New Mexico Eases Pandemic Restrictions as Virus Relents | New Mexico News


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is preparing to ease restrictions on some mass gatherings and business activities in response to a gradual decline in average daily COVID-19 cases and deaths statewide.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham scheduled a news conference Thursday afternoon to review amendments to a public health order that currently requires face masks in public, limits public gatherings to four people and requires long-distance travelers to self-quarantine.

Changes that take effect Saturday will allow people to dine indoors at restaurants in limited numbers for the first time since mid-July. And slightly more people will be able to congregate at houses of worship for religious services.

Public school classrooms are closed across the state as students follow lessons from home using remote technology that runs the gamut from live video-conference meetings to telephone calls.

In other pandemic-related news:

—Unemployment insurance benefits are getting a $300 weekly boost from the federal government.

The state Workforce Solutions Department announced Wednesday that its grant application for lost wage assistance was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The $300 weekly increase applies retroactively to a three-week period beginning in late July. That’s when a larger, $600 weekly federal supplement ran out. Standard unemployment benefits in New Mexico provide up to $461 weekly to individuals.

— New Mexico’s seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate for COVID-19 has decreased over the past two weeks, going from 2.6% on Aug. 12 to 2.1% on Wednesday, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

Comparing seven-day averages of new cases smooths out anomalies in the data, including delays in daily test results.

As of Wednesday, state health officials have identified 24,732 positive cases and 755 deaths linked to the pandemic.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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