Restaurants and bars in New Mexico will be limited to half their maximum number of customers beginning at 9 a.m. Monday (March 16) under a new directive issued by state Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel in another effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Kunkel amended her earlier public health emergency order to reflect the new restrictions on all restaurants, bars, breweries, eateries and other food establishments, which will "operate at no greater than 50 percent of maximum occupancy and no greater than 50 percent of seating capacity. In addition, tables and booths may not seat more than six people, and all occupied tables and booths must be separated by at least six feet. Patrons may not be seated at bars, and standing patrons will not be served," according to a statement issued by the health secretary.
Carol Wight, CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association said, "the New Mexico’s restaurant industry fully supports the public health order requiring no more than 50 percent seating capacity at restaurants and six feet of separation between occupied tables and booths. Restaurants are gratified to be able to continue to operate in a manner that will limit the incidence of COVID-19 in New Mexico while still serving the dining public."
At least one Taos restaurant – Common Fire – took the precaution one step further and closed its doors Sunday for an unspecified amount of time "in deference to science and in deep solidarity with our community," according to a message from owner Andy Lynch. On the restaurant front door and on a message machine, Lynch said in part: "The best available science says social distancing is the most effective response to controlling the spread of the novel coronavirus....All available information...is that now is the time to begin.
"We will ontinue to monitor and assess the unfolding situation. Science is our most dependable guide, compassion our most trustworthy impulse. Take care of each other."
The public health order issued last week currently prohibits gatherings of 100 or more but specifically exempts shelters, retail or grocery stores, courthouses, correction and detention facilities and hospitals.
The amended order also requires casinos and horse racing facilities to close until April 10.
“The best thing New Mexicans can do right now is self-isolate and limit person-to-person contact,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, in a statement. “We all have to pull together in this effort. Keep washing your hands with soap and water regularly. Stay at home. Remember your neighbors and buy only what you need when you are shopping.”
The statement from Kunkel's office continues: "New Mexico health officials strongly advise residents to stay home to the greatest extent possible in order to limit person-to-person contact, and to undertake only those outings that are essential to health, safety and general welfare."
The New Mexico Restaurant Association has a link
on its website with information specific to eating establishments for how to deal with coronoavirus.
New Mexicans who detect symptoms of COVID-19 infection, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should call their health care provider or the NMDOH COVID-19 hotline immediately (1-855-600-3453).
People without those symptoms do not need to be tested for COVID-19. Since allergy season is underway allergy symptoms such as sneezing or itchy eyes, nose or throat do not indicate a need for testing. While the state is gratified that COVID-19 testing is increasingly available, we need to prioritize testing for persons with symptoms of COVID-19 infection – fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
New Mexicans who have non-health-related questions or concerns can also call 833-551-0518
or visit newmexico.gov
, which is being updated and finalized as a one-stop source for information.
The state Department of Health is updating its dedicated COVID-19 webpage, viewable here: cv.nmhealth.org