Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday (Oct. 15) there will be an extended statewide requirement that face masks be worn in indoor public spaces (with only limited exceptions and regardless of vaccination status) through Nov. 12.
The mask requirement is an effort by the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) to curb COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and a shortage of staffed hospital beds in the state.
A press release from the governor’s office said “hospital beds remain in dangerously short supply, as primarily unvaccinated individuals continue to spread a more infectious variant of the virus, and hospitals are on the brink of implementing crisis standards of care.”
As of the week of Oct. 1, Chaves and San Juan counties reportedly had no ICU beds available. As of Oct. 19 there had been a reported total of 17,882 hospital admissions in New Mexico for patients with COVID-19 since the beginning of the public health emergency in 2020. This excludes data of patients from out of state and federal detainees in New Mexico private prisons.
“Many of us just assume that if we develop a serious illness, there will be an ICU bed available for us,” said Dr. Scrase in a press release. “That has not been the case for every New Mexican over the past six weeks. It is not time to abandon basic precautions. Our hospital and health care partners remain incredibly, incredibly concerned about the serious illnesses they are dealing with, and the pressure placed upon their institutions and personnel by these continuing infections.”
The governor, along with counsel and analysis of the state Medical Advisory Team, may extend or lift the mask mandate as necessary at a future date.
The current New Mexico mask mandate mirrors the CDC recommendation that masks be worn indoors in public if in an area of “substantial or high transmission” for the virus.
Similarly, the town of Taos again declared a public health emergency in August, mandating masks be worn in indoor and at outdoor gatherings.
Health officials continue to advise individuals to get vaccinated. Also, the NMDOH recommends individuals, if eligible, to get a COVID-19 booster shot.