New Mexico’s Democratic Governor Michelle Grisham has announced a temporary indoor mask mandate following a 90 percent increase in statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations over the last two weeks.
Grisham announced the mandate during a Tuesday evening video live stream. The mandate applies to everyone in the state ages two or above, regardless of vaccination status. It goes into effect on Friday, August 20 and will remain in place until Monday, September 20 at the earliest.
In addition to the mandate, Grisham announced mandatory vaccinations for all personnel working in care settings and schools. While the state will grant religious or medical exemptions, exempted workers will still need to provide a weekly negative COVID test before being allowed to work.
“We can’t continue our economic recovery and our positive economic journey if we have out of control COVID cases in the state of New Mexico,” Grisham said. “We’re gonna use masks and vaccines to blunt the spread of COVID and see if we can’t rebalance where we are as a state, particularly given the Delta variant.”
State hospitals have seen a nearly 90 percent increase over the last two weeks, she noted. Two weeks ago, statewide hospitals had a total of 180 COVID-related hospitalizations. As of August 16, the number jumped to 341, an increase of 89.4 percent.
The state has seen a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases since the start of July. On July 1, the state reported 87 cases. On August 16, it reported 1,771 cases. The two numbers represent a 1935 percent increase.
The governor said the recent increase in cases is largely due to the highly infectious Delta variant. She also said that the state suffers from a shortage of medical workers in different care settings who could withstand a sudden increase in patients suffering from COVID-19.
“We’re in a terrible place for health care services and for protecting our health care workers, and too many New Mexicans, again, are going to lose their lives or have long-term chronic illnesses because of the rate of spread of COVID,” Grisham said.
During the live stream’s Q&A portion, Grisham pushed back against Republican claims that the increase in infections has been driven by infected immigrants entering the U.S. through the southern border.
“I disagree that the risk factors to New Mexico are at the border,” she said. “The risk factors here are too many New Mexicans did not get vaccinated, too many New Mexicans have refused and failed to wear masks and too many New Mexicans have engaged in high-risk activities or even knowingly had COVID, maybe had no symptoms, and spread. That is really the genesis of the problem here.”
Newsweek contacted Grisham’s office for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.