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Heinrich seeks easing of out-of-state restrictions

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich is asking Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to revise her public health order to allow visitors who have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours before entering the state to forgo the 14-day quarantine.

The governor said during her news conference Thursday there would be several changes to a mandatory 14-day quarantine for those entering New Mexico from out of state, such as exempting those who travel out of state for medical treatments.

But she did not mention the type of exemption Heinrich requested.

Governor’s Office spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said the revised order will come next week. She did not have a comment about Heinrich’s request.

In a Thursday letter to the governor, the Democratic senator said the pandemic upended whole sectors of the state’s economy, including the hospitality, tourism and outdoor recreation industries.

“Creating a safe and responsible pathway for out-of-state visitors to enter New Mexico and amending restrictions for our state parks will ignite local economies, create new jobs and provide an urgent stimulus to New Mexico’s hospitality, tourism and outdoor recreation industries,” Heinrich wrote.

The senator said the measure he wants considered is similar to exemptions used by others states. Heinrich said those states have demonstrated that communities can be protected from the spread of the virus with “safe and smart tourism.”

“Before the onset of the pandemic, New Mexico’s outdoor recreation industry was one of the fastest growing parts of our economy,” Heinrich said.

The senator said an estimated 37.5 million visitors spent almost $7.1 billion in 2018.

White Sands National Park and Carlsbad Caverns National Park both reopened to visitors in June with restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus. And out-of-state residents have been among the visitors.

Carlsbad Caverns Superintendent Doug Neighbor told the Journal in an earlier interview about 90% of the park’s visitors have been from out of state since the caverns reopened June 8, including about 20% from Texas.

“Our visitors have been compliant, almost all of them wearing masks,” he said.

The caverns are limited to 25% capacity, or about 550 visitors a day, Neighbor said.

As of Friday, Lujan Grisham’s order exempted airline employees, people performing public safety or public health functions, military personnel, federal employees, those employed by a national defense contractor, emergency first responders, health care workers, people arriving by court orders, those employed or contracted by essential businesses and those traveling to New Mexico to conduct business.

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