FARMINGTON – San Juan County businesses will be allowed to begin opening with restrictions on Saturday, according to the state’s new public health order.
The announcement was made during Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s news conference that was streamed Wednesday live on Facebook.
San Juan, McKinley and Cibola counties will now be allowed to offer curbside pickup for retailers, and golf courses can operate with limited capacity. But the three counties will lag behind the rest of the state, which can begin allowing in-person visits.
Per the governor’s announcement, the retailers in the rest of the state can open at 25% capacity, houses of worship at 10% capacity and big-box stores at 20% capacity. Retailers in San Juan, McKinley and Cibola counties are not yet included in this stage of Lujan Grisham’s public health order.
The counties in the northwest portion of the state continue to have stricter restrictions as they have been hit hardest by the virus. As of Wednesday afternoon San Juan County had 1,203 cases out of 7,652 completed tests and 80 virus-related deaths, making it second-highest for cases in the state. McKinley County, with 1,681 cases, is the only county with more cases of COVID-19.
Starting Saturday, Lujan Grisham also mandated the use of face coverings in public for all of New Mexico. The only exceptions on the face-covering order are for eating, drinking or exercising.
She added the order does not mean people have to go out and buy a face mask. During the news conference, she demonstrated how to make a face covering with a bandanna and two hair ties.
“All of us wearing masks could save thousands of lives,” Human Services Secretary David Scrase said Wednesday.
Lujan Grisham said the state is also looking at ways to distribute mask-making kits to individuals who need them. While the state doesn’t plan to take a punitive approach to enforcing the face-covering mandate, she said people not wearing a covering in public may face stern words from a police officer.
During the conference, Lujan Grisham also urged people to get tested and said the state had worked to expand testing capacity.
“It’s basically open testing,” she said. “We want you to get tested, that information, that knowledge is not only going to protect you, it’s going to save lives.”
Lujan Grisham said the state would advance to the next stage when certain goal posts have been met. One of those is reducing the COVID-19 transmission rate to 1.15, meaning an infected person transmits the virus to 1.15 other people. Currently, the state’s transmission rate is 1.16.
The southwest and northwest regions of the state – including San Juan County – remain above the target transmission rate.