Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration is likely to extend a mask mandate for indoor public settings beyond the scheduled expiration date of a state public health order this week, a spokesman said Tuesday.
New Mexico has seen a stubbornly high number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks as a surge caused by the highly contagious delta variant has plateaued, but not subsided, as previously hoped.
State health officials on Tuesday reported 2,433 new virus cases since Friday – roughly 600 new cases per day over a four-day period – and 16 additional deaths related to COVID-19.
The deaths brought the state’s toll to 4,885 since the pandemic hit in March 2020. The majority of those who have died have been elderly residents with underlying health conditions, though the latest deaths included three men in their 30s – from Lea, Eddy and Santa Fe counties.
While some vaccinated individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks, most new cases, hospitalizations and deaths have occurred in unvaccinated people.
From the start of February through Oct. 4, 864 of the 924 virus-related deaths – or 93.5% – were unvaccinated residents, according to state Department of Health data.
Meanwhile, New Mexico’s mask mandate, which applies to all state residents, regardless of their vaccine status, was reimposed in mid-August amid the spike in new COVID-19 cases.
It is part of a public health order issued by acting state Health Secretary David Scrase that’s set to expire Friday. But Lujan Grisham spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said the mandate will likely be included in an extended – and possibly revised – order.
A separate public health order requiring that hospital employees, corrections officers and other workers in group home settings get the COVID-19 vaccine or risk losing their jobs does not have a set expiration date.
New Mexico was among the first states to require that face coverings be worn in public settings when Lujan Grisham revised a previous public health order to include a face mask mandate in May 2020.
Before being recently reimposed for indoor public settings, the mask mandate had been lifted in May for fully vaccinated individuals in order to conform to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
New Mexico is currently one of just seven states that require people to wear masks in indoor public places, according to the AARP. The others are Illinois, Louisiana, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and Hawaii.