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New Mexico lifts pandemic restrictions on businesses

July 1, 2021 GMT
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FILE - In this June 11, 2021, file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks during a news conference at the state Capitol building in Santa Fe, N.M. The governor says all remaining pandemic-related public health restrictions on commercial and day-to-day activity in the state will be lifted July 1. Grisham made the declaration Friday, June 18 as state health officials continued to crunch the vaccination numbers. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)
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FILE - In this June 11, 2021, file photo, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham speaks during a news conference at the state Capitol building in Santa Fe, N.M. The governor says all remaining pandemic-related public health restrictions on commercial and day-to-day activity in the state will be lifted July 1. Grisham made the declaration Friday, June 18 as state health officials continued to crunch the vaccination numbers. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico lifted all pandemic-related restrictions on public gatherings and business operations on Thursday, marking the possible end to aggressive public health precautions more than 15 months after the local onslaught of COVID-19.

Business owners were hopeful as state health officials lifted occupancy limits and other restrictions on public and private venues that were imposed by the administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in response to the coronavirus.

While the state also ended its color-coded risk system for counties, state health officials said the campaign to get more people vaccinated will continue.

Turning the page, state Health Secretary Tracie Collins announced her return to academic life at the University of New Mexico after eight months at the helm of a crucial agency in the struggle to blunt the pandemic. The Health Department will be overseen by David Scrase, another leading figure in the state’s pandemic response as secretary of the New Mexico Human Services Department.

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, had set a goal of getting 60% of residents fully vaccinated two weeks before the reopening. That mark was missed, but she still opted to lift the restrictions on commercial and day-to-day activities as scheduled. The state now reports about 62% of eligible resident are vaccinated.

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“We did it New Mexico,”′ the governor proclaimed Thursday on social media.

With the restrictions lifted, all businesses across the state may operate at 100% capacity, and all limitations on mass gatherings are gone. Businesses and local governments may still adopt and require additional precautions at their discretion, state officials said.

The governor has faced criticism from business owners, parents and Republican lawmakers for her handling of the pandemic. The critics have pointed to the effects of the shutdown on small businesses around the state and the lost year of learning that resulted from the education system going virtual.

The governor maintained in a statement that sacrifices over the past year helped to save lives and reduce the spread of the virus.