March 15, 2020

State orders restrictions on capacity of restaurants, bars (Updated)

All restaurants, bars, breweries, eateries and other food establishments in New Mexico will not be able to operate at more than 50 percent maximum occupancy or 50 percent of seating capacity.

That is part of a change to the public health emergency the state ordered on Thursday, and a further restriction aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, a type of coronavirus, in New Mexico. As of Sunday, 17 people in New Mexico had tested positive for COVID-19.

The order by Secretary of Health Kathy Kunkel will begin at 9 a.m. on Monday. 

The order also says that tables and booths will not be able to seat more than six people and that all occupied tables and booths must be separated by at least six feet.

“The best thing New Mexicans can do right now is self-isolate and limit person-to-person contact,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “We all have to pull together in this effort. Keep washing your hands with soap and water regularly. Stay at home. Remember your neighbors and buy only what you need when you are shopping.”

The amendment by Kunkel also ordered the closure of all casinos and horse racing facilities. This does not apply to casinos on tribal lands, but several casinos on tribal lands have already closed during the coronavirus crisis.

The state already banned “mass gatherings” of more than 100 people, but this did not include restaurants or bars. It instead applied to events in arena, theaters, auditoriums or stadiums, most of which are one-time events.

The order also exempted retail stores, grocery stores, courthouses, correction and detention facilities, hospitals and other areas where a large amount of people could gather.

The state also closed all public schools for three weeks, beginning Monday.

This change by the state follows a nationwide trend as governors tighten restrictions. Four states, California, Ohio, Illinois and Massachusetts, have already ordered restaurants and bars to be closed. Other states have implemented similar restrictions as New Mexico.

Testing has accelerated over recent days, and more positive tests are expected.

The state asks for people to remain home as much as possible and only leave their houses for essential outings.

The state also says anyone who is showing signs of COVID-19, which includes fever, cough or trouble breathing, should call the DOH at 1-855-600-3453.

Update: Added information about horse racing tracks and casinos.