Officials to consider resolution on reopening


April 22, 2020

Ron Warnick

Nannette Macias-Ray, a nurse manager at New Mexico Department of Health in Tucumcari, takes a nasal swab sample from a person Thursday during drive-up testing of the coronavirus.

The Quay County Commission during its April 27 meeting will consider a nonbinding resolution urging New Mexico’s governor to “reopen immediately” nonessential businesses ordered closed weeks ago as the coronavirus pandemic began.

One day after the resolution was announced on social media, a second Quay County resident tested positive for the disease, and another who had contracted COVID-19 died in a Florida hospital. A third case was reported by the state Monday.

Quay County Clerk Ellen White on Friday shared a portion of the county commission’s proposed resolution. If approved by commissioners, she said it would be forwarded to state representatives, senators and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The resolution states rural small businesses “have less foot traffic and can implement those virus mitigation practices” ordered by the state’s Secretary of Health.

“The blanket closure of small businesses deemed ‘non-essential’ by the Order’s definition poses a significant threat to the ultimate survival of those businesses and to our County’s, as well as the State’s, economy,” it states.

It states the virus has affected areas differently, and modeling for the spread of COVID-19 “has changed multiple times with almost all changes being a decrease in the number of expected infections and deaths.”

It states “there appears to be no plan by the State to reopen the economy in the near future” and no public information or discussions on how to do so.

The resolution states the “current blanket restrictions are as great as the threat posed by the virus,” and “many of these (closed) businesses will never recover.” It states “no one rule ... is appropriate” for every area of New Mexico, and small, non-essential businesses can implement safety practices as essential ones do.

The resolution recommends: “Allow those businesses, including non-profits, to reopen immediately that do not fall within the Secretary’s definition of essential businesses and allow those businesses to implement those safeguards that have been imposed on essential businesses, as the Secretary indicated in her orders that ‘social distancing is the sole way New Mexicans can minimize the spread of COVID-19, and currently constitutes the most effective means of mitigating the potentially devastating impact’ of the virus.”

White said the resolution is designed to prod the state to go in a different direction with its coronavirus restrictions.

Vickie Gutierrez, chief nurse executive and associate administrator at Trigg Memorial Hospital in Tucumcari, expressed reluctance to ease restrictions.

“Social distancing appears to have helped push back a surge in patients due to COVID-19, but there is no local data to support that these efforts should end,” she wrote in an email Monday. “We will continue to follow local and state guidance on appropriate measures and encourage the community to continue practicing social distancing.”

The proposed resolution was another sign some residents were chafing from Lujan Grisham’s orders to curb the virus’ spread. Farmington and Las Vegas’ mayors have urged the governor to lift at least some of the restrictions. President Donald Trump issued “Opening Up America Again” guidelines to gradually restart the nation’s economy.

Lujan Grisham said last week the state was not at a point to safely reopen and premature action would mean more COVID-19 infections and deaths.

Rural Tucumcari resident Paul Quintana, 76, died Saturday in a Tampa, Florida, hospital after contracting coronavirus on a cruise ship.

According to a story in early April in the Miami Herald, Quintana was one of 12 people who initially tested positive for COVID-19 on the Coral Princess cruise ship, ported in Miami.

His wife, Pauline, in the same ship cabin as her husband, showed no symptoms of the disease, the newspaper reported. She returned to Tucumcari and was under quarantine. She could not be reached for comment.

Florida Mortuary Funeral and Cremation Services in Tampa was in charge of arrangements, which were pending.

On Saturday, the state’s Department of Health announced a second confirmed case of COVID-19 in Quay County.

On Monday, the state reported a third case in the county. The agency does not reveal the victims' names or town of residence. The state also reported the first death from COVID-19 in Quay County; it listed him as a man in his 70s hospitalized out of state with underlying health conditions.

Quay County’s first COVID-19 case was announced April 11, also a male age 40 to 49. No deaths officially had been reported in the county, but state figures don’t always include people hospitalized out-of-state.

In a joint statement Saturday by Quay County, city of Tucumcari and village of San Jon, they said the new case would be investigated by the state Department of Health.

“We encourage the citizens of Quay County to practice social distancing and adhere to the NHDOH Public Health Order,” it stated.

On Monday, confirmed coronavirus cases in New Mexico reached 1,971, with 58 deaths, 116 current hospitalizations and 501 recoveries.

Heavily populated Bernalillo County had the most infections, but the northwest part of the state had the highest concentration because of community spread amid Native American populations.

In the U.S., more than 750,000 confirmed cases were reported, with more than 35,000 deaths as of Monday.

In other developments, Lujan Grisham said during a briefing Wednesday the state would work with the federal government on a pilot program to track the spread of COVID-19. She said the White House was interested in working with New Mexico because of the state’s efforts with testing and readying its medical system.

She expected the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to be involved in the program.

In Tucumcari, workers at the Department of Health office continued to perform drive-up testing of the disease on patients.

Nannette Macias-Ray, a nurse manager at the office who took nasal swabs from motorists on Thursday, said her office tested between two and 12 people daily.

Those who are interested in being tested at the Tucumcari office should call 575-461-2610 for an appointment.


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