Commissioners Travis Day and Frances Luna made it clear the County does not have the authority to open up businesses and Chairman Jim Paxon said the resolution “is a plea to the Governor.”
All three Commissioners said the economic impact to the area will be too great to ever recover from if businesses remain closed much longer.
Day said ranchers are dumping milk for lack of demand.
Paxon said he has two family members who need medical care but can’t get it and the federal payment protection plan has already “dried up” for small businesses.
Luna said hairdressers already observe practices that prevent transfer of infection from one customer to the next and “I want to get my roots done.”
She also read an online comment that came in while the meeting was streaming on Facebook that said Elephant Butte should remain closed until July 1. If that were to happen, Luna said “we would never recover from the economic impact.”
Luna refuted another comment that said opening up Elephant Butte Lake would bring thousands of out-of-county people to the area, increasing the likelihood of contagion, endangering the local elderly population.
“People are already coming here to shop because the county has no cases,” Luna said, claiming the area is already exposed to thousands of outsiders. There have been no cases in Sierra County because people have exercised precautions, she said.
“The Governor did not think this out,” Luna said. “We are going to have a serious economic depression.”
All three Commissioners emphasized personal responsibility, not governmental restrictions, will keep the county safe if businesses open.
The County Commission resolution supposedly mirrors the New Mexico Business Coalition’s plan for phased reopening of all businesses; however the resolution was not included in the meeting packet on the County website.
In the Coalition’s plan, it compares New Mexico to Taiwan, a logical fallacy, according to Patricia Kearney, who submitted a written public comment read by Paxon.
“The comparison to Taiwan is meaningless,” Kearney said. “Taiwan has greater testing” and monitoring and “it is more prosperous.” She noted only 107 tests have been done in Sierra County, less than 1 percent of the population, making it unknowable how many people are infected.
She said a better comparison would be between like countries, such as Sweden and Finland. Sweden conducted business as usual and Finland closed down. Kearney cited statistics that showed Sweden has about 10 times the death rate and five times the infection rate compared to Finland.
Lee Foerstner, in his public comment read by Paxon, said, “Sweden is no worse off” for its hands-off policy toward the virus.
He said other health issues are deadlier than the virus and pointed out the County has no cases and only “170,000” have died worldwide.
“The cure is worse than the disease,” Foerstner said, and government is treating its citizens “like children.”
The Governor “should be reminded taxes pay her salary,” Foerstner said, and “It’s time to end the hoax.”
Susan Carlstedt asked if the County is going to make sure there are enough masks available to the public if it is advocating opening up businesses. She noted none are available at essential businesses.
Robert Sanchez Langston observed the New Mexico Business Coalition’s plan says nothing about testing, necessary to determine the infection rate, which is in turn necessary to determine safety.
Deborah Nicole said Sierra County is elderly and has a high incidence of obesity, heart disease and other health issues particularly susceptible to the corona virus. She recommended following the Governor’s time table for opening businesses, given it has superior access to data and experts. “The County Commission doesn’t have the resources or expertise to decide,” she said.
Luanne Johnson supported the resolution, claiming 650,000 die of heart disease and 600,000 from cancer a year and the corona virus “is not the greatest threat” to people’s health.
Robin Tuttle also said the Governor has the authority and access to data to make the decision when businesses should open. She said she’s gone out one time since March 15, and will be “annoyed” if businesses “open prematurely, putting us at risk.”