Gov. Lujan Grisham announces New Mexico will retire COVID-19 restrictions, reopen July 1

Algernon D'Ammassa
Las Cruces Sun-News

This story has been updated.

SANTA FE – Shortly after the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus arrived in New Mexico in March 2020, the state set down some of the earliest and strictest restrictions on nonessential businesses and public life compared to other states.

The evolving public health orders that have become part of daily life in New Mexico, which have drawn numerous and largely unsuccessful court challenges and dominated state politics are now set to end in two weeks. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday that New Mexico will essentially reopen July 1, retiring restrictions on mass gatherings and business activity that have been in place since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the state last year. 

In April, the governor announced her intention to reopen the state once 60 percent of residents age 16 and up were fully vaccinated against the disease, aiming to hit the mark by the end of June. 

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declares her intention to seek reelection during a campaign rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Thursday, June 3, 2021, as protesters chanted loudly beyond the walls of the outdoor venue.

By mid-day Friday, the state Department of Health said 59.4 percent of that population had received either the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or their final dose of vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, which require two shots. 

Anticipating more state vaccination data as well as data from federal agencies administering vaccines to residents as well as data, still under review, on residents who were vaccinated in neighboring states, Lujan Grisham's administration made the announcement with confidence it had reached the mark where, after the two weeks required to develop full immunity, the 60 percent goal will have been met. 

That doesn't mean the state's push to vaccinate as many people as possible will stop, the governor indicated in a written statement.

"We need to be better than 60 percent fully vaccinated,” Lujan Grisham wrote. “The variants across the globe and in the U.S. present very serious risks to unvaccinated people, even young people. We all, each of us, have the power to stop the serious illnesses and deaths: Get your shot. It’s safe. It works. It’s that simple. Don't wait for COVID to infect you or someone you love and wish you'd decided differently."

Restrictions lapse in two weeks

Beginning July 1, New Mexico's color-coded system to local public health restrictions, which has been in place since December, will be formally retired.

For the past three weeks, the entire state had been operating at the least restrictive Turquoise level, with counties ensured against sliding to more restrictive levels of public health orders. 

Beginning July 1, all places of businesses will be cleared to operate at 100 percent of their maximum occupancy, indoors or outdoors, and the social gathering limit of 150 will lapse. 

Some visiting the Mesilla Plaza on Wednesday, May 19, 2021, wear masks while others do not.

Businesses will be able to require stricter precautions for employees or customers as they deem fit, including maintaining physical distance between individuals or face masks. 

The state dropped its face mask mandate for fully vaccinated individuals in May. While they are still required in public for those who are unvaccinated, consistent with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though adherence is effectively voluntary.

Previous travel restrictions and quarantine requirements had already been retired, and the state dropped capacity limits on congregations at places of worship in April. 

Cash for jabs helped state meet goal

After vaccination rates slowed statewide, New Mexico emulated other states such as California and Ohio, dipping into federal pandemic relief money to offer cash incentives as a lure for residents to get their COVID-19 shots. 

On June 1, he state health department and the New Mexico Lottery jointly launched the "Vax 2 the Max" sweepstakes, with $10 million in cash and other prizes available for vaccinated residents.

Monday through Thursday of this week, the health department used $100 cash payments to residents getting their second dose or the single Johnson & Johnson shot in a final push to meet the governor's 60 percent goal. 

Socorro Zuniga receives a $100 incentive the New Mexico Department of Health offers for getting a vaccine shot at a vaccination event at the Las Cruces Convention Center in Las Cruces on Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor's press secretary, said the amount spent on the $100 payments was roughly estimated to be $750,000. 

The three vaccines approved under emergency use authorizations in the United States are available in New Mexico for ages 16 and up, while the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is approved for ages 12 and up. Moderna is currently seeking similar approval for its product. All three vaccines are still undergoing the full clinical trial process. 

The New Mexico county with the highest percentage of its population vaccinated was Los Alamos County, with 81.5 percent per health department data. The second-highest, with 77.9 percent, was McKinley County — one of the hardest-hit counties in the opening months of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. 

Roosevelt County presented the lowest rate of vaccinations, with 28.3 percent of its eligible population. 

The vaccines are available free of charge. Appointments are scheduled online at or by phone at 855-600-3453.

Algernon D'Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.