On April 30, Governor Lujan Grisham announced a phased in opening plan for the State. The Governor’s timeline for the state’s phased in reopening plan is dependent on when certain criteria are met. The Governor’s “phase in” business reopening plan included 3 major phases:
– All individuals instructed to stay home
– Industry Councils to develop COVID safe practices (CSP)
– Define how businesses will protect employees and customers
– Vulnerable individuals instructed to stay home
– Some non-essential businesses permitted to reopen in compliance with CSPs.
– Certain businesses will still be closed
Phase Two and Beyond
– Additional businesses permitted to reopen in compliance with CSPs.
– Larger gatherings and events still restricted for the foreseeable future
– Other changes to be announced
GOVERNOR LUJAN GRISHAM ANNOUNCES MODIFIED PUBLIC HEALTH ORDERS
On Wednesday, May 13, Governor Michell Lujan Grisham announced that on Saturday, May 16, New Mexico, with a few exceptions will take the next steps to slowly reopen. The change does not apply to the counties of Cibola County, McKinley County or San Juan County due to the high rate or COVID-19 cases. The three counties will, instead, enter the “preparation phase.”
According to the governor, New Mexico is on track with enough data to begin easing into re-opening and move into Phase 1. During the briefing at the state capital, the Governor had this to say:
“We’re going to demand in New Mexico that science guide every decision we make. … We don’t want to go backwards and shut everything down.”
One major goal is to get the state’s coronavirus transmission rate down to 1.15, which means each infected individual transmits the virus to 1.15 other people. , According to the state’s statistical modeling, the state’s overall transmission rate now stands at 1.16. Three of New Mexico’s five regions have reduced the spread rate below the 1.15 standard. But the northwestern and southwestern regions of New Mexico are above the 1.15 target goal.
MASKS NEED TO BE WORN BY ALL
The Governor announced she will require New Mexicans to wear masks in all public spaces, starting Saturday May 16. Lujan Grisham said everyone, including children, should wear masks when leaving their homes. Exceptions include eating, drinking and exercising.
According to the Governor, the face mask mandate is necessary to help limit the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Individuals who refuse to wear a mask in public may face stern words from a police officer but the state doesn’t intend to take a punitive approach to enforcing the mandate. Governors of several other states, including New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey, have implemented similar face covering requirements. Enforcing the mandates has proven to be very difficult to the point it has resulted in confrontations.
The Governor said she hoped “positive peer pressure” would encourage people to wear face coverings, but urged New Mexicans to refrain from “negative attacks” or anger at police officers. If you get made, she said express your anger at her, not public employees, saying “I can take it. … If I can’t get folks to do this … we can’t stay open.”
Human Services Secretary David Scrase said research shows that mask-wearing is incredibly effective at reducing the spread of the disease and said:
“All of us wearing masks could save thousands of lives. It’s critical to learn to live in a COVID world.”
In the event that “positive peer pressure” or law enforcement warnings to people who fail to wear a mask, the Governor could issue directives to law enforcement for people to be charged for violation of the executive order. The Public Health Act does have a criminal penalties provision as follows:
NMSA§ 24-1-21. Penalties
Any person violating any of the provisions of the Public Health Act or any order, rule or regulation adopted pursuant to the provisions of the Public Health Act is guilty of a petty misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100) or imprisonment in the county jail for a definite term not to exceed six months or both such fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court. Each day of a continuing violation of Subsection A of Section 24-1-5 NMSA 1978 after conviction shall be considered a separate offense. The department also may enforce its rules and orders by any appropriate civil action. The attorney general shall represent the department.
To date, the virus has killed 231 people in New Mexico.
RESTRICTIONS FOR BUSINESSES TO OPEN
The Phase I of reopening the state that begins on MAY 16 includes limited in person operations for offices and retailers. According to the Governor:
“We expect you to have COVID-safe practices. Your employees and staff are wearing masks and anything else that works at stopping the spread of the virus.”
All retailers may operate at 25% of fire code capacity; COVID-safe practices must be in place to operate. According to the Governor Office, the definition of a retailer is “any business that sells goods directly to the ultimate consumer or end-users. Retail spaces do not include wholesalers or suppliers. Retails spaces also do not include entertainment venues such as movie theaters, concert halls or amusement parks.”
Other Non-essential businesses, such as offices and call centers, may operate with up to 25% of pre-crisis staffing levels. Employers should require employees to continue to work from home and telework policies whenever possible.
Churches for religious services may hold religious services at 10% occupancy.
WHAT CANNOT REOPEN
Stay at home orders remain if you are sick or in a vulnerable category except for emergencies.
Congregating in groups of more than 5 remains prohibited
If you must go out, maintain physical distance of at least 6-feet from others
Retail spaces do not include wholesalers, suppliers, movie theaters, concert halls or amusement parks which must remain closed.
Gyms, salons, indoor malls dine-in at restaurants and movie theaters are not allowed to reopen. The goal is to open high-contact businesses, including gyms and salons, in June. According to the Governor, it’s too soon to allow dine-in restaurants, gyms, salons and movie theaters to reopen. Restaurants might partially reopen in early June.
Big-box stores can continue to operate at 20% capacity
SUMMER YOUTH PROGRAMS WILL BE ALLOWED WITH RESTRICTIONS
Summer youth programs will be allowed this year but with the following restrictions:
In-person summer programs and sports camps are restricted to a 5-to-1 child to adult ratio.
Student and staff groupings must be self-contained meaning the same children staying with the same staff and no mixing between groups.
High-risk staff and children must be informed on the need for additional actions such as not attending or having additional restrictions, including contact with high-risk family members.
Sports programs will be allowed but restricted to contactless sports only and non-competitive play.
Dr. David Scrase of the Human Services Department also says they are learning more about how the virus affects children. He says kids up to the age of 19 are accounting for 13% of coronavirus cases in New Mexico. “Pay particular attention to abdominal symptoms, or nausea or committing or diarrhea. Those symptoms are more prominent in kids,” said Dr. Scrase.
EARLY JUNE OPENING TARGET
The governor says the spread of the virus dictates the timeline of when the state can move into the next phase of reopening. Officials hope that is by early June, which means they can slowly start to reopen salons, gyms, indoor malls and limited dine-in at restaurants.
REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN STEVE PEARCE
State GOP Chairman Steve Pearce said that the governor’s latest plans infringe on New Mexican’s “civil rights” and unfairly target certain business owners and said:
“Our position has been to safely and responsibly get New Mexico back to work. The Democratic administration has not only destroyed our economy, but peoples’ lives and livelihoods. … By her continuing to favor national chains over our small business, the governor has inflicted economic and personal hardship on hundreds of thousands of her constituents.”
NEW MEXICO’S TESTING CAPACITY
New Mexico’s testing capacity for COVID-19 IS ranked among the nation’s highest, on a per capita basis. New Mexico has now conducted more than 115,000 tests and has 5,364 confirmed cases, including 155 new cases that were announced during the Governor’s May 13 briefing. About 4.7% of all tests yield a positive result.
The New Mexico Department of Health announced that all state residents can get free tests to determine whether they have the disease, regardless of whether they have symptoms. Notwithstanding the testing, state officials are still concerned about possible virus outbreaks stemming from New Mexico’s borders with other states and with Mexico. Testing has been expanded in New Mexico’s prison system, with the goal of testing all corrections officers and at least one-quarter of inmates. Testing will have to be done on a recurring basis, likely weekly, in order to ensure the virus is under control.
Below are links to news coverage:
NATIONAL POLL FINDS 74% MAJORITY TO 25% SAY GO SLOW ON REOPENING
On May 12, it was reported by the Washington Post that a Post-Ipsos poll found that a 74% majority of Americans overall say the United States should keep trying to slow the spread of the coronavirus even if it means keeping many businesses closed. In contrast, 25% say the country should open up businesses and get the economy going again, even if the result would be more infections. Across 12 states with the largest populations from Pennsylvania to Texas to California, at least 7 in 10 say they prefer focusing on slowing the virus’s spread rather than beginning to reopen businesses.
Nationally, 56% of Americans say their state government has handled restrictions on businesses “about right,” with 28% saying restrictions have been lifted “too quickly” and 16% saying they have not been lifted quickly enough. But nearly half of Floridians (48%) and majorities in both Texas (59%) and Georgia (65%) say their state government is “lifting restrictions too quickly”.
The Washington Post poll found a significant partisan divide on the question of reopening. More than 9 in 10, or 92 percent, of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say they favor closures to deal with the virus. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are split almost evenly, with 49% saying closures should be the top priority and 50% saying businesses should be opened up again.
The poll of more than 8,000 adults was conducted from April 27 to May 4.
POLL NUMBERS ON GOVERNORS
Governors across the country taken as a whole have secured widespread support from the public for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The bipartisan approval of the Governors is in sharp contrast to that President Trump who has failed to secure bipartisan support. The poll also found that some Republican governors who have embraced reopening their states quickly are struggling to achieve the same level of approval as Democrats taking it slow.
Overall, 71% of Americans approve of their governors’ performances, with majority approval from people in both major parties. A much smaller 43% approve of President Trump’s handling of the crisis. In Trump’s case, assessments are dramatically partisan, with more than 8 in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents approving of his handling of the crisis and almost 9 in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents disapproving of Trump’s performance.
As a group, governors across the country appear to have won substantial approval among those from their rival party. In states led by Democratic governors, 75% approve of their handling of the outbreak, including 91% of Democratic-leaning residents, as well as 54% of those who lean Republican. In Republican-led states, 67% of people give positive ratings to governors, including 80% of Republicans and 55% of Democrats.
According to the Washington Post poll, the disparities appear to be linked to the differing paths the governors have adopted as they seek to balance efforts to contain the spread of the virus while trying to limit the damage to their economies. The contrast is widest in the states of Ohio and Georgia, states won by Trump in 2016. In Ohio, 86% approve the way Republican Governor Mike DeWine moved aggressively to close down his state and has been cautious about lifting the restrictions to deal with the crisis. In Georgia, 39% of adults approve of the performance of Republican Governor Brian Kemp who moved slower than other governors to mitigate the spread of the virus and has been aggressive in reopening his state’s economy.
GOVERNOR LUJAN GRISHAM POLLS HIGH
On Apr 24, 2020, “The Majority Institute – Public Policy Polling” released its newest New Mexico survey. It found that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has a 62% approval rating for her handling of the coronavirus, to only 26% who disapprove for a net +36 rating. By contrast Donald Trump has a net -15 approval rating for his handling of the virus, with just 40% approving of the job he’s doing to 55% who disapprove.
63% of voters in the state think the state’s response to the coronavirus has been ‘about right. Only 27% think it’s overreacting. By contrast just 35% of voters think the federal response to the virus has been about right, with 49% saying that the Trump administration’s response has been an under reaction.
Lujan Grisham’s overall approval rating shows a high degree of popularity, with 59% approving and just 32% disapproving of the job she’s doing. By contrast Trump has only a 40% approval rating, with 56% of voters disapproving of him. According to the poll, Lujan Grisham received an overwhelming support from both Democrats, 83% to 9%, and independents, 60% to 28%, for her handling of the virus and receives good marks from 32% of Republicans as well.
ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY
OUR WOULD BE REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR STEVE PEARCE
It is not all surprising that armchair constitutional expert GOP Chairman Steve Pierce is shooting his mouth off about constitutional rights being violated. When it comes to business closures, the Governor has been given the authority by the legislature to issue the executive order to close businesses during a health crisis. It is well settled United States Supreme Court constitutional law that the legislature can give the Governor the authority to close businesses in time of a health crisis. The New Mexico legislature did just that in 2003 with the enactment of the Public Health Emergency Response Act. The act empowers the Governor to issue executive orders to respond to a health emergency that threatens the public health, safety and welfare, such as the corona virus pandemic. The link to the New Mexico statute is here:
When Steve Pearce claims that the Governor is “continuing to favor national chains over our small business” he shows his ignorance or apparently never travels to Albuquerque to go retail shopping nor goes to restaurants because if he did he would see thousands of empty parking spaces at Coronado Shopping Center, Winrock Shopping Center and ABQ Uptown, Cotton Wood Mall on the West Side where all the “big box” stores are closed. He would also see the empty parking spaces at big chain restaurants like Chile’s, Season’s 54, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, the Cheese Factory just to mention a few who now offer only curbside service. The New Mexico State Police has also closed down the big box stores of Total Wine and a Hobby Lobby, both part of a national chain. All new and used car dealerships are also closed, with the New Mexico Auto Dealers Association running ads on how to do business with the franchise dealerships.
Least anyone forget, Steve Pearce ran for Governor as the Republican nominee against Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham and he lost in a landslide. Based on his words and actions, there is little doubt he would have done absolutely NOTHING during this deadly pandemic to “flatten the curve”. A Republican Governor Steve Pearce would have ignored the spread of the disease allowing it to run its course resulting in even more deaths of many New Mexicans. Steve Pearce apparently believes that commerce and the economy TRUMP’s the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” just as much guaranteed under the constitution as the right to commerce.
THE FACE MASK MANDATE REQUIRES PEER PRESSURE
The Governor raised a few eyebrows when she said everyone needs to wear a mask, including children, when they venture out in public. The truth is the Governor said that the “face mask” enforcement will not be punitive. In other words, she is not ordering arrests by law enforcement but likely warnings or admonishments to exercise caution. She made it clear that she hoped “positive peer pressure” would encourage people to wear face coverings when we venture out. In the event that “positive peer pressure” or law enforcement warnings to people who fail to wear a mask, the Governor could issue directives to law enforcement issue petty misdemeanor citations resulting in a $100 fine or up to 6 months in jail or a combination with penalties at the discretion of the judge.
Well, it’s a start. The approach Governor Michelle Lujan has taken is to first move aggressively to close down New Mexico and she now being cautious about lifting the restrictions to deal with the crisis. The clear and unmistakable message Governor Lujan delivered with the limited opening of the state is that all of what she has ordered is indeed “flattening the curve”.
The state is making significant progress, but we still have a long ways to go given the fact that increases in cases is still occurring. New Mexico is now inching closer to reopening over perhaps the next 2 months.
The Governor has sent the clear message that in a real sense, it’s all on use to make sure we do are part and follow the social distancing rules.
TAKE PRECAUTIONS TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND FAMILY
Older adults and those with chronic illnesses are most at risk to contract the virus that could result in death from complications. Even healthy young people not worried about getting sick should take steps to protect themselves and others in that they could still carry the virus but not show signs of it. The strategy must be to limit the chance of transmitting the disease to persons who are more vulnerable.
Health and government officials urged people to protect themselves by:
1. Self-quarantine as much as possible
2. Honoring the “quarantine” and staying home and avoid large crowds and public events
3. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and do not touch your face
4. Clean “high-touch” surfaces daily with regular household cleaners
5. When coughing, use a tissue or cough into the forearm of your elbow
6. Avoiding the sharing of personal household items
7. Stay at home when sick
8. Practice “social distancing” when talking to others in person by standing 6 feet away from them
9 Wear face masks if available that seals around mouth and nose when out in public
10.Limit activities to grocery shopping, filling your car with gasoline and medical appointment.
Please be safe and use the precautions outlined.
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