings of more than five people will be prohibited as of Friday, a reduction from the prior limit of 10 people.
As for traveler quarantines, people arriving from “high-risk states” can currently avoid a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine by testing negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their arrival in New Mexico.
But that exemption will be rescinded Friday, requiring people to self-quarantine if they arrive from states with a test positivity rate exceeding 5 percent and higher than 80 per 100,000 residents.
All but eight U.S. states were considered high risk as of Tuesday. The list is updated every Wednesday on the state’s COVID-19 website, cv.nmhealth.org/travel-recommendations. Full credits Santa Fe New Mexican…

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