Amid rising coronavirus cases, the state is hoping local law enforcement agencies continue to help enforce Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s most recent stay-at-home order, a spokeswoman for the Governor’s Office said Thursday.
Calling the pandemic an “all hands on deck situation,” Lujan Grisham’s press secretary, Nora Meyers Sackett, said enforcement in cities and towns across the state remains critical to blunting the march of the novel coronavirus.
“We expect local law enforcement departments and municipal governments to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep their communities safe by enforcing the public health order requiring masks and prohibiting gatherings,” Sackett said. “The state COVID-19 spread is completely out of control across the state, and any municipality that is not doing everything it can to protect public health and limit the spread of the virus is doing a great disservice to New Mexico.”
New Mexico recorded 3,675 cases Thursday, with 266 in Santa Fe County. The rapid rise in cases prompted Lujan Grisham to issue revised health orders that went into effect Monday. They shuttered nonessential business and curtailed occupancy in those that remained open.
Sackett said the state has revoked operation licenses for businesses that have “flagrantly violated” public health orders in the past, and it will continue to do so as needed. She noted local municipalities and local law enforcement have been authorized to enforce the state’s mandate as needed.
During the state’s first lockdown in the spring, some police agencies were reluctant to enforce the health orders.
Early in the pandemic, Santa Fe police issued oral warnings to businesses found out of compliance with the public safety orders, before referring cases to New Mexico State Police, said Deputy Chief of Operations Paul Joye. Since the new order was issued, police have been authorized to begin writing citations to send offenders to Magistrate Court.
“With the first order that went out back earlier when this began, we were assisting to the extent that we were giving verbal warning, then after two warnings, were referring cases to state police,” Joye said. “Now we are tasked with ensuring compliance with theses businesses.”
Joye said police have not been authorized to take any action to close businesses — “at least yet.” In such situations, the state is notified to take action.
Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Juan Ríos said deputies have taken a similar approach to businesses found out of compliance outside Santa Fe city limits.
“In terms of businesses, that would have to be addressed by the state,” Ríos said.
With Thanksgiving nearing, the state also is attempting to crack down on large, in-person gatherings, but Joye said he was unaware of calls from individuals with tips on large gatherings happening within city limits.
Calls and emails to state police were not immediately returned.
Joye said his department has tried to educate people about local and state mask mandates, with most officers carrying multiple masks to hand out to anyone who may need one. Still, he acknowledged some refuse to take the masks and then a citation may be written.
“Some folks refuse and get a written warning,” Joye said. “There have been some cases where some have requested the citation.”
Santa Fe police have issued five warnings and seven citations for mask violations, Joye said. Offenders can be fined up to $50.