New Mexico Public Education Department recommending masks for outdoor sporting events

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The latest guidance from the New Mexico Public Education Department recommends that participants, spectators and school officials at outdoor sporting events wear masks in order to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus.

The change from a mandate to a recommendation came about just hours after the PED released its latest toolkit, which states "all participants (students/staff/spectators) must wear a mask for all activities both indoors and outdoors as a minimum."

The mandate announcement, released early Tuesday afternoon, was later cited as a "miscommunication". The mandate, as originally written, was to have gone into effect immediately for all county schools, as well as most schools across the state.

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Less than three hours later, an announcement to athletic directors across the state from Sally Marquez of the New Mexico Activities Association, stated that the NMPED issuing of a mandate was incorrect.

The toolkit, from the NMPED also states, "It is recommended, but not required, that unvaccinated individuals wear masks outdoors when participating in outdoor play, recess, and physical education activities."

The mandate would have had dramatic effects not just for prep football, but also soccer and cross country athletes. Last week, the NMPED made it mandatory for most fans and participants of indoor sports, like volleyball, to wear masks.

The most recent change in protocol would have affected most of the 33 counties in the state, with exceptions to Union and Harding County in the northeast portion of the state. 

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Farmington's Italia Quezada fires a shot and scores a goal on Thursday, March 18, 2021, at Hutchison Stadium in Farmington.

On the NMAA's official Twitter page, an update was posted just after 5:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, stating "With updated guidance from the (PED), indoor sports is 100 percent mask wearing. Outdoor sports is recommended mask wearing no matter the county."

The latest release from the NMPED also does not leave out the possibility of restrictions on attendance at sporting events coming at some point in time to those who haven't been vaccinated or cannot show proof of vaccination.

"Spectators could be prohibited or severely limited, and/or participation in sports might be limited to only those who provide proof of vaccination," according to the NMPED release.

The mandate would have had an immediate impact on the prep football season, particularly for Kirtland Central, scheduled to play Saturday afternoon against St. Pius X in Albuquerque, where the forecast is calling for high temperatures in the low 90's.

The guidance from the NMPED comes after the latest tracking information from the Centers of Disease Control show a near-22 percent uptick in COVID-19 cases in San Juan County over the last seven days, as well as a 28 percent increase in new hospital admissions.

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680