The statewide requirement that face masks be worn in all indoor public spaces, with only limited exceptions and regardless of vaccination status, has been extended, the governor’s office announced during a press conference last week.

The extended mask requirement is now effective through at least October 15. Under the public health order, all New Mexicans aged 2 and older will still be required to wear a face mask or covering while in an indoor public setting – except while eating or drinking – regardless of vaccination status.

The governor, acting upon the counsel and analysis of the state Medical Advisory Team and state health officials, may decide to extend or lift the mask requirement as necessary.

The latest data released by the New Mexico Department of Health showed that Socorro County’s COVID-19 positivity rate was 6.28 percent over the two weeks of Aug. 31-Sept. 13. That’s the percentage of tests that were positive. The other metric – new cases per 100,000 – was 35.7. Based on the old color-coded system, this would keep Socorro County in the red category.

The number of new cases in that two-week period was 86. The number of tests plus positive cases was 1,370.

DOH reports that the reimplemented facemask requirement has contributed to reducing viral transmission in the state over the last month; the state’s 7-day average COVID-19 test positivity rate was nine percent on August 16 and decreased to 6.5 percent as of September 14. But total statewide hospitalizations have remained generally steady over the past month and staffed hospital beds remain in short supply, as primarily unvaccinated individuals continue to spread a more infectious variant of the virus. Health officials, including at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, continue to recommend face masks be worn in indoor spaces as they are effective in limiting the spread of the more transmissible “Delta” variant.

“If not for the health of yourself, your family, your neighbors, and your colleagues, then for the continued economic recovery of our state and nation,” Lujan Grisham said. “I urge New Mexicans to get vaccinated, mask up and continue to social distance.”

The separate public health order requiring health care workers to be vaccinated and vaccinate-or-test requirements for school workers remains in place.

DOH says that vaccination continues to be the most effective tool against COVID-19. The state Department of Health reports there were 58 percent more vaccinations administered in August than in July.  In Socorro County, 72.9 percent of residents have had at least one shot, while 66.8 percent have completed their vaccinations series.

At the same time, around 30 percent of eligible New Mexicans are not yet fully unvaccinated, necessitating the continued use of face coverings in public settings as the infectious variant remains in circulation.

The mask requirement applies to all individuals aged 2 and older in all indoor public settings – except when eating or drinking. Masks are required for everyone in school buildings regardless of vaccination status. Businesses, houses of worship and other entities may enact stricter requirements at their discretion.

The second public health order, originally implemented last month, still requires all workers in New Mexico hospitals and congregate care facilities to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with only limited exceptions, and also requires school workers who are not yet fully vaccinated to be tested for COVID-19 once a week.