Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham tightened her administration’s public health restrictions Tuesday as New Mexico’s novel coronavirus numbers continued to spike far above the state’s targets.

The governor will extend the state’s emergency public health order Friday, when the current restrictions are due to expire, and will add new rules aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

The new restrictions include reducing maximum hotel occupancy rates, lowering the allowable size of mass gatherings, and forcing food and drink establishments serving alcohol to close at 10 p.m. every night.

The state also will require people arriving from “higher-risk states” to self-quarantine for a period of no less than 14 days, or for the duration of their stay in New Mexico.

“When the community spread of the virus becomes uncontrollable — and we are fast approaching that point — our only option is to simply shut down those opportunities for the virus,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

The changes come after Lujan Grisham cautioned last week the state might need to clamp down on New Mexico’s economy again amid a huge rise in coronavirus cases.

Since then, the numbers have continued to worsen — a setback for a state whose coronavirus metrics have regularly outperformed most of the nation for much of the pandemic.

New Mexico’s test positivity rate, which measures how many people who are tested for COVID-19 turn out to have the disease, has shot up to 5.3 percent. The statistic was 3.4 percent at the beginning of the month and is now above the state’s target of 5 percent.

New Mexico’s seven-day average rose to 333 on Oct. 7 from 220 just a week earlier; the state’s target is 168.

The COVID-19 transmission rate is now 1.26, higher than the target of 1.05. A rate below 1 would mean the virus is in decline rather than spreading.

On Tuesday, state officials reported 355 additional COVID-19 cases, about one-third of which were in Bernalillo County. Three more deaths were announced, and 125 people are hospitalized in New Mexico for the disease.

Lujan Grisham reiterated a warning that she could reinstate more stringent restrictions “in the near future.”

If case numbers do not improve, the state will again restrict indoor dining service and “significantly roll back” occupancy limits at retail and dining establishments, the Governor’s Office said.

“Rollbacks will mean more economic turmoil for so many workers and business owners in our state who have already suffered and sacrificed so much,” Lujan Grisham said. “But it is our only chance to prevent more devastating illness and to save lives. No one wants to come to that point.”

The current public health order, which expires Oct. 16 and will be extended along with the new amendments, restricts most businesses to partial capacity.

As for the measures announced Tuesday, hotels that have completed the “NM Safe Certified” training program will have their maximum occupancy cut to 60 percent from 75 percent. Places of lodging that haven’t completed the program will see that limit reduced to 25 percent from 50 percent.

Gatherings of more than five people will be prohibited as of Friday, a reduction from the prior limit of 10 people.

As for traveler quarantines, people arriving from “high-risk states” can currently avoid a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine by testing negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of their arrival in New Mexico.

But that exemption will be rescinded Friday, requiring people to self-quarantine if they arrive from states with a test positivity rate exceeding 5 percent and higher than 80 per 100,000 residents.

All but eight U.S. states were considered high risk as of Tuesday. The list is updated every Wednesday on the state’s COVID-19 website, cv.nmhealth.org/travel-recommendations.



The governor’s Economic Recovery Council, a group of 15 New Mexico business and labor leaders, recommended the governor impose a mandatory 10 p.m. closing time for restaurants that serve alcohol, according to the Governor’s Office.

Allan Affeldt, council member and owner of the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, N.M., said he supported the measure because some restaurants and bars “blatantly disregard public safety” by operating late at night and violating safety practices.

“These problems nearly all occur after hours, when some restaurants are simply acting as bars, where spread of the virus is not inhibited,” he said in the governor’s statement.

New Mexico plans to “rigorously enforce” the 10 p.m. closing time, the Governor’s Office said, without elaborating on any planned enforcement mechanisms.

Some Santa Fe businesses said they would be negatively impacted by the changes and might have to lay off workers.

“The entire pandemic is tough on everybody,” said Sylwia Handzel, owner of Boxcar, which normally stays open until 1 a.m. “I understand what the governor is doing and I respect it, but it is extremely difficult. With everything closing at 10 p.m., I will probably have to lay off people.”

Other establishments said the earlier closing time wouldn’t have a big impact in Santa Fe, which — to put it mildly — isn’t known as a late-night town.

“We are closing at 9:30 p.m. since March 16,” said Patrick Lambert, co-owner of the Cowgirl. “It doesn’t have any impact on us per se.”

Marja Martin, owner of Paloma restaurant, said she is generally supportive of the governor’s public health orders but was puzzled by the 10 p.m. closure. Paloma closes its kitchen at 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“It seems like an arbitrary thing not decided in a scientific way,” Martin said.

Del Charro at the Inn of the Governors, which are both currently closed because of employee coronavirus cases, was previously open past 10 p.m. three days a week, said Sam Gerberding, general manager of both.

“It will affect a few restaurants but not as profoundly as other limitations have,” said Gerberding, referring to seating restrictions at restaurants. “I do think 60 percent will have an impact at hotels. There have been some weekends where some hotels have had 75 percent occupancy.”

Rik Blyth, general manager at La Fonda on the Plaza, said he didn’t believe tourism was driving the spike in COVID-19 case numbers.

La Fonda has reached 75 percent occupancy on Friday and Saturday nights, with about 50 percent to 60 percent occupancy Sunday to Thursday, general manager Rik Blyth said.

“It’s very frustrating,” Blyth said. “We’ll have to probably lay off staff.”

As in recent weeks, Lujan Grisham once again urged New Mexicans to practice social distancing and COVID-19 safety measures.

She said last week many residents were interacting in public without wearing face masks, attending large gatherings and traveling to too many places every day.

“The crisis is not over. The virus is still with us,” she said. “Let’s step it up, all together, once again.”

Staff reporter Teya Vitu contributed to this report.

Reporter

Jens Gould covers politics for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He was a correspondent for Bloomberg News in Mexico City, a regular contributor for TIME in California, and produced the video series Bravery Tapes.

(23) comments

John Onstad

Friends:

Santa Fe County has a population of 150,000. There have been 5 deaths here to date since mid-March 2020. All of these people (or most all of them) were a. elderly, b. had serious underlying comorbidities AND c. resided in healthcare facilities. If you live in Santa Fe County, are under 70 and are relatively healthy your chance of dying "of or with" Covid-19 are zero.

Cheers.

John

Annie Oakley

[thumbup]

David Martinez

How many of those people got seriously ill, but didn't die?

Robert Bartlett

It is time for the governor to get out of the way of the people of New Mexico. Most everybody has been wrong about the Wuhan virus at some point. People know the risks and have sensible ways of diminishing (but not preventing) the risk of infection. Families take all the risk and put in all the hard work to balance the kitchen table budget. They can be trusted to try and keep safe the people they love.

Khal Spencer

“It seems like an arbitrary thing not decided in a scientific way,”

Ya think?

Peter Wyman

How surprising that Jens Gould, in his reportage, ignored the statement that the World Health Organization made only four days ago. Could the SFNM be any MORE in the tank for MLG and her minions?

“We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Dr. David Nabarro.

“Look what’s happened to smallholder farmers all over the world. ... Look what’s happening to poverty levels. It seems that we may well have a doubling of world poverty by next year. We may well have at least a doubling of child malnutrition.”

Earlier this week, thousands of medical health experts signed their names to a petition calling for the end of coronavirus lockdowns, citing the “irreparable damage” they’ve caused.

"As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection,” read the petition, known as the Great Barrington Declaration. "Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health."

Comment deleted.
kevin patterson

Typing in all caps, just to sound important?[rolleyes]

Joseph Tafoya

Where is the science on her call? On October 09, 2020, during an interview on the “ Spectator”, Dr. David Nabbro, the WHO Director-General Special Envoy on COVID-19 said restrictive measures should be used as the last resort. Furthermore, he said, “we in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of the virus”. He stated, “Lock-downs just have one consequence that you must never, ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,”. “The only time we believe a lock-down is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, re-balance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.” So is Gov. Lujan following the science or is she toying with the extraordinary powers the New Mexico Constitution has given her?

Bill Cass

The uptick in cases is largely among family members and has nothing to do with being outside. So her remedy? Lock people up with their family. Brilliant.

Donato Velasco

once you test positive the should start treatment that's the science not waiting till your on your death bed..

Mike Johnson

Interesting how the virus spreads mostly after 10 PM, so that is when to close restaurants, and of course it must spread more frequently when alcohol is served....where is the science on this Mich??? According to a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, who was prepared to testify in the Supreme Court case but was silenced and not allowed to present evidence by Mich's kangaroo court, this is the science: "“Now, what this tells me about the epidemiology, is that closing indoor dining did not solve the problem of COVID-19 test positive cases in New Mexico restaurants. It did nothing. Zero. In fact, the cases went up,” Allen said." She is making everything she does up, the science doe NOT support her draconian edicts.

Khal Spencer

I don't particularly want to get The Bug, but to me it is the height of hubris for MLG or our Mayor to lecture or dictate our personal habits when they turn a blind eye to the clot of vandals who trashed the Plaza this week. Where were the rules on no more than ten in a gathering?

Frankly, I avoid people to the maximum extent possible. You won't find me anywhere near a bar or other gathering except to food shop. That's on me, not on the Nanny State.

Lee DiFiore

Grishy's restrictions are not working but it's not her fault, it's yours. More punishment to be dealt out to the blameless.

Barry Rabkin

Actually you're correct. The fault is ours. We need to stay at home for as many hours as possible every day. We need to limit the number of hours we spend outside of our homes. We need to wear masks whenever we do go out and stay socially distant. We each need to realize that this is a global pandemic and is not a joke nor is it a fraud or a hoax. We need to come to terms that our lives have changed and won't return to any sense of normalcy for at least the next 6 - 8 months minimum. And most of all, we each have to realize that the governor is striving to save lives and not overwhelm our healthcare system. Bickering, whining, wailing, and throwing tantrums won't and don't help save lives.

Lee DiFiore

And neither will goose-stepping to princess pumpkin patch's health edicts.

Kim Griego-Kiel

Some of the ignorant comments still amaze me. Seriously people, numbers are up in Europe by a third! We were told there would be a spike in transmission and cases in the fall and we are just getting started. Y’all want to blame someone else, no one thinks there should be any personal responsibility. This comes directly from the playbook of the current occupant of the White House. Stop complaining and take responsibility and understand that this is a new and difficult situation and the Governor is doing the best she can for the good of the state. People in glass houses and all. If you could do better you would have run for governor and been in that hot seat.

John Cook

[thumbup]

Comment deleted.
Barry Rabkin

Perhaps you could volunteer some of your time at one of the local hospitals ... see the virus through the eyes of the doctors and nurses. They'll probably tell you the whole virus thing is a joke. They might ask you, though, how you might manage the virus to save lives and ensure that our healthcare system is not overwhelmed.

Donato Velasco

did she limit the size of protesters..

Chris Mechels

Meanwhile, over at her Dept of Health, they have, in two illegal Rules Hearings, for NMAC 7.8.2 and 7.9.2, lowered the age of direct care employees at nursing homes to 16 years of age. This was done, in secret, by passing the changes as Emergency Rules, which allow no input from the public, or anyone. So, we can now transfer Covid from the high schools, when they reopen, to nursing homes, and kill a few more of our elders. This from the Governor, who made her career on the aging. She should be ashamed of this latest idiocy.

Robert Bartlett

The science is coming in. Masks make no difference. Oops.

Diana Sainz

I believe that the CV transmission rate is spiking and I appreciate the governor's efforts to keep all of us safe. The virus hasn't gone anywhere; it lives amongst us.

Maxwell Vertical

Every contiguous state to NM has a LOWER rate of spread. Why the travel restrictions? No other state in the SW has them.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1119412/covid-19-transmission-rate-us-by-state/

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.