New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced at a press conference Tuesday afternoon that the state will be putting an indoor mask mandate back in place beginning Friday amid a surge in cases caused by the Delta variant of COVID-19. 

In addition, the state will now require vaccinations for workers in close-contact congregate settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, juvenile justice facilities, rehabilitation facilities, state correctional facilities. This requirement comes as a result of a slowing vaccination rate in the state over the past few months. New Mexico reached 60 percent vaccination among residents in late June, but has not seen those numbers increase much since then. 

The state also issued a requirement that all workers at private, public and charter schools in New Mexico either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or otherwise submit to COVID-19 testing on a weekly basis. This policy aligns with the state’s requirement for all state government personnel.

Cases of COVID-19 in New Mexico, as well as hospitalizations, have risen dramatically in recent days. From Monday to Tuesday alone, the state saw a 12 percent increase in hospitalizations, from 304 to 341 statewide, due to the Delta variant. Currently, hospitalizations due to the coronavirus are at a six-month high. 

State modeling projects that New Mexico will reach 1,000 new daily cases of COVID-19 by the end of August, and as many as 1,000 new daily cases in southeastern New Mexico alone in the weeks after that.

“We all have a role to play,” Lujan Grisham said. “No one wants to go backward. No one wants to see our recovery endangered by another – and preventable – surge of serious illness. No one wants a full hospital turning away New Mexicans who need care. So mask up indoors to stop the spread. And vaccinate if you haven’t vaccinated. These two simple steps will protect our health care resources and ensure our economy can continue to rebound.”

The newly re-implemented mask mandate applies to all residents aged 2 and older. Masks must be worn at all times indoors, except when actively eating or drinking. The mandate will remain in effect until at least Sept. 15, at which time officials may extend it. 

Masks will be required to everyone in school buildings regardless of vaccination status. Businesses, houses of worship and other entities may enact stricter requirements at their discretion.

“We all want the pandemic to be over,” said David Scrase, acting health secretary. “But the virus has its own timeline. And the virus has mutated. The good news is that vaccines work in preventing serious illness and death from a COVID-19 infection. The bad news is that the virus is still spreading and seriously harming unvaccinated people, and this means unsustainable strain in our hospital system. A mask helps stop the spread. Please do your part and help New Mexico stay on the right track: Mask up and get your shots.”

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