As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise across the United States ahead of the holiday season, states are starting to reinstate curfews and coronavirus restrictions.
The University of New Mexico’s basketball teams are temporarily moving to Lubbock and Amarillo, two counties with some of the highest rates of COVID-19 per 1,000 residents in Texas, because of possibly facing restrictive policies prohibiting team sports in New Mexico.
The men’s team will temporarily be in Lubbock while the school determines where they will practice and play games. The women’s team will play at West Texas A&M University.
As of Monday, New Mexico is currently under a two-week shutdown of nonessential businesses in an attempt to curb coronavirus spread. Under current restrictions, athletic departments don’t allow games or workouts with more than five people.
Additionally, anyone who comes into the state must quarantine for 14 days.
Because of these restrictions, the school’s football team is paying $70,000 a week to keep approximately 140 members of the football program in a hotel just outside of Las Vegas after COVID-19 prevented them from playing at home. They are playing at UNLV’s previous stadium.
As of 12:16 pm on Thursday, the CDC reported that New Mexico had 11,417 new cases in the last seven days, pushing the total case count to 70,451. Meanwhile, Texas’s total COVID-19 cases have exceeded one million, with 63,003 new cases in the last seven days.
Gov. Greg Abbott has allowed Texas sporting events to have 50% capacity in the stands; however, most major university football programs opted to set their capacities at 25% this fall. There have been several cancellations across the state programs throughout the season as student athletes and staff members continue to test positive.
Most recently, Texas A&M postponed last Saturday’s game against the University of Tennessee after a player and staffer tested positive, and on Monday, they announced this Saturday’s game against Ole Miss would be postponed as well.
University of Texas and The University of Houston have both postponed their respective games for Saturday.
“We’re an open-door community,” Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish told the Texas Tribune about the out-of-state team’s move. “We want people to come in for whatever they need.”
Parrish tested positive for COVID-19 less than an hour before speaking with the Tribune.
The University of New Mexico’s programs aren’t the only ones to flee the state. On Tuesday, New Mexico State announced that the men’s basketball team would temporarily move to Phoenix for the same reasons. As of right now, they’re expected to stay in Arizona for five weeks, but it could be longer depending on the pandemic.
The Associated Press reported that “the women’s team is planning to practice some in Tucson, and is looking at various places to play, including just over the Texas state line at UTEP.”
The United States now has over 11 million COVID-19 cases with 249,670 deaths. There was 165,087 new cases and 1,836 new deaths across the country as of mid-day Thursday.