By Jo Mixon
August 28, 2020 – September 18, 2020
“The Virus Is Still Here”, said Governor Lujan-Grisham in her live broadcast, “Introducing this amount of risk, I wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think it was safe and if we didn’t think we could do it,” she said.
After reaching and sustaining some of the lowest COVID-19 case numbers and positive test rates since the pandemic reached New Mexico in March, the process for re-opening certain types of New Mexico businesses and schools was announced.
In a press release, the governor announced her intent to replace the current emergency public health order, expiring today, August 28, with a new one that eases some COVID-19 safety restrictions. The new order, effective Saturday, August 20th thru September 18th, authorizes places of worship to operate at up to 40% of their maximum capacity and will allow indoor dining at 25% of maximum indoor capacity and outdoor dining at 75% of their outdoor capacity for restaurants, breweries, distilleries and wineries.
During yesterday’s live streamed press conference, Lujan-Grisham also announced that certain museums can also operate up to 25% of their capacity, and that mass gatherings of up to 10 people are now permissible, up from 5 people. Outdoor recreational facilities” may operate provided they comply with the pertinent “All Together New Mexico: COVID-Safe Practices for Individuals and Businesses. Outdoor recreational facilities include outdoor golf courses, public swimming pools, outdoor tennis courts, summer youth programs, youth livestock shows, horse racing tracks, botanical gardens, outdoor zoos, and New Mexico state parks. But state parks shall only be open to New Mexico residents and may open for day use only. Camping areas, visitor centers, and any other large enclosed indoor spaces at state parks shall remain closed. As a condition of entering a state park, all visitors must demonstrate proof of residency through one of the following means: a New Mexico license plate on their vehicle; a New Mexico driver’s license or ID card; a valid New Mexico vehicle registration; a federal document attesting to residency; or a military identification. In addition, public swimming pools are limited to lane-swimming and lessons only. Play and splash areas shall be closed. Horse racing tracks may not allow spectators.
New Mexico’s new Public Education Department Secretary, Ryan Stewart, also spoke at the press conference. He shared information for returning students to in-person instruction. As early as the day after Labor Day, counties within the “green” range for daily cases and positivity rates will be allowed to return to the classroom, starting with elementary grades. This is contingent upon schools having an approved reentry plan and safety and support plans in place detailing cleaning procedures and rapid response protocols. Stewart also described closure scenarios, for when cases occur that are limited to a classroom or wing of a school, or spread throughout a school facility.
However, the governor emphasized that districts are within their rights to continue remote instruction, referring to districts like Albuquerque and Taos Public Schools that have already announced their plan to continue virtual learning through the semester. “We are not mandating that schools move to a hybrid model,” said Lujan-Grisham.
And as always, she also reminded New Mexicans of the importance of continuing with the COVID Safe Practices to avoid a backslide that could lead to more re-closures.