N.M. extends indoor mask mandate to Oct. 15

By: - September 15, 2021 7:17 am

(Photo by Shelby Kleinhans/Source NM)

Keep your mask up, New Mexico.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office announced New Mexico will extend the state’s indoor mask mandate until Oct. 15. 

The requirement was reinstated in August as COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations rose in the state. Another public health order requiring health care workers and public schools employees to be vaccinated or tested daily also remains in place. 

The mask mandate helped reduce the 7-day average COVID-19 test positivity rate, according to the Governor’s Office. 

The positivity rate was 9% on Aug. 16, the day before the state’s public health order mandated masks to be worn indoors. By Sept. 16, that number dipped to 6.5%.

“If not for the health of yourself, your family, your neighbors and your colleagues, then for the continued economic recovery of our state and nation: I urge New Mexicans to get vaccinated, mask up and continue to social distance,”  Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

To date, 242,399 people have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.

Statewide, hospitalizations remain high. As of yesterday, 352 people were in New Mexico hospitals for COVID-19 treatment, a slight dip from the 433 patients in the hospital on Aug. 25, the highest total in this most recent rise in cases. 

Still, that’s less than one-third of the peak of hospitalizations during the pandemic: 947 people were in hospital beds in N.M. in December 2020. 

New Mexico’s vaccine rate is a hair above 69% of adults who are fully vaccinated, according to the state’s online public dashboard. More than 78%t have received at least one dose. More than 51% of New Mexicans 12- to 17-years-old are fully vaccinated. 

McKinley County, which borders tribal lands, pueblos and the Navajo Nation—remains the most vaccinated area in New Mexico. According to DOH, nearly every resident in the county has received at least one shot, and more than 83% of residents there are fully vaccinated. On the other side of the state, Roosevelt County reports 43% of people fully vaccinated, the lowest rate of any county in New Mexico. 

“Our state case rates continue to be three to four times higher than our ‘maximum safety level’ of 210 cases per day. Wearing a mask is a small sacrifice that makes an enormous difference – and one that saves the lives of our fellow New Mexicans,” said Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase. The safety level is based on hospital staffing and available beds.

The second public health order will also require new reporting guidelines for hospitals. Starting today, the Department of Health is now requiring hospitals to report the number of workers that fall under the health order, the number of those workers that are fully or partially vaccinated and the total of unvaccinated. Hospitals must also report the amount of people that are exempt from the vaccine.

Last week, Biden announced a vaccine mandate for hospital workers at facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid that takes effect in the next 70 or so days. The mandate extends to other folks, too, like federal employees or people who work at companies that have more than 100 workers.

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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.