Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Thursday, Feb. 17 that the statewide indoor mask mandate would be lifted effective immediately.
During the press briefing at the New Mexico state Capitol where it was announced, Lujan Grisham explained that this decision was due to a projection of lower hospitalization rates despite continued high case counts. There has already been a 37% decrease in hospitalizations, which has freed up hospital resources, according to a Feb. 17 press release from the Governor's Office.
“Given the continued drop in hospitalizations and the lessening of the burden on our hospitals, it’s time to end the mask mandate. With vaccines, boosters and effective treatment options widely available, we have the tools we need to protect ourselves and keep our fellow New Mexicans safe,” read a statement from Lujan Grisham in the press release.
Masks will still be required in health care facilities such as hospitals, assisted living centers and hospice facilities, as well as in correctional facilities, according to the updated public health order. K-12 schools’ mask regulations are now at the discretion of the school’s governing body. Privately owned businesses are also allowed to set their own mask requirements.
New Mexico was one of the last states to end indoor mask mandates. Only four states are still universally mandating masks indoors: Washington, Oregon, Illinois and Hawaii.
UNM mask mandate pending review
The University of New Mexico will maintain its mask mandate until further notice (as of time of publication). The school’s mandate is currently under administrative review with no set timeline regarding when a decision will be made as to whether masks will continue to be required, according to UNM spokesperson Cinnamon Blair.
“(The administrators) still have to review the public health order and look at the campus conditions that we have, which you can find on the dashboard,” Blair said.
Currently, nearly half of the UNM student population has been confirmed to have received their booster shot, according to the UNM COVID Dashboard. There has been a recent steady decrease in confirmed cases on campus, with the 7-day rolling average dropping from an all-time high of 34.429 cases on Jan. 22 to 3.714 cases on Feb. 19.
The University will still be offering free mask options for students as the decision on the school’s mask mandate remains pending. The Associated Students of UNM are still working alongside Lobo Prevention Pack to hand out masks, and they will continue to provide them to students at various locations on campus, according to ASUNM President Gregory Romero.
“I personally appreciate the fact that they’re taking their time with this decision considering UNM is made up of so many different groups of people who obviously want different things and have different needs,” Romero said.
Romero emphasized his trust in the University administration to make a shrewd decision on the mask mandate that will have the largest positive impact on students, staff and faculty.
“I know that somebody will probably be upset either way but UNM, I think, made the correct decision when they first mandated the vaccine. I think they made the correct decision when they first implemented masks again, and so I trust our administration to make the right choice here for the health and safety of students here at UNM,” Romero said.
Zara Roy is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @zarazzledazzle