“The Virus Is Still Here”: After Meeting Gating Criteria a Week Ago, New Mexico Moves to Reopen–Slightly

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 – is back underway.

Yesterday in a press release, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced her intent to replace the operative emergency public health order, expiring Friday, August 28, with a new one that eases some COVID-19 safety restrictions. The new order, effective Saturday, will authorize places of worship to operate at up to 40% of their maximum capacity, up from 25% in the expiring order, and will allow indoor dining at 25% of restaurants’ and breweries’ maximum capacity.

At a livestreamed press event today, Lujan Grisham also announced that certain museums can also operate up to 25% of their capacity, and that gatherings of up to 10 people are permissible (up from the previous gathering threshold of 5 people).

New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary Ryan Stewart also spoke at today’s press conference, sharing some new developments in the timeline 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 learning in 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, Lujan Grisham emphasized that districts are within their rights to continue remote instruction, referring to districts like Albuquerque Public Schools that have already announced their plan to continue virtual learning past Labor Day. “We are not mandating that schools move to a hybrid model,” she said.

The Governor again praised New Mexicans for their commitment to COVID-safe behaviors that drive these downward trends: wearing face masks, keeping six feet of distance, and avoiding crowds. But as always, she also reminded New Mexicans of the importance of continuing with these habits to avoid a backslide that could lead to more closures.

Read today’s press release from the Governor here.

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