Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has lifted the mandate for face masks in most indoor public settings effectively immediately.

Lujan Grisham made the announcement Thursday afternoon during a news conference where she was discussing the 30-day legislative session that wrapped up at noon.

She cited a recent decrease in New Mexico’s COVID-19 case rate and said the state’s handling of the pandemic had saved “tens of thousands of lives.”

“I’m delighted not to be wearing a mask,” the governor said after dramatically taking off her mask.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham takes off her mask while announcing the end to the state’s mask mandate on Thursday, February 17, 2022. Eddie Moore, Albuquerque Journal

Jodi McGinnis Porter, a spokeswoman for the state Human Services Department, said the mask mandate will remain in place for hospitals, health care facilities and congregate care settings.

“The mandate will also stay in place for early childcare K-12 schools where students, teachers and staff are clustered together, until a school district decides to suspend it,” McGinnis Porter said.

The governor urged people to remain vigilant when around medically vulnerable individuals.

“I will not be visiting my mother without a mask,” Lujan Grisham said. “Because my primary concern is her health and safety.”

Her announcement comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mulls a change to its mask guidance.

Cases and hospitalizations have been on the decline in New Mexico since last month’s surge of the highly contagious omicron variant.

On Wednesday, the state was averaging 1,113 new cases per day for the past week, according to a Journal analysis. Three weeks ago, on Jan. 26, the seven-day average was 4,877 new cases per day.

The governor’s order comes as a growing number of governments and businesses around the country had been announcing and end or plans to end mask mandates.

New Mexico’s current public health orders to protect against COVID include an indoor mask mandate. That order had been set to end on March 4.

Editor’s note: Journal staff writer Ryan Boetel contributed to this report.