ANGEL FIRE — As the state prepares to fully reopen its economy Thursday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said New Mexicans must remain on guard for the fast-moving delta variant that has raised new coronavirus fears around the country.

“If you’re not concerned about the variants, you are playing into that ‘COVID is over’ mentality,” Lujan Grisham said while touring the Angel Fire State Veterans Cemetery on Monday. “It’s a deadly virus, it’s not going to go away. This variant is serious.”

National health experts say the delta variant, which was first detected in India and is believed to be more transmissible and dangerous than others, is likely to break out in some communities where vaccination rates are low.

The state Department of Health reported Tuesday 18 New Mexicans were infected with the variant.

But the variant’s rise has officials in other parts of the country braced for new outbreaks. In California, Los Angeles County is strongly recommending residents wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, as a precaution.

The governor said vaccination rates remain comparatively low in the southeastern part of the state. Eddy and Lea counties had vaccination rates under 40 percent and Roosevelt County was below 30 percent earlier this week, according to state Department of Health data. The rates are much higher in other parts of New Mexico, with Los Alamos County above 82 percent and Santa Fe County nearing 70 percent.

Lagging vaccination rates could be a concern come Thursday, as New Mexico plans to lift all pandemic-related occupancy restrictions on all forms of commercial activity and businesses across the state may once again operate at 100 percent of maximum capacity.

Governor’s Office spokesman Tripp Stelnicki wrote in an email Tuesday the state will release an updated public health order laying out the new plan Thursday.

He said at this point the state is not considering reengaging in restrictions, and Lujan Grisham said Monday one way to avoid any return to restrictions is to maintain some of the existing safety procedures.

“We’re not going to require it, but I think wearing masks inside in grocery stores and large gatherings is really important,” she said. “And if you’re not going to get vaccinated, you’ve got to wear a mask.

“The delta variant in particular,” she added, “is of significant concern.”

One veteran asked Lujan Grisham about the state’s coronavirus vaccination rate, expressing a concern it was not high enough. As of Tuesday, 61 percent, or 1,025,462 New Mexicans, had been fully vaccinated, based on state Department of Health data.

Lujan Grisham told the man she wants to get that number up to at least 70 percent, if not 75 percent.

“I’m not sure I can do it in every county,” she told the man.

It’s unclear how the state’s plan to open will affect businesses and customers. In Santa Fe, organizers of several outdoor summer markets already had announced plans to open this summer under previously set health restrictions.

As of Tuesday, some of those officials said a full reopening Thursday won’t alter those plans.

“Nothing has changed,” said Kim Peone, executive director of the Southwestern Association of Indian Art, which oversees the Santa Fe Indian Market, scheduled to run Aug. 21-22 on the Plaza. “We made all our plans based on where we were before the reopening plan.”

As such, the market will remain a fenced and ticketed affair to protect vendors and the public, she said. Ticket sales will be based on city fire department regulations regarding fenced public events, she said.

Stuart Ashman, CEO of the International Folk Art Market, said his group’s plans will remain the same, with timed entries to keep public participation to no more than 200 visitors at a time. He said 125 artists from 50 different countries have committed to take part.

Artists and volunteers at the market will have to wear masks and will receive coronavirus tests ahead of time, he said. All artists will be vaccinated, he said.

The Spanish Colonial Arts Society plans its annual Traditional Spanish Market the weekend of July 24-25 on the Plaza, according to Yvonne Gillespie, director of finance and logistics and primarily liaison for the market. The market will not hold a public preview or awards ceremony, however.

She said 82 adult and 23 youth artists will take part in the market. Market officials are encouraging adult artists to wear masks and are considering requiring youth artists to wear them, she said.

Lujan Grisham has faced continual criticism from Republican lawmakers, among others, for shutting down parts of the state’s economy once the first coronavirus cases were reported in New Mexico in March 2020.

On Monday, she defended her decisions, saying the state has held its own with vaccination rates and in efforts to stem the virus.

“I think it’s an unfair criticism and is politically motivated,” she said. “I feel good. We stayed the course and we’ve been methodical.”

Still, noting the thousands who’ve died from the virus, she said, “We lost too many New Mexicans.”

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(21) comments

Tom Hyland

This 3 minute clip from the film "My Dinner With Andre" (1981) eerily describes the social phenomenon of what we are witnessing in our world these days.

Jason Evans

MLG has issued new updated warning:

This wicked and hideously evil virus can ONLY be transmitted via respiration.

For the love of God -- STOP INHALING!!! If you MUST engage in respiration, exhale only. If New Mexicans would agree to only exhale, and abstain from inhaling, I won't have to face the difficult decision of closing our state again.

Tom Hyland

The mandate that people stifle their incessant BREATHING is equivalent to denying water for fish. Never before in human existence have so many willingly complied with an edict so perverse and insane.

Sigmund Silber

People have thrown caution to the wind. Everyone should be wearing masks when they are in contact with people. Most people should get vaccinated...check with your doctor as to whether you are an exception. No need to complain about pharma not promoting Ivermectin when you can get it at your local feed store. That is not a recommendation just a statement of fact. Our Governor is talking out of both sides of her mouth by warning about the Delta Variant while opening NM 100%. That policy makes no sense. The case count in Santa Fe County has not declined as much as it has in other parts of NM so it is very dangerous in Santa Fe County. Check the case rate per capita in Santa Fe County. I think it is the highest in the State of New Mexico. The life you save may be your own.

Paddy Kean

I'm not a right wing conspiracy theorist ... or even a right wing conservative, for the record. I am a concerned citizen who feels our country, if not the world, has been captured by the pharmaceutical companies (though I have no proof of that). But I have to ask myself WHY is the drug Ivermectin being censored from almost all tech platforms, not to mention, the NYT ( I have been been censored twice on comments I have posted on the efficacy of Ivermectin). It's a relatively inexpensive drug that has reams of meta-analysis on how not only is it a prophylactic to COVID, but also a drug that has been given to those already stricken by COVID, to be efficacious in preventing and healing from COVID. It has been given to African countries for over 40 years for River Blindness by the Merck Co., and given over 4 billion times around the globe. Only now is Merck stating that Ivermectin is unsafe for the prevention and treatment of COVID (its patent has expired, making it a cheap drug for all countries around the world ... yes, no company will make a dime off of it. Not to mention, the Emergency Use Authorization of vaccines could have only happened if there were no viable alternatives available, such as Ivermectin). Ivermectin's two scientists were given a Nobel Prize for the drug and the WHO has deemed it one of the most important drugs to date. I, personally, refuse to take a vaccine that the makers are free from any liability should there be adverse effects, either short term or long term. NO ONE can say there are NO long term effects from these vaccines as these vaccines have only been in use for less than a year. Ivermectin has shown to be 86% effective against COVID-19 and for those who are vaccine hestitant or unable to take a vaccine, this drug could be a game changer in the pandemic. We would reach herd immunity if those people were on Ivermectin. Yet, for some reason, this drug is not allowed to be spoken about on YouTube, NYT, or other platforms. For an understanding of the situation, please listen to Dr. Bret Weinstein on talking with Joe Rogan (found on the right of the page). Please don't criticize those people who refuse to take a drug that has not gone through the usual FDA approval protocol. Educate yourself about what is at stake here, both health-wise and in speaking truth to censorship.

Tom Hyland

The censoring of alternative information, alternate from what the biggest vaxx producers are hawking, is glaring, suspicious and detestable. This article is written by a certified nutrition coach and he's compiled 18 reasons to not take the vaxx. The first on the list is the fact that every manufacturer has been released of all liabilities for harm or death caused by their concoctions. Snopes has vehemently attacked every fact in this list, so you know this has got to be good. Forget about "right" wing or "left" wing, Paddy, everyone stands to be harmed by these DNA modifiers.

Tom Hyland

I approve this message... here's a Canadian dude telling it like it is. The government is NEVER going to let you relax. Once you give up your basic human rights the pressure will NEVER cease. Watch this:

Mitch Koolpe

I'm confused? Do we follow the Science or not? CDC says face masks not necessary if you are fully vaccinated:

Mike Johnson

This article expresses my opinions on all this quite well:

Steve Martinez

We need to keep the Deltas out of New Mexico.

John Tallent

Went to Santa Fe for a really nice lunch with friends and the 4 of us were the few and far between who had masks.

Whew, I think NM is in for a long summer of more virus cases because of the the stubborn (polite wording) folks running around.

Glad I live in the mountains!


Mike Johnson

Again, more exaggerations about this India variant. According to the Scientific American yesterday: "....there is not enough data to say whether or not Delta is more deadly than other variants." And: "Fortunately, vaccination appears to provide good protection against Delta..." So if you are vaccinated, there is no danger and according to CDC to can resume normal life without masks and social distancing. People need to stop with the paranoid germaphobe reactions and accept the vaccinations solve the problem and get on with your normal life. As for those who refuse to be vaccinated, you are on your own here.

Tom Hyland

Mike, I've always enjoyed your point of view on so many matters. Direct, to the point, freedom loving, however, you've disappointed me by taking the jab. Obviously you didn't do your homework. These vaccines are not vaccines, in the traditional science. They are DNA modifiers and are unpredictably dangerous. When the swine flu vaccine was administered the product was removed from humanity when the death rate reached about 50. These "vaccines" have killed more than 5,000 people already according to the CDC VAERS reports.

Emily Koyama

Many more than 5k would already be dead sans the vaccines. Not rocket science.

Tom Hyland

The "vaccines" are killing people... a lot of people. Glad you agree, Emily. Let's wait to see what happens to the vaxxed in the next year or two.

Tom Hyland

Here's yet another tragedy. This 45 year old fellow from Ohio got the vaxx and was chiding people on Facebook to "shut up and get vaxxed." Just after his second jab he died. He received the Moderna vaxx which I've read derives its name from MRNA meaning it modifies RNA.

LeRoy Sanchez

So true!

mark Coble

Back to daily message of Fear! and Panic! and lockdown? What is survival rate for healthy people under 75 with no co morbidities? Don't ask! Died from covid or with covid? Yep, don't ask! Who profits from covid? Banks bailed out again?

Red Eagle


Mike Johnson


Cari Anderson

Did you read the same article I did? I read: continue the course but be smart. No new mandates. Get vaccinated. Indian market still happening.

Personally I have lost family members and friends to Covid-19 and have others who survived but more than a year later are still having major side effects from it. That is not the media saying that, that is my family’s story.

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