In the early history of New Mexico, explorers talked about mirages–they appeared as vast lakes in the distance. To the starved and thirsty, they represented hope in a dry and arid land. When they got closer, the mirage moved farther away or disappeared completely, taking hope with it.
Gov. Lujan Grisham’s proposed 3-tier red, yellow and green light plan to systematically reopen New Mexico is nothing more than a colorful mirage in a land where hope is fading.
Reopening counties based on COVID-19 spread rates may sound practical, but a modest analysis reveals structural flaws in this plan.
The first flaw is that 32 of our 33 counties are in the red zone and may never make it to yellow. With the soaring COVID-19 rates, one local biostatistician noted that statewide we are far from meeting needed requirements: “You’ll expect to be in the red…for 20 to 30 weeks,” according to expert Hubert Allen.
That’s more than 7 months with school closed, and businesses and churches at 25% capacity!
The second major flaw is revealed when looking at what the mirage of green status actually accomplishes.
Even if a county turns green, most businesses can still only operate at 50%. After months of being shut down or operating at reduced capacity, businesses have become fragile and jobs have become more scarce. Let’s say that a company has made it this far. It’s expended most of its available cash paying the rent and utilities while it was shut down. Owners have been fighting to make ends meet and have spent life savings—their resiliency is gone; the job creators are done. They are ready to give up.
Now the governor tells them the best they can hope for is to be open at 50% 5-7 months down the road.
Perhaps the most revealing action of the Lujan Grisham Administration comes from Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for the governor. In a curious and angry rebuttal in a KOB4 report, he answered legitimate questions about the 3-tier plan. At one point, he indicated the governor is already trying to shift blame for the situation New Mexicans find themselves in stating: “Republicans have been demanding exactly this county-by-county framework” and insisted that the media “hold them accountable.”
Mr. Stelnicki is trying to sell the idea that enacting a county-by-county program after months of shutting down rural stores is equivalent to what Republicans have been suggesting. That is a rather large stretch in logic.
He seems to have forgotten that for months, he and the governor have been making residents in safe counties drive into population centers to shop at big box stores where they inevitably were exposed to more COVID-19 than they would have been if their local stores had been able to operate.
Add to this that the schools are still shut down and our historically low performing education system is letting students fall further behind. The state is still facing a slow-motion train wreck that will leave us little hope.
The governor also made it clear that regardless of what the Supreme Court said last week, she will continue to punish churches and people of faith, so you get a sense of where this governor and her staff are coming from, but you get little knowledge of where they are headed.
It is more apparent than ever that they do not know the answer to that key question.
“The governor has failed the state since March. Period. Yes, she should have assessed where the worst problems were and taken appropriate action back then, but it’s very late now,” said Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Steve Pearce. “Other states have learned to live with the virus and have opened up schools, churches and businesses. Instead, our governor has punished New Mexico, collapsing its economy, closing businesses and pushing thousands to the unemployment lines. The damage is done. The governor’s inequitable actions have been unscientific and unconstitutional. This new tier system is a mirage, and even experts admit it’s not viable. I do know that hope is fading fast in New Mexico.”