New Mexico Residents Must Wear Masks in Public From Saturday as State Moves to Reopen

New Mexico Residents Must Wear Masks in Public From Saturday as State Moves to Reopen
Workers produce masks that will be exported at a factory in Nanchang, China, on April 8, 2020. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Katabella Roberts

Residents of New Mexico will be required to wear masks when out in public as of this Saturday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on May 13.

Grisham made the announcement on Wednesday, confirming that the state's emergency public health order, which was initially set to expire Friday, will now be extended through May 31 with numerous modifications.

"As the state opens up and our risk increases, the only way we save lives and keep the gating criteria where it is, is if we’re all wearing face coverings," the governor said in a statement. "It’s not a guarantee against the virus, but it really helps slow the spread, and that’s why we’re mandating it."

Citing a recent study, which found that "if 80 percent of us adopt a simple homemade face mask, we could reduce deaths from COVID-19 by 17-45 percent over two months," Dr. David Scrase, secretary of the Human Services Department said, "All of us wearing masks could save thousands of lives."

Under the new order, residents will not be required to wear masks when eating, drinking, and exercising.

New Mexico is also starting to move parts of the state into the first step of its phased plan for a safe and gradual reopening based on "gating criteria" that show a generally decreasing transmission rate, adequate testing, contact tracing, and hospital capacity, and adequate supply of personal protective equipment.

The state is starting to reopen some non-essential businesses with increased restrictions in place in most parts of the state, and beginning on Saturday all retailers can operate according to COVID-Safe Practices (CSPs) at 25 percent fire code occupancy. This does not include wholesalers or suppliers, or entertainment venues such as movie theaters, concert halls, or amusement parks.

Other non-essential businesses such as office spaces and call centers may also operate according to CSPs at up to 25 percent of pre-crisis staffing levels, however Grisham urged those employees who can continue to work from home to do so wherever possible. The order will also allow houses of worship to open with 10 percent capacity.

Restrictions have not been lifted for gyms, salons, indoor malls, massage and tattoo parlors, theaters, casinos, and dine-in service at restaurants and bars, which will remain temporarily closed as they are locations where "high-intensity contact is unavoidable." However, limited in-person operations for those types of businesses could be included in the next modification of the public health order as soon as early June, depending on New Mexico’s rate of COVID-19 transmission, testing capacity, and other gating criteria.

New Mexico residents must continue to remain home except for essential outings, especially elderly and vulnerable individuals, and gatherings of more than five people remain prohibited, while social distancing of 6 feet remains mandatory.

The new order does not apply to Cibola, McKinley, and San Juan Counties, where the spread of the virus remains too high to open businesses, according to Grisham.

As of Wednesday, New Mexico Department of Health confirmed 5,364 positive cases of the CCP virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, with 231 reported deaths. At least 200 New Mexico residents remain hospitalized.