Restaurants re-opening for indoor dining
Following Governor Lujan-Grisham’s updated directives announced last week at her news conference, restaurants across the state are preparing to open for inside dining on Monday 1 June. While limits remain in place for capacity and all COVID Safe Practices continue to apply, the opening of inside dining is both a recognition of and a response to the fact that New Mexico, which reached its peak of the coronavirus disease on May 1st, has continued to see a decline in the rate of new cases and is meeting the gating criteria set for the next phase of re-opening. The amended order also includes the limited re-opening of gyms, salons, and indoor malls.
The revisions will impact other facilities and services, which will now have restrictions lifted or moderated. These include:
To support restaurants as they move into this next phase while continuing the reassure patrons and potential visitors of their commitment to safety amidst the pandemic, the New Mexico Restaurant Association has compiled a collection of resources that address restaurant-specific needs in relation to the virus. These includes guides to compliant floor plans, cleaning, and sanitizing guides, as well as protocols for exposure. The association, in partnership with New Mexico Environment Department, has also designed a responsible restaurant re-opening “Promise Poster” that can be displayed and can help re-assure diners that a particular restaurant is abiding by broader, statewide safety guidelines to keep patrons (and staff!) safe.
Election Day Tuesday 2 June 2020
On another important note – primary elections in New Mexico are just two days away. If you have not already voted, please make sure to visit your polling place on Tuesday 2 June. Polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and all COVID Safe Practices will apply during voting and within the polling facilities. Social distancing will be required both while waiting in line and inside the polling facility, and voting materials will be sanitized after each use. In addition, everyone must wear a face mask. If you do not have a face mask, or forget to bring one with you, you can request a mask from the poll workers when you arrive. For questions, or to confirm your polling location, please call the San Miguel County Clerk’s Office at (505) 425-9331.
In an update to existing health orders made on Tuesday 26 May, Governor Lujan-Grisham announced a "soft re-opening" for restaurants, effective today, Wednesday 27 May. According to the announcement made on the New Mexico Department of Health website, the updated order allows restaurants to offer "dine-in service in outdoor seating areas at up to 50 percent of their outdoor area fire code occupancy. The following stipulations apply:
A broader opening for restaurants is still planned for for June 1st. According to the Governor's statement in the announcement, this soft opening will provide "an opportunity for restaurants to begin preparing for a wider reopening next week."
COVID Safe Practices for restaurants will continue to apply and must be adhered to during this soft opening phase.
As state rates of infection fall and businesses begin the process of phased reopening, many are experiencing a sense of relief and hope for the first time in months. But amid this optimism, questions remain. For families with young children, especially for those in which parents are unable to work from home or in which extended family members are not available to provide childcare support, the questions of if, and when, summer programs will operate, and how safe they will be if they do open, remain some of the most pressing considerations.
Nationally, some communities plan to open programs for children and youth this summer, but these programs will be complex to implement, as the need to follow safety protocols will require additional resources and will be difficult to prepare for by the time summer programs are slated to start. According to the CDC guidance for summer programs for youth and children, recommendations include extensive hygiene practices, symptom monitoring, reduced program group size, staggered schedules and limited group mixing. These recommendations, together with local state requirements, which in New Mexico require face masks and social distancing, are necessary for keeping children safe but can be difficult to enforce, especially in younger age groups, and add challenges to preparation for, and delivery of, safe programs.
Those states or localities that are offering summer youth programs are generally doing so with greatly reduced numbers, often operating at one tenth of their normal capacity. Others are opting to increase safety precautions even more by placing additional restrictions on transportation to and from the program, in order to further limit exposure and contagion through mixing with broader populations. All these adjustments, which require additional staff and equipment while decreasing program revenues, require substantial sources of funding which may not be readily available.
In New Mexico, some summer programs, such as Albuquerque Public School's Summer Learning Adventure and Elementary K5+ Programming, have decided to close, while others will offer online, distance–learning, based options only. In San Miguel County, most summer programs for youth and children, such as those offered by city recreation centers and local school districts, are still in the process of being decided, as leaders weigh the relative risks and benefits of in-person programming, and assess their ability to meet all safety guidelines and support the increased expense of doing so in time for a rapidly approaching summer session.
The New Mexico Out of School Time Network provides excellent resources, frameworks, and options for considering these issues, including a recording of a recent panel discussion on Best Practices and Contingency Planning for Summer 2020, especially useful for administrators who are currently making these complicated choices. Additional resources include Educational Activities from Home and Support for Teachers and Administrators.
While options for summer programs this year may remain limited, consideration of these challenges is an important step in determining how schools might open next fall, even on a partial basis.
Businesses re-open, look ahead
As New Mexico moves forward with its partial re-opening of businesses and offices, the governor has emphasized the ongoing success the state has had in meeting gating requirements. In a Wednesday press conference, the governor announced that New Mexico appeared to be through the peak of virus cases, and posed the possibility of restaurants opening on a partial basis (50% capacity) as soon as early June, providing that all COVID Safe Practices (CSPs) are adhered to and the gating criteria continue to be met. This news is encouraging to the many dining businesses that have either been closed completely or operating only for curbside pick-up or takeout, but is unfortunately too late to save the many New Mexico restaurants that have had to close permanently because of the pandemic.
Tourism re-opens with focus on safety
With so much of New Mexico’s business dependent on tourism, various locations in the state are strategizing ways to attract visitors to their communities and their businesses. On the state level, efforts to re-open the tourist industry are focusing on those travelling by car, who will be attracted not only by what NM has to offer, but by how safe they feel travelling in New Mexico will be. To support this effort, NM True, in partnership with the NM Hospitality Association, is launching a “New Mexico Safe” campaign that will showcase and promote the practice of CSPs by all businesses in order to “build consumer confidence in travelers” that NM is a safe place to visit. The department will be offering a free training and certification program for all business leaders who can then advertise their business as CSP certification compliant. The New Mexico Tourism department industry member website provides a rich resource for information, data, opportunities, learning, and support, including access to free coaching from a business consultant.
Summer Food for Children Schedule
As mentioned in an earlier newsletter, the school meal delivery program that has operated during the previous few months will continue during the summer, providing free meals to any child age 18 or under who is in need. You can view the schedule for the meal distribution for the West Las Vegas School district here. For questions, call Annette Baca at 505-426 2528.
End of school ceremonies and summer routines change
As the school year closes with many health and safety guidelines still in place across the state, students and families will continue to adjust to changes in expected rituals and routines. For West Las Vegas High School's seniors, for whom long awaited traditional graduation celebrations have been cancelled, West Las Vegas High School will be conducting a “drive by graduation” on Saturday 23 May. For more information, consult this flier or go to the West Las Vegas High School Facebook page.
Other families are figuring out how to plan for the summer. While traditional summer activities and programming will not be available, at least not during the early weeks of the summer, the recent easing of restrictions will allow some “in-person summer programs and sports camps” to operate. These programs can be provided only if they are “restricted to 5:1 child to adult ratios" and include "children who live in the local geographic area only.” All in-person summer programs will also need to comply with the “required COVID-19 Safe Practices of Summer Youth Programs.” As an option, many school districts and youth groups are also developing online summer programs. The West Las Vegas School District is currently finalizing plans for their summer programs, and expect to have details available by the end of this week. Stay tuned!
Free summer meals for children
The Summer Meals for Children program provides free meals during the summer for all children age 18 and under. This summer, the state will continue the “grab and go” meal delivery format, which has provided so many meals so successfully during the COVID-19 outbreak. The program will make food available through the same school bus delivery and drop-off point system that has been used for distributing meals since the pandemic started. Any child in need of food during the summer, even if not enrolled in the New Mexico public school system, is eligible for these meals. Deliveries are tentatively scheduled to run June 8th - August 7th, but details are not yet finalized. The schedule should be completed and available by the end of this week. Stay tuned.
Free coaching and planning for online instruction available to teachers and administrators
Although plans for the fall school semester are still uncertain, many schools and teachers may be preparing for classroom instruction taking place at least partially online. Free resources to assist districts in planning and improving their distance learning is available through the Always Ready for Learning Network , a program of the Learning Accelerator. The network, a “philanthropically-supported initiative to ensure K-12 school district leaders … get urgent and customized guidance,” offers FREE services, including:
El Valle Community Center maintains these newspostings and distributes them through a newsletter. Subscribe.