New restrictions on public gatherings were enacted this week by New Mexico Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Kathy Kunkel.
On Monday, Kunkel issued an updated public health order that directed all restaurants, bars, breweries, eateries and other food establishments to operate at no higher than 50 percent seating capacity. Tables and booths at these establishments must be separated by at least six feet—with a limit of six patrons per booth—and patrons cannot be seated at a bar or served while standing.
“We must limit public gatherings in order to limit the spread of this virus,” Kunkel said. “Bars and restaurants are no exception. We want New Mexicans to stay home to the greatest extent possible. That kind of social distancing is our best strategy for reducing the risks to New Mexico.”
The amended order also declared all mass gatherings of more than 100 people prohibited, but included specific exemptions for shelters, retail and grocery stores, courthouses, detention facilities and hospitals. It directs all casinos and horse racing facilities to close down until April 10—but the rule does not apply to casinos operating on tribal land.
The order also advises citizens to stay at home if at all possible, to avoid touching surfaces while in public, to avoid nonessential travel and to stay away from infected individuals. Citizens are also being reminded to thoroughly and regularly wash their hands.
Mayor Encourages Social Distancing
This week, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller directed city employees to practice social distancing while completing tasks.
In a press release, the mayor said that to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, city employees in each department are now required to telecommute if at all possible. Nonessential employees who cannot telecommute must stay home. Employees who can work in a “dispersed fashion” will remain exclusively in the field. Employees who cannot report to work because of the new policies will be offered paid time off.
Keller also encouraged citizens to adhere to the same policies. “While we’re keeping critical services running, we need everyone in Albuquerque to do their part by maximizing social distancing in every way possible,” he said, “including avoiding mass gatherings and protecting vulnerable populations.”
According to KOB, Keller is in touch with the Conference of Mayors leadership team, a group of city leaders across the country that is currently exchanging ideas with one another on how to respond to the situation.
Governor Orders Emergency Funds
On Monday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued five executive orders authorizing up to $3.25 million in emergency response and disaster relief funding to address the spread of virus that causes COVID-19.
Last week, the governor declared a statewide public health emergency in New Mexico to free up emergency funds. According to the state health department’s website, the funding will be used to assist in humanitarian relief efforts and other public health measures. Some of the funding will go to families affected by the statewide three-week closure of all K-12 public schools.