Oct. 16—As New Mexico continues to record hundreds of new COVID-19 cases per day, the state on Friday extended a mandate that face masks be worn in all public indoor spaces through Nov. 12 as part of an ongoing effort to curb the spread of the deadly disease.
The decision to extend the statewide mask requirement comes as hospitals are once again headed toward implementing "crisis standards of care," in which they're forced to ration health care.
"Staffed hospital beds remain in dangerously short supply, as primarily unvaccinated individuals continue to spread a more infectious variant of the virus," the Governor's Office said in a news release.
Acting Health Secretary Dr. David Scrase said in a statement no one should take the availability of a hospital bed for granted.
"Many of us just assume that if we develop a serious illness, there will be an ICU bed available for us," said Scrase, who also serves as the state's human services secretary. "That has not been the case for every New Mexican over the past six weeks. It is not time to abandon basic precautions. Our hospital and health care partners remain incredibly, incredibly concerned about the serious illnesses they are dealing with and the pressure placed upon their institutions and personnel by these continuing infections."
Scrase also said tight-fitting masks make a difference in the fight against COVID-19.
The state reinstituted the mask mandate in August amid a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the delta variant.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's press secretary, Nora Meyers Sackett, wrote in an email the Department of Health reports compliance with the mask mandate is good.
"Of course some people are resistant, as you have no doubt observed in the course of your reporting, the same way there is resistance to vaccinations, all of which, driven at least in part by partisan disinformation, is contributing to the dangerous situation within New Mexico hospitals," she wrote.
Sackett, who lives in Albuquerque, wrote most people she sees in businesses when she goes out are wearing masks — "even outdoors at the farmers market on the weekend, many people wear masks in the crowd."
House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, an Artesia Republican, said in a statement renewal of the mask mandate reveals how "deep-set" Lujan Grisham's failures in combating COVID-19 have been.
"If New Mexico truly was on the leading edge of prevention and vaccination, then why is our state one of only a handful with a forced mask mandate?" he asked. "Even California, the state that Lujan Grisham desperately seeks approval from, has lifted mask mandates for vaccinated citizens."
Townsend said the governor was "addicted to this crisis and unlimited power."
The Governor's Office wrote in its news release Lujan Grisham may decide to extend or lift the mask mandate after Nov. 12 as necessary. She will act upon the counsel and analysis of the state Medical Advisory Team and state health officials, the news release states.
Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.