As COVID cases sharply rise in Roswell, city councilors vote to reopen all city facilities | KOB 4

As COVID cases sharply rise in Roswell, city councilors vote to reopen all city facilities

Chris Ramirez
Updated: December 01, 2020 10:15 PM
Created: December 01, 2020 09:43 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A narrow vote by the Roswell City Council is expected to fully reopen all city facilities, which directly violates the state’s public health orders. 

The city of Roswell currently leads the nation for the highest daily case average over the last two weeks per capita. Roswell sits in the No. 1 spot over every city in America.

“Let me just point out that our number one position with COVID is a direct result of your position on COVID,” said Sarah McCarther, a Roswell resident. “Masks work. They really do.  Because you have not enforced the mask rule in Roswell, you have really created a problem.”

Roswell city councilors, most of whom sat close to each other and some without a face mask, voted to direct their city manager to open all city buildings. The vote came after three hours of debate. 

“The governor, and I've spoken with our legislators, she's not talking to anybody.  She literally won't talk to the legislators about this issue,” said Roswell Councilman Jacob Roebuck. “We've reached out to the governor, and she is not talking to us.”

“I believe that everybody who spoke to us feel as though their voices are not being heard up in Santa Fe,” said Roswell Councilwoman Margaret Kennard. “At some point, we have to be heard by the governor.  She has to listen to her people.”

“In my opinion, this body is mandating the city manager to break the law because the governor's health order is a temporary law regardless of  whether we want to admit it or not,” said Roswell Councilman Juan Oropesa. 

“As for us blatantly ignoring rules and laws, I struggle with— really struggle with that,” said Councilwoman Angela Moore. 

This week, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a statewide tiered system that allows counties to slowly reopen different parts of their economies based on COVID positivity rates. Chaves County—home to Roswell—has one of the highest COVID positivity rates in the state at 23 percent. That puts Chaves County in the red-tier, and would make it unlawful to fully open all businesses. 

A Roswell city spokesperson said the city has not reopened yet. The city manager is working with city departments to figure out how to carry out the city council’s orders.

A spokesperson from the governor’s office sent a statement that said, “A statement or resolution of intent is not in itself a violation of the public health order. Like anything else, the state will keep a watchful eye on any efforts counter to good public health practice that might warrant enforcement action under the state laws supporting the public health order.”

In the past, the state Attorney General has taken a heavy hand on enforcing the governor’s public health orders.

KOB 4 reached out to the Attorney General’s Office. A spokesperson said the AG is closely watching what happens in Roswell, but there’s been no enforcement action yet. 

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