Many of the people violating the state’s health restrictions don’t want their names in the newspaper.

Some said they had no idea visitors to New Mexico must self-isolate in quarantine for 14 days after arriving in the state.

Others said they were well aware of the statute and had no plan to adhere to it.

“How are they going to check up on you?” asked a woman from California, who said her name was Petra. “Are they going to come up to every person in every car and ask them?”

Still others said they were just passing through for less than a day and, given they were on their way to another state, wondered how the order applied to them when all they wanted was to get gas, food and maybe take a one-hour stroll around the Plaza.

“Your governor has a good reason for being so aggressive,” said an East Coast visitor who identified himself as Randy, a health care worker who has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. “There is scientific evidence that masks and social distancing can play a role” in stemming the spread of the respiratory virus.

But Randy and his traveling companion, Maria — who both wore masks and kept their distance from others — said quarantining may not have much of an impact on reducing the state’s overall caseload.

“So we are violating one of the rules but not putting people in hazardous peril,” Randy as they walked through Cathedral Park on Monday morning.

The couple said they were traveling from South Carolina to Arizona and spent one night in Santa Fe. They declined to give their last names for fear of “getting into trouble.”

Around the city, other out-of-state visitors spending the night, the week or just a few hours echoed that thought, complaining that putting the onus of blunting the virus on their shoulders was unfair.

Some — like Petra and her traveling companion, Robert, who drove from California — said they did not even bother to check the state’s health guidelines. Both wore masks because they want to respect others who wear masks.

But quarantining visitors was going a step too far, they said.

“The virus is going to do what it’s going to do,” Robert said. “It’s all a folly.”

Regardless of the reasons for noncompliance — several visitors, including a couple of cars full of college students from Oklahoma, said they didn’t know such restrictions applied — the stories of defiance or ignorance speak to the difficulty state officials face in enforcing the mandate.

Meanwhile, it is playing a role in a drop in occupancy rates among Santa Fe hotels, hospitality managers say — another byproduct of the COVID-19 crisis.

In late March, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered all out-of-state visitors arriving by air to quarantine for two weeks. On July 1, she amended that restriction and mandated all travelers crossing into the state must follow that rule.

There are exceptions. Among those who do not have to follow the quarantine guidelines are airline employees, public safety and public health officials, military and federal employees, emergency first responders, health care workers and others whose jobs are considered essential who have reason to be doing business in the state.



Still, there are obstacles to enforcing the rule. Some visitors who had spent at least one night in the city said the people working at the hotels, short-term rentals and campsites where they were staying had told them about the quarantine. But those workers cannot be expected to be “the quarantine police,” said Paul Margetson, a managing partner of Hotel Santa Fe.

Occupancy rates at that hotel hover around 20 percent, he added — quite low for this time of year.

Josh Gomez, a manager at El Rey Court, agreed.

“We are doing our best to have everyone maintain safe practices,” he said. “We educate visitors when they make their reservations, and a lot of time they don’t book a room when they find out there is a 14-day quarantine in New Mexico.”

He said hotel staff members notify visitors of the health care guidelines when they check in. But acknowledged, “There’s really no way to police them. That’s the hard part. I think it’s challenging for all hotels.”

He said occupancy rates were around 50 percent before the July 1 rule, Now, they are half that.

Whether action has been taken against anyone violating the rule in the nearly three weeks since the governor imposed it is unclear.

Shortly before the Fourth of July weekend, the governor said out-of-state visitors who do not quarantine could face penalties. Police would begin fining people for not wearing face coverings, she added.

“Now we’re going to do enforcement and hold people accountable,” the governor said at the time. “We have to protect the kids who need to go to school.”

As of Monday, New Mexico Department of Health spokesman David Morgan said in an email that “no self-quarantine action has risen to our level of enforcement.”

New Mexico State Police spokesman Officer Dusty Francisco said in an email his agency “has not issued any citations to date to individuals on the Public Health Order for mask-face covering violations and the 14-day quarantine violations.”

But he said State Police officers had handed out 31 free masks to people who did not have one as part of the enforcement plan.

Officers with the Santa Fe Police Department, meanwhile, have issued numerous citations under a separate city ordinance requiring face coverings. Violators of the city rule face a $50 fine rather than the $100 imposed by the state.

Not all visitors thought the state’s self-isolation rule was a bad one. Karen and Megan Fernandez, a mother-daughter team traveling the country by car with their dog Ash, said 14-day quarantines and the wearing of masks are smart preventive measures.

They said they have engaged in their own form of quarantine since they left Florida in late June by traveling the back roads of the nation, sleeping in a tent by night, ordering takeout food and avoiding others.

But they, too, were aware that even as they stopped downtown to visit Cathedral Park for an hour, they were violating the ordinance.

“We’ve been playing it real safe and real smart,” said Karen Fernandez. “We’ve been living in a self-isolating bubble. You’re the first one we’ve talked to.”

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.

(25) comments

Matt Ponteri

Isn't it great that those who are paid and sworn to protect the citizens of New Mexico have decided they are not going to do a thing during the worst health crisis America has had in a century. State police state no tickets issued for mask violations, hey that's great. No enforcement of quarantine, wonderful. Texans flowing thru Ruidoso like it's the Rose bowl, no enforcement of guidelines. The ignorance of Mayor's, business owners, and police, all who refuse to do their I part to help enforce guidelines will ensure this will go on. It's pathetic that they are sworn to protect all citizens, but now only those who own business count, this has become blatantly obvious here in Ruidoso. New Mexico had a manageable rate of covid, you can bet that will certainly rise because of all the non action across this state. If we end up with a state wide outbreak like our neighboring states, you can thank your local mayor, police chief, and businesses, all who decided your lives weren't worth protecting. If you owned a business here in Ruidoso, or other tourist town who's officials decided to ignore guidelines, you life would be worth more to them. As just a laborer, clerk, waitress, bus boy, grocery clerk, cashier, or other hard working citizen, the mayor here in Ruidoso has shown how little he's concerned for these people by inviting in covid so business can continue to make money, paying these people minimum wage, and exposing them to a greater risk daily. The current state of affairs in Ruidoso is just down right pathetic, and the policies being enforced (or not enforced) puts the entire community at risk for the sake of a very few.

Craig Eberhart

It would be quite hard to successfully enforce the 14-day quarantine requirement. However, I think the mask requirement would be easy to enforce. In another article on school opening delays, they stated that retaurant worker infoection rates have jumped 15-fold. I donot think this is caused New Mexicans going out more. I think it is directly related to the summer arrival of non-residents from nearby states especially those from Texas with high infection rates.

Joan Conrow

Another example of the downside of tourism. This lack of respect and disregard for the law most likely plays out in other ways. Instead of pushing to return to business as usual, let’s do the hard work of diversifying our economy so we’re not dependent on people who don’t give a rip about us.

Doug Nava

Why is everyone here complaining? Do you not remember that our ever so smart and intelligent and idiot of a Mayor Webber stated that Covid here in our city is the blame of locals and not tourists! It is time for him to resign and leave City Hall!!! Recall him and get him out!!

Ed Li

Americans going on road trips and vacations in the midst of a pandemic, are 100% selfish pricks and get every bit of COVID they deserve. My only concern are for the innocent ones around them that they will inevitably infect.

Andrew Rich

Consistently, this paper has touted the 14 day quarantine. The state order says that it's a 14 day quarantine or the length of your stay, whichever is less. If someone is passing through and stays in a hotel and doesn't leave, that's fine, and I don't think you can stop interstate commerce or people driving through in a day and doing nothing but get gas either. The order is having an effect on numbers as shown by the obvious decrease in hotel occupancy, which means it is having the intended effect. The article seems to be geared to just get a lot of clicks and reads on the website. I'm sure that New Mexicans are visiting family in other states and returning home as well. The state of New Mexico does not exist in a bubble, although some here seem to think or want that to be the case. And the last I heard, visitors to New Mexico were not a major driver in new cases or community spread. I like numbers, so show us the numbers. Eventually, this will be over. Many long time visitors to Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico will return for the same reasons that people enjoy living here. Please keep that in mind. This is one nation, not fifty. Narrow-minded generalizations about the residents of particular states who have far from homogeneous populations is not becoming. It's been mis-handled on a national level leaving some states to do unsavory things, but the attitudes of some is a bit distressing. If people are wearing a mask and keeping their distance and respecting your space, they are probably not part of the problem.

HRH Prince Michael Jauregui

Undeterred tourists indeed, Mr. Nott:

According to, well, The Santa Fe New Mexican, on July 16, 2020, National Nuclear Security Administration Director Lisa Gordon-Hagerty delivered a speech at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in tribute to the "Trinity Site" atomic bomb detonation - that would afflict thousands of Americans living in the Tularosa Basin area.

Now, the question begs: Did Gordon-Hagerty adhere to the 14-day quarantine? If not, why?

Bob Lee

As it says in the article you’re responding to, federal employees are exempt.

David Cartwright

Seems like the writer and the commenters feel like New Mexico is some kind of independent country that can exclude other Americans, restrict travel, and otherwise meddle in the lives of rather innocent people. Can I and my neighborhood in Santa Fe County just announce our own new quarantine rule that requires all who enter our neighborhood domain to have a 14 day quarantine at our boundary?

Jim Klukkert

David Cart Wrong, as the a** behind the wagon: You can try to establish such a regime, but without the consent of the governed...

Jennifer Johnson

Living directly across from a STR hotel with 5 condos - all STRs. I can tell you that units managed by Two Casitas STR company are operating as business as usual. Renters with plates from Kansas and Texas are staying for a few days. None have quarantined and few are wearing masks as they walk their dogs around our small neighborhood. The STR companies should be fined for renting to anyone less than 14 days without proof of quarantining in NM.

Kathy Fish

Jennifer, have you reported this to anyone? I'd take photos and call it in.

Barry Rabkin

One solution: close all hotels and motels in New Mexico immediately.

Mike Johnson

Yes, I like that idea, and may as well close the borders too, no one in or out. Call out the National Guard to enforce it as well. We'll teach those tourists a lesson in public health!

Barry Rabkin

If New York can enforce its 14 day quarantine, we can also do that.

Mike Johnson

You forget who the Guv is......

Amy Earle

Let’s see. A group of young kids from OK a state famous for mask defiance, a couple from CA a state over ridden with the virus, a mother and daughter from FL another state with out of control case numbers. This is the concern with tourists. They are coming from places with large amounts of virus and then try to pretend the quarantine is all news to them. Give me a break. Unfortunately none of the states can really enforce these quarantines for the very reasons these tourists provide. What I’d like to ask them is why do you people find it necessary to travel to other states, let alone cross country like the mother and daughter, in the middle of a pandemic? Yes we need tourism in normal times but these are not normal times. The tourists can stay home. We need to get our case numbers under control again so New Mexicans can live more semi normal lives. Right now that has to be our first priority. These visitors can stroll around the plaza another year.

Elizabeth DeForest

I agree. It won't be forever, this 14 day quarantine. When the visitors make their reservations, they need to be informed. When they check in, *someone* has to be informed! The hotel workers cannot police them, but there has to be some agency which can. For visitors just spending the night, they can get food delivered and be on their way. This is good practice in contact tracing as well.

For the boatloads of merry violators, they can be rounded up, fined and escorted to the border. Heck, I remember when people didn't know NM was part of the US and would call to see where they had to get their money changed. So, let's keep it together here with the mitigation.

Just look at the numbers! Stats don't lie! We must protect our families and the community. Grow up and do your part or this mitigation will drag on even longer.

Kathy Fish

Ugh, such entitlement from out-of-staters. For shame.

Stefanie Beninato

The visitors who say they do not know about the quarantine are not honest. The National Guard is at the airport advising visitors of the 14 day quarantine and there are signs on every major highway in the state.

How to enforce? There would have to be a digital system by which the police could check the place and date of occupancy of a person when they check on those on the plaza or lounging in the outdoor restaurants. Other nations require identification when you check in and the hotel keeper is obliged to obtain that data. And please of course the hotels know the guests are not quarantining.

Jennifer Schlesinger

Since you’ve got suggestions, perhaps you should let us all know how we should go about enforcing masks while exercising on people like yourself who don’t abide?

Mike Johnson

Great idea, and how about we tattoo the tourists' assigned number and date of entry into NM on their forearm, and make them display it everywhere they go.......

John Wilson

“The virus is going to do what it’s going to do,” Robert said. “It’s all a folly.”

Apparently Robert thinks the virus is like the Greek gods of whom it is said that those they would destroy they first drive mad.

Ted Nugent

“How are they going to check up on you?” asked a woman from California, who said her name was Petra. “Are they going to come up to every person in every car and ask them?” ANSWER: No one is going to check up on you. NM residents are relying on you doing the right thing for the health of people you don't know, like my family, which apparently you are incapable of. You are simply an inconsiderate jerk, who I'm quite certain acts this way no matter where you are at, including California. [ban]

Ted Nugent

“We’ve been playing it real safe and real smart,” said Karen Fernandez. “We’ve been living in a self-isolating bubble. You’re the first one we’ve talked to.” **Wink**[wink]

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