SANTA FE – New Mexico officials on Wednesday said they would be ending mandatory self-quarantine requirements for visitors and residents arriving in the state.
The state Health Department cited what it described as “a brighter pandemic outlook” for the change in policy.
Despite January having marked the deadliest month yet of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., New Mexico has fared better in recent weeks as rolling seven-day average of new confirmed cases has been dropping. Deaths and hospitalizations also are down in the state.
Beginning Thursday, visitors from anywhere outside the state will instead be advised to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days and to seek out a COVID-19 test upon their arrival in or return to New Mexico.
Previously, visitors or arrivals from “high-risk” states were required to physically separate from others for at least 14 days from the date of their entry into New Mexico or for the duration of their presence in the state, whichever is shorter.
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham acknowledged the sacrifice of residents and visitors. But she urged them to remain vigilant.
“Please consider continuing to limit travel to only what is necessary for your work and family,” she said in a statement. “This is the best way to ensure our progress is sustained and we can continue to save lives and protect New Mexicans’ health and livelihoods.”
State health officials pointed to testing efforts and high vaccine distribution rates for the recent suppression of the virus in parts of New Mexico.
Nearly 5% of the population has been fully vaccinated, and state officials have been pushing for more doses to be delivered to the state as the number of residents who have registered to receive a shot was approaching 605,000.
The Biden administration plans to have the federal government administer vaccines directly through community health centers as a way to distribute vaccines more equitably. It’s also planning to have 100 federally run vaccination centers operating by the end of February.
Some states are worried that the vaccines going to the community health centers and the federal vaccination centers would be subtracted from the allotments normally going to the states. New Mexico health officials did not immediately say Wednesday whether they support the federal plans given the state’s successful distribution efforts so far.
The latest data from the Health Department shows nearly half of New Mexico’s 33 counties have now reached the yellow level under the state’s color-coding risk system. Four additional counties are considered green, meaning they have the least risk.
According to the data, all but four counties saw a positivity rate below 10% in the most recent two-week period.
New Mexico has recorded more than 178,000 COVID cases since the pandemic began, with some of the lowest daily case totals since October being reported over the last week. The death toll stands at 3,430.