Gov. amends public health order; indoor dining returns Saturday plus more

Coronavirus New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and New Mexico health officials will hold a news conference on Thursday, August 27 at 3 p.m. to discuss amendments to the state’s emergency Public Health Order. These amendments will impact food and drink establishments, houses of worship and will reflect the state’s recent progress against COVID-19.

New Mexico’s current emergency Public Health Order expires on Friday, August 28. Starting Saturday, August 29, the following changes among others will be implemented:

  • Houses of worship may operate at 40% of the maximum occupancy of any closed building which is an increase from 25% in accordance with COVID-safe practices. Houses of worship may, as before, conduct services outdoors or provide services through audiovisual means.
  • Food and drink establishments (restaurants, breweries, wineries, distillers, cafes, coffee shops or other similar establishments) may provide indoor dining service at 25% of the maximum occupancy in accordance with COVID-safe practices.
  • Food and drink establishments can continue to provide outdoor dining options, carryout, and delivery services, in accordance with COVID-safe practices. Tables that are inside or outside must be spaced at least six feet apart and no more than six patrons are permitted at a single table.

Restaurants like Garcia’s Kitchen are excited to have the option to offer indoor dining to their customers, even if that means it’s at a limited capacity.

“I think it’s really going to give people a lot of hope. It’s going to give people a lot of hope that things are going in the right direction,” said Dan Garcia, one of the owners of Garcia’s Kitchen. “So if the 25 percent works then we’ll go 50 percent, then we’ll go to 100 percent. And hopefully, things are just going to go back to normal.”

The governor approved indoor dining at 50% on June 1, but that lasted six weeks before the governor pulled the plug as COVID-19 cases started soaring. The New Mexico Restaurant Association (NMRA), which has fought the restrictions said Wednesday’s announcement provides a glimmer of hope.

“Something is better than nothing,” said Carol Wight, CEO of NMRA.”I think at least they aren’t going to remain hopeless. You know, there’s hope for more capacity, there’s hope that customers will start returning to restaurants in bigger numbers.”

Wight claims the pandemic has already led to the permanent closure of more than 200 restaurants around the state.

During the press conference, the governor and health officials are scheduled to discuss these as well as other amendments to the Public Health Order in addition to preparations for fall semester public schooling. The forthcoming new emergency public health order will be effective through at least mid-September.

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