Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Wednesday afternoon a new health order that allows a phased-in method of reopening the state’s economy that the mayor of Roswell called “disappointing.”
Starting Saturday, many retail businesses — with the exception of northwest New Mexico where the spread of the coronavirus remains high — will be able to operate at 25% of their fire code capacity and with COVID-safe practices in place.
Large retailers — “big box” stores like Walmart, Target or Home Depot — will continue to operate at 20% maximum occupancy.
Entertainment venues such as movie theaters and concert halls and high-intensity contact services such as dine-in restaurants, indoor malls, salons and gyms are excluded from the order but might be able to be phased in in early June.
The health order will also allow houses of worship to operate at 10% capacity and non-essential businesses such as offices and call centers up to 25% of pre-crisis staffing. Work-from-home policies are encouraged to continue for those businesses.
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Stay-at-home instructions will remain in effect.
“It is imperative that you continue to stay at home,” Lujan Grisham said in the Facebook livestream. “These are effective instructions that people should expect that we will continue to renew until there’s a vaccine.”
In addition, the health order requires everyone to wear a face-covering when in public except when eating, drinking or exercising.
Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh said the governor’s order fails to recognize that different regions of the state face different degrees of risk.
“In the last health order signed by Secretary (Kathyleen) Kunkel, they recognized that Cibola, McKinley and San Juan counties are different. But so are the counties of southeast New Mexico,” Kintigh said.
“But we are not being allowed to engage in the activities that should be done. This failure to open dining, the restriction of houses of worship to 10% are unacceptable. This is not rational. This is arbitrary and capricious,” he said.
Kintigh said he was “seriously disappointed” in the governor’s order.
“The governor has failed to recognize the catastrophic economic situation the state is in,” the mayor said.
Kintigh said he would like to see dining allowed in restaurants and houses of worship at 50% capacity.
He doesn’t see the requirement to wear a mask as enforceable, and said the Roswell Police Department will not be enforcing the order.
“We do not have any authority,” he said. “The state attorney general has made it clear — authority to enforce the state health orders lies exclusively and solely with the Department of Health and New Mexico State Police. Roswell PD has no authority in any way, shape or form to enforce this.”
Kintigh also said the medical community is in dispute over the effectiveness of wearing masks, but New Mexico Secretary for Health and Human Services Dr. David Scrase offered supporting evidence during the governor’s Facebook livestream.
Data based on the COVID-19 outbreak in New York suggests that if 80% of the population wore simple homemade masks, deaths could be reduced by up to 45% over two months, Scrase said.
“They’re not as effective as what we need healthcare professionals to be doing, but they are effective to some degree,” he said.
There is no requirement in the health order what type of face-covering can be worn — a homemade sewn mask or even a simple bandana will do if it covers the nose and mouth.
Lujan Grisham said the state, for the most part, has met the gating criteria to reopen established by the White House that takes into account trends of testing, transmission, contact tracing and hospital capacity.
“We aren’t quite there, but we think we are getting close enough that we can talk right now about moving into the next phases,” she said.
The reopening of businesses should not be taken as an invitation to take unnecessary trips outside the home or relax social distancing requirements, she said.
“We’re going to continue to prohibit congregating in large groups,” Lujan Grisham said.
Safe practice guidelines for retail businesses include face-coverings for employees, maintaining a schedule of cleaning and sanitizing, and protocols for contactless pickup and delivery when possible.
More specific safe practices for individual industries are being finalized and will be announced later.
Businesses that can reopen include any retailers that sell goods directly to the consumer or end-users. Wholesalers and suppliers are excluded.
A second part of the Phase 1 of reopening is tentatively set for early June and would include those high-intensity contact businesses as well as expansion of occupancy limits for houses of worship, hotels and motels. An exact date for that opening depends on what the data shows over the next two weeks, Lujan Grisham said.
“We’re going to look at that rate of transmission and testing, contact tracing and hospital capacity. Your personal decisions will determine whether or not we move into these next phases,” she said.
The new health order also includes guidelines for allowing summer youth programs, but Scrase also warned that children are susceptible to COVID-19.
Summer programs will be restricted to a 5-to-1 child-to-adult ratio for children who live in the geographic area of the event. Groupings will be self-contained, meaning an adult supervisor cannot mix between groups of children.
Sports programs will be restricted to contactless sports and non-competitive play. Children or staff who are at high risk for contracting COVID-19 must be informed of additional actions to protect themselves such as not attending or having additional restrictions.
Scrase said that in the last two weeks in New Mexico, the number of positive COVID-19 cases among those age 19 and under has increased from 7% to 13%.
“It’s almost doubled in two weeks. That puts us as the second-highest state in the country for the percent of kids who have infections,” he said.
The national average is 3.2%, he said.
Scrase advised parents to watch for abdominal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
“If your child has one of those symptoms and a fever, or they’ve been in contact with someone who’s COVID positive, you should assume your child has a COVID infection and get them tested right away,” he said.
The state reported Wednesday 155 new positive tests for COVID-19, including two in Chaves County, bringing the total for the county to 30 and the state to 5,364.
Twelve deaths were also reported Wednesday, bringing the state total to 231.
The new cases include 16 in Bernalillo County, two in Chaves County, four in Cibola County, two in Curry County, four in Doña Ana County, 53 in McKinley County, 1 in Roosevelt County, three in Sandoval County, 56 in San Juan County, one in Santa Fe County, one in Taos County, two in Valencia County, seven among federal detainees at the ICE Otero County Processing Center, and three among federal detainees at the Otero County Prison Facility.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or email@example.com.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.