In less than a week, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has amended the New Mexico emergency public health order in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
An amended New Mexico emergency public health order went into effect last Friday, Oct. 16, which renewed restrictions on restaurant hours, mass gatherings, hotel occupancy and travelers’ quarantine.
That didn’t stop dozens of New Mexico Tech students from attending off-campus parties during this past weekend during 49’ers Weekend, causing a campus-wide lockdown on Monday.
On Tuesday, Oct. 20, Socorro County reported five additional positive COVID-19 cases, bringing the overall positive case count to 188.
Most of the cases are in the zip code for Magdalena and the Alamo Navajo Reservation, although the number in and around the city of Socorro has jumped to 38. Eight deaths have been recorded in the county since March.
Then on Tuesday, Oct. 20, Lujan Grisham issued more changes to the order, requiring businesses to close if they have four or more positive cases in a two week period.
In her news conference, the governor reiterated her stark warning that the state’s dramatically and rapidly worsening public health conditions will, if unabated, compel significant additional restrictions on day-to-day activities for all New Mexicans in order to preserve lives and protect the state’s fragile health care capacity.
She cited the rapid rise of virus infections statewide.
“What does this really mean?” Lujan Grisham said. “It means the virus is everywhere. It’s prevalent. We’re bringing it home to our families. This is the most severe emergency New Mexico has ever faced.”
Now through Friday, Nov. 13:
• Any food or drink establishment serving alcohol must close at 10 p.m. each night.
• Maximum occupancy restrictions will be reduced to 60 percent for places of lodging that have completed the NM Safe Certified training program, and to 25 percent for places of lodging that have not completed the training program — a reduction of maximum occupancy from 75 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
• The governor amended her executive order that requires a period of mandatory self-quarantine for individuals arriving into New Mexico from out of state. Individuals arriving from “higher-risk states,” or those with a test positivity rate exceeding 5 percent and a test positivity rate higher than 80 per 100,000 residents, will no longer be exempt from the period of mandatory self-quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their arrival into New Mexico. All individuals arriving from those higher-risk states must self-quarantine for no less than 14 days or for the duration of their stay in New Mexico, whichever is shorter.
• Mass gatherings of more than five individuals are once again prohibited. Previously the state had allowed gatherings of more than 10 individuals. A “mass gathering” is defined as any public or private gathering, organized event, ceremony, parade, organized amateur contact sport, or other grouping that brings together individuals in an indoor or outdoor space.
Starting Friday, Oct. 23, restaurants and breweries, retail stores, gyms, salons and similar businesses will now be required to close for two weeks if they have four positive tests — triggering state action under the “rapid response” program — within a 14-day period.
“This is how we can crack down on where the virus is spreading,” Lujan Grisham said.
Other changes include:
• Shutting down state-operated museums and cultural sites.
• Restaurants and breweries can continue to operate at 25 percent of capacity indoors, but they will now have to consent to spot testing of employees, keep a logbook of who dines on-site and participate in training.
• Retail stores will have to close at 10 p.m., as food and drink establishments are already required to do.
“We’re not shutting down,” Lujan Grisham said. “We’re trying to learn to live with the virus during what’s coming, which is even tougher winter months.”
On Monday, Oct. 19, students, faculty and staff of New Mexico Tech woke to learn that they would not be allowed on campus that day.
The news was delivered by an email from NMT President Stephen G. Wells, who said the action was taken following at least one unauthorized 49’ers Weekend party.
“Based on information obtained from concerned students and verified by the Socorro Police Department, there was at least one gathering of an off-campus party involving somewhere between 50 and 100 NMT students over this past weekend,” Wells wrote in the email.
University officials moved all classes to totally online for the next two weeks.
In addition, all students who attended the party have been instructed to stay off-campus, quarantine, get tested for COVID-19, and stay quarantined until they receive a negative test result.
Wells pointed out that students involved in those events may only return to campus with the approval of the Dean of Graduate Studies or Dean of Students.
“The vast majority of students continue to act responsibly and appropriately; for them, life will largely continue as normal on campus, aside from courses being moved online for two weeks,” Wells said.