SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico Health Secretary Kathy Kunkle announced Sunday she would strengthen the public health emergency order she issued Thursday amending restrictions on social gatherings to limit the incidence of COVID-19 in New Mexico.

Beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, March 16, the amended public health order directs that all restaurants, bars, breweries, eateries, and other food establishments shall operate at no greater than 50% of maximum occupancy and no greater than 50% of seating capacity. In addition, tables and booths may not seat more than six people, and all occupied tables and booths must be separated by at least six feet. Patrons may not be seated at bars and standing patrons will not be served.

The public health order prohibits gatherings of 100 or more but includes specific exemptions for shelters, retail or grocery stores, courthouses, correction and detention facilities, and hospitals, among others. The order defines mass gatherings as events that bring together 100 or more people in a single room or connected space like auditoriums, stadiums, arenas, and conference centers and theaters.

The order also clarifies that all casinos and horse racing facilities must close until April 10. This provision does not apply to casinos operating on tribal lands.

New Mexico health officials strongly advise residents to stay home to the greatest extent possible in order to limit person-to-person contact and to undertake only those outings that are essential to health, safety, and general welfare.