Health Department: Increase of COVID-19 in restaurants prompts indoor dining closure

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexicans are once again no longer allowed to dine-in at a restaurant or brewery. It’s part of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s revised public health order in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. As the nation is seeing more cases, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham insists she’s relying on science and data to help guide New Mexico through the pandemic. Indoor dining right now, she says, is just too risky.

“Restaurants through no fault of their own just don’t have the right systems – when you’ve got 50% even capacity to mitigate, and you don’t have masks on to mitigate transmission,” Gov. Lujan Grisham explained during a July 9 press conference.

Gov. Lujan Grisham stated New Mexico has seen a 16% increase in infections in restaurants. Unlike an indoor gym where people can social distance and keep a mask on the entire time, eating and conversing indoors around others is a higher risk, she said.

“Restaurants didn’t create the infection, but having people who are asymptomatic who came to the restaurant posed a risk for their employees,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “We’re seeing a dramatic increase in the number of restaurants who now have a COVID-positive case and issue with their employees that are requiring them to have to shut down, get everyone tested, be in that rapid response environment. And so it’s clear, that high-risk, in-dining issue is significant, and this is a way we think we can get it immediately addressed.”

As of last week, the state’s rapid response team has had to intervene and do widespread testing at nearly 500 locations across the state, some of which are restaurants. The state has not released specific numbers on how many restaurants have COVID-19 outbreaks.

Under the revised public health order, restaurants and breweries can serve at 50% capacity for outdoor seating only, and still offer to-go and curbside services. Eliminating risks, Gov. Lujan Grisham said, are some of her only tools.

“I don’t have a vaccine, I don’t have a treatment course, I can’t see it,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “That’s all I have, and restricting where you can go. Those are the only two things in the toolbox, so I’m backing off, eliminating known risk, and pushing hard enforcement, masks, business COVID-safe practices.”

David Morgan with the New Mexico Department of Health told KRQE News 13 on Monday that “Food industries have made up the largest portion of COVID-19 workplace rapid responses and have already increased from previous weeks to last week. That’s because that is the main place where people go and do without a facemask for any length of time.”

The current public health order remains in effect from July 13 to July 30.

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