Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Saturday that houses of worship must now abide by a public health order banning mass gatherings to mitigate COVID-19 spread.
Houses of worship were previously exempt from the public health emergency order banning mass gatherings, defined as five or more people in a single confined space. That order was amended Saturday – find it attached.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many New Mexico congregations had already canceled in-person services before the amended order.
“I am so grateful for the support and cooperation from the vast majority of religious leaders of all faiths who have already made the difficult decision to cancel services in the interest of the health and safety of their members,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “I understand the tremendous social and spiritual burden this places on New Mexicans, but ultimately, we must do everything we can to limit the spread of COVID-19, including being absolutely clear that mass gatherings of any type are not permitted in houses of worship,” she said.
Of the 39 states that have implemented stay-at-home orders, only 11 now have exceptions for religious gatherings, and most of those require social distancing at services.
Most New Mexico churches, synagogues and mosques have already ended face-to-face gatherings, and many Christian churches are planning virtual Easter services via livestream, broadcast or other technical means.
“We know that you want to practice your faith, as you should. But this year we must remember that home is holy. The best thing you can do for your community is to stay there,” the governor said. “While this will be emotionally difficult for so many New Mexicans, public health must be the top priority. The only way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is by staying home and minimizing all person-to-person contact.”