Every New Mexican will be required to wear a face covering starting Saturday (May 16) when they are in public, announced Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham Wednesday (May 13).
The mask requirement is part of the governor's revised health order that also allows limited reopening of retail stores and churches. “Opening up business is a risk, (wearing a mask) mitigates that risk,” Lujan Grisham said.
People do not have to wear masks when they are eating, drinking or outside exercising, the governor said.
The governor moved most of the state into the first step of phase one in opening the state to full business operation by allowing all retailers to open at 25 percent of their approved capacity.
Stores must adhere to a new set of guidelines set by the state which include face coverings for all employees as well as a daily sanitation schedule. Retailers must also provide contactless pickup and delivery where available.
“I think we can do this but it is a tight rope walk,” said state Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase.
Lujan Grisham did not change her order closing dine-in services at restaurants. Restaurants must remain open for pick up and delivery only. Gyms, salons and movie theaters also must remain closed.
Large retail stores, such as Walmart, must continue to operate at the established 20 percent of allowed capacity under the fire code.
Her new order permits churches to reopen but allows only ten percent capacity of congregants at a time, a provision that prompted lots of angry comments on Facebook from people who said the governor was trampling on constitutional rights.
Other commentors on social media praised the governor's actions.
The openings do not apply to Cibola, McKinley and San Juan Counties, where the spread of the virus remains too high to open businesses, according to Lujan Grisham. Instead, these counties will be allowed to open restaurants for curbside and delivery only and have golf courses and pet services open as well.
Lujan Grisham said she hopes the state will be able to open gyms, theatres and other services in June if the spread of cases begins to slow down.
“These (openings) are not invitations to unnecessarily leave your home,” Lujan Grisham said during the press conference.
The governor’s new order comes as the state announced 155 new cases, bringing the total to 5,364 cases. New Mexico’s total death count rose to 231 and 200 people are currently hospitalized with conditions related to the virus.
Scrase discussed the rate of virus transmission in New Mexico and said that social-distancing practices have largely slowed the rate of transmission across the state.
According to Scrase, without social-distancing practices, each infected person could potentially spread the virus to 2.5 or 3.5 people. New Mexico’s transmission rate remains below 1.5 people.
During the press conference – which was livestreamed on Facebook with reporters calling in remotely – Lujan Grisham said Los Alamos National Labs was working towards a vaccine for COVID-19.
The governor did not say what penalties would be associated with failing to adhere to the mask order.
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