SANTA FE (BNM) - During a Wednesday, May 13 press conference and another one on Friday, May 15, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a limited reopening of houses of worship and new requirements to wear masks in public.
In a new public health order, to be released and in force May 16, Grisham will allow churches to reopen for worship at a limitation of 25 percent of "occupancy." She said the change was meant to begin allowing worshipers to attend in person and allow resumption of "baptisms, daily masses and counseling." She said she realizes that some houses of worship will choose to continue remote meetings for the time being.
Grisham acknowledged the "incredible work and leadership" demonstrated by New Mexico's faith-based community. A few minutes later she said she wanted to give a "shout out" and thank those communities for their work.
The northwest counties of the state (McKinley, San Juan and Cibola counties) were excluded from the limited opening for churches.
Grisham also said that some additional easing of restrictions may come on June 1. Specifically, she spoke about the possibility of more relaxed occupancy limits for houses of worship.
In a new personal safety step, the governor said the new order will require all New Mexicans to wear masks in public settings. She specifically mentioned that worship attenders needed to wear masks, except for those speaking, like clergy. Those public settings include both indoor and outdoor spaces. The only exceptions the order will allow are for eating, drinking or exercising in those settings. She demonstrated how to make a homemade mask from a bandana and explained that masks could be purchased or homemade. If individuals cannot make or purchase a mask, Grisham said the state, through its websites, will make homemade masks available at no cost.
The governor said that the changes and limitations were based upon the Johns Hopkins Hospital guidelines. Those guidelines address the number of people gathered for an activity, the length of time those individuals are in contact with one another and the intensity of the contact. She also said that changes in infections rates in the state could affect future decisions about reopening steps.
This article was updated on May 15 to reflect updated news from governors office about changing the worship occupancy from 10% to 25% and adding clarification from the governor that worshipers should wear masks. Clergy who are speaking do not have to wear a mask, she said.