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New Mexico to allow limited patio dining at restaurants

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Limited outdoor dining will be allowed at New Mexico restaurants beginning Wednesday, under an amended public health order announced by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office.

Dine-in services inside restaurants and bars will remain prohibited, but the new order that will be taking affect allows for restaurants to offer dine-in service in outdoor seating areas at up to 50% of their outdoor seating capacity.

Tables must be placed at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart, no more than six people may be seated at any single table and no bar or counter seating will be allowed.

The emergency public health order mandates compliance with COVID-Safe Practices for Restaurants, which have been updated with an adjustment related to contact tracing. The requirement is as follows:

“To support contract tracing, offer all customers who visit the establishment with the opportunity to record their name and phone number or email address, along with the date and time of their visit, and retain such records for no less than four weeks from the date of collection.”

The governor said in a statement Tuesday that the move will allow restaurants an opportunity to prepare for a wider reopening next week.

“We continue to see sustained, consistent progress in our fight against this virus, which is a credit to the New Mexicans who have amended their behavior to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe,” she said. “I greatly look forward to being able to continue to ease the restrictions imposed on us by this heinous virus – provided that we continue on the right track.”

Officials with the New Mexico Restaurant Association said the change being adopted this week will allow for restaurants to train staff and implement other state requirements before opening June 1.

However, restaurants in some parts of the state are being asked to consider holding back. Carol Wight, the association’s chief executive, pointed to those in Dona Ana County, where officials have reported a higher rate of transmission.

The changes also won’t apply to the northwestern counties of Cibola, McKinley and San Juan. State officials said that region remains under the stricter health order that was imposed in early May but is on track for broader reopenings beginning June 1.

New Mexico reported an additional 107 positive tests for the coronavirus Tuesday, bringing the statewide total to 7,130. McKinley and San Juan counties account for more than half of the state’s cases. Three additional deaths were reported Tuesday, bringing the state’s total to 325. More than 200 people remain hospitalized.

The state Health Department also is reporting new cases among federal inmates being held at lockups in New Mexico. For example, a federal immigration processing center in Otero County has 92 cases while 16 of the federal inmates at the Torrance County Detention Facility have tested positive.

For most people, the virus causes 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.

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