- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2020

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) - The Las Cruces City Council has moved to ditch a proposed mandate backed up by misdemeanor penalties and instead will consider a resolution encouraging people to wear face coverings in retail and commercial businesses to help combat the spread of the coronavirus.

City officials said the council Friday tabled the proposed ordinance in favor of holding a special meeting Monday afternoon to consider the resolution.

The now-shelved ordinance would have generally required wearing masks or other face coverings with exceptions for eating, drinking and under certain other circumstances.

Violations would have been a misdemeanor carrying a fine up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail.

According to a statement released by the city on Friday, the council “prefers voluntary compliance over enforcement and does not want the effort to be punitive.”

Council members agreed Friday on the benefits of wearing masks to mitigate coronavirus spread, but they debated how a requirement would be enforced, the Las Cruces Sun News reported.

The proposed ordinance originally would have broadly required wearing face coverings in public. But it was narrowed to require masks inside retail and commercial businesses because city emergency proclamations and state requirements cover other public settings.

Police Chief Patrick Gallagher previously said a mask requirement could worsen community relations and prompt open defiance from some people.

In another development:

- New Mexico health officials on Saturday reported 129 additional COVID-19 cases with five additional deaths, increasing the total number of cases to 8,800 and the statewide death toll to 392.

Over half of the additional cases were reported in McKinley and San Juan counties. All five deaths involved people from those counties in northwestern New Mexico.

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.

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