Is New Mexico’s public health order of mandatory masks being enforced?

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – It’s been about a week since Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the state would be ‘aggressively’ enforcing mask-wearing in public places. But is that happening?

A number of local police departments, including Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, Albuquerque Police Department, and Belen Police Department have said they’re deferring to State Police to enforce masks. The governor called for enforcement on July 1.

“I worked diligently with you, it was a partnership, to not have to go to mandatory masks to start with and secondly, just use positive reinforcement by our peers and that isn’t working. So, now we’re going to do enforcement and hold people accountable,” she said.

That doesn’t seem to be happening. Since that call for enforcement, New Mexico State Police said it has issued one citation for a mask violation at an Ace Hardware in Portales on July 5. Albuquerque Police Department said it hasn’t given out any citations for mask violations. KRQE News 13 asked the city why APD, one of the state’s largest law enforcement agencies, is not enforcing the state order.

“This weekend, the Attorney General created a mechanism for law enforcement agencies to issue these citations, so now APD officers may use that option in addition to the efforts of our Environmental Health Department, Fire Marshal’s Office and Code Enforcement that all work on enforcement and education for the State’s public health orders and will continue to do so,” said Jessie Damazyn, City of Albuquerque, spokesperson. 

Mayor Keller has said enforcement is up to State Police. “That’s actually up to State Police but certainly with respect to our department we’re going to handle it the same way as we’ve handled restaurant closures and occupancy and so forth so that means first education, maybe a series of warnings multiple steps before we would ever look at an actual fine,” said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller.

The governor’s office said that’s not the case. It sends out a memo to all law enforcement agencies in the state saying enforcement is the responsibility of both State Police and local law enforcement. In an emailed response, the state had this to say:

The Public Health Order has the full weight of law and should be enforced by all law enforcement statewide for the protection and safety of their communities.​…Bernalillo County has seen a skyrocketing number of cases in the past week – if law enforcement in the city and county don’t have an interest in protecting their constituents, they have a bigger problem than what the governor thinks.

The penalty for violating the mask order is a $100 fine.

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