FILE - IN this Thursday, July 23, 2020 file photo, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham gives her weekly update on COVID-19 and the state's effort to contain it during a virtual news conference from the state Capitol in Santa Fe, N.M. Grisham was an early adopter of aggressive pandemic restrictions that included a mask mandate, self-quarantine orders for travelers and a ban on public gatherings -- now capped at five people. And the state previously joined federal pilot project on testing and contact tracing. (Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Athletes from five New Mexico universities are asking Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for more flexibility that would let them to do what most colleges in other states are being allowed to do — hold full practices and play games.

A coalition of student athletes from the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, Eastern New Mexico University, New Mexico Highlands and Western New Mexico University issued their formal plea to the Democratic governor in a letter sent Monday, as the state marked another daily high for confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The letter states that positivity rates in the community are not indicative of the caseloads being reported among student athletes. The athletes said that shows they’ve been adhering to safe protocols and should be allowed to practice and compete.

The state only allows college sports teams to hold practice, compete or travel if the universities are in counties with a 14-day average daily case count of less than eight per 100,000 and a test positivity rate under 5%.

None meet the requirements right now and state officials said Tuesday that while athletes want to get back to the field, court or track, public health needs to be the top priority.

“With cases surging at over 1,200 cases per day and hospital beds filling rapidly, we must make tough decisions that will save the lives of New Mexicans, including students, faculty and staff members at our state’s colleges and universities,” acting state Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez said in a statement to The Associated Press.

“Every citizen in the state must adjust to the ongoing changes at this time,” she added. “Asking the state of New Mexico to adjust testing protocols and best practices for intercollegiate sports is a recipe for an outbreak."

The University of New Mexico football team recently moved its practices to Nevada due to the restrictions, and all fall semester sports for the state’s Division II schools have been delayed until spring.

College teams in New Mexico have been allowed to have limited team practices with no more than five players, but the student athletes want that restriction relaxed.

“We appreciate the caution that the governor is putting forth with all of this,” said Katharine Harston, NMSU swimmer and a Student Athlete Advisory Committee representative for the Western Athletic Conference. “We know how safe everyone needs to be right now to get this under control, but we believe that we’ve done that so far and we believe that we can provide safe environments on our campuses.”

The student athletes said they’re not diminishing the severity of the pandemic or its effects on people around that state. They are hoping for what they call modest changes by state officials to testing requirements and practice participation numbers.

The state’s college teams already require student athletes to answer daily COVID-19 questionnaires and each player’s temperature is checked before practice.

Lujan Grisham is expected this week to impose tougher public health mandates as health officials have been reporting higher positivity rates and seven-day averages for the COVID-19 case count.

State health officials on Tuesday reported an additional 1,266 COVID-19 cases, bringing the statewide total to nearly 57,550 since the pandemic began. Another 14 deaths also were reported, bringing that tally to 1,144. More than 420 people remained hospitalized.