Coronavirus: Bloomfield mayor will add her name to letter supporting a plan to reopen
Councilor Ken Hare casts the dissenting vote and said he is concerned with the high fatality rate in San Juan County
AZTEC — Bloomfield Mayor Cynthia Atencio will add her name to a list of mayors supporting the New Mexico Business Coalition’s plan to reopen businesses and get the economy running once again.
During a City Council meeting on April 27, Atencio described the letter as “very well written” and said it is an effort to come up with a plan for when the state is ready to relax the business restrictions put in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The council voted 3-1 in favor of supporting the business coalition's plan.
This plan, along with an open letter, was sent to the governor’s office a couple weeks ago. It suggests identifying businesses that can operate at 20% occupancy and allowing those businesses to open immediately “unless there is a specific reason that operation poses a threat to the public.”
At least 17 mayors have signed the letter, which was sent to the governor on April 23.
Among the mayors that have signed the letter is Grants Mayor Martin “Modey” Hicks, who has received national attention after encouraging businesses to reopen this week despite the governor’s emergency health orders.
The plan further outlines a phased response for reopening all business in New Mexico. This phased response is based on the projection that the coronavirus pandemic peaked in the state on April 22. The New Mexico Business Coalition proposes allowing every business, government agency and outdoor recreation facility to operate at 50% capacity starting May 4.
Proponents of reopening businesses say the restrictions disproportionately impact small businesses and have led to high numbers of unemployment claims. They say some small businesses may permanently close because of the restrictions.
"You can’t separate people from the economy or the economy from people; we believe that economists and epidemiologists alike have the same goal in mind, and it’s a goal that we share: protecting the life and health of the people of New Mexico," the letter states.
But one Bloomfield City Councilor voted against supporting the business coalition’s plan.
Councilor Ken Hare expressed concerns about the high number of fatalities in San Juan County. He said that is one of the reasons he voted no.
“In terms of deaths, we’re the hot spot in the state,” Hare said toward the end of the meeting.
He said he does not believe the virus has peaked and he had to make his decision based on the data.
At the time that the council voted on the letter, there were 463 known cases of COVID-19 in the county and 35 coronavirus-related fatalities. Of those 463 known cases, 31 were located in the Bloomfield zip code, as of April 27.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at email@example.com.
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