Mask Mandate Extended In This State

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Will it reduce cases?

After a rapid increase in Omicron cases and a high positivity rate, New Mexico has decided to extend COVID-19 health guidelines.

On Friday (December 7), Acting Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health, Dr. David Scrase, announced an emergency public health order.

The health order requires that everyone two years old or older wear a face mask in public indoor spaces with the exception of when eating or drinking.

The health order also stipulates that businesses, non-profits, and other establishments regularly visited by the public report any cases of COVID-19 to the New Mexico Environment Department in addition to adhering to COVID-Safe Practices, which include sending employees home who display COVID symptoms and encouraging social distancing.

During in-person instruction, public and private education institutions teaching K-12 –– including home school groups that serve non-household members –– and higher education institutions will need to adhere and enforce the wearing of face masks while abiding by other COVID-Safe practices.

These rules will remain in place for another month –– an extension from previous schedules –– and include a prerequisite for healthcare workers to be up-to-date regarding their COVID-19 vaccination status.

The extension of these guidelines came as New Mexico broke its record for the most number of daily COVID-19 cases. On Friday, the state reported 4,246 new infections and had a seven-day positivity rate of 23.3%, although many of these cases have been linked to the Omicron variant with its milder infection.

Despite the increase in cases, hospitalizations haven’t increased, although health officials warn against labeling Omicron “mild.” What hospital officials have acknowledged, though, is that most patients under care are being treated for issues unrelated to COVID, with a staffing shortage exacerbating the strain of healthcare facilities.

In a previous briefing, the Acting Secretary of New Mexico’s DOH also said he expected the Omicron variant to peak within “four to six weeks.”