NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Anyone who travels out of state and returns or comes into New Mexico is now required to self-quarantine for two weeks. The governor announced the executive order on July 1, saying drastic measures need to be taken to slow the spread of COVID-19. So how will the 14-day quarantine be enforced?
“Look, enforcing the 14-day quarantine is tricky, and I want to be careful that it’s all voluntary,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham during her July 1 press conference.
In a new Executive Order, Gov. Lujan Grisham is now ordering anyone coming into New Mexico from out-of-state to self-quarantine for two weeks. She’s also asking the state’s tourism and hospitality industry to help enforce it.
“Really I don’t know how we’re gonna do that, I mean it’s not like we can lock people in their rooms and say you can’t leave,” explained Prakash Sundaram, President, and CEO of Total Management Systems, which operates hotels in the metro and around the state.
Sundaram is part of an industry that’s already suffered one of the biggest economic blows in the pandemic. “Our federal assistance is basically gone right now,” said Sundaram. “Hotel owners are basically keeping their properties open out of their savings, out of their personal savings. That’s what’s happening in our business right now.”
The quarantine doesn’t apply to essential workers who must travel for work. Anyone passing through New Mexico for less than two weeks is required to self-isolate for the duration of their presence in the state.
Lots of people who are traveling to New Mexico are tourists, and people driving through the state. “I think that rather than check into a hotel room in Santa Fe and hunker down for two weeks, people will simply be canceling or delaying their plans,” explained Lilia Chacon, Communications Director for the City of Santa Fe.
Places like Santa Fe have seen a recent rise in out-of-state travelers this summer. The travel quarantine is now putting hotels, restaurants, and small business owners across the state in a difficult position.
“I don’t think that they will be put in a position to be a jailer or an enforcer,” said Chacon. “I think that people will change their plans,” she added, expecting more cancelations from those who planned summer travel.
When asked if he’ll direct staff to refuse business if a customer refuses to quarantine, Sundaram replied, “That’s gonna be a difficult call for us. We’re in the business of providing hospitality, but we’re also in the business of providing a basic need – which is shelter.”
“We have a hotel out in Gallup, New Mexico which is right on the Arizona border and a lot of our traffic is passing through, and we don’t know their circumstances,” said Sundaram. “We’re gonna try our best in our company to make the traveling public aware of the COVID-safe practices,” he added.
Sundaram and other businesses in the hospitality industry are already part of the New Mexico Safe Promise Program, committed to practicing COVID-safe business. He and others say they’ll continue doing their best to try and stay afloat, and keep people safe.
With the onus on small business owners and hotels to make sure people are following the public health orders, Sundaram said they could use the public’s help. “In order to honor your local small businesses, keep each other safe – wear the masks,” he said. “It’s not a big ask whether you believe in it or not, it’s not a big ask.”
“I recognize what that does to tourism, and what that does to an industry that’s reliant on folks, but I don’t see a productive way without a 14-day quarantine,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. Instead of traveling out of state, the governor encouraged New Mexicans to book a ‘stay-cation’ at a local hotel to support local businesses.