New Mexico official: Mass gatherings may be out for a year

May 23, 2020 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico state official says gatherings of more than 100 people may not be possible for more than a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning that sports stadiums, concert halls and conference centers in the state could remain empty for months.

“I know a lot of events have been canceled this year,” Tourism Secretary Jen Paul Schroer said. “We may not have the ability to do a mass gathering until we have a vaccine or herd immunity. It could be a year or 18 months.”

Schroer spoke Thursday during a webinar Thursday on reopening the state’s hospitality industry, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.


The office of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham concurred.

“It could be a long time before it is safe to have gatherings of more than 100,” Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said Friday.

The state has nearly 6,800 cases with 308 deaths as of Saturday, with more than half of the cases originating in McKinley and San Juan counties in the northwest corner of the state.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

In other developments:

— New Mexico has put up the help wanted sign in search of people to fill dozens of contact tracing positions as health officials monitor the spread of coronavirus around the state. The Health Department and the State Personnel Office began accepting applications Friday to fill 200 to 250 positions. The hiring will be done virtually, and the work will be done remotely.

— Aside from the standard Memorial Day weekend recognition of military personnel who have lost their lives, flags around the state have been ordered to fly at half-staff throughout the holiday weekend and on Monday under state and federal orders meant to honor and mourn those who have died of COVID-19.

— Officials in southern New Mexico are urging people to stay home for the holiday weekend. Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima said while it’s tempting for residents of Las Cruces and Dona Ana County to cross the state line to visit restaurants, stores and other attractions, he said the commercial activity underway in neighboring El Paso, Texas, doesn’t mean the coronavirus threat has gone away.