Proposed $50 Million In Covid-19 Tests, $10 Million For Masks Reflect Good Intentions, But Short-Term Benefit; Allocate Money To Educate And Offer Cash Payment To Motivate People To Get Vaccinated

The New Mexico Legislature 30-day session is scheduled to begin on January 18, 2022. A head of the upcoming legislative session, State Senator Jeff Steinborn, Democrat from Las Cruces, has “prefiled” legislation proposing that the State distribute free high-quality masks and COVID-19 test kits to the public under a $60 million plan.

The proposal would tap into the state’s allocation of federal funds to provide $10 million for KN95 or equivalent masks and $50 million for at-home tests. The legislation would draw on unspent federal relief funds already sent to New Mexico. According to a January 5 Albuquerque Journal report, Steinborn’s proposal would call for the Department of Health to distribute masks and at-home test kits with $60 million in funding. The agency would also launch a statewide education campaign on the importance and proper usage of masks.

According to the news report “the push for better masks and increased testing comes as New Mexico prepares for a spike in cases fueled by the omicron variant. The state’s test positivity rate for the last seven days reached 19.8% on Tuesday, about 8 percentage points higher than a week ago.”

Steinborn, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said it’s important for more New Mexicans to upgrade from cloth masks to N95 or KN95 masks offering more protection and had this to say:

“This funding can help provide some of the most powerful tools we have to limit the spread of COVID, and that’s high-quality masks, and convenient accessible tests.”


According to the New Mexico Department of Health, New Mexico’s vaccination rate is relatively strong ranking among the top 15 in some categories. Upwards of 76% of New Mexico adults have completed their initial vaccination series and upwards of 36% have received a booster shot.

According to the most recent United State census, New Mexico has a population of 2,117,522.

Other raw data provided by the New Mexico Department of Health as of Tuesday, January 5 is as follows:

NUMBER OF FULLY VACCINATED: 1,362,075 out of total population of 2,117,522


On Tuesday January 4, The New Mexico Department of Health on Tuesday reported 1,654 new COVID-19 cases and reported 493 patients hospitalized for the disease, a 4% increase over Monday. The state announced 31 more COVID-19 deaths, 20 of them in Bernalillo County with 23 fatalities happening in the last 30 days, and 8 happened earlier. The official statewide death toll is now 5,897 residents.

People who are NOT fully vaccinated have made up a disproportionate share of New Mexico’s infections. Those not faxinated comprised 70% of new cases, 84% of hospitalizations and 84% of deaths in the most recent four-week period with data available, according to a state epidemiology report released December 27, 2021.

The link to quoted source material is here:


On Wednesday, January 5, New Mexico Department of Health officials reported 2,514 additional COVID-19 cases and 36 deaths and that Omicron now makes up more than half of the COVID-19 cases in New Mexico. Dr. David Scrase, acting cabinet secretary with the New Mexico Department of Health, said Omicron cases currently make up about 50% to 60% of all new cases. He expects it will make up 100% of new cases in another week or two.

Scrase said hospitals are still struggling with just 9 intensive care units (ICU) beds and 40 surgical beds in the state. The shortage is due to 497 COVID patients in the hospitals. Over the last month, unvaccinated people made up about 66% of new COVID-19 cases, more than 83% of hospitalizations and 88% of deaths.

“New Mexico has also adopted the CDC’s recommendation to stay home for just five days after a positive test – as long as you have no symptoms.

• If you test positive, CDC guidance says you should stay home, in a room away from others, for five days.
• It’s recommended you take another test at the end of five days, but not required.
• If you have no symptoms after five days, you can leave the house – but wear a mask for five more days.
• Stay home until your fever is gone for 24 hours, and tell anyone you’ve had close contact with about your positive result.
• If you have symptoms but test negative, the guidance is to take a second test within two days.

State health officials are also reminding people what to do if you are a close contact:

• If you’re up to date on your vaccines, wear a mask for 10 days and test on day five if possible.
• If you’re not vaccinated, stay home for five days, then take a test, and wear a mask for five more days.”

The link to quoted source material is here:


On January 5, the New Mexico State Health Department announced will start giving out thousands of at-home COVID-19 tests for free. Starting Thursday, January 6, the Department of Health will be giving out 35,000 tests in zip codes where there are higher levels of social vulnerability and places with high case rates. Dr. David Scrase, NM Human Services Secretary, had this to say in justifying giving out the tests:

“We will be seeing a rise in cases, we’re very confident in the next two to four weeks.”

Dr. Laura Parajon, Deputy Secretary for the Department of Health added:

“We are I think as a state ramping up as the whole United States as a nation trying to ramp up, but not quite catching up to omicron just yet.”

According to Parajon, if you take that home test and if you have symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19, you need to stay at home for five days, per the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, whether you’re vaccinated or not. Dr. Parajon also said you don’t need an additional PCR test if you’re positive and said:

“Sometimes people are like, ‘oh I got my rapid home test, it’s positive, let me go look for a PCR test. … You don’t need to get that. If you’re positive, you’re positive.”

The link to quoted source material is here:


A Gallup poll released in November 2021 found that 74% of U.S. adults have been vaccinated against COVID-19, which is virtually unchanged from what was found in October, roughly 10 months after shots were first widely administered to the general public. The total percentage either vaccinated or planning to be vaccinated is at 80%. Most of the 20% of U.S. adults who are not vaccinated and do not plan to be describe themselves as unlikely to change their mind. Just 16% of the vaccine-resistant group in October, representing about 3% of all adults, say they are likely to agree to be vaccinated in the future.


It was in December of 2020 that the COVID 19 vaccines became available. After a full year of availability, 20% of U.S. adults are still not vaccinated and don’t plan to be vaccinated. President Joe Biden urged state and local officials to offer $100 cash payments for COVID-19 vaccinations as the delta variant spread in the summer of 2021. Some have even suggested paying as much as $1,000 or more. Stephen L. Carter, a professor of law at Yale University, in a column for Bloomberg Opinion in the fall of 2021 wrote “Get a shot, get a check … Incentives work.”

City’s and states have in fact offered financial incentives to people to get the vaccines. Following are 4 of the most notable as reported in an edited Forbes Magazine report on December 21, 2021:


In the week leading up to December 18, roughly one out of every 200 people in New York City tested positive for COVID. To fight further spread, then Mayor Bill De Blasio revived the $100 incentive, this time for booster shots received by December 31 at eligible clinics around the city.


Louisiana has regularly extended its $100 vaccination incentive, and the rise of Omicron earned it an even longer life. Residents had until December 31 to get their vaccine at a participating community-based site. For those efforts, they received a $100 gift card. To date, more than 34,000 have been distributed.


With just 61% of the population partially vaccinated, Missouri is one of the most vaccine-hesitant states. And the incentive program there is underutilized, but it’s still up and running. Officials earmarked $11 million in $100 gift cards for the vaccinated, but have handed out only a fraction of those, as just 20 of the 115 eligible health departments in the state have opted into the program. Funding for that program ends on Dec. 31, but gift cards can be issued into next year.


Rather than targeting hesitant adults, who often aren’t persuaded to get a vaccine or booster for cash, officials in Vermont are focusing on schoolchildren, with a new incentive program for schools that will pay per vaccinated student through April 1, 2022. Schools that see an 85% vaccination rate for eligible students will receive $15 per student, for a minimum award of $2,000 and a maximum of $10,000, with those that have a better than 90% vaccination rate having an opportunity to receive $15,000.


Governor Jim Justice is focusing on the opposite end of the spectrum. Only 26% of West Virginia’s 50 and over population has gotten a booster shot, leading the state to offer a $50 incentive for them to do so.”

The link to the full and unedited FORBES Magazine story is here:


[Over a century] plenty have argued against the legality of vaccine mandates [even] reaching the Supreme Court many times. But the courts have routinely protected the rights of states to require vaccinations in the interest of public health.

In Jacobson v. Massachusetts, justices held that a health regulation requiring smallpox vaccination was a reasonable exercise of the state’s police power that did not violate the liberty rights of individuals under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The Supreme Court recognized the possibility of adverse events following vaccination and the inability to determine with absolute certainty whether a particular person can be safely vaccinated. But it specifically rejected the idea of an exemption based on personal choice. Doing otherwise “would practically strip the legislative department of its function to [in its considered judgment] care for the public health and the public safety when endangered by epidemics of disease,” the Supreme Court said.

In Zucht v. King, the high court ruled against the plaintiff, who used a due process 14th Amendment challenge to argue against city ordinances that excluded children from attendance if they failed to prove vaccination. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that “these ordinances confer not arbitrary power, but only that broad discretion required for the protection of the public health.”

The link to quoted news source material is here:

“History of vaccine mandates in the United States”

The United States Supreme court has said in rulings that it is constitutional in a public health crisis for the government to require people to do certain things or to prohibit certain things that they normally would not do or could do.

In 1905, during the small pox epidemic, the United State Supreme Court case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905), upheld the authority of states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws. The United States Supreme Court upheld the authority of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to require smallpox vaccinations when a Massachusetts minister, not on religious grounds, refused to get a vaccination for the disease.

The US Supreme Court’s decision was that the freedom of the individual must sometimes be subordinated to the common welfare and is subject to the police power of the state. The court ruled that the state did have a right to legally require the vaccinations. The United State Supreme Court came down in favor of state governments being allowed to mandate vaccinations so long as it is reasonable to protect the public health, safety and welfare of citizens.

It is also well settled United States Supreme Court constitutional case law that the legislative branch can give the executive branch the authority to issue executive orders in times of national emergency over private enterprise. In 1952, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952) that the authority to issue executive orders is whatever authority the legislative branch gives to the executive.

The case involved President Harry Truman. Truman order seizing of the steel mills and directed the steel mill presidents to operate mills as managers for the United States during the Korean War. The Supreme Court found that Truman did not have the authority. The Supreme Court found that the President’s power, if any, to issue such an emergency order must stem either from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself. Subsequent Supreme Court ruling have found that “executive power” of the President and by extension state governors to issue executive orders is whatever power the congress or the state legislators gives to them by enactment of legislation giving them those powers.

The link to a related blog article is here:


There is no doubt that State Senator Jeff Steinborn’s plan to spend $10 million on high quality covid masks and $50 million on covid tests is well intentioned. The state is also ramping up offering Covid 19 home tests. The pandemic has now been going on for a full 2 years and has been prolonged because of at least 3 variants and because people simply refuse to take the vaccines.

Way too many refuse to not believe the science and feel it is a violation of their constitutional rights to be ordered to be vaccinated which is absolute nonsense. For over a hundred years, it has been well settled United States Supreme Court law that government can mandate vaccines of citizens to deal with health care crises as was the case with the Spanish Flu Pandemic in 1918. Further, vaccinations for children have been mandated for decades to attend public schools. Small pox and polio vaccination mandates have also been around for decades.

It would have made sense a year ago to spend $60 million of public funds for masks and tests before the vaccines. It does not make much sense now with 3 vaccines developed, offered for free, and with 70% of new cases and 84% of hospitalizations and deaths made up of people who are not fully vaccinated or who refuse to get vaccinated. It not at all likely if you refuse to be vaccinated that you will wear a mask let alone stick a swab up your nose for a Covid 19 test.

As odd as it may sound to some to pay hold outs to take the vaccinations, there are more than a few examples of people getting compensated in a health setting. Those examples include paying people to donating plasma or taking part in medical studies. Many companies also offer financial incentives for employees who take part in wellness programs, including reducing health insurance premiums or funding a worker’s health care account.

After two years, making high end masks and Covid 19 tests available will have short term benefits. The long term goal is to get the states 755,447 remaining population vaccinated. (NM total population of 2,117,522 – number of fully vaccinated 1,362,075 = 755,447). Simply put, until everyone is vaccinated, the pandemic will continue.

What the New Mexico legislature should explore is to allocate funding to continue to educate the population on the safety of the vaccines. Further, cash incentives and gift cards to people to get vaccinated or receive booster shots need to be offered.

The blunt truth is, you have no constitutional rights if you are dead from COVID 19. You have no constitutional right to be reckless and intentionally catch and spread a contagious disease that results in death of another. Please do the right thing, get the damn vaccine so we can put an end to this pandemic.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.