Supreme Court weighs New Mexico restrictions on restaurants

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The administration of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is defending before the state Supreme Court its decision to ban indoor restaurant service as a reasonable precaution against the coronavirus.

A challenge to the indoor dining prohibition was in the hands of the state Supreme Court on Friday after a flurry of written briefings were filed by the governor's office, restaurants that oppose the ban and Republican officials who side with dissident restaurants.

Lujan Grisham on Thursday announced the extension of a stay-at-home health order that not only limits restaurant service but also mandates masks in public and prohibits public gatherings of more than four people. Minor changes are being drafted that would relax self-quarantine provisions for travelers entering or returning to New Mexico.

The 7-day rolling average of daily deaths, infections and the rate of positive tests for COVID-19 have all increased over the past two weeks, according to an Associated Press analysis of data collected by the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

There were 203 newly confirmed cases per 100,000 people in New Mexico over the past two weeks, which ranks 22nd among states for per capita new reported cases.

The governor has asked that state district court Judge Raymond Romero be ordered to remove himself from the case because of apparent bias if the matter is sent back to the lower court.

Romero previously suspended the ban on indoor restaurant service and has urged the Supreme Court to return the case to his court in southern New Mexico.

State health officials on Friday announced 216 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections and seven additional virus-related deaths. The pandemic has claimed 642 lives in New Mexico, with 20,600 confirmed infections to date.

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.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.