Health officials at the state of New Mexico on Tuesday issued public health guidance to New Mexicans to ensure residents are able to safely navigate the holiday season amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed the lives of over 2,000 New Mexicans.
“This holiday season will not be what we’re used to,” said Health Secretary-designate Tracie C. Collins, M.D. “We all wish it could be. We’re all tired of the pandemic. We’d all love nothing more than to celebrate the holidays just as we always do, but the reality is that it’s just not safe. The best gift you can give your loved ones is keeping them COVID-free – so please celebrate the holidays safely with your own household members. Gathering for Christmas this year with friends and family from outside your own household is an extreme risk to the health and safety of yourself and your community.
“Remember: This is not forever,” said Secretary-designate Collins. “We are making progress, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But we have to stay strong. It’s not too late to cancel plans – no party is worth risking your life or the lives of your loved ones.”
“There are too many New Mexicans who will be missing treasured family members this holiday season because they were taken from us by COVID-19,” said Human Services Secretary David R. Scrase, M.D. “We can replace Christmas celebrations – we cannot replace you.”
Secretary Scrase noted that despite New Mexico’s progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19, there are counties where attending a mass gathering carries a 50/50 chance that someone at the gathering will have COVID-19 and could spread it to others, even without having symptoms.
“There is no zero-risk scenario for gathering with other people right now – even if you wear your masks, even if you keep your distance,” Sec. Scrase said. “Please don’t risk it. Please stay home this holiday.”
As a reminder, the state of New Mexico’s emergency public health order strictly prohibits mass gatherings, defined as a group of more than five individuals who do not regularly reside with one another. New Mexicans should stay home except for outings absolutely necessary for their health, safety or welfare. Persons arriving in New Mexico from “high-risk” states are required to physically separate from others in a residence or place of lodging for at least 14 days from the date of their entry into New Mexico or for the duration of their presence in the state, whichever is shorter.
HOLIDAY GUIDANCE AND SAFE ALTERNATIVES
- Do not travel to attend a holiday gathering – whether in New Mexico or out of state – to mix with another household, either of friends or family.
- Safe alternative: Traveling incurs unnecessary exposure risk. Celebrate the holidays at home. Wear a mask – covering both your nose and mouth – any time you leave the house, whether you are in contact or near other individuals or not.
- Do not gather for the holidays with non-household members.
- Safe alternative: Connect with friends and relatives over a video chat service. Share time at the table and holiday traditions remotely and safely.
- Do not spend unnecessary time shopping for groceries or gifts, and do not make unnecessary supplement trips to the store.
- Safe alternative: Order online or make arrangements for curbside pickup. Avoid as much person-to-person contact, and being in the presence of other individuals and especially groups, as much as possible.
- Do not host or attend a large gathering.
- Safe alternative: If you choose to host a gathering with individuals from outside your own household despite the risks, keep six feet of distance and wear facemasks. Consider setting up a table outside so as to minimize the person-to-person interactions indoors.
- Support local businesses
- Consider supporting local businesses by ordering takeout or delivery for smaller, non-traditional holidays meals, and by using safely distanced curbside pickup for any last-minute gift purchases. We can all go the extra mile in supporting small New Mexico businesses.
If you choose to attend a holiday gathering with others, you significantly raise the risk of not only contracting the virus yourself but spreading the virus to friends and loved ones.
If you insist upon taking unnecessary risks and attend or host a traditional holiday celebration, adopt the following safeguards from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Wear a mask
- Strictly limit the number of guests in attendance.
- Talk with guests ahead of time to set expectations for safely celebrating together.
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces and items between use.
- If celebrating indoors, make sure to open windows.
- Limit the number of people in food preparation areas.
- If sharing food, have one person serve food and use single-use options, like plastic utensils. Encourage guests to bring their own food and drink.
- Instruct guests to monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days after the event.
- Self-isolate after the gathering with others – symptoms can develop over the course of 2 weeks; even if you do not feel sick, or feel sick immediately, you can spread the virus