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City Council to consider reopening businesses

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A proposed resolution calling on representatives from New Mexico’s state government to begin discussions with the city of Roswell regarding how to go about safely reopening local businesses will be considered at a special City Council meeting.

The meeting is scheduled for Monday at 5:30 p.m. where the nonbinding resolution will be discussed, and amendments could possibly be offered, Mayor Dennis Kintigh said Saturday.

Kintigh confirmed such a resolution was in the works Wednesday, as the state copes with skyrocketing unemployment and high anxiety resulting from public health orders issued last month by the state aimed at curbing the risk of COVID-19 infections.

One of the orders requires businesses and nonprofits not deemed essential by the state to suspend their operations and reduce their workforces to zero while the order remains in effect.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Wednesday the orders set to expire April 30 will likely be extended up through May 15, citing the high rates of the virus in the northwestern part of the state, but Kintigh said Wednesday he hopes the resolution can help foster a discussion.

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“The general tone from this resolution that I am advocating is, let us begin a conversation, governor. Let’s talk about how we can minimize risk while maximizing activity,” Kintigh said.

Lujan Grisham on Wednesday announced the establishment of a 15-member Economic Recovery Task Force made up of individuals from diverse business sectors throughout the state to look at how businesses can go about reopening while reducing the rate of exposure.

Though he called it a good first step, Kintigh said he wants more clarity on what the council will do.

Chaves County, Kintigh said, has had a low number of COVID-19 confirmed cases — 22 infections and one death as of Saturday — and to make businesses in all counties abide by the same restrictions as those in counties where the pandemic is much more rampant does not make any sense.

“I keep repeating myself in that one size does not fit all. There is a staggering difference between the one in Chaves County and the one in McKinley County,” he said.

The sentiment is one being echoed in the form of protests against similar health restrictions implemented in states across the nation, and as some county and local governments have taken up nonbinding resolutions in New Mexico.

On Thursday, members of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution, 5-0, urging the governor to allow all businesses to reopen if they adhere to social distancing guidelines.

So far, the governor has been reluctant to ease restrictions on a county by county basis

Tony Garcia, mayor of Hagerman, said he thinks the governor would look at doing so.

“My philosophy is that I wish the governor would look at it and try opening up county by county,” Garcia said. However, he added that public health should be the top consideration in doing so.

As to how soon businesses should open back up, Kintigh said it depends. Some, such as automated carwashes or others with minimal contact such as shops with a drive-thru should be able to reopen right away.

However, others might require more discussion about how to ensure the virus is not transmitted. For example, Kintigh said he would like to hear from public health experts if a restaurant that offers outdoor dining is safer than one that does not.

Beyond the restrictions on businesses, Kintigh said he thinks the state should also lift some of the other orders, such as those restricting elective surgeries and medical measures such as colonoscopies and mammograms.

He added that at least in Chaves County, the state should look at gradually lifting the limit on public gatherings of more than five people.

Roswell, in an isolated setting with its two hospitals and low rate of infections, he said could provide a good testing ground when it comes to lifting some of the public health orders.

“I would argue that we could be trailblazers in the state in coming out of this,” he said.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext, 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com

 

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