Updated: November 28, 2020 10:12 PM
Created: November 28, 2020 05:50 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The day after the governor’s office announced that our state would be moving to a red, yellow and green county-by-county reopening system, KOB 4 emailed follow-up questions to the state asking for clarification on their lengthy press release sent to us at 4 p.m. Friday evening. Reporters did not have the opportunity to ask the governor questions via Zoom as they normally do.
The following are the questions KOB 4 asked, and the emailed responses from the state:
1. Grace Reader, KOB Reporter: Will county leaders be notified when they’re good to move to the next color via the state? Or do they need to be checking the DOH webpage every other Wednesday? If county leaders have questions about what phase they’re in and what that means, who can they reach out to?
Tripp Stelnicki, Director of Communication for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham: The map updates every other Wednesday. If county officials care about the spread of COVID in their communities, they are already checking this map regularly to identify the risks to their constituents so they can protect their communities they represent. County leaders are well-compensated and qualified professionals who are more than capable of reading the public health order and communicating within their own communities.
2. Reader: For business owners who are going to be monitoring these developments closely to see what they can and can’t be doing, where do they need to be looking? Does the state have any concern that this county-by-county approach will confuse businesses and patrons about what they’re allowed to be doing?
Stelnicki: Did you read the attachment to the news release yesterday and find it confusing? Please let us know if we can help you understand it. Three colors is not confusing. Checking a website— or asking your county to check a website—once every two weeks is not difficult. Many other states operate precisely this way. Many communities and legislators, particularly Republican legislators, have been demanding exactly this county-by-county framework for months, please make the time to ask them whether they are glad to see it now and hold them accountable to their prior statements on the matter. These questions assume that this method of enacting and publicizing the restrictions is somehow comprehensively different than what has been the case for the last 9 months. It is not. Businesses and anyone else who wants to monitor these developments can look to the exact same places they've been looking. The levels will be clearly demarcated on the state's websites. We are creating web widgets they can use on their own websites.
3. Reader: Can you please walk us through the decision to update this map every two weeks. Why not more frequently?
Stelnicki: If it were updated more frequently, counties would be bouncing back and forth between levels day by day, every other day. That, to your earlier questions assuming that three colors will somehow be confusing, would actually confuse people. 14 days is a statistically significant amount of time to demonstrate the level of spread within a community—or, to be more optimistic, the decrease in spread. The intent of this system is to keep New Mexicans safe while permitting counties the opportunity to drive down the spread of the virus and get back to some sense of normal when they have made their communities more safe from the virus.
4. Reader: Will the state be monitoring and policing counties on this? What are the penalties for counties who don’t operate within the color they’re designated?
Stelnicki: Nothing has changed with regard to compliance. A violation of the public health order carries with it a daily maximum fine of $5,000. You may research the variety of state media outlets who have reported on this matter previously.
5. Reader: Why is the state peeling back restrictions when our hospitalizations and deaths are still hitting record numbers? In contrast, for business owners who are saying “this was only supposed to be two weeks and the next phase of restrictions will still really hurt my business,” what do you have to say to those business owners and their employees?
Stelnicki: The state will continue to prioritize saving lives and protecting New Mexicans while providing for as much safe economic day-to-day activity as possible.
6. Reader: We noticed that for the first time, close quarters businesses are being asked to open at 25 percent capacity or 10 people, whichever is smaller. Can you tell us what forced the 10 people cap to be added to the capacity requirement? Additionally, did you all consider lifting the 75 person requirement on essential retail businesses (I know a lot of people have been upset about the lines at large box stores)?
Stelnicki: A line is a minor inconvenience, for which the state is sympathetic. The state is also sympathetic to the overworked nurses and doctors in the state's hospitals and the thousands of families who are suffering and grieving right now The state will continue to prioritize saving lives and protecting New Mexicans while providing for as much safe economic day-to-day activity as possible.
7. Reader: We also noticed that a limit on vehicles in mass gatherings has been added. Does this mean events like drive-in concerts, watch parties or movies are now subject to limitations? Also, many churches are doing drive-in events (especially over the holidays), do these limits impact those events? Can you please tell us why that limitation was added to the public health order?
Stelnicki: Yes. It likely would, yes. To protect public health and save lives.
8. Reader: Will our community hear from the governor and state health experts via Zoom to discuss the logistics of this? If so, when?
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