New Mexico State University (NMSU) announced that it is suspending all food and beverage sales at indoor sporting events after inconsistent compliance with the state’s COVID-19 mask policy, according to university officials.
New Mexico is among nine states that still have an indoor mask policy whether people are vaccinated on not. Connecticut’s policy extends only to those unvaccinated, while Rhode Island requires masks only at large venues.
The new NMSU policy, announced following Saturday’s men’s basketball game against Grand Canyon University, comes after many students were photographed without masks and will ban all food and drinks from indoor sporting events, requiring fans who need to drink water to drink it in designated areas or go outside, according to the Las Cruces Sun News.
New Mexico requires everyone to wear either a mask or cloth face covering when in public except when drinking, eating, or if they have a medical exemption, according to the New Mexico Department of Health. Those who do not comply with the mask policy are subject to a fine. New Mexico currently reports 480,087 positive COVID-19 cases and 590 hospitalizations, according to its Department of Health.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing less and less compliance with New Mexico’s indoor mask mandate during our home games, and fan behavior at Saturday’s game was cause for grave concern for us and among our public health experts,” Chancellor Dan Arvizu wrote in a memo and shared with the Sun News.
“As a result, we will no longer allow food or drinks to be sold or consumed during indoor sports events until the mask mandate is lifted.”
Even though the university handed out masks at the entrance and attendees received a message before the game reminding them to wear masks, a large portion of people attending the game did not comply, according to KFOX-TV.
Event staff and law enforcement will ask those unwilling to comply with the new restrictions to leave the game, according to the Associated Press. Arvizu also said that the university might consider restricting access to future indoor athletic events until the state lifts the mandate.
NMSU Athletics Director Mario Moccia said in a news release that he hopes the new policies don’t deter fans from going to future games.
Other universities have established similar mask mandates at sporting events. However, unlike Loyola University Chicago, which banned concession sales until COVID-19 cases decrease to a level that is considered safe, NMSU’s suspension will remain until the state lifts its mask mandate.
Duke University suspended food and beverage sales during indoor athletic events “for the foreseeable future.”
Ohio State University closed concession sales at all university athletic events and won’t allow any food or drinks to be served at any in-person meeting, gathering or event.
Las Cruces Public Schools, in the same area as NMSU, suspended concession sales, prohibiting food and drink at indoor sporting events.