A New Mexico city council voted to disregard Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s coronavirus lockdown measures and reopen businesses and schools.
The Roswell City Council held an emergency session on Monday evening over the governor’s lockdown regulations, many of which have remained in place since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States in March. The council had voted in July not to enforce the governor’s orders, leaving all enforcement actions up to the state police.
During the meeting, Councilman Jacob Roebuck introduced a motion for the city manager to restart schools and return the city government to normal operations. The resolution also says the city manager should seek permission from the city council before shutting down any city service or building for more than 48 hours, according to KOAT.
“Now, COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus that is widespread and can be fatal to those with compromised health and the elderly,” Roebuck said in his opening comments arguing for the resolution. “To help stop the spread of this highly-contagious virus, the governor of the state of New Mexico has implemented a series of lockdowns and other restrictions.”
“The negative side of these lockdowns has been a financial impact especially brutal on the poor, … a negative [educational] impact on children, an increase of depression and suicide, an increase of domestic violence, an increase in drug and alcohol abuse, and a decrease in preventative care, including vaccines special to children, and health screenings, especially cancer,” Roebuck said.
“There’s no evidence that we can snuff out the virus with shutdowns,” he added.
The resolution passed the council in a 5-4 vote. Grisham’s office responded to the council meeting in a statement on Tuesday, slamming the Roswell City Council not for the vote to disregard her lockdown restrictions, but for holding the council meeting at all while Chaves County, where Roswell is located, is under a public health order.
“Roswell is one of the worst COVID-19 hotspots in the entire country right now – not just the state of New Mexico,” Grisham press secretary Nora Sackett said in a statement to KOAT. “Holding such an event with little regard for public health, especially when it could be held virtually, is deeply disappointing and risked worsening a dire public health situation.”
Officials in southeastern New Mexico have put up a resistance to Grisham’s heavy-handed health mandates for months. Law enforcement, city, and county officials have all expressed displeasure with Grisham’s mandates and at times refused to abide by them. In July, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a lawsuit against the Lea County Sheriff’s Office and Lea County Sheriff Corey Helton. Lea County borders Chavez to the east.
In May, Lea County Manager Mike Gallagher said in a video posted on Facebook that local officials would not penalize individuals or businesses for violating Grisham’s restrictions. He warned that state police may still ticket violators, however.
“Several people have asked me when will Lea County open up for business? My answer is businesses will open when a business owner decides to open. It has always been the decision of a business owner to close or to open. The county will not stand in their way,” Gallagher said.
“The New Mexico State Police have been enforcing the public health orders. Lea County has five cities, more than 4,400 square miles, and about 71,000 people. I am unaware of how many state police officers there currently are in Lea County,” he added. “I have not seen any today. I do know that the state police cannot be everywhere at the same time.”