Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham eased up pandemic-imposed restrictions on “non-essential retailers” May 1, indicating that such retailers “may provide curbside pickup and delivery services if permitted by their business license. Liquor licenses, for instance, do not allow for curbside or delivery service. Child care may now be extended to people operating non-essential businesses.”
As of May 1, five cases of the coronavirus were reported in Corrales. The Fire Department’s Tanya Lattin said “Currently no first responders are ill with COVID-19 or have been within the village. The fire department is fully staffed. We have PPE [personal protective equipment] but we spend hours a day, both Chief Martinez and myself, looking for items as they become available to restock and maintain our level.
“Due to COVID-19 all EMS supplies and medications are difficult to locate and we are looking ahead several months to ensure we have the needed items for the village.”
But New Mexico set a single-day record for COVID-19-related deaths on May 3, when 12 more people were added to the death toll. At least 118 new cases of the disease were reported, bringing the total to 3,650 amid mounting pressure to ease restrictions imposed by the governor.
Mayor Jo Anne Roake is gathering input from local businesses regarding a gradual relaxation of restrictions. Frame-n-Art’s Suanne Derr said the mayor and Corrales MainStreet director Sandy Rasmussen had begun to survey business owners about re-opening. “I imagine Mayor Roake is in constant communication with the surrounding communities as well as with the Governor”s Office, and the responses we get from our own people will give her a better understanding of our particular needs, as well as how they fit with our neighbors,” Derr said.
On May 1, the mayor said, “We are entering a new era in our fight against COVID-19. Starting today, we are in the preparation phase. “The good news: non-essential businesses can do curbside pick-up and delivery, and you can play golf or get vet and pet grooming services.
“Harder news: from now until May 15 is a test for each and every one of us. If we do not adhere strictly to COVID-19 safe practices —if we flunk this test— we will not be able to move onto phase one and more openness.
“We are too smart to get caught in a cycle of re-infection and closures. We will show that we care enough for each other to control our own actions and keep others safe. We must do it together and for each other.”
Directives from the Governor’s Office applied to non-essential hair salons and cutteries as well, but Corrales’ Gail Horan, owner of Just For Looks Salon and Barbershop, was not eager to leap back into the up-close-and-personal world of hair styling, much as she loves it.
Horan, who said she was a germ-phobe who followed her kids around with Lysol back in the day, said the protocols for salons were intense, involving shoe covers and plastic face masks, as well as full body coverings. This would apply to customers as well as staff. Her colleagues and friends in Los Angeles and Colorado doubt the wisdom of opening up their shops, given the circumstances.
Horan has pondered more than once inviting customers just for haircuts, outdoors in the sun. But that is hard to arrange, too. “And even if the county were able to supply us with the gear we need to reopen safely,” Horan said, “the time and expense involved, with fewer customers, likely would not be worth it.” She added, “And my barber is 86, with a pacemaker, and with asthma so he cannot even wear a mask!” Look for Horan’s business to reopen, possibly, by the end of June.
With a much less intimate connection to its customers, even local electronics seller Best Buy, closed for weeks, took a day to get directives from corporate about re-opening. The company will take orders online and deliver that latest iPhone to your car in the parking lot. And when things evolve in another two weeks or so, the plan is for customers to make online appointments, get assigned to a specific employee, and then be allowed to enter the store and visit the appropriate department with that employee. Masked, presumably.
Additional changes in “non-essentials” via the State of New Mexico include the reopening of State parks “on a modified day-use-only basis, as staff is available. Camping and visitor centers are still closed. The Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department will notify the public of the parks that will be open in the near future.”
Federally licensed firearm retailers may open by appointment “only as needed to conduct background checks and to allow individuals to take possession of firearms ordered online.”Golf courses may open to golf only, so no dine-in or retail service.
Pet services —including adoption, grooming, daycare and boarding— are permitted to resume working, as are veterinarians.
A separate public health order addressing New Mexico’s June 2 primary election will allow polling locations to open, with limits. The order says no more than four voters or 20 percent of capacity may be inside a polling place at a time; mobile voting units may have no more than two voters at a time.
A third public health order “allows medical facilities to gradually resume non-essential but medically necessary procedures (including ambulatory and inpatient surgery) based on extensive guidelines from the Department of Health. The guidelines are designed to prevent a shortage of personal protective equipment and to safeguard the health of patients and healthcare workers.”
At its May 7 meeting the Sandoval County Commission considered a resolution urging the governor and secretary of the Department of Health “to allow those businesses, including non-profits to reopen immediately that do not fall within the Secretary’s definition of essential businesses and allow those businesses to implement those safeguards that have been imposed on essential businesses. These safeguards include, but are not limited to, setting numbers of persons per square foot permitted to occupy an office or business, setting numbers of persons who may gather, setting distance requirements, requiring the use of face masks and gloves when interacting with other persons, and any other safeguard necessary to ensure social distancing.
“These safeguards would further support the Health Secretary’s position that ‘social distancing’ is the sole way New Mexicans can minimize the spread of COVID-19, and currently constitutes the most effective means of mitigating the potentially devastating impact of the virus.”
But support for the governor’s new directives was not shared by all. New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce challenged the governor’s position. “Today’s comments by Governor Lujan Grisham continue to demonstrate that she favors out-of-state corporate giants over the little guy, the locally-owned mom-and-pop stores that drive New Mexico. While we appreciate that the governor is trying to move forward and ease some restrictions, her new changes fall far short of what’s needed.
“There is no equity of treatment for our businesses. Until small businesses have the same rules as the national chains, there’s favoritism and discrimination.
“This is something that not only cannot be tolerated, but will continue to destroy livelihoods and lives in New Mexico.”
The governor issued the following statement May 3.
“I know how badly each of us wants to reopen New Mexico so we can see our loved ones, get back to work and send students back to school. But as much as I want to tell you that New Mexico will fully reopen soon, local and national public health experts have indicated that the coronavirus itself will determine when we can safely open, and we must follow the science.
“Here’s the good news: We’re going to start the preparation phase of reopening certain parts of the state and economy. But let me be clear, data will determine the course of everything we do. Too much is on the line for New Mexico families whose health, safety and economic security depend on every one of us being diligent and using precautionary measures that keep us all safe.
“Fully reopening too quickly would be disastrously shortsighted. It will cost us more lives, and should we open too soon and be forced to return to shut down orders, it would devastate New Mexico’s economy, squandering all of the hard-won progress we’ve already made. It’s not just how New Mexico’s economy reopens: it’s how we stay open, and that means maintaining vigilance against the spread of this deadly disease.
“So here’s what’s new: I’ve extended the stay-home order to May 15. Pending that we continue to ‘bend the curve,’ after that date New Mexico will assess if we can enter ‘phase one’ of allowing certain parts of the state to reopen while continuing to use precautionary measures to keep people safe.
“During this preparation phase, we are allowing the reopening of non-essential retailers for curbside pickup and delivery, state parks (with limitations), animal services and golf courses. Let me be clear: If we see a backward trend, stricter stay-at-home restrictions may be necessary. The safety of our communities will remain our top priority.
“There are some important restrictions that will stay in place during the preparation phase until we ‘bend the curve’ enough to go forward on ‘phase one.‘ Offices, workspaces and retailers, dine-in restaurants and bars, indoor malls, gyms, salons, theaters, and casinos, and mass gatherings are still prohibited from opening. Once we reach ‘phase one,’ New Mexico will be able to reopen gyms, salons and other in-person businesses.
“Fortunately, there has been progress, thanks to folks like you working hard to limit contact with others, we are ‘bending the curve.’ Because of the dedication of New Mexico's medical and public health professionals, we’re ahead of the curve on testing too, after months of hard work securing critical supplies and setting up free testing across the state.
“But, even though we’ve moved the needle, to move on to the next phase of reopening, we need to continue to mitigate the spread of this virus This means making sure we have adequate and stable testing, contact trace infections and keep our health care capacity and PPE levels stable. I’m proud of the work all of us have done, but we still have a long way to go, particularly in the Northwest corner of the state.”
The governor’s May 3 message continued: “In fact, things are so serious there that I have honored the emergency request of the incoming and outgoing mayors of Gallup and ordered a lockdown of the City of Gallup in McKinley County to help stop the unmitigated spread of the virus.
“McKinley County as of Thursday had reported 1,027 positive cases of COVID-19, more than 30 percent of the state’s total positive COVID-19 cases and the most positive cases in the entire state, outstripping even far more populous counties. It is clear evidence that the fight against the virus is ongoing everyday and we are giving enormous support to Gallup, McKinley County and the neighboring county of San Juan, and we will not let up until we bend the curve there as well.
“We have a duty to our loved ones, our neighbors and our communities to keep up this fight every day— a fight that won’t be fully over until a vaccine and a treatment are accessible to everyone. We will be patient and deliberate, leading with data-backed advice from the public health professionals on the front lines.
“Our obligation is to safely and gradually reopen our businesses while maximizing practices to keep people safe from this virus. That’s why I created the Economic Recovery Council with public health experts and industry leaders to make sure we create a plan that gradually lifts regulations over time to mitigate the spread of this virus and prevent any future outbreaks. We’re also working day-in and day-out with the bipartisan mayors council to respond to the local needs of all New Mexico’s communities.
“I wish I could point to a date in the future when things will be back to normal. I promise to always be honest with you: about what we’re up against, and what we’re going to do about it. Our shared responsibility is to keep as many New Mexicans as we can safe from this deadly disease. But what is happening in the Northwest could happen in any part of our state. We must remain vigilant.
“Your support in this fight means so much to me, and I can’t thank you enough for helping our state to get through this crisis.
“If you’re in a position to give and want to help out New Mexico communities, make a donation to the All Together NM Fund, which is offering support across New Mexico.