Home News COVID-19 Situation Commissioners urge governor to reopen businesses

Commissioners urge governor to reopen businesses

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Lisa Dunlap Photo All businesses are essential, especially to those who rely on them for their livelihoods, says Will Cavin, chairman of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners, seen in this photo during a September 2019 meeting.

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The Chaves County Board of Commissioners has joined with several other counties in the state in passing a resolution asking Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to allow businesses to reopen if they use what the chairman calls “common sense” approaches to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Board Chairman Will Cavin said the action was intended to allow all businesses that take proper precautions to reopen about May 1.

“I think that come April 30 or May 1, which is (the date) the governor specified during her first (order), if they feel like they have done their due diligence to get their store to the way they would comply with social distancing and people would feel comfortable to go in and start purchasing without contracting the virus, I would advise them to talk to the sheriff and let the sheriff help get their businesses reopened.”

Lujan Grisham has not indicated a willingness to relax current restrictions at this point. During a Wednesday press conference, she said that she anticipated extending those aimed at maintaining social distancing until May 15. The reason she gave was that, while the infection rate was slowing in most areas of the state, there were still climbing infection rates in northwest counties.

The New Mexico Department of Health has reported that Chaves County has had 22 confirmed coronavirus cases and one death, while the state has had 2,379 and 78 deaths.

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Lujan Grisham also said that her administration was in the preparation stage of a phased business reopening plan and that she had named 15 business leaders to a New Mexico Economic Recovery Council representing various economic sectors. Sally Stahmann-Solis of Stahmanns Pecans near Las Cruces is from the southern part of the state. Staale Gjervik of XTO Energy, with a Carlsbad office, and Jeremy Turner with Pattern Energy represent companies that have operations or projects in southeast New Mexico.

While the gubernatorial administration might be moving in a different direction, Cavin said the Sheriff’s Office has authority in Chaves County.

Sheriff Mike Herrington confirmed that he would not be citing businesses for operating, as long as they operate safely.

“We ask them to take gradual steps to reopen,” Herrington said. “Use delivery and things such as that as much as possible, but if they are a company like Home Depot where people have to be inside to make their transactions, then they need to take other measures.”

He said staff and customers inside a location should be kept to a minimum, social distancing rules should be followed and that people should wash their hands frequently and use whatever other measures they need to stay safe.

He said it is possible that businesses deemed by the state to be “non-essential” could still be cited by the New Mexico State Police, although he said he thought that was only likely to happen if operations were considered a public health risk.

Commissioners and some city officials are encouraging people to send in letters or emails about how the closures have affected their businesses and families, which Cavin said are intended to be forwarded to the governor’s office and the White House, along with the resolution.

A representative with the Roswell-Chaves County Chamber of Commerce also told commissioners that the chamber is working to gather data and information on business impacts.

“I think it is unfortunate that we have created a situation where we have someone out there choosing what is essential and non-essential,” Cavin said. “All these businesses are essential to someone, and, more importantly, they are essential to the business owner because that is what is putting food on their table and paying their rent and their utilities and everything else.”

Cavin said he can sympathize with those who are concerned about contagion and the coronavirus because his wife is experiencing a significant health issue that puts her in what has been deemed a high-risk category for potential complications if infected.

But he said people can use face masks, maintain social distancing, wash their hands, cough into their elbows and take other steps to mitigate contagion risks.

Another point he felt important to make is that job and income loss can cause behavioral health problems, including possible increases in domestic violence.

“People are depressed and so, yeah, the virus is bad but so are these other things that are being created by shutting everything down,” he said.

Cavin said that 10 other counties have passed similar resolutions, with two others planning to act on resolutions next week.

The counties that are expected to have approved resolutions by the end of the week besides Chaves County are Curry, Eddy, Harding, Lea, Luna, Sierra, Otero, Roosevelt, Union and Valencia. DeBaca and Quay counties are due to vote next week.

The Chaves County resolution, which has been posted on its Facebook page, indicates that current orders are “discriminating” against small businesses and specialty retailers and represent an “infringement” on property rights and a threat to business survival. It also states that “less impacted counties and cities should be allowed to restart their economies immediately.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.