New Mexico’s slow economic reopening is rolling back as coronavirus cases rise in the state and across the nation, with severe spikes in Texas and Arizona.

New Mexico, in the past two weeks, has seen a 79 percent increase in the daily count of new cases, a top state health official said.

In response, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced in a news conference Thursday that effective Monday, indoor dining at restaurants would again be barred and fall contact sports at K-12 schools were canceled.

The prospects for reopening New Mexico’s public schools by the Aug. 3 target date also have darkened.

“We are at war with COVID-19,” the governor said during a two-hour talk broadcast live on Facebook. “We lost the battle over Memorial Day weekend going forward. And I fully expect as we’re waging our war against it that we’ll win again. We will win.”

State data shows there have been 3,068 new cases of the coronavirus reported in New Mexico in the past two weeks, with daily counts topping 200 — and sometimes nearing 300 — on nine of those days. As of Thursday, the total positive tests in the state was 14,251, and 533 New Mexico residents had died from the virus.

The state’s transmission rate for the novel coronavirus, which had dropped below a target of 1.05, is now 1.16, meaning it is spreading more rapidly.

While the overwhelming majority of early deaths were among some of the state’s oldest residents, COVID-19 is now taking a heavier toll on younger people. Two of the six people whose deaths were reported Thursday were in their 30s.

Human Services Secretary David Scrase said numbers are rising in almost every part of New Mexico and among all age groups, including an 18 percent increase in new cases among people under 19.

Officials also are concerned about rising numbers of cases in adults ages 20 to 39. More than 44 percent of cases reported in the past 14 days were in that age group.

Health officials are seeing more complications among young people, Scrase said. “We’re starting to see more mortality in younger age groups.”

To help stem the spread of the illness, the governor’s updated public health order limits dining at restaurants and breweries to outdoor patios. Restaurants that defy the prohibition on indoor dining will face a fine of up to $5,000 a day, she said.

Face masks will be required without exception — including at gyms, which were permitted to remain open, and when exercising outdoors. Violators can be fined $100.

Out-of-state visitors will be barred from public state parks.

And there will be no contact sports at public K-12 schools, the governor said. That includes high school football, soccer and wrestling.

The rising number of cases also does not bode well when it comes to sending public school students back to classrooms.

If the state doesn’t flatten the curve over the next few weeks, “We can’t safely reopen schools,” Lujan Grisham said.

Officials won’t make a final decision for another seven to 14 days on whether to open on Aug. 3, she said. The governor cited President Donald Trump’s warning Wednesday that schools will see the loss of federal funding if they don’t open this fall.

“We’re not going to be threatened by the federal government on safe school openings,” Lujan Grisham said. “We’re going to do it right. We’re going to be effective. And I predict you will see many states follow suit — because families want to know that their kids are safe; they want to know that they’re safe when their kids come home. They don’t want schools to start and stop.

“And they want to know that their educators and every public education staff person is as safe as they can be,” she added. “We owe it to them.”

She offered three possible scenarios for what might happen if the state hasn’t met certain criteria related to the virus, such as a lower transmission rate:

  • Delay the opening by a week or two.
  • Have an “incredibly postponed” start date, which means classrooms could be closed until winter — or longer.
  • Don’t reopen schools at all for certain age groups. This means those students would learn only through online programs that were initiated in the spring.

Lujan Grisham said she hopes that doesn’t happen. “It’s just not the same,” she said of distance learning, “and in a state that does not have connectivity, it’s not even fair” to many children and families.

Veronica García, superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools, wasn’t daunted by the governor’s words. The local district has been prepared for a full shift to remote learning if schools can’t reopen, she said.

She’d like more clarity about how public education will proceed if coronavirus cases continue to rise, García said, but for now “it looks like we’re in a holding pattern” as school leaders await further news.

Roberta Roybal, who teaches health classes at Santa Fe High, said she was pleased to hear the governor was taking the health of students and employees seriously.

While she is eager to get back to the classroom, Roybal said she worries about bringing the virus back to her family. Some of her students also have told her they are afraid to go back, she said.

But Roybal said she is heartened by the governor’s mindset. “If the government says we’re not going back, then we’re not going back — that’s plain and simple,” she said.

Jenni St. Clair, who teaches gifted students at Carlos Gilbert Elementary School, said the governor’s thoughts about postponing the opening of schools rather than switching entirely to digital learning is “a great idea, because we’re not ready.”

Many school leaders said they hadn’t watched the governor’s news conference and declined to comment on the uncertain outlook for reopening.

Lujan Grisham and health officials reiterated the key to reopening on time is more residents adhering to COVID-safe practices: wearing masks and maintaining social distance.

“I’m depending on you to get this right,” the governor said.

Dr. Nancy Wright, president of the New Mexico Medical Society, also spoke at the news conference, urging people to wear a mask or other face covering.

Doing so will save lives, Wright said. “Isn’t that a good enough reason?”

Scrase offered some grim reasons for younger New Mexico residents to take the virus more seriously.

He cited the case of a Chicago woman in her 20s who underwent a lung transplant after she developed severe lung damage following inflammation brought on by COVID-19.

Other young adults have experienced strokes, hallucinations, depression, insomnia and brain inflammation, he said.

Doctors are even finding that some young men infected with the virus who show no symptoms of COVID-19 have developed infertility.

“These are not things to be taken lightly,” Scrase said. “… This is a disease that affects all ages, and extreme care needs to be taken for young adults as well as older adults.”

The return of some past pandemic-related restrictions met with condemnation by the New Mexico Republican Party, which has advocated a speedy reopening of the state’s economy for months.

“People again can’t go inside a restaurant, but they can crowd the aisles at big-box stores that are taking New Mexico’s hard-earned dollars out of state,” said Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce. “The governor’s order makes no sense, and our citizens are paying the price. Many will never recover. The governor doesn’t have any real answers, no concrete strategy to this serious economic crisis.”

New Mexico Democratic Party Chairwoman Marg Elliston, meanwhile, praised the new order, calling it “the best course of action” to protect public health.

Robert Nott and Tony Raap of The New Mexican contributed to this report.

(48) comments

Ramon David

While I think the governor is doing a much better job than many other states and the president, I do not understand why the governor and others are still giving press conferences in the same room with others and talking without a mask on. Are you not more likely to spread the virus when you are talking rather than not? I think this is modeling the wrong behavior and as all politicians and officials are doing this, it is no wonder people think they do not have to wear a mask. They see the exact opposite behavior modeled in my opinion than what they should do. Wouldn't you want to put a mask on when you talk instead of take it off? Do you cover your mouth except when you cough? No, you cover it when you cough. If you think that you can communicate better if your whole face is seen, why not keep people in separate rooms with their own camera and mention why you are doing that? In my opinion Dr. Nancy Wright telling us all "wearing a mask is the right thing to do" while not wearing a mask in the same room with the governor and others is very contradictory. The governor said herself virus droplets travel 18 feet and "Wear a mask when you leave your house". She is not seated 18 feet from others in the room and she is at work and not in her house. This would not be allowed at my workplace. Waving your mask around and saying we all have to wear on while you don't yourself doesn't seem to be working. I see them talking in that room and talking about how people can get the virus and think they could be giving it to each other. At the end she did not even put her mask back on when she stopped talking and let Dr Scrase talk. Think of it this way: If you are in your office alone, you do not have to wear a mask. If you are “operating,” with other people, you wear it, just like surgeons do on the medical TV shows. How do you expect all New Mexicans to comply with your order when you cannot even do it yourself?

Donald Apodaca

Ramon David, great point (s). Suggestion. Less is more. Folks WILL NOT read long columns or comments. Most people don't read a article before they post a comment. FYI: The Santa Fe New Mexican is one of the few publication that still allows comments.

Richard Leonardon

I will wear a mask when I am in a closed location or near people. But I won't wear a mask when I am walking in my area where no one lives and no one is around.

Donald Apodaca

I believe the rule is we "must mask up" when anyone is within six-feet of us. Personally, I wear a 511 balaclava because it's easy to pull the face covering over my nose and mouth when I see someone coming in my direction.

Michael Kelley

Build a wall. Make Texas pay for it.

Chris Mechels

Can anyone provide a link to the law which allows for a $100 fine for not wearing face masks??? I can't find it... I can only this: 12-10-20. Penalty.

Any person who, during a state of emergency, fails to comply with restrictions imposed by proclamation of the governor under the Riot Control Act [12-10-16 to 12-10-21 NMSA 1978] is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction of a second or subsequent offense under this section is guilty of a fourth degree felony. THAT info is part of the Riot Control Act, which is NOT part of the Covid response. Is the COMMANDER just bluffing???

Khal Spencer

If she is using the Riot Control Act it can only be in force for three days.

New Mexico Statutes 12-10-19. Termination of emergency

Current as of: 2019 | Check for updates | Other versions

Any state of emergency proclaimed under the Riot Control Act [12-10-16 to 12-10-21 NMSA 1978], along with any restrictions imposed for control of that emergency, terminates automatically at noon on the third day after it becomes effective unless sooner terminated by proclamation of the governor.

Chris Mechels

We are missing the humor in this situation. Our tiny Governor has declared "war on Covid" and its a "war we're going to win". This sets her up as a (giggle) war time commander. Imagine.. She has NOTHING in her background to suggest her for that role, except failures. This seems to elude her. Next we must look to the Commander's appointed leaders. For Covid, three state departments lead, as defined in the PHERA Act; Dept of Health, led by Kunkel, an attorney, not a Doctor; Homeland Security, led by Wertheim, former Chief of Staff for Udall, a political appointment; DPS Secretary Mark Shea, an utter incompetent, who wasn't even a Real Cop. So, we have this "losers list" to deal with Covid, responsible under PHERA. If this is a war, Covid wins. Michelle needs to sober up, and install some

Real leadership, rather than the current list. Covid IS important, and shouldn't be left to incompetent political operatives. THIS, appointing competent leaders, is her REAL responsibility as Governor, NOT playing Dept of Health Secretary, as she's been doing. No wonder Kunkel left....

Amy Earle

Thank God our governor has sense unlike the Trump loving republican ones in TX, FL, and AZ who just flung the doors of their states wide open long before they were ready to even open phase 1 safely. They also ignored masks and anything else that might keep the spread lower. Now look where they are today. What exactly is the governor to do? Should she model their stupidity and just throw up her hands and let NM fall of the virus cliff too? She’s doing what a responsible governor should do. Judging by some the frankly ignorant comments being made on this thread I sincerely hope not to be in a local store with those of you who think wearing a mask is asking too much or going to interfere with your health. Too much Fox News maybe?

Dwaine Kimmick





Chris Mechels

Good on ya Bob... our Governor has the "appearance" of standards, but no standards in fact. Too typical of her. Perhaps a Band Aid would suffice? "Face Covering" covers a lot of ground.

Angel Ortiz

Brilliant Bob but honestly selfish and and ignorant thinking.

Robert Bartlett

Grisham has killed the golden goose. It will take a very long time for the state to recover. The incremental loss of life will be much greater than that from the Wuhan virus. The suffering will be immense. And yet her acolytes come here every day to praise her. It's a puzzlement.

Patrick Bednark

Robert Bartlett It is people who disregard protocols and come to NewMexico with disregard for everyone else from growing infected states who are killing the golden goose, not the governor. She is trying to prevent us from becomeing like Texas, Arizona, and Florida. It is a puzzlment you have still yet to figure out, then again Facts really do fall on deaf ears who glorify the orange messiah.

Jim Klukkert

Booby- Not the Wuhan Virus, we have been over this before. Please say nothing that further betrays your racism, thanks!

Mike Johnson

From the NMHealth FAQ page: "Where did the novel coronavirus come from?

The virus most likely originated from an animal at the Wuhan seafood and animal market. Other coronaviruses have been found in a variety of animals, including bats, camels, civet cats, swine, and ferrets, among others. The animal reservoir for this new virus has not been determined yet."

Jim Klukkert

Hey Mike-

I do know that the novel coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China.

Iview Bartlett's repeated use of the term 'Wuhan Virus' as an effort to distract from genuine public health issues, instead redirecting focus on China, and perhaps even a not so subtle racist appeal.

So I repeated hit Bartlett.

Hope you are well Mike.

Angel Ortiz

Wuhan virus = cartoon character remark. My honest opinion chico.


They are (the dim) going to be pulling out all the stops to cheat however they can. This bogus virus cr@p is just part of their plan. Keep everyone locked down and require mail in voting 😡😡😡

Patrick Bednark

BOB SCHWARTZ bogus virus cr@p you say? Good to know all those people who died from it don't matter to you and that you rather think of this as a political stunt rather than for what it actually is. Ignorance is really bliss for people like you.

Sharon King

My Mother-in-law died from this “bogus” virus. How do you explain that? She was 69 years old with NO underlying health conditions. This virus is very real.

Orlie Romero

Since we’re not fully open by now, what’s the point? We need to just go back to no masks and do as we please, the masks obviously didn’t help whatsoever the past 2 months. Other states are wide open regardless and our #s are almost the same, Oklahoma is 4x our size and steamrollin through, must be nice!

Elections are going to be sweet, all Republican from here on out people.

New Slogan: Let’s go free again...

Bill Roth

Orlie- facts must not be your strong point. Its stated in the article- prior to Memorial Day the states infection rate was 1.05- which leads to a flattening or downward trend of infections- AFTER Memorial Day, when things were - in some folks mind"relaxed" the rate shot up to 1.16- which means we are now in an upward infection trend. I guess you missed those days in school where we were taught critical thinking. For a prime example of your policy- look at Florida- which had the highest one day infection rate IN THE WORLD. its a quick drive there- maybe you would be happier in Florida? I would check and make sure your health insurance is transferable there- you are gonna need it, that is if theres any hospital beds open.


since there are no mask requirement, i wear a fishnet mask. It is a mask by definition

Orlie Romero


Angel Ortiz


David Cartwright

Seems like our nanny governor wants to punish us rather than identify the primary sources of the problem and specifically deal with them. Wearing a mask while exercising or hiking denies the necessary oxygen to the body. Not a good idea for most of us. But if you are sitting in your mansion, I guess you don't care about that. Destroying the service industry and forcing bankruptcy on restaurants seems more heavy handed than is necessary without some kind of compensating policy. But if you have a private chef and dine in your mansion, I guess you don't care about that.

Mike Mason

So true David C. Why is Santa Fe county & other counties that aren't being hit hard, being punished? So ridiculous!

Patrick Bednark

Instead of bashing the governor, you should thank her for us not ending up like Florida, Texas, and Arizona with a massively growing infection rate. Instead, you rather belittle and whine about masks and the inconveniences of them? The governor is not estroying the service industry its petulant children who come here disregarding COVID like it dont exist who are. You have not really been paying attention to the facts. Santa Fe infection rate is going up and thanks to the service industry such as Applebees for forcing workers who have had symptoms and found out 4 of them were infected including 2 cooks is not the governor's fault that is the service industry's fault. I guess you don't care bout that though as long as you can complain about rich people and their eating habits.

Dwaine Kimmick

You're Funny

Dwaine Kimmick


Alex Fine

As usual, our wonderful governor has failed to zero in on the real problem and is making everyone suffer equally. The problem is not with reopening but with enforcement of social distancing. I have been in or observed restaurants filled to more than 50 percent capacity. I have also seen younger people lined up at the mall to get into trendy stores, again with no social distancing. Younger people are having parties where they are actually trying to get the corona virus! Yet MLG will not focus on the real trouble makers. I believe this is because millennials make up a substantial portion of her electoral base. In the long run, she will end up destroying the restaurant and tourism industries in New Mexico.

Khal Spencer

You can mandate masks in the middle of nowhere, which does no good whatsoever. The problem is people being stupid when in close quarters. How do you pass a rule against being stupid?

Mike Johnson

Khal, what happened to your and my previous comments? Seems they deleted them, I guess we are saying something wrong?????

Khal Spencer

You mean like this one? "You can't fix stupid with what some people are doing (an alleged 400 people at a wedding during a pandemic?), but I'm sick and tired of being jerked around with one-person rule. Where the blazes is the GOP when it could be doing something useful, such as challenging in court these orders that could go on for the rest of this governor's term?"

Mike Johnson

That's it, and here was mine they removed: There was a Texan, a Californian, and a New Mexican in Hades and the Devil offered them a call to anyone they wanted back home. The Texan made his call and asked the Devil what it would cost. The Devil told him $5 million, the Texan shrugged and said OK. The Californian made his call and asked the devil what the bill would be. The Devil said $10 million, the Californian winced and said OK. The New Mexican was going to make his call but asked the Devil first what it would cost. The Devil said $5. The New Mexican was amazed and asked why it was so cheap. The Devil said since New Mexico had gone to h..l under Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham’s orders, it would be a local call……..

Zachariah Smith

Today was the first day that I used the COVID-19 tracker by zip code. In the the 87123 area of Albuquerque reported something like 200 cases. That scared the **** out of me. I've been practicing safe social distancing since I first knew of the initial shutdown back on March 17th-18th but I haven't been overly worried about it as I was today. People who think that this is some hoax because he shall not be named says so as if his word holds any merit or credibility is delusional. Go ask health workers on the front lines. And put on a dang-on mask. Surgeons have to wear one longer than we do and I don't hear them complaining.

Mark Back

This is like a nightmare. Every day seems to get worse. What's really scary is when I hear people taking about this being some sort of a conspiracy, so they act like it's not really happening?? And so they don't think they need to follow the safety guidelines?? No one really knows how this started or why but one thing is for sure, it is definitely happening. We wouldn't be shutting down if people would wake up and realize that it is here. News flash: The big invisible monster is growing and the only way to stop it is to follow the safety rules. That's not a theory, its not a hypothesis and it's not an opinion. Please, wake up guys.

Donald Apodaca

The nightmare is just starting. Imagine... if we lived in a big City. The rest of 2020 is going test our resolve. We must follow the Governors orders otherwise she is going to have to continue to restrict our freedom. Our leaders know what's coming. Try walking into City Hall or any other Government office. Your not welcome. Doors are locked and closed to the public. What we need to do NOW is start testing everyone. Even those without symptoms or automobiles. The silent spreaders that can't take a shower once a day and change their cloths like most of us do. Soon, more of us will be like them. No job. No place to leave your belongings. Homeless asking the few tourists that do visit Santa Fe for change to get something to eat.

Dwaine Kimmick

WOW!!! You've got some serious Cranial Rectal Inversion Syndrome going there

Donald Apodaca

Dr. Kimmick, thank you for sharing. I will consult my doctor on Monday.

Angel Ortiz

Yup. Call someone in Arizona or Texas and see how wonderful life is there.

Angel Ortiz

Fully support the Governor. We all need to take responsibility and use face masks and maintain social distancing. Texas, Florida and Arizona avoided this and now they are experiencing increasing positive tests and deaths. Don't be selfish and not follow through on today's request from the Governor. You may think you are being socialized or this is some form of a New World Order but in reality you would be helping our community to stay safe and healthy. I'm sure that there will be posts complaining about the announcement today. Perhaps even calling this totalitarianism or other ridiculous sentiments . This is for the future of our community, our families and friends. Show responsibility and respect.

Mike Johnson

Would you then condemn protests that violate the health order on number of people allowed (5) in any gathering? Do you think they should be stopped and punished for violations, like the common citizens are?

Patrick Bednark

Mike Johnson if that's what you want then we should treat these Republicans who refuse to wear masks and comply with social distancing the same way, a great majority of them don't even believe that COVID exists. At least the protesters were wearing masks. It seems to me you just want to stifle free speech and are using COVID as an excuse.

Mike Johnson

It seems to me you are using free speech to encourage irresponsible people to violate the orders, and justify spreading the virus and death against your own Guv's health orders.

Angel Ortiz

Would you be willing to see people dying here in NM? Over 500 souls have past Mike. What would you say to those families? The virus is like carrying a weapon. It comes with great responsibility . The power of life and death. You should know that because you have started you are a veteran. You should understand the power of life and death.

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