FAQ: What you need to know about New Mexico’s Public Health Emergency Order

Coronavirus Resources

Beginning Dec 2, the state transitioned into a Red, Yellow, Green opening system.

The purpose of the amended Public Health Emergency Order is to further restrict business operations and public gatherings to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in New Mexico. The initial public health emergency order was announced on March 11, 2020.

Public Health Order Red to Green

Q: What is different about this public health order?

A: According to the Governor’s Office, the Red to Green framework enables local communities to shed burdensome restrictions as soon as public health data show the virus is retreating within their borders. See New Mexico COVID-19 Red, Yellow, Green Level Definitions

The Red to Green public health order is designed to provide local communities the flexibility to operate more day-to-day activities while assuring public health requirements in each jurisdiction align with the risks presented by and are strong enough to blunt the spread of the virus within that jurisdiction.

Q: Does this apply to all counties in New Mexico?

A: Yes

Q: How long will the new PHO run through?

A: The state’s public health order that includes county-by-county “red to green” framework will be in effect until Dec. 30, 2020 or until amended.

Q: Are all businesses closed?

A: No, almost every category of business or nonprofit is permitted to operate to some extent. See New Mexico COVID-19 Red, Yellow, Green Level Definitions

Q: How is each of the Red, Yellow, Green levels determined?

A: The average COVID-19 test positivity and the incidence of new COVID-19 cases per capita determine what level a county is in. See New Mexico COVID-19 Red, Yellow, Green Level Definitions

Q: Where can I see my county’s level?

A: The Department of Heath Red to Green dashboard will be updated every other Wednesday beginning December 2, 2020. See Red, Yellow, Green Dashboard

Q: What do the Red, Yellow and Green Levels mean?

A: Each Level has a different set of standards depending on the spread of the virus within a community, as determined by COVID-19 public health data. The Red Level signifies very high risk, the Yellow Level signifies high risk and the Green Level signifies medium risk. See New Mexico COVID-19 Red, Yellow, Green Level Definitions


Q: What qualifies as a(n)…

Essential Business?

“Essential businesses” means any business or non-profit entity falling within one or more of the following categories:

  1. Health care operations including hospitals, walk-in-care health facilities, phannacies, medical wholesale and distribution, home health care workers or aides for the elderly, emergency dental facilities, nursing homes, residential health care facilities, research facilities, congregate care facilities, intermediate care facilities for those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, supportive living homes, home health care providers, drug and alcohol recovery support services, and medical supplies and equipment manufacturers and providers;
  2. Homeless shelters, food banks, and other services providing care to indigent or needy populations;
  3. Childcare facilities;
  4. Grocery stores, supermarkets, food banks, farmers’ markets and vendors who sell food, convenience stores, and other businesses that generate more than one-third of their revenue from the sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet food, animal feed or supplies, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other consumable food and drink products;
  5. Farms, ranches, and other food cultivation, processing, or packaging operations;
  6. Infrastructure operations including, but not limited to, public works construction, commercial and residential construction and maintenance, self-storage facilities, airport operations, public transportation, airlines, taxis, private transportation providers, transportation network companies, water, gas, electrical, oil drilling, oil refining, natural resources extraction or mining operations, nuclear material research and enrichment, those attendant to the repair and construction of roads and highways, gas stations, solid waste collection and removal, trash and recycling collection, processing and disposal, sewer, data and internet providers, data centers, technology support operations, and telecommunications systems;
  7. Manufacturing operations involved in food processing, manufacturing agents, chemicals, fertilizer, pharmaceuticals, sanitary products, household paper products, microelectronics/semi-conductor, primary metals manufacturers, electrical equipment, appliance, and component manufacturers, and transportation equipment manufacturers;
  8. Services necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of residences or essential businesses including security services, towing services, custodial services, plumbers, electricians, and other skilled trades;
  9. Veterinary and livestock services, animal shelters and facilities providing pet adoption, daycare, or boarding services;
  10. Media services;
  11. Automobile repair facilities, bike repair facilities, and retailers who generate the majority of their revenue from the sale of automobile or bike repair products;
  12. Utilities, including their contractors, suppliers, and supportive operations, engaged in power generation, fuel supply and transmission, water and wastewater supply;
  13. Hardware stores;
  14. Laundromats and dry cleaner services;
  15. Crematoriums, funeral homes, and cemeteries;
  16. Banks, credit unions, insurance providers, licensed check cashing businesses, payroll services, brokerage services, and investment management firms;
  17. Businesses providing mailing and shipping services;
  18. Laboratories and defense and national security-related operations supporting the United States government, a contractor to the United States government, or any federal entity;
  19. Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, but only where necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities; and
  20. Logistics and other businesses that store, transport, or deliver groceries, food, materials, goods, or services directly to residences, retailers, government institutions, or essential businesses.

Essential Retail Space?

Are any business that regularly sells goods or services directly to consumers or end-users at the business location and includes, but is not limited to, the following “essential businesses”: grocery stores, supermarkets, food banks, farmers’ markets and vendors who sell food, convenience stores, and other businesses that generate more than one-third of their revenue from the sale of canned food, dry goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet food, animal feed or supplies, fresh meats, fish, and poultry, and any other consumable food and drink products; automobile repair facilities, bike repair facilities, and retailers who generate the majority of their revenue from the sale of automobile or bike repair products; hardware stores; laundromats; and dry cleaner services.

Food and Drink Establishment?

These include restaurants, breweries, wineries, distillers, cafes, coffee shops, or other similar establishments that offer food or drink. For purposes of this section, “breweries” are those businesses licensed pursuant to NMSA 1978, Section 60-6A-26.1; “distillers” are those businesses licensed pursuant to NMSA 1978, Section 60-6A-1; and “wineries” are those businesses licensed pursuant to NMSA 1978, Section 60-A-11.

Close-Contact Business?

These include include barbershops, hair salons, group fitness classes, tattoo parlors, nail salons, spas, massage therapy services, esthetician clinics, tanning salons, guided raft tours, guided balloon tours, bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, and personal training services.

Outdoor Recreational Facility?

These include include outdoor golf courses, public swimming pools, ski basins, youth programs, youth livestock shows, horse-racing tracks, botanical gardens, and outdoor zoos..

Close-Contact Recreational Facility?

These include indoor movie theaters, indoor museums with interactive displays or exhibits and other similar venues, miniature golf, arcades, amusement parks, aquariums, casinos, concert venues, professional sports venues, event venues, bars, dance clubs, performance venues, go-kart courses, automobile racetracks, adult entertainment venues, and other places of recreation or entertainment. For purposes of this section, a “bar” is defined as any business that generated more than half of its revenue from the sale of alcohol during the preceding fiscal year.

House of Worship?

This means any church, synagogue, mosque, or other gathering space where persons congregate to exercise their religious beliefs.

Place of Lodging ?

Hotels, motels, RV parks, and short-term vacation rentals.

Q: What if my business or nonprofit is not identified in any of the categories of the public health order or in the “red-to-green” levels framework?

A: According to the Governor’s Office, any entities that are not identified explicitly as an “essential business,” “close-contact business,” “outdoor recreational facility,” “food and drink establishment,” “place of lodging” or “close-contact recreational facility” may operate under the following requirements for each county level:

  • Red Level: At 25% of maximum capacity or with 75 customers at one time, whichever is smaller
  • Yellow Level: At 25% of maximum capacity or 125 customers at one time, whichever is smaller
  • Green Level: At 50% of maximum capacity

Information for Parents

Q: When will schools reopen?

A: Each school district adheres to the plan they submitted to the Public Education Department (PED). Check with your school district for any new updates however, according to PED’s “Reentry Guidance” published on June 20, 2020 and as updated from time to time thereafter, schools shall operate with a maximum occupancy of25% of any individual enclosed indoor space, such as any classroom, as determined by the relevant fire marshal or fire department, with the occupancy restriction herein to govern in the event of any discrepancy with the “Reentry Guidance.”

Q: When can kids participate in school sports?

A: The New Mexico Activities Association’s board of directors has delayed the start of high school sports by four weeks until February 2020 as coronavirus cases continue to increase across the state. Association Executive Director Sally Marquez said the board voted that Feb. 1 is the latest the association would be able to get all sports played this academic year. The new schedule allows fall sports including football, cross-country, volleyball and soccer to begin preseason workouts on Feb. 1. The decision is dependent on Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who can approve or deny the start dates for activities.

Q: Are childcare services still open? Can my babysitter come to my house? 

A: Yes. Child care facilities that remain open must have heightened cleaning and social distancing requirements.

Additional Information

Q: What are New Mexico travel restrictions?

A: See FAQ: Executive Order Traveling to New Mexico

Q: Can businesses be open if they have four (4) or more rapid responses?

A: An “essential business” may be permitted to continue operating if the Department of Health, after consultation with the New Mexico Environment Department, determines that the business is a necessary provider of goods or services within the community in light of geographic considerations. Further, “essential businesses” that test each employee every two weeks and regularly provide contact tracing data to the Environment Department shall not be subject to closure under this provision. See COVID-19 Safe Practices

Q: Are State Parks open?

A: Day-use will reopen at 32 State Parks for New Mexico residents only beginning Thursday, December 3rd. Camping and overnight use will be closed through the end of the month.

Limitations on Visitors:

  • Only New Mexico residents may enter New Mexico State Parks.
  • Visitors must show either a valid New Mexico license plate, a New Mexico driver’s license or ID card, a New Mexico vehicle registration, a federal document attesting to residency, or a military ID to be admitted to a State Park.

Q: What is “Mass Gatherings” mean?

A: “Mass gathering” means any public gathering, private gathering, organized event, ceremony, parade, funeral, or any other grouping that brings together a specified number of individuals in a single room or connected space, confined outdoor space, or open outdoor space. “Mass gatherings” also includes coordinated events in which individuals gather in vehicles. “Mass gathering” does not include the presence of any number of individuals where those individuals regularly reside. “Mass gathering” does not include individuals who are public officials or public employees in the course and scope of their employment.

Q. Are face-coverings required?

A: Yes. Unless a healthcare provider instructs otherwise, all individuals shall wear a mask or multi layer cloth face covering in public settings except when eating or drinking. Masks with vents do not satisfy this requirement. “Retail spaces” may not allow a person who is without a mask or multi-layer cloth face covering to enter the premises except where that person is in possession of a written exemption from a healthcare provider.

Private educational institutions serving children and young adults from pre-Kindergarten through 12th Grade, including home-schools serving children who are not household members, shall adhere to the face covering.

Q: Is this mandatory or just guidance? 

A: The “Public Health Emergency Order” is mandatory to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 in New Mexico. 

Q: What happens if I don’t comply with this order? 

A: New Mexico State Police is in the position to hold businesses and people accountable. In the event businesses are not compliant, officers will:

  • First issue a written warning along with a cease and desist order.
  • On a second violation, the business will receive a citation under the Public Health Act
  • A third or subsequent violation will be sent to the Department of Health where businesses will face a civil penalty of up to $5,000.00.

“Public Health Act” according to New Mexico statue: “means an infection, a disease, a syndrome, a symptom, an injury or other threat that is identifiable on an individual or community level and can reasonably be expected to lead to adverse health effects in the community;”

Q: Who do I contact to report non-compliance?

A: Email covid.enforcement@state.nm.us include:

  • Date and time of the observed violation,
  • City,
  • County,
  • Business name and business address

Q: Should I stock up on food, necessities like toilet paper and medicines? 

A: No. People will continue to be able to purchase food, toilet paper and medicine. However, people should only go to the grocery store once per week. Stores selling necessary items like grocery stores, pharmacies and hardware stores will remain open. 

Q: Will there be a limit on items I can purchase?

A: Yes. In order to minimize the shortage of health care supplies and other necessary goods, grocery stores and other retailers are hereby directed to limit the sale to three items per individual of:

  • Medications
  • Durable medical equipment
  • Baby formula
  • Diapers
  • Sanitary care products
  • Hygiene products

New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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