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Learn more about the new public health order

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Wednesday that the state’s mask-wearing mandate would be enforced and that travelers entering the state – either by plane or car – must self-quarantine 14 days.

Businesses must now require mask-wearing in their establishments, and violators face up to a $100 fine.

The new order sparked multiple follow-up questions. The Journal contacted the Department of Health with several of those questions, and below are the answers:

Q: The state Department of Health says masks must be worn in public. What are the specifics? Are they required when pumping gas at a gas station or sitting in a park? Are they required when driving? Are you required if you are outside on private property – working in your garden, for example?

A: A gas station is a public place, so, yes, wear a mask. A public place is any location as defined by common sense – it can be indoors; it can be outdoors. It can be publicly or privately owned – such as any businesses that serve the public. If you’re working alone in your garden, you don’t have to wear a mask. If you’re in your garden with five other people, wear the mask. The whole point is trying to prevent viral spread.

There are exceptions, of course, for wearing a mask in public. They include eating, drinking and exercising, and specific instances when wearing a facemask or cloth covering isn’t feasible (see www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html#feasibility-adaptations for details.)

Q: If someone sees a violator, who are they supposed to call to report the offender? The manager of a store? The local police? The New Mexico State Police?

A: Law enforcement statewide will be addressing compliance while in public. Citations may be issued by the State Police and by local law enforcement. Both businesses and individuals could be subject to the $100 fine. A person seen not in compliance should not result in a citizen dialing 9-1-1 to report it as it does not constitute an emergency. Residents can report to the state areas where they see consistent non-compliance in public online at www.newmexico.gov/2020/03/25/how-to-report-non-compliance-within-a-business-a-violation-of-the-mass-gatherings-ban-or-other-violations-of-the-public-order/.

Q: Does the state expect residents to confront a person not wearing a mask about non-compliance? An attorney in Las Cruces on June 22 was assaulted after questioning a couple who weren’t wearing masks in a local drug store.

A: We discourage personal confrontations. While, yes, this is a pandemic and all of us, as Americans, should pull together to minimize the spread of this virus, the incident in Las Cruces proves you can’t predict how someone will react when confronted.

Q: What are businesses required to do to enforce the mask mandate in their stores – post a sign, refuse service, call police?

A: Best practice would be to limit entry to their businesses to anyone not wearing a mask, except for such examples as in the CDC link above. The Department of Health has signage available. A copy can be found in two letter or legal sizes at https://cv.nmhealth.org/covid-safe-practices/.

Q: The new 14-day quarantine on out-of-state travelers driving into the state applies to New Mexico residents who may travel out of state by car and return home. Does this include people who live in New Mexico, but work in El Paso?

A: The governor stated in her news conference July 1 that essential workers – as designated in the public health order – should telework where possible, but can otherwise report to work as long as they wear a mask and maintain social distancing criteria. All of us have to limit viral spread.

Q: For those under the 14-day quarantine, could they take a COVID-19 test and, if it is negative, return to normal activity? If not, why not?

A: It can take as little as three days – but often longer – after exposure to COVID-19 for symptoms to appear, and it remains a 14-day self-isolation period per Centers for Disease Control Prevention guidance.

Q: Can those under quarantine visit their doctors for previously made appointments? What about hair appointments, or shopping for essentials such as food. Is that permitted?

A: As has been true in the past orders, they absolutely can and should see a medical provider, as needed, scheduled or not. Shopping for essentials is permitted, but a lot has changed in the past few months. You can have food from any number of restaurants and grocery stores delivered to your door. Better to not risk viral spread and order delivery.

Q: To what extent will the state monitor and/or investigate whether a person has violated the 14-day quarantine? Are airlines and hotels supposed to alert the state if there is a suspicion of a violation of the quarantine?

A: The hotel/motel industry is expected to comply with and help enforce the public health order, and report anyone in violation. State and local law enforcement will take proper action, as needed.

Q: Are these temporary mandates that could be lifted July 15 depending on the increase in cases, hospital bed demand, the transmission rate and other factors?

A: They are dependent on all of the above. The virus will tell us if we can relax these orders. It’s no one person or government – it’s the virus, and if the COVID-19 virus numbers continue at this rate, there’s no way to forecast when the orders will be altered. It’s truly up to all of us to work together to reduce the spread of the virus.

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