Gov Lifts Indoor Mask Mandate

Update: Santa Fe Public Schools say they will have a decision on masks when students return on Tuesday

Following the end of today’s legislative session, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced an end to the New Mexico’s indoor mask mandate. An updated public health order made available to SFR indicates the mask mandate remains in place for public hospitals, profit or nonprofit private hospitals, general hospitals, special hospital nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult day cares, hospice facilities, rehabilitation facilities, state correctional facilities, juvenile justice facilities, residential treatment centers, the New Mexico State Veterans’ Home, and community homes except when eating or drinking.

The order also says public and private schools for K-12 will continue to adhere to the Public Education Department’s mask requirements, “until the school district, governing local education agency, or private educational institution elects otherwise.” That decision prompted a swift positive response from the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico, who said in a news release, “Our union has always maintained the best decision making happens at the local level, and this announcement aligns with that belief.”

Santa Fe Public Schools Public Information Officer Cody Dynarski tells SFR via email district leaders will be “meeting tomorrow to make a decision. There are no students on campus tomorrow (parent-teacher conferences) or Monday (holiday). We will have a decision made before students return on Tuesday.”

The new order also continues to require businesses and other organizations to report rapid responses—cases of COVID-19—to the environment department and says the department will monitor any business/organization with more than four such cases within a 14-day period.

The news arrives as New Mexico’s daily cases, as well as hospitalizations, continue to decline, and as New Mexico remains one of the last states with an indoor mask mandate. The news also came with little warning, as the health department canceled its weekly COVID-19 briefing that had been scheduled for yesterday. On Feb. 9, Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase told news media the hospitals remained in crisis and the mask mandate remained in place.

“Masks are effective,” Scrase said last week, “the state is still in hot water, and we don’t really want to do that until we feel everyone will be safe. I can’t tell you a day. But as soon as we feel like we’re getting to that day, we’re going to let everybody know. It’s just too soon today.”

A news release from the governor’s office issued several hours after the initial announcement says the number of hospitalized New Mexicans has dropped by 37% since the end of January, and the state’s Crisis Standards of Care declaration will expire March 11.

“We’re turning the corner, and learning a new way to live with COVID together. Thank you for taking care of your communities, your family, and each other,” Scrase said in a statement. “We still need to be careful, get tested, get treatment.”

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