SANTA FE — New Mexico is allowing two new exceptions to self-quarantine requirements for travelers entering or returning to the state as health officials try to keep outside coronavirus outbreaks at bay, the governor’s office announced Thursday.
People seeking medical care or taking day trips to attend to essential parenting duties will no longer be subject to 14-day self-quarantine requirements.
The new executive order from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham extends the requirement that travelers self-isolate at a residence or lodging facility upon arrival or return to New Mexico — with broad exceptions for workers in essential businesses, federal government and airline industry.
State health officials are wrestling with how to insulate New Mexico from neighboring states with lighter public health restrictions and uncontained virus outbreaks that can no longer be traced and isolated. The order allows the state to impose quarantines on people who don’t comply, though it was unclear if or when authorities might begin enforcement.
“Individuals who are quarantined upon arrival into the state may leave the residence or place of lodging in which they are self-quarantining only for the purposes of medical care,” the governor’s office announced in a statement. “Family or household members may visit a quarantined person, but those visitors must then self-quarantine themselves.”
The new order responds to “the absence of a coherent federal strategy to slowing the spread of COVID-19,” the governor’s office said.
The self-quarantine restrictions apply for the duration of New Mexico’s public health emergency. The state has delayed any further reopening of the economy until at least September.
The rate of positive tests is far lower in New Mexico than neighboring Arizona, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma. And a local surge of virus infections and related deaths appears to be tapering off.
On Thursday, New Mexico health officials said there were 212 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 21,773. Officials said two more people have died from the virus, bringing the state death total to 669.
As of Thursday, there were 138 individuals hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases decreased over the past two weeks, going from 286 new cases a day on July 22 to 221 new cases a day on Wednesday, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
Comparing seven-day averages of new cases smooths out anomalies in the data, including delays in test results. The full number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
Average statewide daily deaths have declined from 5.3 to 4.6 over the same period.
Other developmentsState finance officials started accepting applications Wednesday for low-interest loans that are designed to help small businesses endure the financial stress of the coronavirus pandemic.Legislation approved in June sets aside up to $400 million in state trust funds for loans to individual businesses of up to $75,000 each.
Eligibility is limited to businesses with less than $5 million in annual revenue. Applicants also must show a 30% decline in monthly revenue in April and May versus a year ago.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called the loan program a cornerstone of the state’s response to the economic crisis. The New Mexico Finance Authority administers the new loan program.
A state agency reported that 21 employees at a meatpacking plant in Roswell tested positive for COVID-19. The New Mexico Environment Department has advised USA Beef Packing LLC owner Jose Madrid on how to handle the cases, the Roswell Daily Record reported. Madrid said he is cooperating with a state investigation into what caused the infection to spread.
Agency reports show the company reported its first positive test on July 28, and it had two by July 31. The number of cases jumped to 21 by Wednesday. The company was closed for a while after the first confirmed case, and all employees were to be tested, department spokeswoman Maddy Hayden said.
A quality control officer for the company previously told the Daily Record that the plant follows all federal and state guidelines regarding food and employee safety, including social distancing measures and employee temperature checks.
“We want to assure you that we are taking all precautions and necessary steps to ensure our food supply is safe,” the company said in a statement.