Retailers, non-essential businesses can reopen Saturday; mask mandate ordered


May 13, 2020

All retailers and non-essential businesses in Quay County will be able to reopen Saturday, but customers will have to wear masks there and in other public places.

New Mexico's governor announced during a briefing Wednesday a new public health order going into effect Saturday that will allow retailers and non-essential businesses to reopen with occupancy limits and coronavirus safeguards.

She also mandated all people in indoor and outdoor public areas starting Saturday to wear protective masks to blunt the spread of COVID-19.

Restaurant owners' hopes to expand operations beyond carry-out and delivery were dashed. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, citing restaurants' high risk in spreading the virus, said she likely would allow eateries to partially reopen to dine-in eating in early June.

Salons, barbershops, gyms and indoor malls also are tentatively slated to reopen in early June. She said she anticipated an easing of occupancy restrictions on churches, motels and hotels at that time, as well.

The governor said the May 16 health order would continue to urge sick and vulnerable people to stay at home and observe protocols to remain at least six feet from each other. The public-gathering ban remains in effect.

The partial reopening starting Saturday contains these details as described during the briefing and in a news release from the governor's office:

– All retailers except wholesalers and suppliers could reopen at 25% fire-code capacity with COVID-19 safeguards that include face coverings, daily cleaning and sanitizing especially on high-touch areas such as doors and credit-card terminals and establishing protocols for pickup and delivery, if possible;

– Larger retailers such as groceries and big-box stores could continue to operate at 20% capacity;

– Concert halls, theaters, casinos, massage parlors and amusement parks would remain closed;

– Non-essential businesses could reopen at up to 25% of usual staffing levels;

– Churches could reopen at 10% capacity;

– Additional state parks could reopen with COVID-19 safeguards;

– Visits to long-term care facilities would remain restricted;

– Masks would be required for everyone in indoor and outdoor public areas except while eating, drinking, exercising and for medical requirements;

– A 14-day quarantine would remain in place for out-of-state airport arrivals;

– Vacation rentals would remain prohibited to out-of-state residents;

– The loosening of restrictions does not apply to McKinley, Cibola and San Juan counties, which remain hard-hit by the virus.

Lujan Grisham in earlier briefings had been reluctant to impose a mask mandate, saying enforcement would be challenging. On Wednesday, she cited a recent study found if 80% of people wear a mask, it could reduce COVID-19 deaths by 17% to 45% over two months.

 “It’s not a guarantee against the virus, but it really helps slow the spread, and that’s why we’re mandating it,” she said.

She said how soon the rest of the state's economy would depend on data that indicate how well New Mexico residents continue to control the spread of the virus.

Human Service Secretary Richard Scrase said while the state was near its goal in lowering the spread rate of COVID-19, he identified a worrisome recent rise in the spread rate in the southwest part of the state. He also said the number of children infected in the state had quadrupled in the past two weeks and was the second-highest rate in the country.

Citing a 20% drop in immunization rates in recent weeks, Scrase also urged parents to get their children's inoculations up-to-date as soon as possible.

The number of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico rose by 155 on Wednesday to a total of 5,364. The death toll rose by 12, to 231. Two hundred remain hospitalized by the disease.

The number of coronavirus cases in Quay County remained at five, with the newest reported Tuesday.

In the U.S., almost 1.4 million confirmed cases were reported, with more than 84,000 deaths.


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