ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With the Fourth of July weekend approaching, the governor is reminding us that anyone traveling to the state of New Mexico must self-isolate for 14 days. Is that rule being enforced? People said they understand that we cannot monitor every single person who travels to New Mexico, but they said the least we can do is man the self-quarantine information table at the airport.
People are traveling to New Mexico. “We are coming from Providence, Rhode Island,” traveler Darren Ferrell said. “We are going to Albuquerque and Santa Fe.”
The Albuquerque Sunport expects an average of more than 4,000 passengers a day this Fourth of July weekend. “We determined that it was time to go on vacation, and New Mexico is a good destination,” Ferrell said. “It seems to be one of the lowest infection rates in the country.”
Even with the governor’s travel order in place requiring a 14-day self-quarantine for people arriving into the state, passengers said no one is taking it seriously. “I do not really think people are following it,” traveler Phyllis Duncan said.
That may be because the information table at the largest airport in the state is unmanned. That is where a worker is supposed to inform people about the quarantine. In other states, people must sign paperwork, share their information and speak with an agent about the quarantine. That is not the case here. “It is a poster,” Ferrell said.
News 13 received a photo Wednesday of the table unmanned. Thursday afternoon, nothing had changed until we called the airport. They set up the table within ten minutes and blamed a change in shift for the absence. “We saw the sign coming in,” Ferrell said. “We read the sign, and understood what the sign said and are just making our way anyway.”
Wednesday, the governor expanded her order to include car travel as well. “Driving in I saw a lot of license plates from all over the country,” Duncan said.
They are asking the state’s tourism and hospitality industries to help enforce it. “I really don’t know how we are going to do that,” Prakash Sundaram with Total Management Systems said. “I mean, it is not like we can lock people in their rooms and tell them you can’t leave.”
This is leaving some wondering what is the point of adding restrictions if we aren’t enforcing the ones that already exist. “We are not going to self-quarantine for 14 days when we arrive here,” Ferrell said. “No way.”
Airport workers said the table was manned constantly at the beginning of the pandemic and has been sporadic since. The airport initially told News 13 that it is the Department of Health’s responsibility to staff the table, but the Department of Health told us it is actually the city’s. The airport now admits they do not have enough people to staff it full-time, and they are working to fix that.
The governor’s office said the Department of Health can get a court order to mandate quarantine if someone is found to be flagrantly non-compliant. DOH also said they have done that three times so far.
Here is the full statement from the Sunport:
In support of the NMDOH initiative, when they made us aware of staffing shortages, we agreed to support them with staffing the COVID Info Table with our employees when available. We’re working on a plan to increase the staffing and are requesting help from the DOH to provide health professionals to do so. It’s important to note, the info table is just one source of information about COVID guidelines at the Sunport. There are also large, bright, prominently-displayed signs and additional information on the table. We’re providing free face masks to travelers, have information on our website, rotating PA announcements and are providing updates on our social media platforms.