New Mexico governor extends restrictions until April 30 to combat coronavirus

Grocery stores to limit customers, liquor stores to close, hospital ramps up preparations

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Limiting the number of people in grocery stores, closing liquor stores and extending all public health orders to April 30 are among New Mexico’s latest efforts to thwart the spread of a new coronavirus and prevent a spike in cases that threaten to overwhelm hospitals.

The new restrictions will begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday (April 7).

“These orders are not friendly suggestions; heed them and protect yourselves, your families and your communities,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in a statement. “If these directives are not heeded, further restrictions will be enacted. The difference between a worst-case scenario and a best-case scenario for our state depends on your actions and the actions of those around you.”

As the number of positive cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, hit 686 in New Mexico Monday (April 6) with 12 related deaths, health officials are trying to stave off a worst-case scenario where those ill with coronavirus overwhelm hospitals, staff and supplies.

Under the governor’s order issued Monday, grocery stores must limit the number of customers to no more than 20 percent of maximum occupancy as determined by the fire marshal or fire department. People who must wait to enter a grocery store will be required to stand at least 6 feet apart to maintain social distancing. Walmart in Taos was already doing this Saturday when no more than 150 people at a time were allowed in the story and everyone else was asked to wait outside.

In addition, the governor has added liquor stores, automobile dealerships and payday lenders to the list of nonessential businesses that must close. Businesses with questions about essential or nonessential status should email covid.exemption@state.nm.us.

Hotels, motels, RV parks and other lodging places must now limit occupancy to 25 percent, down from the 50 percent required under a prior order.

Under the extended state health order, New Mexicans are supposed to

  • Stay home except for emergency or essential trips such as going to a doctor’s appointment or the grocery store or to deliver supplies to someone who is homebound;
  • People should not gather in groups larger than five people and even then should stay 6 feet apart for social distancing.

“We must carry on undaunted in our fight against COVID-19,” Lujan Grisham said in her statement. “These measures will help us prevent a sudden spike in infections that would overwhelm our health care system. This virus is still spreading, and we must remain vigilant about physical distancing from one another. And we will ramp up enforcement of noncompliance."

The town of Taos has already canceled all events on town property through the summer, a policy that will be reviewed every 30 days in case the situation with the pandemic changes. The town also recently approved a nightly curfew from 10 p.m. – 6 a.m. for the foreseeable future.

The town and Taos County have limited hours of operation and are urging residents to do as much of their business as possible online.

Holy Cross Medical Center has stopped all visitors from entering except those needed to comfort certain patients such as children. The hospital also has postpone nonessential surgeries.

The state is encouraging people to wear masks when in public places, whether or not they have tested positive with coronavirus. Homemade masks can be made of a variety of materials and at least provide some measure of protection.

Ensuring staff at Holy Cross Medical Center have enough masks, gowns and other protective gear is critically important as the hospital prepares for more COVID-19 cases.

“We are working hard to make sure we are ready for the increase in patient volume that is projected for our area.  Our plan is to be ready by this Friday,” said hospital CEO Bill Patten in an email.

The hospital will host a second Facebook live event Thursday (April 9) at 2 p.m. with government and agency officials to provide an update.

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